Inanna Descending - Ewa Trębacz International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn

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This piece would not have come to life if not for the 4000-year-old poem, a personal encounter with an ephemeral piece of music, and the unbound musical imagination of my collaborators. 

The Descent of Inanna (c. 1900–1600 BCE) 
From the Great Above she opened her ear to the Great Below 
From the Great Above the goddess opened her ear to the Great Below
From the Great Above Inanna opened her ear to the Great Below 

(Quoted after Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth, New York: Harper & Row, 1983) 

These are the famous opening words of an ancient Sumerian poem, The Descent of Inanna (ca 1900–1600 BCE), describing the goddess Inanna’s journey into the underworld and her return to the world of the living. is poem, composed in the first written language in human history, and the underlying myth have lingered in literature and culture through millennia. For us, living in the 21st century, the world of the Sumerians is as remote as another planet, yet we share the same human experience of life and death, and curiosity of the mysterious line between them. I would like the listeners of my piece to treat these opening words as a gateway to my piece. It is a poetic invitation to recreate the journey with their own imagination, immersed in the soundscape of live and prerecorded sounds. 

Inanna Descending utilises over a decade of my Ambisonic recordings in unusual acoustic spaces of the Washington State. Many layers of these recordings were later extensively processed and finally composed into the final three-dimensional soundscape. The voice of soprano Anna Niedźwiedź ultimately became the voice of goddess Inanna and the lead part of the piece. Other voices in the electronic layer belong to Josiah Boothby, French horn; Mirta Wymerszberg, bandoneon and flute; Joseph Anderson, concertina and recorders; and myself, violin. 

In 2017 I had the opportunity to realise the electronic part for Pacific Sirens, a 1969 work by American composer Robert Erickson. I was deeply moved by this ephemeral piece, composed with noise-like sounds of many colours, and undefined ensemble tuning into this soundscape. The performing forces are not defined, and the rather open form opens up the space for imagination and creativity. 

Just as in Pacific Sirens, Inanna Descending allows for a variable ensemble, with an unlimited variety of instruments and voices, while the precomposed soundscape becomes the score and the foundation of the live performance. The live performance creates a direct response to those pre-recorded and transformed soundscapes. Performers are given instructions in the form of limited guidelines, with a lot of room to fill in using their own imagination, while listening to each other and to the spaces around them. Ultimately, the entire physical and perceptual space of the concert hall becomes the resonance box of an extended immersive instrument. 

Special thanks to the Department of Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS).

The premiere of Inanna Descending in 2019 Seattle was supported by the Listen UP! Music by Women 2018 Artist Award from the Allied Arts Foundation in Seattle. 

Ewa Trębacz