International Contemporary Ensemble To Give World Premiere of Yvette Janine Jackson’s ‘T-Minus: A Radio Opera’

By Afton Wooten
(Photo credit: Catherine Koch)

The International Contemporary Ensemble gives the world premiere performance of Yvette Janine Jackson’s “T-Minus: A Radio Opera” on Jan. 19 at Roulette.

The new work “T-Minus,” commissioned by the International Contemporary Ensemble and funded by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, is themed around the environmental and socioeconomic impact of space tourism on local communities near launch sites. Jackson was driven by the livestream of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 in May 2020, which took place at a time when people around the world were taking to the streets in protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Vimbayi Kaziboni conducts.

Also on the program is Jackson’s “Swan.” Swan is a musical journey that follows the tall ship Swan as it transports Africans along the Middle Passage to the Americas, but gradually morphs into a spacecraft headed to freedom. Swan is a radio opera without words comprised of fixed media performance allowing the audience to be at the center of the narrative. The work is composed from original foley, analog synthesis, and recordings from studio sessions by Jackson’s Invisible People Ensemble.

“Radio opera” is a term Jackson first used to describe her narrative electroacoustic compositions that frequently focus on historical events and social issues. The term continues to take on new meaning for the composer as she expands these ideas to include live performance, visuals, lighting, and interactivity. Influenced by productions from the Golden Age of Radio Drama, Jackson’s radio operas leave room for the listener’s experiences to give meaning to the music.