CIRCE bird of prey

A musical minidrama for purported witch, five animal-instruments and an absent man.

Music by Diana Syrse
Text by Aleksi Barrière

World premiere on November 19th, 2021, at the Kunsthalle Erfurt, performed by Diana Syrse (voice) and Ensemble Via Nova.

Note

“By transforming these men into animals, I have revealed their proper forms. In the future I will be blamed for this, and reckless men will call good Circe evil.”

– Giordano Bruno, Cantus Circaeus, 1582

There was a witch on a lonely island covered with a wild forest. Her name was Bird-of-Prey – Κίρκη in the language of the culture that ruled the waves at the time. Maybe that is because men found it incomprehensible that this woman would rather live alone in a kingdom of her making than be subjected to their laws; and because it was easier for these men to think she transformed her suitors into beasts through witchcraft than to take the blame for really being beasts under their human skins. Is the name self-given or acquired by reputation? In any case it was reclaimed by her. And like Sylvia Plath, she ‘ate men like air’.

The archetypes of the femme fatale and of the sorceress have a history, and it is ambivalent. Circe is related to a lineage of dark femininity, placed as she is by the canon in the close family of Medea the witch and Pasiphae the mother of the Minotaur – sometimes of Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft herself. Many have sought to expand on this lineage to reclaim (under the names of these enchantresses and crones and of the ancient goddesses of which they are iterations) an empowering secret tradition of female knowledge and craft, and this now belongs to the subtext of Circe’s legend. This tradition, however, has little to do with burning sage and healing crystals, with the essentialist, sexist trope of feminine intuition versus male rationality: rather, it acknowledges that no one social or cultural group has a monopoly on science and power. Although The Odyssey is told from the perspective of the male civilized ‘hero’, it does recognize the potency of Circe’s knowledge, and her epithet πολυφάρμακος (of many poisons/medicines) makes her a match to Odysseus πολύτροπος (of many ways/turns).

Nevertheless, inside The Odyssey itself, the story of Circe is a most welcome rebuttal of the monolingual male epic, meaning both of the idea of a master language or culture or gender, and of every conception we have about how to tell a story. Circe doesn’t only offer an alternative to the paradigm of the conquering hero’s return by being a queen of herself only: she suggests a form of theatre based not on epic recitation, on the journey to Hell and back, but on νέκυια, the invitation for the dead to visit us, the making of ourselves into receptacles for suppressed voices and images. Circe the necromancer inaugurates a theatre of the oppressed. She is not a role-model or a cautionary tale, but as in the writings of Giordano Bruno, the teacher of a method to make the invisible visible there where we can see it: within ourselves, in the theatres of our minds and bodies.

In this highly condensed version of the story – a possession rather than an epic –, Circe is surrounded by the presence of the human animals she has tamed, and by the absence of her warrior-lover Nobody. She dissociates between her identities, created within different linguistic realms, until she invents her own language beyond them, closer to her own body and voice. Her controversial choice of embracing a solitary life on her own island and according to her own rules is open-ended: whether terminating her toxic power-play of a romance will result in life-long loneliness or in new, more empowered relationships is left for the audience to explore in their own lives – since that is the place where ancient mythologies continue to play out.

Libretto

Ga-Ga-Ga       Tööt     Pa-Pa-Pa         Coin-Coin-Cua?        
OINK  Hoo-Hoo        Guau-Guau Hee-Haw            Knor-Knor      Béééééh          Νιάου             Coc’orico        Moooo            Ii-Ha-Ha                     -Ha      Boo-Boo

ANIMALS all these men
barging in from their wars
they blame my sp-ells for their transformation

i was born from the moon and the sun / my s-cries
only shed light on what was already there
there is nothing they hate more these men who never take off their ar-mours
then when i see them naked
there is nothing you hate more

*

ich sehe dich nackt und ich lache und du schlägst mich ins gesicht und ich lache lauter und du schlägst mich fester ins gesicht und ich schaue dir in die augen mit lächelnden augen und du schreist schau mich nicht so an und du hasst mich wie einen feind und du drückst meinen kopf ins kissen und ich verhöhne dich was für ein mann und du drückst und drückst um meine lachen und gesicht zum schweigen zu bringen und so weiter und weiter und später als wir im bett liegen streichelst du meine blaue flecke und küsst meine brüste wie ein kind und flüsterst ich kann mir mein leben ohne dich nicht vorstellen

*

…arañas arañas en todos lados en mi cuerpo… ¿Por qué debería hablar tu idioma?
Seulement parce que je n’ai plus de langue personnelle ?
I make potions only to cleanse my mouth from your filthy language the language
of the Empire that rules over the seas.
Aqui en mi isla verkünde ich Gesetze que personne ne reconnaît.
Et ma peau est mon unique journal intime, wide open for everyone to write in.

*

>dance of Circe with the lustful animals>
>>female testosterone and male estrogen>>

*

[in an imaginary improvised language, translated as the following:]

You asked me to open the gates of hell for you
To show you the futures that laid ahead
Me the daughter of the sun and the moon
Me whose sister mated with a bull and gave birth to a labyrinth

I painted my eyes black and my lips red and I said things
You had never heard before larger than your traveler’s imagination
(Like painfully climbing a mountain you only knew as a distant landscape)
Your nails into my skin into your skin to the blood
You heard your dead mother’s voice and your wife’s and your daughter’s in mine
You cried and begged me to stop but I kept talking
Your fever gave me fever and I was a queen again
And you said leave me here in hell where I belong
And I said this hell belongs to me fare you well soldier
And before you left we looked at the black sky together
And the sky and the sea went silent and I felt alive

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