Ash Fure’s ‘The Force of Things’ Comes to the Hop

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The multimedia “opera for objects” grapples with environmental devastation.

Two people facing each other with megaphones
The Force of Things: An Opera for Objects will be performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble at the Hopkins Center for the Arts this month.  (Photo courtesy of International Contemporary Ensemble) 

Over the past several years, composer Ash Fure—an associate professor of music—has teamed up with architect Adam Fure to present an immersive production that shatters musical conventions. The siblings’ collaboration, The Force of Things: An Opera for Objects, will be performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) at the Hopkins Center for the Arts Jan. 13-16.

“This multimedia work is a testament to the innovation and talent of Dartmouth faculty members. We’re very proud to be supporting the growth and expansion of their work by making it accessible to our students and to the wider Dartmouth community, and by sharing live arts experiences that allow us all to better understand critical issues of our times,” says Mary Lou Aleskie, the Howard L. Gilman ’44 director of the Hop.

Fure says the large-scale work of musical theater grapples with “the rising tide of eco-dread around us.” Audience members enter a field of sculpted matter ringed by speakers sounding waveforms too low for human ears. Though resonating outside auditory boundaries, the subwoofers send ripples of energy that pulsate through the material world of the piece.

Ash Fure
Associate professor of music Ash Fure collaborated with her brother, Adam Fure, on The Force of Things. (Photo by Clare Gatto)

A finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Music and the winner of the Lincoln Center Emerging Artists Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rome Prize, a DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Prize, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant for Artists, a Fulbright Fellowship to France, a Kranichsteiner Musikpreis, and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship from Columbia University, Fure has blazed trails in sonic art by expanding the parameters of musical performance.

“We’re looking in this piece for drama in uncommon and non-human sources,” says the composer in a video created by ICE. “If you think about a shard of ice that cracks off of a glacier and crashes into the sea, or you think of a barn that collapses slowly under its own weight and finally drops into a pile of debris, are those actions dramatic? They’re not born out of jealousy or rage or spite, but there is an incredible amount of expressive power and richness in those events.”

Reviewing the New Jersey premiere of The Force of ThingsNew Yorker music critic Alex Ross writes, “There are no words, nor is there a plot. There is, however, a powerful sense of purpose.” In the Dec. 6, 2021, issue of the magazine, Ross praises another of Fure’s works, Hive Rise, recently presented at The Industry in Los Angeles, an experimental music cooperative where Fure is a co-director.

“The music is amorphous, engulfing, gelatinous, ferocious. Some passages evoke a subterranean machine revving up, grinding as it ascends toward the surface; others suggest tiny creatures excavating a cavernous space. Climaxes have a rancid beauty, the beauty of catastrophe and collapse,” Ross writes.

The Hop performances are part of a larger initiative called Archiving the Immersive, which is the recipient of Dartmouth’s Scholarly Innovation and Advancement Award and builds on research partnerships with the University of Michigan’s Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Tickets to the January performances have sold out, and a waitlist is in progress. All members of the public must show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or having a negative result of a recent PCR test.

Charlotte Albright