Poliça's Channy Leaneagh on the evolution of "Music for the Long Emergency" by Liquid Music

By Katie Hare

In the 2015.16 season, Liquid Music brought together and tracked the creative process of two innovative ensembles, local favorite Poliça and Berlin-based s t a r g a z e, as our first Artists in Virtual Residence. Over the course of 18 months, a long-distance musical collaboration was in full swing – numerous video calls, emails, mp3 shares, and a couple of meetups all led to the making of Music for the Long Emergency. It premiered with a very memorable performance at the Fitzgerald Theater on November 16, 2016, just one week after the U.S. presidential election.

This week, Poliça and s t a r g a z e will release the project as an album, followed by performances at Symphony Space in NYC and at First Avenue in Minneapolis on February 21, 2018 (more here). In celebration of the event, we asked Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh about her band's relationship with s t a r g a z e and the evolution of Music for the Long Emergency.

By Graham Tolbert

By Graham Tolbert

How has the relationship with s t a r g a z e transformed since your early days of collaboration in 2015?
We now have the creative intimacy to know what’s possible; knowing the musical personality of each of us. After writing music together we have a palette to draw from and inspiration for new colors to create together.  We’ve also have shared experiences by now that have built a friendship beyond collaborating; like dancing in an empty ballroom at the Eaux Claires music festival, taking s t a r g a z e to our favorite spots in Minneapolis and cooking meals together. Creating music with people is about giving time and care to each other; listening beyond our egos, responding to each person’s voice and building a new utopia for the duration of the song. All of that can happen if the chemistry is there; and with s t a r g a z e it was and is.

How will the First Ave performance be similar to/different from the Liquid Music presentation at the Fitzgerald in 2016?
Bringing the show to the club instead of a theater will be a completely different energy; excited for that! Music for the Long Emergency has a lot of intensity that will explode in the First Avenue speakers. We’re also bringing the absolute best and most brilliant lighting designer, Arlo Guthrie, for some new production for the Minneapolis and Chicago shows.

Part 1 of a mini-documentary series following Liquid Music virtual residency artists Poliça and stargaze as they collaborated on a fall 2016 premiere performance. 

Considering the political events over the past year, has the overall project evolved in reflection of our current moment?
A deepening of our determination to create in spite of the capitalistic fires that seek to burn all creative freedoms! Making music with a large group of people; having to listen to each other, let go of expectations and self-interest, being quiet or speaking out/having a solo when the group needs you to... these are qualities of creating art with lots of people and those are the qualities of rebelling against the current political time we are in. This is not a time to give up; not a time to stop creating. Love songs and love in action is anti-fascist.

You are releasing Music for the Long Emergency as an album Feb 16! How do you feel on the eve of its debut?
I’m so very ready to be performing again alongside s t a r g a z e and the Poliça family. This is our 4th album and I feel very grateful to be where we are and be able to perform these songs around the world!  We are also bringing the band Divide and Dissolve to Minneapolis and Chicago to open the show. Check their music out – they use noise music to literally dissolve white supremacy from the clubs where they play. Their music is intensely moving and beautifully brave.      

Liquid Music alum Daniel Wohl is working on an overture for Music for the Long Emergency. How are you developing this piece with him? How has his participation in the project contributed to its growth?
We won’t rehearse with the full group until February 12th at MASS MOCA (three days before its debut!) but Daniel and I have been in touch on building the vocal melody for his piece so I luckily had a head start! It’s going to be a beautiful addition to the Music for the Long Emergency; in fact I think it was the missing piece.

Catch POLIÇA and s t a r g a z e's performance at First Avenue on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 with special guests Divide and Dissolve, IN/VIA. Purchase tickets to the performance here.

