SIN-EATER World Premiere

“The theatricality of Mr. Little’s music, coupled with his original and adapted text, is so intense that it hardly needed the visual cues to have a shattering impact…The chilling relationship between eating and power is clear.” The Wall Street Journal

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This fall, David T. Little introduced his new “SIN-EATER, composed for GRAMMY-winning new music choir The Crossing and Donald Nally, with the Bergamot Quartet. Co-commissioned by The Crossing and Penn Live Arts, the piece received its world premiere performance on October 14-15 at Penn Live Arts’ Harold Prince Theatre in Philadelphia.

In SIN-EATER, Little holds a mirror to modern society through the ancient practice of paying the poor to ritualistically “eat” the sins of the rich. Upon a privileged person’s death, a loaf of bread would be placed atop the corpse and then consumed by a lower-ranking person from the town outskirts—thus taking on the deceased person’s guilty deeds. In this “ritual grotesquerie,” Little draws parallels to modern-day “sin-eaters”—soldiers, first responders, essential workers, social media content moderators—who absorb the ills of society, enabling others to lead safer, healthier, and oblivious lives. The composer explains: “Through the lens of this practice, SIN-EATER investigates whom we ask to sin or suffer for us today.”

Over the course of the 70-minute choral work, Little weaves together texts from a wide range of eras to illuminate the connections across time: Jonathan Swift (Irish, 1667-1745), Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (French, 1755-1826), Stephen Crane (American, 1871-1900), Festus Claudius “Claude” McKay (Jamaican-American, 1890-1948), Wilfred Owen (English, 1893-1918), Harold McGee (American, b. 1951), Anne Elizabeth Moore (American, b. 1971), and others.

The Crossing has previously commissioned David T. Little to compose the piece dress in magic amulets, dark, from My feet as part of their Seven Responses project, which was recorded in 2017.