Such Strange Gravity: Songs of Gotham
Music + Concept | Jeff Tang
Words | Matt Boresi, John Gregor, Deepali Gupta, Daniel Levin, Evie Shockley, Jeff Tang, Nathan Tysen, and more
Winner | National Sawdust Summer Labs Residency
Finalist | SPACE on Ryder Farm Creative Residency
Such Strange Gravity: Songs of Gotham is a theatrical song cycle that explores and deconstructs the mythology of home from first European contact with the indigenous Lenape tribe to the near future. Composer Jeff Tang has worked with a variety of lyricists, playwrights, and poets to interrogate how the identity of a city is created and evolves, the question of whose stories and histories persist or are expunged, and how the process of naming and renaming affects the dominant cultural memory.
Rigorously researched and inspired by factual events, the project uses some as jumping-off points to create new mythologies. Stories include the “sandhogs” who built the subway system, the spectacular 1911 fire that destroyed Coney Island’s Dreamland amusement park, the demise of the Collect Pond, once the primary life-source for generations of the island’s inhabitants, and more. Narratives both large and small from across time will form a mosaic of our great metropolis.
National Sawdust, Brooklyn NY | August 2018
Director, Benjamin Shaw | Music Director, Dan Pardo | Lighting, Christian LeMay | Sound, Sharif Mekawy
featuring Sojourner Brown, Nick Choksi, Emma Claye, Jessica Kahkoska, and Byron St. Cyr
with Joel Lambdin (violin), Jake Charkey (cello), Jeremy Yaddaw (drums),
Dan Pardo (piano), Jeff Tang (piano, guitar, MicroKorg)
Name Me Again
Words by Deepali Gupta | Featuring Sojourner Brown
1626 - The hills of Mannahatta
After the Dutch "purchased" the island from the Lenape tribe, the land was eventually renamed Manhattan. The Dutch stage of Nieuw-Amsterdam was eventually ceded to the British and renamed New York...
Purpose (or, the Great Subway Leviathan of 1904)
Words by Jeff Tang | Featuring Byron St. Cyr
1904 - Underground, and the East River
When they dug out the subway tunnels, did they unearth something they should have let sleep? A vagabond whaler finds his ultimate purpose deep underground in a tale of Gothic horror.
Pot Baker’s Hill
Words by Matt Boresi
1797 - The Collect Pond (Lower Manhattan)
Once the source of freshwater for hundreds of years, factories built up on the shores of the Collect Pond turned it into a cesspool by the late 18th century, eventually drained via the canal now called Canal Street in Lower Manhattan. Based on an actual complaint letter from 1797 to the mayor of New York.
Words by Jeff Tang | Featuring Jessica Kahkoska
1911 - Coney Island
Moll the Mermaid in the sideshow at Coney Island's Dreamland amusement park falls helplessly in love with Ursa the Bear Girl. When Ursa decides to leave Moll and and the show behind, the mermaid has other ideas.
Words by Nathan Tysen | Featuring Nick Choksi
2008 - Brooklyn
A solitary commuter encounters an amateur astronomer who creates spontaneous sidewalk communities on with a telescope and a question: "Wanna see Jupiter?"
my life as china
Words by Evie Shockley | Featuring Emma Claye
1711 - The Wall Street Slave Market
A setting of a poem by Evie Shockley, a chilling metaphor for the African-American experience, vis a vis the establishing of a slave market at the corner of Wall and Water Streets in downtown Manhattan.