Follow POLIÇA:
Website: http://www.thisispolica.com/
Twitter: @thisispolica
Instagram: @thisispolica
Facebook: facebook.com/thisispolica

Follow s t a r g a z e:
Website: http://we-are-stargaze.com/
Twitter: @wearestargaze
Instagram: @we_are_stargaze
Facebook: facebook.com/wearestargaze/

Follow Liquid Music for Updates and Announcements: 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries  
Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic

On the Spectrum of Pop with Anna Meredith and Har-di-har by Liquid Music

photo: Kate Bones

photo: Kate Bones

The beauty of living in a time when genre boundaries have mostly dissolved is discovering the infinite possibilities left in the void they left behind. These liminal spaces have been Liquid Music’s bread and butter since its conception — and for good reason: when genre is stripped away audiences are empowered to listen in new ways and have the chance to really take the time to discover themselves in something unfamiliar. Performers are given permission to fully self-actualize, to test the boundaries, and take risks. This genreless world also brings up some interesting and less than obvious questions. For example: what is “pop” music? 

Is it a catchy tune?
Is it “popular?”
Is it an arbitrary list of 40 songs?
Does it have to have words?
Do you have to remember the words?
Does it have to have a beat?
Do I have to dance to it?
Would my mom like it???

The aforementioned beauty is: we don’t have to answer! Better yet, we can listen, see, and hear artists explore these questions with unparalleled nuance. Regarding “pop,” composer/performer/multi-instrumentalist Anna Meredith complicates the question. Meredith is in many ways the ideal Liquid Music artist — a trained, acclaimed and oft commissioned composer that dove headfirst into the world of electronic indie band-dom. 

In preparation for her Liquid Music/Walker Art Center Midwest premiere, we wanted to find out more about how Meredith has so fluidly navigated her incredibly prolific and diverse career. To do so we asked local collage/art-pop duo Har-di-har (Julie and Andrew Thoreen), whose music similarly utilizes intricate instrumentation with incisive chamber aesthetics, to find out more about Meredith’s practice. 

- Patrick Marschke, LM Blog Contributor


Har-di-har (Andrew and Julie Thoreen) photo: Taylor Donsky

Har-di-har (Andrew and Julie Thoreen) photo: Taylor Donsky

[portions of this interview were edited for length and clarity]

Andrew Thoreen:  Was there a specific thing that led you into pop, electronic and IDM music, in addition to doing traditional composition alongside that?

Anna Meredith: I wasn’t someone who was composing as a kid. I didn’t understand that composition was even a career I could do so I was actually performing and playing in bands and choirs, playing clarinet and drums and stuff way before I wrote any music. I went on to eventually study composition, it was a much more singular and kind of focused thing. Traditionally composition is a very isolated activity where you write on your own and you are expected to be a sort of genius who doesn’t interact with other people that much; you write an exquisite score on paper and you hand it to someone and that's kind of the end of your involvement. Quite often, the piece itself is only played once so it's all about this craftsmanship behind the scenes, and I think even though I was and do really enjoy that side of working, I also missed the performance and I missed some energy — even with a big orchestra, I wasn't getting quite enough power that sometimes I wanted. With electronics I can be in control from start to finish, everything from instrumentation to how its performed to performing a big part of the performance myself means that I'm not relying on anybody else. It’s kind of a control freak thing. I just had a desire to have a bit more control, have a bit more fun, to be able to really get into music that I was repeating and performing over and over again, rather than making brand new things for each show. 

Andrew: Another thing you mentioned was the tragedy of putting so much time into one piece and only having it performed once.

Right. Traditionally I’ve spent six months, or even longer, writing a piece that's performed once and has no recordings — and that’s the idea. A lot of composers I know are really happy with that kind of equation: that the effort put in is equal to a single occasion. I just couldn’t live with it. Sometimes it felt that I was giving so much and then quite often the piece was being played to an audience of people who were just waiting to get to the Dvorak in the second half of the concert and get through your piece. That felt wrong, whereas there is a development and evolution to the electronic music I’m doing with the band but broadly, a lot of them are playing the same tracks in slightly different ways that we work on. It's a really lovely thing performing for people and watching them know the songs and sing along. That was a bit an eye-opener for me. Suddenly thinking: Oh, this is about familiarity and this is about making bits of music that you really love and believe in and then putting them out in the world to really exist. Classical music often doesn't “exist.” If you write the score on paper and if there’s no recording all it is is one experience, this single moment in time, whereas here there is this physical object, this album, you can hold this thing and pick it up and you can listen to it day or night… being able to make something that exists in the world, it’s quite cool.

