Colin Self’s Siblings is a proposal for interdependence, critical joy, and an expansive sense of being. As the lyrics beam, “I used to live as an anomaly... no explanation biologically,” so siblings share hidden language, lore, and identity. On Siblings, ecstatic voices and sound knot to form new ideals of kinship, emerging as horizontal relations for multi-species flourishing.
Colin Self challenges boundaries of perception with his art, music, and performances. Inspired by the work of Donna Haraway (Cyborg Manifesto, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene), Siblings is the final segment of the six-part opera series entitled Elation. Informed by Self’s exploration of the ways of knowing, Siblings places a non-biological family at its centre. The characters, bonded by curiosity and caring, generate ways of collectively coming together on a damaged planet. Self uses Siblings to define this familial experience through sound and its soundmakers.
From years experiencing Riot Grrrl shows around Self’s early home of Oregon to his involvement in the New York City-based performance collective Chez Deep, Self expands the DIY ethos to a space and mind of Do-It-Together. Feeding into Siblings is XHOIR, Self’s ongoing project of group vocal workshops for singing and listening, and a broad cast of kin including but not limited to Michael Beharie, Greg Fox (drums), Martine Syms (words and voice), The Mivos Quartet, and Raul De Nieves (cover art).
On “Story,” Siblings’ opening moment, breath and beats emerge as echoes within a vast, heaving chamber, sound conjured and cajoled into a new, blistered terrain. “Foresight” urges us toward a worlding - a break from the planet we’ve disregarded: “I see on my screen all the doubt, where it comes from, why you trust in no one. I see a new light.” While the unhinged form of “Ante-Strategy” lays the sonic compost for a Belurusian political poem, written with Tanya Zamirouskaya and Anastasia Kolas, Self tends toward elaboration and excesses in a “joyous rendering of survival.”
Siblings splits sides with “Transitions,” a pluri-vocal burst called forth from interstellar margins to put uncounted bodies in motion. Repetitions of “I commit to you” end with “We commit to you.” Self utilises theoretical vocabulary to encourage germination of a new language. “Research Sisters” will make their own myths and forge their own families, the work’s fire sparking frenetic, ecstatic voices flashing back and forth in stereo. The gathering of choral voices lift up the melancholic words of “The Great Refusal” over pillowy layers of strings and stumbling, sputtering showers of keyboards.
Siblings is Self’s second full-length release following 2015’s Elation. Siblings has been performed iteratively and internationally with humor, drama, and fierce song. Siblings’ MoMA PS1 staging in 2018 featured black-light messaging, countdown clocks, books on rope, and dancers adorned with swirling prints and LED lanterns. Self follows, in Haraway’s words, towards a “commitment to the finicky, disruptive details of good stories that don’t know how to finish.” Future performances will likely carry away in the best way.