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At-A-Glance

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About this Piece

Stranger Love is both a love story and the story of love.

Scored for a 28-piece orchestra (including three microtonal pianos) and inspired by the writings of Plato and Octavio Paz, Stranger Love unfolds on an expansive time-scale across six hours. It is a grand celebration of life itself, evoking the visceral thrill of a gospel revival, the ethereal calm of watching snow fall, the wonder of staring into the night sky.

Stranger Love is committed to an experience of the impossible. It is deliberately countercultural in both scale and its commitment to joy; its music dances faster than we believe possible and offers stretches of unimaginable serenity. Stranger Love offers an opportunity to dwell within a different temporality, in which attention is both dilated and focused.

Act I tells a story of two lovers whose encounter unfolds to the rhythm of the seasons. In springtime, they meet; in summer, their love flourishes; in the autumn, they face a threat from without, who represents the lives they choose not to live by choosing their one life with each other; in winter, they face a threat from within — doubt. Finally, a second spring brings resignation and the possibility of renewal. The music and production creates a series of tableaux — individual moments of the characters’ lives expanded into world-sized visions of the passing of time.

In Act II the singers move into the instrumental ensemble, while the action shifts to three pairs of dancers who move inexorably slowly throughout the entire space towards each other, at last meeting in three different outcomes: a kiss, a collision, a passing. Music and production offer a second passage of seasons, this time seen from a greater height in time. A jet trail moves slowly across a summer sky; snow falls in winter. 

In Act III the entire space is dark except for a constellation of lights scattered throughout. These stars move away from the center of the space at differing speeds, creating the illusion of depth and the feeling that the audience is traveling into the negative space. The music is a revelation of pure joy, the velocity of universal expansion. Stranger Love ends in ecstasy and pitch black.

Structurally inspired by Plato’s Symposium, each act of Stranger Love presents a wider perspective than the last. The first act presents love in a human and personal frame, as in Alcibiades’ speech. The second act follows Aristophanes in depicting an archetypal account of human love. The final act is inspired by the vision of divine love—a love supreme—that Socrates attributes to the priestess Diotima.