Andrew: Right, the “Album as a form” is wonderful and really not that different from the idea of a Concerto or Symphony especially in its development in pop music. It has infinite possibilities within, it's just a constraint of time.

And we don’t even need that constraint! We could easily have an album that is 100 hours long streamed online.

I wonder if it will change because now, certainly people don't like symphonies in quite the same way. I wonder if our idea of a 12 track album will be gone in 20 years. It's a reflection of what we expect. But for now, it feels nice. It feels like you're sort of saying, okay, I've got 40 minutes to an hour to play with and create an amazing shape or journey through this time. I’m in control of this experience... Well, you say you are in control but obviously with streaming people are jumping around tracks and playing the favorite ones and skipping the ones they don't like but you at least can try.

Julie: I was actually watching the BBC Proms piece, “Hands Free,” and I was just thinking the whole time how it was written and how it was directed and then conducted in the moment. It made me just think about “play.” It was like a big playground.

It was a commission for a big Youth Orchestra, 160 kids, massive, they’re amazing, they're the sort of best youth orchestra in the UK. The commission was initially about trying to celebrate or highlight skills that you have as a musician that aren't about playing your instrument — communication and rhythm and precision and intricacy and performance ability — but that aren't about picking up your cello. They asked me initially to write a clapping piece, but I eventually realized that just clapping is pretty painful and, to me, not that interesting to listen to — so that's why I started to bring in all the beatboxing and body percussion and I worked with a choreographer to kind of highlight it all. It was a really interesting experience — some of the kids were quite reluctant at first. Classical players like to have something to look at even if it’s not telling them anything, even if their paper is just saying “TACET,” don't play this movement, it’s a security thing about projecting and performing to the audience.

I really wanted to make sure there was no sheet music. I have a graphic score for reference but I don't give it to the performers because I thought they would clutch onto this paper as if it was the Holy Grail. To a certain degree it's about just saying: “This is what material is.” You wouldn't question it if I asked you to turn your bow over and tap it with the wood or stick this whatever in your trumpet. You just say, “This is what the piece is: put down your instrument, turn away your music stand, stand up. Do this sequence and these movements and.” To have them make the connection that getting the movement quality right, getting your arm straight or your elbows high is as important for that piece as getting the right phrasing or notes for playing your solo violin piece. It was a big challenge for them to work on. It’s developed a lot since it was first premiered because each new group can check out previous performances. 

I really like it because there's a certain self-sufficiency to the piece. You don't need any special training, you don't even need to own any instruments. And there is an equality to that — typically in an orchestra, there is a lot of hierarchy: the lead violin is “more important” and so on. With this piece everyone has to work equally otherwise it fails.

Andrew: I am curious about your experience as a multi-instrumentalist: How do you balance all that goes into being a touring/performing instrumentalist and singer with your compositional practice? 

My instrumental skills are so much worse than everybody else's in the band! So everything that I do I’ve designed around my own limits. I play the clarinet but I’m nowhere near the band skill-wise, they are all total professionals. I’m not an amazing singer but I love singing so the songs I sing on are ones that work around where my little squeaky five-year-old voice can work. The idea is sort of “warts and all” — this is who I am and what I do. I would feel weird to have an amazing singer or a brilliant clarinet player. I wanted to sing, I want to play my clarinet, I wanted to smash the shit out of some drums. Keeping up technique is not something I do as much as I should, partly because I have the others making me look good. But the balance thing I do find quite difficult because I’m trying to juggle this balance of touring and big new commissions and a film soundtrack — it's very difficult to do. 

In the past I would write a bit of music for months and that would be all I would do. Now I have to keep breaking it up to go on tour. I’ve definitely been at points where taken far too much on and I've ended up in the tour bus frantically trying to write, laptop bumping over the road as I try and get through it, so it's a tough balance and I'm kind of I'm kind of working on it.

gif: Kate Bones

gif: Kate Bones

Julie: Do you typically compose at the computer?

