Kayleigh Butcher - Mezzo Soprano
Maria Jacobi - Soprano
CarrieAnne Winter - Soprano
Jonathan Stein - Double Bass
George Lam - Conductor
Rachel Devorah - Projections and staging
Live at the National Opera Center, New York
August 10, 2013
Music by Rachel Devorah Trapp
Text from palm readings of three vocalists by Cat McGuire
Identity is shaped by narrative. We define who we are by the stories we tell about ourselves: where we’ve come
from, where (we think) we’re going. The physical body is inextricably entwined with the narratives of identity. To
tell the story of who we are, we pick out the features of our parents in the mirror and describe the circumstances of
our physical scars to new lovers.
Palmistry is an ancient practice that bridges the relationship between the physical body and the stories that
constitute one’s self. Like Opera, Palmistry is an amalgamation of disciplines that centers on narratives of identity
and the existential webs that are woven through time. While Opera, as a temporal medium, must contend with time
as a chronological linear concept, Palmistry actively dispenses with the linearity of time.
Individually, the three vocalists--Kayleigh Butcher, Maria Jacobi, and CarrieAnne Winter--and I visited the Palmist
Cat McGuire for hour-long readings here in Manhattan. Since identity is a personal experience, each vocalist is
singing excerpted text from their own readings. They are--in a sense--singing a song of themselves.
The harmonic vocabulary of the piece is inspired by the Medieval hexachord system. Beginning in the 12th century,
vocalists learned these hexachords with the help of a mnemonic that used locations on the human hand to
represent the solfege system. The Guidonian Hand, as it is now known, links the corporeal with notation: the hand,
like Palmistry, mines the physiology of our hands for meaning. Each of the three hexachords of the medieval
system is passed between each of the three singers in each of the three movements.