Mirah and Spectratone International

Observations of insects are typically rendered so clinical that you may as well be studying accounting or, on the flipside, so elementary that you’re dealing with plush caterpillars whose sole purpose is to teach your child how to hug. Share this Place: Stories and Observations is, well, a creature of a different stripe. The multimedia project commissioned in 2006 by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art features music by Mirah (repeat after me: We love Mirah) and her longtime collaborators Lori Goldston and Kyle Hanson, AKA Spectratone International (also with Jane Hall and Kane Mathis), and stop-motion video by Britta Johnson. It sounds like something that could easily become child’s play, and in fact the chamber pieces are indeed playful and alive — Spectratone’s arrangements give a subtle bounce to Mirah’s ever-airy vocals, and Johnson’s stop-motion insects are made from all manner of found objects and wander around rolling dung and other fun things. But it’s also serious literary entomology thanks to its source material: Jean Henri Fabre is considered the father of the study of insects and is most remembered for telling his tiny friends’ tales as first-person narratives. So it is that in “Credo Cigalia” (video below) a cricket addresses us with “you’ve no choice but to listen to my song.” And on the fantastically delicate “Community,” rather than a standard lecture on the group habits of six-legged creatures, you get a lullaby so sweet and smart that you’ll want to sing it to your sons and daughters all the way to MIT.


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