"Heterotopia" is, indeed, an opera, and it operates on an oceanic scale. The music is fluid and prismatic, churning through knotty riffs and shimmery hooks before coming to rest, briefly, in sublime moments of repose." - NPR
Schooltree's original rock opera is about a girl who loses her body and must journey as a ghost through a parallel world of the collective unconscious to get it back. Both urban folklore and metaphysical fairy tale, Heterotopia was developed over several years and recorded as a double album in the tradition of ambitious concept albums like Quadrophenia, Ziggy Stardust, and Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. It is now available here.
Song excerpts from Heterotopia:
Heterotopia's libretto and music were written by composer/performer/producer Lainey Schooltree. It was first presented in-progress at a private workshop at Cloud Club and recorded as a concept double-album with art rock ensemble Schooltree and producer Peter Moore, made possible in part by a nationally-featured Kickstarter campaign raising more than $20k, with signal boosts from Aimee Mann, Neko Case, Margaret Cho, Amanda Palmer, and Barry Crimmins. The album was officially released in March 2017, and performed live in its entirety for the first time, along with a full-color illustrated book.
Heterotopia follows the classic hero's quest cycle. It explores the themes of dystopia, dissociation, and the spaces we occupy - how they relate and interact with one another to create transformation. Underachiever Suzi is just another turn-of-the-21st-century loser, until the day she sees something strange in an alley and follows it straight down a manhole. In an abyss of nothingness she loses her body, and must journey incorporeally through a parallel world of the collective unconscious on a psychedelic pilgrimage to get it back. But something is wrong in Otherspace; it has been overtaken by shadows and chaos. In order to become whole again, Suzi must delve into the origins of this world's darkness, going from the neon lights of her plasterboard horizon home to the bottom of a cursed river’s malevolent lullaby, where the fate of Otherspace and her own are inextricably linked.
The live experience
Tickets are now available! The first-ever public performance will transform this music into an immersive storytelling experience: a three-dimensional concert which audiences will be able to walk right inside and become a part of, integrating interactive video installation with musical performance. Schooltree is partnering with Sam Okerstrom-Lang (Samo), a Boston-based new-media interdisciplinary digital artist and designer, to create this experience at OBERON on March 31st, 2017. Samo will be designing, sculpting, installing, and activating the video installation, performing live with the band.
What the heck is a heterotopia, anyway?
You googled it, you looked on wikipedia, you still don't really know! You're not alone. “Heterotopia” is a term colorfully outlined but never fully developed by Michel Foucault, used as a relational understanding of the spaces we as humans occupy. As simply put as possible, heterotopia refers to social or cultural spaces of otherness; worlds within worlds that connect with the rest of space in ways that simultaneously reflect, distort, and change it. Heterotopia the rock opera imagines our collective unconscious (referred to as “otherspace”) literally as such a space – a place both real and unreal, physical and mental, a liminal ancestral repository of symbols and archetypes where an initiation of self can take place.
Our hero, 21st century everyloser and underachiever extraordinaire. Suzi is the poster girl for existential ennui, a sour-pussed would've-been rocknroller who spends her time in back rooms and back seats instead. She's made some bad choices, but she'll soon find a chance to reclaim herself - literally.
Suzi contracts the uncomfortable affliction of incorporeality. We follow our hero as she journeys through otherspace as a down-and-out-of-body ghost trying to find a way back home.
Without a soul, Suzi's body (Zombuzi, as we call her) is still walking around doing stuff, as Suzi Specter learns in horror when she looks in reflective surfaces. Zombuzi has her own plans for the future, and those don't include Suzi. She's a material girl in the material world, and she'd prefer that it stays that way.
Cat Centipede is Heterotopia's counterpart to the "call to adventure," the first stage of the monomyth. Running on a hundred legs of speed, it skitters on the periphery; presumably once an abandoned stray, transformed by excess and pollution into a bizarre, serpentine feline. This cat is a mascot of otherness; a thing both created and rejected by human society. Without a place in day to day life, it absconded to the margins of existence itself, moving furtively between worlds, unseen by the inhabitants of either. It tends to linger near manholes and sewer drains, and its appearance is characterized by rainbows of oil puddle residue on its fur.
The parallel world is populated by archetypes - personified representations of pure forms and symbols chillin' and doing stuff - including a mystical species of ethereal helper-spirits called leitmaidens (literally "routing maid" or "guiding maid"). Each leitmaiden is endowed with a specific power that she uses to influence outcomes in the physical world (the effects of which, when they notice them, humans may associate with luck or fate). This practice of affecting the physical world from the unconscious is referred to as "mirrorwalking." But mirrorwalking has become a lost art; leitmaidens have all but disappeared from this world since its descent into darkness and shadow.
One leitmaiden still roams the land: Metanoia, who represents both catastrophic crisis and the rebirth that follows, in search of an an opportunity to change the course of things in the unconscious realm. Stalwart keeper of the fundamental change, she's filled with the sadness of walking alone in a world gone to shit but also with the unthwarted determination of her birthright; she is one who does not have the option to give up in spite of dark times. She appears to Suzi as her guide, seeing in her anomalous presence this opportunity for change, and sends her into the heart of the darkness, where the source of the world's darkness sleeps, and where there's a chance Suzi may find a way to become whole again in waking it.
according to legend, balance she did defend
taking all the opposites into their synthesis
A leitmaiden of ancient lore and the object of Suzi's quest. Long ago she served this world by bringing together opposites until she was cursed by a shadow and plummeted to the bottom of a river where she sleeps forevermore. When awakened she is no longer a leitmaiden but Enantiodromia the Reaper, with a dark new approach to balancing the land.
Otherspace is full of shady weirdos, and these gory babes are chief among them: a three-headed shadow creature that throws shade at Suzi on her way to the river. They appear at the beginning of Act II with some rude comments and a prophesy about Suzi. These are the voices in your head that tell you you suck.