Zach Aliotta / Danielle Gonzalez / Olivia Khoury / Matt Norman / Carey West

Lullablies for Late Capitalism


Movement I is the result of several conversations we conducted during our residency from isolation. These conversations were also impacted by the global protests that occurred in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. We recognized that needs converged on a small and larger scale. Each of us wrote sentences that reflected meditations on basic needs: breath, water, nature. How do these fundamental elements get activated as we engage with our need for comfort? Further questions emerged: when was the last time you admitted you were wrong ? Who is listening? To create this 3 part piece, a quilt came to mind; a collage of bits and pieces that fabricate our lives. Despite being in different locations and living very singular experiences, we reminded ourselves of universal occurrences such as the fact that our breath sounds the same. We worked with the constraints of virtual improvisation; tying our piece together by responding to another one’s text prompts. This piece introduces the voices of Zach Alliotta, Danielle Gonzalez, Olivia Khoury and Carey West. While home can be comforting, confinement made us revisit uncomfortable questions about life and surroundings. The visual accompaniment compiled by Gonzalez represents the need to return to nature, to ourselves and bring comfort to an uncomfortable way of life. Much of the imagery was recorded from our disparate locations in Montreal Quebec, Guelph Ontario, Ann Arbor Michigan, and Durham North Carolina. A single woman listening to music through headphones in a park wears a mask, a symbol of adjustment to global isolation. The movement ends with an invitation to “find a way to be very tender”.


The second movement of Cedar Group’s piece is a version of the lullaby “Rock-a-bye Baby” sung by Carey West and later accompanied by Matt Norman and Zach Alliotta. West began by recording a performance of the lullaby applying a technique that she learned from Canadian poet Lillian Allen. Here the words are deconstructed into their sonic components. The resulting vocal take (West intentionally allowed only one take with such an approach) is coarse and percussive, inviting rhythmic but minimal accompaniment from Norman. Sustained vowels take on some of the qualities of consonants, but occasionally clear notes emerge, encouraging increased polyphony in Norman’s harmonization. Alliotta’s long tone violin track contrasts the percussive elements while maintaining tension as the ensemble sought to express darker elements of current experiences. This second movement is a musical exploration of limiting and robust qualities of a speech construct serving as an elaboration on the themes of the bracketing sections. Danielle Gonzalez created the visual accompaniment which reflects the audio by meticulously sprinkling syllables and words over a black canvas accenting West’s percussive style. Fragments of childhood objects marry abstract technological elements to illustrate the broken down lullaby that contrasts the other movements.


In the third movement of this piece, the vocal motives from the first and second movements are juxtaposed and interwoven, and we hear the lullaby in its entirety. These melodies are suspended over a violin improvisation on the theme of “breath.” The complex layering of new and old sounds, combined with the dreamlike images of the natural world, create a rich palimpsest encompassing the questions posed by the first movement, as well as the complications introduced by the second. Images of nature from each artists’ home remind us of that universal need to connect with nature and fuses visual elements of the second movement lullaby with a moment with a single “k.” In the end, we have no answers or conclusions, only a deeper awareness of the present moment and a still-unknown future.

Selected video and images provided by