Dust in the Bottomland is a multilayered project underway in Appalachia.
Audiences across the eastern United States have already seen it in its original form: a forty-minute opera with one singer -- a musical monodrama. It premiered in Huntington, West Virginia in August 2013, and has been performed ten times in five states and broadcast in full over radio and television. The words and music were written by Huntington native Nate May in close collaboratioin with the singer Andrew Munn, who premiered it. Nate is currently expanding the instrumentation from piano and voice to a full chamber ensemble.
The story follows a young man who returns to his native West Virginia after a decade away, finding his sister in a drug-induced coma and the landscape transformed by mountaintop removal mining. In six songs and spoken narration, he paints a psychological self-portrait, revealing the powerful impact that the place of his upbringing has had on his life.
Now, Nate and Andrew are working to expand the project by including more residents of West Virginia's coalfields. Along with documentary filmmaker Kate Fowler and a team of artists and technicians, they are producing a feature-length film that is a hybrid between cinematic opera and documentary. It will be both a visually and aurally stunning artistic product and a document -- a complex picture of contemporary Appalachia that transcends the pigeon-holing and stereotyping that Appalachians have been defying for decades.