I do. For me, the most important thing is the pacing and the shape and the drama. I'm not a very good pianist and I don’t think improvising helps me make strong decisive music that has a really good shape. So the first thing I do is get a blank paper and I draw timeline across it and then I draw these very graphic shapes which are the kind of drama of the music. 

Julie: Before you have even written a note?

Yeah! It’s like pacing a story, controlling the shape of the thing. It’s quite often these big angular build-ups. It helps me really control the narrative. And then I work backward from these timelines. 

I draw these shapes and then I have to make the music work around these shapes to make them the clearest and strongest version of themselves. Strength is something I’m always really looking for in music. I want to strip away things. I don’t want to make music that is just layers of sound, or that the identity is created solely through texture. 

Julie: How do you take these pieces/songs constructed in the studio and translate them to a live setting? 

Not everything is played live — some stuff is backing tracks and some is sampled. It's all still very electronic.

I’ve taken the album version and made space in the arrangements for the players. It’s a combination of machines and humans. A battle for supremacy. I’m not someone that feels that everything must be made by humans. I get that there is a real purity that comes from that but it would be impossible with this music. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

From the album side, I then create a version that’s the live version that cuts things out so that the space for real instruments to be with electronic instruments and then I make slightly different arrangements to make it fun/practical for the musicians.

Andrew: I’m curious about how you decide where and when to use acoustic instruments vs. live instruments in the live setting.

Production is definitely not my forte. I’m not the type of person that would be excited to find an amazing old analog synth and write a piece for it. In fact, the whole production side of things tends to scare me a bit. So after I do my graphic-y shape I will then go into Sibelius [music notation software], and write most of the music on that, which has terrible sounds, terrible midi…

Andrew: And really bad feel...
 
...terrible and depressing feel. I find that its a good way to test the bones of the material: if I can make things that sound exciting using shit MIDI sounds then I know that the actual building blocks are good. I try not to jump straight to the production side and to finding the right synth. So when I’m making this mock-up on Sibelius, I’ll have piano sound and a brass sound, it gets some sort of element of color that I like, and then I’ll go into Ableton and I’ll extract all of the MIDI out of Sibelius into Ableton [digital production software]. It's also that I’ve been working in Sibelius much longer than Ableton, so it’s really about making things work for your own skill set.

Andrew: How do you go about finding the digital sounds you end up using?

When initially I started getting into electronics I opened up Ableton and looked at a million different synths and thought, “oh this is amazing!” and started improvising away. It was all really fun but it didn’t sound like me at all, it was all very layer-y and amorphous and lacking direction. I’ve had take a lot of time to evolve this painstaking and (a bit weird) process of graphic score to notated music extracted into the production software. From there, I’m actually not too precise about synth sounds. I have a general idea about color. I generally start with a preset and then muck about with it until I get what I want, but I don’t feel like that’s the strength of the music — the particular sound of the synth, it just sort of gives the right function, the right color. 

In terms of where to include acoustic instruments I think I normally have an idea earlier on about where the acoustic instruments will go.

Julie: What do you hope for the future of classical music and music education?

I’m not someone who sees genres at all. I think we’re living in a quite healthy time. It feels like there’s loads of really interesting music that is a bit of this and a bit of that, a bit Classical, a bit pop, a bit jazz, a bit minimal. I think it’s understandable that people want to place things into certain genres and pigeonhole because it’s familiarity: “I get what this music is, it’s this" or "it sounds a lot like this,” or “she’s clearly listened to tons of this.” I really understand that desire to categorize but I don’t find it helpful at all. I don’t think about genre at all when I’m writing. 

The way that I write the strongest stuff is almost like a denial — I don’t think about whether something is groundbreaking or different or if anybody has done it before. I just try to make a thing to the best of my ability and in the strongest possible way. If that then happens to be a bit different than what people have done before, great, but it’s not something I’m setting out to do. I’m not trying to break rules or do anything new. I think if I set out to do that, I’d write worse music. It would prioritize the rule-breaking instead of the quality or integrity to myself which is important. To do stuff I am proud of. For that reason, I don’t listen to much music, mostly out of security. If I listen to someone else’s music I think, "Wow that’s great, I should try to do that" and then I write just a crap version of it. I just trained myself to be in this little hermit cave where I’m not thinking too much about what other kinds of music are out there. I’m just doing my own thing. 

