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That the Sun Sucks Up

Jacquelyn Brioux
Jacquelyn Brioux

Jacquelyn Brioux

 

Audio Clips:

That the Sun Sucks Up (2005)

 

That the Sun Sucks Up is a sonic adaptation and comment on the character of Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Brioux writes that she

wanted to compose a sonic response to Caliban’s looming presence in The Tempest through a modern-day interpretation, using modern-day instruments and soundscapes.  The idea was to create a lush, looming, distortion-filled and fairly chaotic ensemble of sounds that was reflective of Caliban; in this way, the sonic would parallel Caliban’s presence throughout the play.

Brioux is a sonic artist currently living and working in Busan, South Korea, teaching English while working on her sonic art portfolio.  Her current explorations with sonic art have developed out of formal training in voice and percussion, as well as proficiency in guitar, electronic manipulation, soundscape recording, and vocal experimentation.  In 2005 Brioux was awarded her B.A. in English from the University of Guelph with electives in music and women’s studies.

Brioux’s artist’s statement for That the Sun Sucks Up describes her intention and inspiration for the piece as originating from the emotion and physical presence of Caliban in the play.  Unlike other post-colonial adaptations of The Tempest that seek to re-inscribe Caliban’s character with agency and a voice,(1) Brioux’s piece seems to address modern audiences.  Uncomfortable with portrayals of slavery or savageness, modern politically correct audiences may prefer to see an empowered, emancipated Caliban onstage rather than the haunting and embittered figure of Shakespeare’s text.  Brioux resurrects the emotional resonance of this ‘original’ figure for us in That the Sun Sucks Up and enfolds the listener in his environment. 

Following is an excerpt from Brioux’s artist’s statement about her Shakespearean soundscape:

Caliban is often associated with savagery, rejection, punishment, and desire; I saw a potential to associate these emotions with modern man, who struggles with the economic, social, cultural, sexual, and psychological pressures of conformity, convention, and stereotype. Caliban’s honesty and guilt-inspiring presence are reflected through the melodic undertones battling it out with the raw frequencies and sporadic tribal drum beats I use in the piece. The lines “all the infections that the sun sucks up” and “after bite me … do hiss me into madness,” were of particular influence, as I thought they conveyed the embittered response of Caliban––a man who has been subjected to the unwanted discipline of power and control and thus responds in an irrational manner of self-pity and disgust.


The piece was composed using a percussion line that was made from a recording I had of a drum circle I participated in with a few of my friends. There was a moment where we broke into spouts of animalistic noises, and I thought these shouts would  fit what I wanted to convey in relation to Caliban’s existential condition. I decided upon using the hand drum (djembe) timbre so as to aid in associating Caliban with the tribal. The feedback line was intended to irritate the listener, causing feelings of anxiety; much like the anxiety that the presence of Caliban causes for modern audiences. The searing guitar lines (with their dense distortion and circular effect), were intended to tunnel the listener’s mental zone, making him/her feel musically surrounded – much like being on an island. The vocals were a recording of me speaking, whispering, growling, and singing the lines from Caliban’s monologue before Trinculo and Stephano stumble upon him (see below). The recording of the rain was significant to the storm in the beginning of the play, adding to the dark mood, illustrating the natural, and highlighting the threat of savagery from the world outside. The song’s overall timbre was structured to create an eerie feeling, a looming presence of conflicted and dominating power, and an internalized state of tension and release. Ultimately, the sonic interpretation was intended to represent the internalized feelings that Caliban’s presence in the play provokes in the audience.

All the infections that the sun sucks up

From bogs, fens, flats, on Prosper fall, and make him

By inch-meal a disease! His spirits hear me,

And yet I needs must curse. But they’ll nor pinch,

Fright me with urchin-shows, pitch me i’ the mire,

Nor lead me, like a firebrand, in the dark

Out of my way, unless he bid ‘em; but

For every trifle are they set upon me:

Sometime like apes that mow and chatter at me,

And after bite me; then like hedge-hogs which

Lie tumbling in my bare-foot way, and mount

Their pricks at my foot-fall; sometimes am I

All wound with adders, who with cloven tongues

Do hiss me into madness

-- Caliban (ActII, Scene II). The Tempest

 

(1) Such as Aimée Césare’s Une Tempête (1968) or De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group’s New World Brave (2000).

 

CASP

 

For more information about Jacquelyn’s music including audio clips, visit http://www.myspace.com/jacquelynaprilsounds.

 

Audio Clips:

That the Sun Sucks Up (2005)

 


 

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Fischlin, Daniel. Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project. University of Guelph. 2004. <http://www.canadianshakespeares.ca>.

 

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