Studio Sound

Sable Elyse Smith

Jul 3–14, 2024


Portrait of Shala Miller, lead vocalist in Sable Elyse Smith’s If you unfolded us, 2024. Photo: Naima Green
  • MoMA, Floor 4, Studio The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio

The second annual presentation of Studio Sound—a performance series that champions artists and musicians whose work engages new possibilities for sound and music—premieres a new opera, titled If you unfolded us, by interdisciplinary artist and writer Sable Elyse Smith, in collaboration with composer David Dominique and vocalist Freddie June.

Smith’s work draws from the legacy of Conceptual art, using video, sculpture, photography, text, and sound to confront the mundane and pervasive impacts of systemic oppression. If you unfolded us is an immersive multimedia work, for two voices (Freddie June and S T A R R Busby) and an eight-piece chamber ensemble, comprising a series of songs that weave together an unfolding love story between two Black women and the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery.

Dominique’s score fuses traditional and popular musical forms, with influences ranging from R&B and jazz to musique concrète and contemporary chamber music. Set against the backdrop of a developing storm, the performance explores the political, collective, and dramatic potential of the voice, as well as the ways in which language dissolves through sonic expression.

Smith has written the libretto and created video for the performance. Taking a cinematic approach, she combines found footage with imagery from the performers’ interior worlds. In addition to the live performances, during the hours listed below the Studio transforms into a multimedia installation, featuring the work’s video and sound.

Performance schedule
Wednesday July 10, 8:00 p.m.
Thursday July 11, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday July 13, 3:00 p.m.
Saturday July 13, 8:00 p.m.
Sunday July 14, 3:00 p.m.

The matinee performance on Sunday, July 14, will be followed by a conversation between the artists and Martha Joseph of Media and Performance.

Video viewing schedule
Wednesday, July 3–Sunday, July 7, 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 10–Thursday, July 11, 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m
Friday, July 12, 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 13, 10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 14, 10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Organized by Martha Joseph, Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance, with May Makki, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance. Performances produced by Lizzie Gorfaine, Associate Director and Producer, with Nora Chellew, Assistant Performance Coordinator, Performance and Live Programs.

Major support for the exhibition is provided by the Sarah Arison Endowment Fund for Performance and by the Wallis Annenberg Director’s Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art.

Generous funding is provided by The Young Patrons Council of The Museum of Modern Art.


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