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The Shopping List

table-top miniature opera for voices and fixed media (binaural audio on headphones, polystyrene, Plexiglas, magnets, electronic components, vintage supermarket toy set (ca. 1950), and multicolored mini beanbags)

Marco Buongiorno Nardelli, music and artistic direction

Ken Eklund, text

Frank Cerasoli, technical design

Júlia Coelho, soprano

Listen to a possible rendition of the piece here

"The Shopping List" is part of the art collection of the Santa Fe Institute (Santa Fe, NM) on a permanent loan from the artist.

The Shopping List for voice and fixed media is an interactive tabletop miniature opera, composed of a single-piece gameboard that can be easily placed on a table or pedestal (see right panel of picture above). The idea is inspired by “mechanical” shopping lists, somewhat common in the first half of the 20th century as mnemonic aid for the family shoppers (left panel of figure above). Here, I expand on this idea by replacing the mechanical list with the interactive board with mini bean bags that substitute the pins. The Shopping List is an opera installation, where the items of the list are the libretto. For this opera, also the words transcend the rote list of the traditional shopper. Once more, my collaborator Ken Eklund has chosen words that invites us to a journey of exploration, introspection, and meditation:


a tomato, apples, bagels, bread, carrots, cheese, chocolate, coffee, eggs, greens, ice cream, milk, cartwheels, a nutmeg of consolation, a paper tiger, Arkansas toothpicks, blubber, chains, berry hatchets, blades for Ockham’s razor, pepper with questions, enough rope, social glue, a penny for the old guy, a piece of mind, a pony, children, yellowjackets, quislings, suffragettes, a virus of the mind, remember: do NOT get the following…


The performance of the opera is left to the visitors that will engage with it by placing the mini beanbags and will be able to hear the music they produce through headphones. The limited size of the board will allow only two participants at a time. The sound space is organized on two layers of performance corresponding to subsequent covering of the same square sensor: one layer will perform the words as recorded by the singer, the other will provide the instrumental accompaniment through an electronic score. This configuration allows for a virtually infinite performance without any repetition of the musical material.

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