Kate Soper’s (b. 1981) Ipsa Dixit (2010–16) is an evening-length work of chamber music theatre for voice, flute, violin, and percussion that explores music, language, and meaning through blistering ensemble virtuosity and extended vocal technique.
“‘Ipsa dixit’ is the feminized form of ipse dixit (literally “he, himself, said it”), a fallacy in which an assertion is made based not on proof, but on the supposed authority of the speaker alone. The title seemed apt for a work that explores myriad ways in which the truth can be imperiled by an outside force—as when music manipulates the meaning of words, when a soprano’s sovereignty over instrumentalists is challenged, or when gut feeling overrules reason. The first movements to be composed were the three duos, in which the connection between art and artifice is teased out via the affective instability of Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say, the dramatization of friendship in conflict with dogma in The Crito, and the labyrinthine investigation of the uses (and misuses) of language in Cipher. Once it became clear to me that these three pieces wanted to be woven into a larger tapestry, the works of Aristotle seemed like a good place to hunt for the threads. When Aristotle asks the question (‘what is art?’), he has a ready answer (‘art is imitation’), as he does for many equally baffling queries, such as: ‘why are we moved by poetry?’ or ‘is a fact naturally more convincing than a lie?’ or ‘what is the nature of existence?’ Each of the six movements in Ipsa Dixit is dogged by our inability to use language to get all the way to the bottom of things: The pursuit of truth, in everyday circumstances as well as in matters of life and death, restlessly haunts the piece at its surface.” —Kate Soper