By Eric Sweeney
If there is such thing as “downtown Theatre,” SUNKEN CATHEDRAL epitomizes “downtown Opera” in all the right ways. There is no sign of a fat lady or a chorus of thousands. Instead there isa woman who creates hypnotic music and a man who kinetically brings it to life through Korean dance. The hour-long SUNKEN CATHEDRAL explores the inner recesses of our sub-conscious with electronic music that arrests the audience.
Bora Yoon is the composer and performer of SUNKEN CATHEDRAL which, to some extent, is being composed before the audience’s eyes. She uses found objects, her voice, a looping pedal, and an array of other electronic equipment to create an ethereal soundscape. At times you think you are listening to a new age Enya album, not a new operatic work.
Yoon favors nontraditional instruments such as pitched Tibetan singing bowls, tin cans, and pitched metal chimes, metronomes, and many more surprising objects.
In one particular section, Yoon records her voice (a trained voice that she manipulates with ease) on small voice recorders. She then places the recorders on a spinning turntable that has a microphone positioned above it. The sound goes in and out and creates a Doppler effect which is unusual, but aurally fascinating.
SUNKEN CATHEDRAL contains no plot per se, but multiple themes and images emerge such as the voice mails that Yoon’s mother leaves her in a mix of Korean and English. Yoon rolls her eyes in a look very familiar to most 20-somethings. Or the large diamond which makes frequent appearances.
This is not your normal trip to the concert hall and it helps to go in with an open mind. Yoon does not follow little black dots nor is she constrained by bar lines and strict time signatures. Her music can more accurately be described as sound layering. Yoon establishes a base layer and bit by bit layers more sounds until she has created a ringing, swirling, atmosphere that is at once pleasant and mesmerizing.
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Photo credit: Cory Weaver