t e s a
“tesa” is a solo performance of improvised soundscapes with flutes & electronics, revolving around text to unravel questions of memory, body dysmorphia, and place.
Theresa Seguritan Abalos is a Filipina-American experimental musician and improviser who writes creatively about belonging, diaspora, and body. From San Jose, CA, they attended Carnegie Mellon University for flute and global studies. Based in Pittsburgh, PA, she is a collaborative musician with the Pittsburgh Sound Preserve.
We use maps for control and survival. This piece explores how textures of loss disfigure our experience of time and space in our bodies, centering music and improvised sound as maps towards healing. It involves looping and distortion as methods of transformation — incessantly reliving the past while building upon and reconfiguring it. "tesa" investigates art as unknowing — not searching for meaning, but reveling in its distortion.
Most of us agree to move through time. But when you’ve lost enough, when you’re lonely enough, you use stillness to fall backwards in time, into everything you lost that you can no longer touch. And you stay there, stay still, still lonely.
If listening to music carries you through the present, making music propels you into the future. I stopped making music when I left too much that I loved in the past. Even if I had a map of the future — for musicians, sheet music — what I produced were sounds pulled reluctantly through the present, unsure of a destination. It wouldn’t be music, a sound with a life of its own, without trusting the future held a promised land, a destination beyond memory.
A performer who used memory as an escape from the present, I needed the present as an escape from memory. I began translating my musical practice from form and technique into formlessness and free possibility — I began to improvise.
When we listen to music, we want the present to inject so many pieces of the past with meaning. We want the meaning to feel so inevitable, we can already hear the future. Improvised music ignores these rules. It promises no escape from the aleatoric daze of everyday life but a vessel for the discovery within chaos, the chaos within discovery.
t e s a / maps to improvise by
i still keep vigil / vestigial
i pray as rain / bowed and
leaking through crevices / musty
the earth i kneel for / fluid the
death i search from / fluent
the dark i crave eternal
salvation with / we are water
fallen to mist / we / our prayer
missed / we are
fallen / what is / forever
craved / ours
found is soft on our lips
hold me then let
go long after you lost
me echoing and echoing
To listen to anything is to spend a piece of our life with it. Sometimes the expense is effortless — the way we watch a performer depends on how we trust them to carry the weight of our interior life in a language not everyone speaks, but everyone experiences.
What if the performer shows up with nothing? I was a performer with frozen blocks of time, but so much depended on memory. I spent years on seconds but it confused me: to give so much of a life, your body and your mind, creating a thing that expands as it unravels and by the end, you and everyone else leave with nothing.
Every performance is a loss. I never stopped craving the weight and texture of evidence that what I was giving my life to could be held.
Recordings are a breath of materiality, the weight and texture of having lasted, but performance teaches us some things are irrevocably intertwined with the moment in which they occur. No amount of grasping resurrects them.
Does anyone else listen to music until they fall asleep? Other things used to hold me on the precipice of unknowing, lying swathed in stillness, waiting for night to engulf you or wondering when it will…
Other things — a religion I loved, a god so distant I scolded myself into believing He was always inside me…
Other things — another body, a lover so distant he would hold me and send his mind places lighter than our bodies...
Other things used to hold me but these nights I require only a song. A song unfolds like each rung of a ladder I need before moving any farther through time. I was lost, well-versed in silence — a life spent on the verge of unknowing, lying awake for hours that refuse to collapse into dreams we’ll forget, a symphony like religion to bestow purpose — hours swelling, growing heavy, growing empty.
At night I require a song to hold me but not like a god or a lover — a song promises nothing but a step into the next moment — a direction, inevitability to let rhythm carry you, one beat and then the next… one moment and then the next…
At night the precipice of unknowing shrinks into one beat and then the next…
In the morning, silence is a thousand shadows pressing me against Earth, each second blurring into an army of unwanted tangled instants, indecipherable — no shimmering ladder of discrete moments — my mouth is a desert, tongue leaden — my skin is shifting sand, my breath a lightness caught beneath mountains — every morning I learn, all I have to hold me is a body.
My body, a tundra. A permafrost of dread, I didn't want it. I blamed the idolization of beauty as whiteness. I blamed capitalism, blamed colonization, blamed sin. I blamed love, blamed God, more than anything I blamed me. A landform of brown, a map of moles like holes into an anxious, dread-filled night — an island of color far from the ocean of my parents’ home, raised in a mediascape that taught me to associate shame with my shape — to believe I lived in a place no one wanted — my first lesson in dissonance, internal displacement.
I didn’t want this body but music gave it a time out of place, a place out of time — a soundscape of the consequences of my physicality, not the body itself. Never the body itself. The safety of music, its immortality, is intertwined with its erasure — I erased myself with music, that was why I loved it. I lost myself building places of sound, when I left they sounded the same — an escape into timelessness where I could exist as invisibility, exist as ephemerality, expand while unraveling.
For this, we sound — anyone can find themselves in a song, anyone can disguise grief with a beat, anyone can sing under their breath and feel multitudes singing with them. Caught in a song, we escape a body.
when you displace
air above me and say you
love me your voice is
more than music a breath
of air warm i don’t know
if i have what it’s
reaching for it’s sheer
ephemeral all i do is
take it in like air
gasping take it in
like fire enraptured
still and stolen into
hungry and hoping
you mean it
a name / a note
your name for me / your dream for me
a note held too long / I learned to stop
listening / white noise bleeds into silence
I learned to stop dreaming / chaos bleeds into
a note held too long / I learned to stop forgetting
a dream is a note held too far / let it stop bleeding / let us
reach back into a dream / your name for me
Ever since I was small, my parents called me “Tesa.” Before I left California, before I moved east, this was my first lesson — to recognize myself in two syllables. To believe that before anything or anyone else, my parents held me with a sound. “Tesa.”
It sounds like the sea. Sounds like east. It sounds easy, sounds like me. So many “me”s I learned to forget. When I moved, I raised a wall of silence between my parents and I and the silence felt lush, like rich soil. I began to improvise the way I tattooed my body — I craved the audacity to write into silence, the silence of a room or the silence of my skin — to write when no one told me I could.
My parents don’t read me in this body. But they still call me “Tesa,” and maybe a sound can hold us together.
Tattoos gave me a new language of being in my body. They visualize pasts not escaped but carved into our skin, like the resurrected body still scarred. They map the places we’ve been — our bodies, an archive — archival, a performance of survival.
My body was an archive but I began improvising to forget, to fill the silence expanding and echoing between me and people I love. Memory displaced me from the grief of a body; within it I was locked from the precarity of the present. Yet my body was an archive, so I learned to want of memory less a prison, less escape, more a map — not a way to displace the present but a way to clarify, enrich, saturate it with urgency. Urgency that not every loss is death. Urgency that anything, anyone, lost will find you again in countless iterations.
I improvise to fall into futures I forgot how to keep wanting. Like a name or a tattoo it places me in my body, places me here. To improvise is to trust my body, to create evidence of its safety — before its loss in dysmorphia, before it froze into the landscape of a lover’s disposal. Before it fell past the salvation promised in the eye of a needle, before it fell too far from home.
I improvise to forget histories that made me no longer want to live in this body. I improvise to remember how to fall through time. To saturate the present with so many past and future moments.
I improvise because every performance is a loss. Instead of mourning, I wanted to believe we can always create something from nothing.