Without Us by Carla Kihlstedt

A New England based composer, improviser and performer, Carla's piece reflects on the incredible silence she noticed during the initial stages of lockdown, and the many reflections and experiences of silence, chosen or imposed.

“Without Us” is a meditation on the many kinds of silence we’ve all been tangling with since Covid-19 hit the world. It is, in part, inspired by Alan Weisman’s book, The World Without Us, in which he describes how the natural world would reclaim our urban spaces were we all to simply disappear. I found it oddly comforting.


Commissioners: Stephen & Evelyn Block/Raulee Marcus

Music and text by Carla Kihlstedt

Voice and violin: Carla Kihlstedt

Additional Vocals: Tallulah Lazlo Bossi, Lucia Gómez-Ibáñez, Samara Marie Leshin-Sell, Winter Muric, Evelyn Rain Schertzer

Videography: Michael Cestaro & Joseph Navas

Editing: Michael Cestaro

Recorded and Mixed by Jon Evans at Brick Hill, Orleans, MA


From Carla:

When I began to work on this song, I thought it would just be about the silence I experienced in those first weeks of our collective quarantine, when every car, truck, plane and motor turned off, allowing us the extraordinary experience of hearing what the world might be like without us. Seismologists reported a noticeable drop in vibrations in the planet’s crust. The coyotes sang every night up on the hill. The deer wandered into the yard as if it was theirs again. Even the ocean felt different on my morning walks. But silence is like snow — there are a million different kinds of silence, most of them teeming with activity, nuance and implication. There’s the silence of sleep, of listening, of boredom, of fear, of censorship, of restraint, of anticipation, of complicity... of death. Against the backdrop of our collectively hushed lives, the Black Lives Matter movement brought into focus a more complicated cultural conversation about silence. What I thought would be a calm and expansive song kept on veering into more angular and unpredictable territory.



It’s so quiet...

Unbelievable the sound of the world without us.

I hold my breath... I can feel the stillness in my bones —

Awkward, peaceful, a comfort like death.

Build a cage for my lonely heart.

Will the rabbles rise? The window always lies.

Will the scorched earth come to claim us?

Do no harm!

Hide away!

(Is it too late?) Shapes abandoned, lost in the expanse.

My thoughts, they wander like ghosts come home to roost.

Familiar is this silence.

She hold me through my desperate rage.

It’s so quiet...

Unbelievable the sound of the world without us.


Remember to follow us:

Facebook     Twitter     Instagram

National Endowement for the Arts    California Arts Council Arts Council for Long Beach City of Long Beach Art Works Opera America KUSC

This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at cac.ca.gov
Supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the City of Long Beach.
Long Beach Opera events are supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission