Considered to be "a star of Seattle's new music scene" by The New Yorker, composer Garrett Fisher creates pieces that, with the Fisher Ensemble, integrate an eclectic mix of vocalists, movers, actors and musicians that harness ritual and myth to bridge ancient and modern forms.
Each opera is a ritual that invites the audience into a mythical and archetypal world; and like a mosaic, each opera explores geometries inherent in its subjects. The aim is to take the viewer through a rite of passage in which the musical, poetic and dramatic facets of the piece help elicit a new awareness. Garrett draws inspiration from such forms as Japanese Noh theater and ancient Greek drama.
In creating the "blueprints" to his pieces, Garrett seeks a balance between structure and freedom to give the ensemble solid grounding with enough space to individualize the role. He weaves “ragas,” inspired by the Indian classical tradition, into his scores, and has extended this concept to "word ragas" or a general set of rules governing the creation of the libretto – to create an organic link between the composition of music and words. Each piece evolves through a series of rehearsals in which each contributor's voice is heard and incorporated into the larger whole.
In creating the pieces, Garrett places a strong emphasis on the visual component of the performance. Whereas in traditional Western opera, staging and design are “interpretations,” the movement and visual elements, such as masks, are integral parts of these operas. In structuring the scores, Garrett aims to create an openness that allows the visual elements to be equal to the music, and collaborates with participants to develop and refine all aspects of the opera.
As with Noh theater and Chinese opera, which have categories of plays such as Warrior play or God play, Garrett has discovered his own categories and traditions. With The Passion of Saint Thomas More, he draws upon the medieval passion play form; Moon in the Bucket (1998) is inspired by the Noh theater; Dream of Zeus (2004) and Psyche (2008) draw upon ancient Greek tragedy; Stargazer (2006) is a hybrid of the different forms. Just as Noh combines a series of plays into a larger whole, he hopes to create larger works through combinations of these operas.
Garrett has performed his work at On the Boards, Consolidated Works, the Nippon Kan Theater, as well as in New York at HERE Arts Center and Judson Memorial Church. He has received support from 4culture, the Allied Arts Foundation, the ASCAP Foundation/Morton Gould Young Composer Award, Bossack Heilbron Foundation, Centrum Arts Colony, City Artists, the King County Arts Commission, Puffin Foundation, the Seattle Arts Commission and the Wiggly World Foundation. His opera The Passion of Saint Thomas More was released on BIS and is included in the label's 30-CD/30-year commemorative edition.