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Michèle Rusconi | Research Trip

South Africa | Music Ursula Markus

April - May 2022 — Music

Michèle Rusconi

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Swiss musician and composer Michèle Rusconi will be in South Africa from 7 April – 8 May 2022 for a research trip to develop a collaborative music and creative nonfiction project with South African writer Glen Retief.

The project, Living Relic: The Coelacanth, the Anthropocene, and Resilience in a Changing World, will take the form of an audio drama and include a collage of new music, recorded sounds, interviews, lyric essay, and narrative nonfiction. The tapestry of material will explore survival in the Anthropocene era via a metaphorical treatment of the Coelacanth, the 420-million year old fish species long believed to be extinct, but found off the South African coast in 1938.

The project is inspired by the writing of Charles Darwin and a trip Michèle undertook in 2020 through the Galapagos islands and another in Sodwana Bay in South Africa, where coelacanths gather in shoals in deep underwater caves. She explains, “The story and poetry of this amazingly ancient and resilient fish seem to further incite my interest in the natural world. Traveling to Sodwana Bay and swimming in the Indian Ocean while thinking of the Coelacanth, undeterred and persistently cruising a hundred meters below me, inspired me to pay a musical tribute to our indirect ancestors and distant cousins.”

During the trip, Michèle and Glen will travel to East London (where the first “living” coelacanth was reported in 1938) and Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape to interview local people about Shell’s controversial oil drilling activities off the coast, before moving up the coast to continue their research in Durban and Sodwana Bay in Kwa-Zulu Natal where live coelacanths have been sighted by divers.


Swiss composer Michèle Rusconi has worked in a variety of musical styles and has
lived in many countries on several continents. She obtained her master’s degree in
composition at the Freiburg University of Music with Mathias Spahlinger and then became a student of Hans Wüthrich. This was preceded by a jazz degree from Berklee College of Music, a Bachelor of Performing Arts from City University in New York, and thirteen years as a jazz pianist in New York. Michèle’s works are performed by ensembles in Europe and America including Phoenix, Aventure, Collegium Novum, Meitar Ensemble, Pellegrini Quartet, Amar Quartet, New Juilliard Ensemble, Bugallo / Williams Duo, Camilla Hoitenga.

Portrait © Ursula Markus