Some photos from the production in Graz, Austria, October 2018. The piece was presented by NOW! Oper der Gegenwart.
We Have Taken and Eaten is the result of collaboration between a composer, a percussionist, and a poet. Our process involved a fair measure of both individual effort and collective thinking. The poems came first, and grew from ideas and questions raised by two sources: the origin stories in the biblical Genesis, and Englishman Thomas Hariot’s Narrative of the First English Plantation in Virginia, a sixteenth-century account written in support of North American colonization. The poems try, in their own way, to explore the questions raised by both of these texts about the relationship between relentless productivity and punishment/oppression.
Composer Scott Wollschleger and poet Abby Minor were in conversation for a number of months about how music and poems might work together. During that time, the poems evolved and changed to suit the musical possibilities that started to emerge. Once Scott began writing music, the collaborative process shifted to focus on the relationship between composer and performer. Workshopping between Scott and percussionist Kevin Sims took place digitally, over the phone, and in person as recordings went back and forth, as ideas were hashed out, and as improvisations were tested and considered across state lines. At every step along the way, the route shifted; some paths ended abruptly while others opened up. It was a long process, not necessarily a straight-line, and it involved much winnowing down—but it was a true experiment and a true collaboration.
In making this piece we were interested not so much in presenting a story or an argument as a non-linear meditation on the origin stories from which the poems, and consequently the music and the performance, emerged. We aimed, as Gertrude Stein aimed in her own plays, not for a narrative but for a landscape. We think of this music as one impression of the intimate emotional traces left by these master narratives as they continue to move, glacier-like, slowly over and through us, as they continue to undergird our lives in perplexing and powerful ways.