The Fourth is an electro-acoustic opera in two acts for three singers,actor, string quartet and electronics.
The action begins as our protagonist Gus Turnwheel receives a fatal diagnosis leaving him with just a few months to live. In a kind of final gesture he convinces his estranged sister Kate and her husband Michael, the assistant to a prominent architect to journey out of the city into the jungle in search of an unknown brother - a brother who's very existence falls deeper into question as they plunge into the wild.
As they travel, the jungle seems to shake off the deep-laid structures of their lives and brings the travelers into a harsh light where long-buried tensions are made clear. Kate faces the secret well of unhappiness springing from the loss of an unborn child; Michael breaks out of his intellectual sky box; while Gus, amongst the jungle's profusion of life, confronts his mortality.
Electronic sound plays a major role in The Fourth. The electronic part has been written in such a way as to incorporate recorded sounds into the music and the plot at the deepest level. The electronics are composed entirely by sampling the sounds found in each new world three characters travel to. The electronics are built with all the specificity and detail of an instrument, an instrument that not only accompanies the singers but immerses the audience in environmental sound. There are melodies made of bird song, harmonies in the wind, a xylophone of drip drops as the trio travels through a cave; there are even the sounds of a animals that appear shaping the group's journey. The constant reference and influence of these sounds creates a symbolic or poetic dialectic between the sound and the plot. Much like visual symbolism in a novel, each environment brings with it sounds that both interact with the characters and create a deeper layer of poetic resonance between the story and the deeper meaning of Environment.