The Origin

THE ORIGIN is a multimedia oratorio in celebration of the life and work of Charles Darwin, one of the world's greatest and most influential thinkers. The Origin features four extraordinary short films by noted filmaker Bill Morrison and scored for soloists, chorus, orchestra, female Balkan vocal group, and video projections. The work centers upon the making of Darwin's masterpiece: The Origin of Species.

As its libretto, THE ORIGIN uses texts drawn exclusively from Darwin's deeply eloquent writing. Some of the texts are autobiographical, such as Darwin's private notes on the profound loss of his ten-year-old daughter. However, Darwin's mind is the main subject as he develops, struggles, and enthusiastically describes his theory of the evolution of new species through natural selection, which is often praised as "the single best idea anyone has ever had."

While informed by Darwin's theories and history, the piece is hardly didactic or historical. Instead, much of the time, it is simply joyous--often humorously so. For Darwin, understanding the natural world was a wonderful opportunity for serious fun. The sheer delight Darwin takes in trying to make sense of the world shines through all of his writings on nature as he speculates on whether an oyster dreams of the future or as he grapples with how the human eye could possibly evolve. Darwin's nature was to be curious, in every sense of the word.

The exciting and haunting sound of a Balkan female vocal group is used as the "Voice of Charles Darwin." This unusual choice becomes, when heard, perfectly obvious because it helps change our preconception of who Darwin was, making both the man and his science more easily accessible. One of the finest American-based Balkan groups, Kitka, premiered the piece and is available for more performances.

Hailed at its premiere as " imaginative work layered with profound insight..." (The Post-Standard), THE ORIGIN celebrates the often enigmatic and exceedingly wonderful nature of human thought and achievement.