How to survive a 100-hour workweek | 2016
musical theater for vocalists and live electronics

This piece was developed in collaboration with Kallisti Ensemble and Leslie Leytham (who premiered the first short version titled Rev NVP in Iceland in 2015). The full-length revised work premiered at UC San Diego and Stanford University in October 2016.




To Choke: Gag, retch, fight for breath,
Underachieve, underperform,
Disappoint, lose,
Collapse, fall apart,
Choke. Keep Choking.

Choking is an (re)action that induces in the body a severe and uncontrollable need to fight for breath, to expel a toxic substance. Taken as an issue of performance, choking often entails freezing, underperforming, panicking, giving up, disappointing others, collapsing, running away, or refusing to cooperate. An object that chokes is an object that obstructs, that prevents things from flowing smoothly and according to plan. Choking induces a will to fight, to recognize the things that are suffocating us and to NOT asphyxiate passively. It is a refusal to live up to the expectations of a system that treats human life as a profit-machine, and a call to willfully serve as an obstruction.

Further Notes

How to survive a 100-hour workweek is an exploration of bodily/vocal relationships to labor and technology. I chose texts of Reverend Norman Vincent Peale (author of The Power of Positive Thinking) which attempt to normalize, through empty rhetoric, the "productive" citizen's relationship to negative ("unproductive") emotions. I juxtaposed texts from Peale's book, published in 1952, with contemporary material taken from various lifestyle video bloggers. These bloggers discuss strategies for staying positive in the face of the 70-100 hour workweek that is becoming increasingly normalized in today's gigging labor market. On one hand, the rhetoric of these bloggers can be seen as supporting a labor paradigm that leaves little time for personal pleasures and pursuits. On the other hand, one can view these blogs in a survivalist light, albeit sugar-coated; everyday people outline strategies they believe will help others cope with exhaustion and depression. The rhetoric of these bloggers is inevitably accompanied by certain vocal affects that suggest unrelenting positivity. As three laborers become increasingly desperate to escape this hellish work environment filled with snippets of advice, choking emerges as a theme and mantra. It is configured as transformation that moves from a bodily recognition of danger and need for expulsion, toward willful economic obstruction (choking the flow of profit.) A fourth laborer operates a kinesthetic electronics "faucet", which interfaces with Arduino and Max to let sonic events either trickle or pour through the speakers.