Rouse, who also sings, wrote the libretto, using phrases from Engelbart's demo as opera supertitles, among them 2C ORANGES, 2D APPLES, 3 NEWS, 4 LETTUCE, 5 FRENCH BREAD, 6 BEAN SOUP.
Singers' entrances happen as the text comes on screen," explained Rouse in a recent phone interview. "When the text comes up and you hear it sung, it looks like magic. You can't figure out how they're doing this live." ...
Before creating "The Demo," the two composers, both 57 and living in the New York City area, had collaborated on a number of programs, but neither was familiar with the 1968 computer technology breakthrough.
Neill came upon a video of Engelbart's demo on the Stanford website while researching the history of the Internet for a class at New Jersey's Ramapo College, where he is an associate professor of music industry and production.
"I was completely blown away," he said. "I was just so taken not only by the content but also by the quality of the video. I found it remarkable that so much of the technology we use in our daily lives could be traced to this one event, which was essentially a type of performance."
Planning to use Engelbart's demo as a teaching tool, he also thought about "trying to make some kind of artistic work around this because I didn't think very many people knew about it. It was such a remarkable document about an event that changed the world."
Plus, "there was something about Engelbart's personality and the way he seemed to be delivering this thing" that inspired Neill. "He was so calm and relaxed, almost meditative," the composer explained. "Using technology in live performance in 2015, I know it can be harrowing. He just seemed to be so relaxed, as if he had done it a thousand times."
"The advantage of sous vide," someone said.
"But it wasn't sous vide!" Dufresne said. "That's the thing. It was cooked in a pan. And it had no gray on it! Do you know how hard that is? Do you know how much work that takes? Turning the beef every seven or eight seconds … And so that question you asked me before, about food and music—that's my answer: a perfect piece of Wagyu beef cooked in a pan that comes out without any gray on it. It might not be 'When the Levee Breaks,' but it's definitely 'Achilles Last Stand.' "
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