Duprass: Galut (Diaspora)
Galut (Diaspora), a single-movement work by Duprass duo Liora Belford and Ido Govrin, has gone through a number of incarnations in its brief history: though created as a radio drama, it was originally exhibited in March, 2011 as a sound installation (consisting of eight audio channels and text) at Jerusalem's Barbur gallery, and now assumes the form of a captivating set-piece of twenty-four minutes duration. One of the work's themes involves distancing, such as the kind invoked when a text undergoes translation from Yiddish to the Hebrew (as was done in this case by Daniel Birnbaum and Ido Govrin) heard on the recording and when sound is polyphonically split into eight channels for the work's presentation within the gallery space. And for many listeners, there is distancing most of all in the barrier created by the Hebraic text and the absence of an accompanying translation—English, French, or otherwise. Consequently, the brief commentary Yonatan Amir contributed to the exhibition catalog proves to be invaluable in offering a way into the piece beyond the pure surface of the sounds themselves, voice and otherwise. The texts incorporated into the work come from six short poems and other writings by Moshe Gurin and include “From a Prisoner's Old Notepad,” “Mrs. Vislevska,” “Yerushalaim,” and “Unterwegs,” among others.
After sounds of the natural outdoors, footsteps crunching, and a muffled pound appear, a deep, sonorous speaking voice enters followed by a second, slightly higher pitched voice. In accordance with the text, the voices—Zohar Eitan as the Narrator, Govrin as Tzvi G., and Birnbaum as M. Gurevich—alternate and intertwine, with the speakers' voices accompanied by the groan of Dan Weinstein's cello and Shira Legmann's piano, which is played in both standard and prepared manner. The instruments in this case often function less as melodic resources and more as atmospheric punctuation that augments the text's narrative unfolding. As such, Legmann exploits her instrument's percussive potential in addition to the conventional uses to which it's usually put. Field recordings find their way into the sound design too, with the dribble of heavy rainfall emerging at the halfway mark, and voice contrasts emerge most noticeably in the differences between the narrator's sober, even grave delivery and the others' more expressive speaking styles. The work's most affecting moment comes during its final minutes when Weinstein's cello playing assumes a mournful character that lends the spoken text it accompanies an emotional gravitas it wouldn't have on its own. The final minute is powerful too in bringing into the mix faint traces of a mournful chanting voice that still manages to be heard despite the presence of nature sounds. For those not fluent in Hebrew, the work, despite that distancing effect, becomes one that one must engage with on purely sonic terms, but even with that condition in place it still commands one's attention. Certainly the work's modest duration helps greatly in enabling it to do so.