CD Makes a Splash

Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas
audio recording features hiking opera singers & water percussionists

“... exquisite darkness… whimsical lines… captivating experience.”
~The Stranger


One day, composer Byron Au Yong was overcome in the bottled water section of the supermarket. He heard voices from Poland Spring and Fiji cry out. Au Yong, a Seattle-based musician who composes songs of dislocation, realized that water was kidnapped and taken far from home.

In response, he created 64 musical miniatures for voice and percussion to be performed in, about, and around water. While composing, Au Yong was inspired by listening to water and studying the I Ching 易經 (Book of Changes). He invited eight librettists from around the world to create contemporary responses to the I Ching, one of the oldest Chinese texts.

Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas travels through warnings, prayers, fantasies, and whispers in a thematic review for future generations about an element older than man. Human voices and splashing water cry out harder than the silent wisdom of hair turned white.

The initiative was performed in 64 waterways throughout the Pacific Northwest in Summer 2008, as part of 4Culture’s Site-Specific Performance Network and the Bumbershoot Festival of the Arts. A Sound/Light Installation, created with media sculptor Randy Moss, was shown at the Jack Straw New Media Gallery in Fall 2008.

Audio Demo

available at AmazonCD Baby | iTunes

Creative Team
Byron Au Yong, composer
Randy Moss, media sculptor

Libretti by:
Eugenie Chan, Bret Fetzer, Aaron Jafferis, Archana Kumar, Carola Luther, Caroline Murphy, Vivian Umino, Edisa Weeks

Performed by...
Singers Josie Davis, Emily Greenleaf, Jeremiah Oliver, David Stutz
Percussionists Stuart McLeod, Dean Moore, Benjamin Morrow, James Whetzel

Tom Stiles, audio engineer
Wing Fong, CD designer

MAP Fund
4Culture Site-Specific Arts
Bumbershoot Festival of the Arts
Jack Straw New Media Gallery


  1. Stuart Dempster14.3.09

    First off, Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas is recorded beautifully. Could one expect any less with Seattle’s own Tom Stiles at the recording helm?

    Secondly, the undercurrent of water sounds is incredibly soothing yet invite one to listen closely. The water sounds lead to each separate piece, or opera or collection of operas, in a very gentle way. Having myself attended a Bumbershoot Festival performance this past summer (2008) it is special to hear these operas with the clarity they deserve. Diction friction is at a minimum and, indeed, for the most part excellent enunciation of the various libretti prevails throughout. An impressive cast of vocalists and percussionists present elegant realizations of each opera.

    A reassuring surprise is the running time of a little over 47 minutes that (I am assuming) represents choices made by Au Yong to create a sensible continuity of the various operas. Too often CDs run on to their full 70 plus minutes; just because one can doesn’t mean one necessarily should. One glitch that I have never thought about before is the running header on iTunes, on which I happened to be listening to the CD. It says “Bottles” rather than “Bottled” and I found it to be surprisingly annoying as it looped over and over. It is a lesson to any and all of us who produce CDs to proofread or otherwise determine what text or “code” iTunes will be offered to “read”.

    Regarding another issue, I am personally disappointed in the back cover of the generally helpful liner notes. Not only is it overly designed, both the needlessly small print and lack of contrast make it virtually impossible to read.

    All in all, this is a fine CD that, while inspired by the I Ching, makes this reviewer think of the coming worldwide water shortages whereby kidnapping water may well be the order of the day.


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