One of Eighty-Nine [Prologue]
About One of Eighty-Nine [Prologue]
While serving as a Visiting Lecturer in Nairobi in 2019, I had the great good fortune to meet Adeng Abur. One of Eighty-Nine is Adeng’s story as told to me in a series of interviews that took place over the course of months just after Adeng and I met.
Adeng’s family is Sudanese. Her father, Aburnhial Abur, was a Sudanese brigadier general who fought for South Sudan until he was assassinated. As a young child, Adeng lived, primarily, in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya with her siblings and her mother, Awien Bol Riiny, who died there in the late 1990s.
Adeng became part of the resettlement program for orphaned children established by the United States government and United Nations High Commission for Refugees in 2001. This program involved moving 1,200 boys and they are often referred to as “The Lost Boys of Sudan”. In addition to these “Lost Boys”, there were eighty-nine girls. Adeng was the youngest of these girls.
Adeng left Kenya for the United States in November 2000 and returned to the African continent in 2015. This telling of her story has been, in Adeng’s words, “therapeutic” in a way that she had not been able to achieve through her other attempts at processing the extremes of loss, feeling, abuse, place, love and success that have characterized the extraordinary journey of her life.
Our hope is that, through this work, we can help young women, particularly those from South Sudan, empower themselves. Our goal is to help these girls help themselves and, like Adeng, grow into self-confident women of purpose and strength who will be able to contribute to the healing and progress so necessary for South Sudan in particular and to the world in general.
Nancy Jo Snider, ‘cellist/co-founder
INTERFERENCE new music collective
One of Eighty-Nine [Prologue] was composed for violoncello and computer musician. Instrumentation consists of ‘cello and fixed media plus live electronics using a MAX/MSP application of my own design. The composition itself is based on the life story of Adeng Abur. The source material was taken from interviews between Abur and Nancy Jo Snider recorded in Nairobi, Kenya over the course of several meetings in 2019.
The concept of One of Eighty-Nine [Prologue] was co-conceived through a virtual collaboration between Nancy Jo Snider and myself. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rehearsals and its premiere performance use JackTrip software to stream remotely in real-time between Washington, DC and Rhode Island.
To compose this piece, Adeng Abur’s own words were used not only as literal or narrative sources, but the recordings themselves as raw material for sound design. The opening section of the piece is a direct translation of Abur’s words, whose vocal frequencies were tracked and re-synthesized as MIDI information (both pitch and rhythm) using the MAX/MSP application. This MIDI information was then transferred directly into music notation.
To create the fixed media “sound bed,” Adeng’s speech was stretched out to last for the piece’s entire duration, without altering its pitch. A pre-recorded ‘cello drone, played by Nancy, also stretched, comes in later in the piece. A melody serving as Adeng’s Theme emerges from the more turbulent beginning, and is developed throughout the remainder of the piece. The transformations of the melody act as a directly emotional, intuitive reaction to hearing the experiences of Adeng Abur in her own words.
Throughout the piece the word flight is contemplated in a conceptual way, through literal sonic representations and more subjective interpretations. A combination of the roving melody of Adeng’s Theme, samples of bird recordings from two species indigenous to South Sudan (the Cinnamon Weaver and Spotted Ground Thrush), and a real-time processing of the ‘cello’s signal in the MAX/MSP application, all reflect upon the geographic, and even emotional, movement of Adeng’s experiences.
One of Eighty-Nine [Prologue] concludes with a fading away of the sonic landscape, until the ‘cello is left alone, with a final ascent that is hopeful yet unresolved.
Antonio Forte, composer
INTERFERENCE's 2020-21 Emerging Composer Fellow