I am very excited to finally be able to announce our next big project: a multimedia work co-created by writer/director Isaac Butler, media artist Peter Nigrini, and me, and produced by Beth Morrison Projects. It’s called Real Enemies and it’s a multimedia piece about conspiracy theories. It premieres at BAM’s Next Wave Festival this fall (Nov. 18-22), with a workshop preview at Virginia Tech on Sept. 10. We will also perform the score in a music-only performance at Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall on Friday, October 2.
Belief in conspiracies is one of the defining aspects of modern culture. It transcends political, economic, and other divides. Conservative or liberal, rich or poor, across all races and backgrounds there exists a conspiratorial strain of thought that believes there are forces secretly plotting against us. Conspiracy theories often take hold because they provide an explanation for disturbing realties. They tell a story about why the world is the way it is. Paradoxically, it’s often more comforting to believe that bad things happen because they are part of a hidden agenda than it is to believe that they came about as a result of mistakes, ineptitude, or random chance.
Conspiracy theories tend to flourish at times when we have genuine cause to distrust those in power. When we learn that the NSA has been monitoring all of our emails and cataloging all of our phone calls, that the Department of Defense proposed carrying out false flag terrorist attacks against U.S. civilians in order to justify going to war, or that the CIA secretly dosed mental agents, prisoners, drug addicts, and prostitutes with LSD as part of its mind control program, the only natural response is: “What else are they hiding from us?”
Real Enemies is the product of extensive research into a broad range of conspiracies, from the familiar and well-documented to the speculative to the outlandish. It traces their historical roots, their iconography, and the language they use to persuade, and examines conspiratorial thinking as a distinct political ideology. It chronicles a shadow history of postwar America, touching on everything from COINTELPRO to the the CIA-Contra cocaine trafficking ring to secret weather control machines to reptilian shape-shifters from Alpha Draconis infiltrating our government at the highest level. Over the course of 60+ minutes of live music and multichannel video, Real Enemies spins a web of paranoia and distrust, where the truth becomes increasingly elusive.
The music for Real Enemies will be performed live by Secret Society. As befitting a journey into postwar paranoia, the work draws heavily on 12-tone techniques — if not always conventional notions about how those techniques are supposed to be employed. Other musical touchstones include the film scores of Michael Small (The Parallax View, Marathon Man), Nicaraguan singer-songwriter Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy, early 1980’s LA electrofunk-influenced hip hop, and much more. This isn’t the first time I’ve written music that contains 12-tone elements — “Tensile Curves” which we premiered at the Newport Jazz Festival last year, also made liberal (if subtle) use of serial techniques — but in the case of Real Enemies, the 12-tone row becomes a deep structural device, not just for the music but the formal and visual development of the entire work. It’s going to be an intense musical and sensory experience and I’m very much looking forward to unveiling it this fall.