The Familiar Spirit

for women's chorus and electronics

Commissioned by Lorelei Ensemble
Text by Amaranth Borsuk
Video by Christopher O’Leary
Premiered Friday, May 10th, 2013 at Marsh Chapel, Boston, MA


The Familiar Spirit turns the first recorded instance of “spirit-rapping” communication into a series of poetic vignettes that explore the technologization, eroticization, and community-building role of the 19th-century medium. When Margaret and Catherine Fox rushed into their parents’ bedroom the night of March 31, 1848 claiming to have heard mysterious noises in the night, little did they know this prank would bring neighbors, strangers, and eventually a cadre of credulous celebrities from Frederick Douglass to Fenimore Cooper into their home and their lives. With the first knockings of the spirit they called “Mr. Splitfoot,” the Fox sisters launched the spiritualist movement.

Through permutation, iteration and wordplay, the text captures the echoes of those early knockings, while the score imagines the event as a bizarre religious ritual, with meditative drones, dense clustered textures, and percussive, propulsive chanting.


To purchase full score, parts, and electronics patch, contact the composer.

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