Julie: It sounds like your main driving force is integrity to yourself as opposed to following the established systems. 

Right. Similar to the “warts and all” approach to performing: honesty is the only way I can think to do it. To present yourself — this is how I sing, it’s a bit squeaky and weak, but who cares. This is me and this is my voice. Trying to be honest to myself.

BUY TICKETS TO THE FEB 7th PERFORMANCE

A post shared by Har-di-Har (@hardiharmusic) on


Special thanks to Julie and Andrew from Har-di-har for taking the time to interview Anna! You can find out more about there music and upcoming performances here. Follow them on facebook/instagram

Follow Anna Meredith
Website: http://www.annameredith.com/ 
Twitter: @AnnaHMeredith
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annahmeredith/ 
Instagram: @AnnaMeredith

Follow Liquid Music for updates and announcements: 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries (instagram.com/liquidmusicseries
Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic

Liquid Music CONNECTS: Students Visit "Virtually" with Artists in Residence Ashwini Ramaswamy and Jace Clayton aka DJ Rupture by Liquid Music

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By SPCO Education Manager Eleanor Owens GrandPre

Building on the momentum established during last year's debut, 2017.18 marks the second year of CONNECTion Virtual Visits between The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's CONNECT program and Liquid Music. Serving over 5,500 students, the CONNECT program engages students in grades 1-5 in twelve partnering Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools. The program is completely free of charge for these schools and provides supplementary music education resources to students with curriculum and support for teachers. The educational resources are paired with SPCO musician visits to each of the participating schools and culminates with a live orchestra concert, curated specifically to bring to life the year's curriculum and theme. The feedback from the schools in our annual evaluations increasingly indicates that teachers are looking for more performances for their students. CONNECTion Virtual Visits provide a special way to introduce students to living artists while engaging them with performances right in their own classroom.

This year’s collaboration features Minneapolis-based Bharatanatyam dancer/choreographer Ashwini Ramaswamy and composer/DJ/author Jace Clayton. Ramaswamy is celebrated for her ability to “[weave] together, both fearfully and joyfully, the human and the divine” (New York Times), and Clayton has been described as a  “pan-global, post-everything superhero” (Wire). Ramaswamy and Clayton are this season’s Virtual Artists in Residence for Liquid Music and the students and teachers in the CONNECT program are thrilled to be virtually introduced and captivated by their art.

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Ashwini rehearsal by Ed Bock.JPG

Using a shared love of literature and interest in artistically exploring social memory, the two artists will develop an original work for its World Premiere in Liquid Music's 2018.19 season. This type of collaboration is a first for both of them. Students in CONNECT’s twelve participating schools will be introduced to these artists through a video introduction made by the artists themselves. Liquid Music audiences will be able to follow their creative process on the Liquid Music blog as Ramaswamy and Clayton share behind-the-scenes insight into their collaboration. 

The  “selfie-style” video introduction offers a personal look at the artists, early on in their collaborative process. The videos are accessible and give CONNECT students unique insight into the initial stages of creating new work.  

After viewing the introduction videos, students and teachers will collect questions and submit them to the artists via their own “selfie” videos. This shared video exchange is a special part of this CONNECTion Virtual Visits. Part of the charm of the interaction is that students have the chance to be curious and experience music they might not normally hear by artists previously unknown to them.  

Finally, completing the circle, the artists will record a video, answering selected questions that were posed by the elementary aged students. Each full school watches the final question and answer video – the students whose questions were picked to be answered by the artists get a chance in the spotlight! (See last year's final video by 2016.17 Artist in Virtual Residence Nathalie Joachim.)

The limits faced in the schools with complex scheduling and limited funds are real, but this program works to engage students and expose them to new music and art in an effective, yet efficient way. With just a laptop and bit of time, the CONNECTion Virtual Visit provides a unique and transformative experience for students and teachers, fostering discovery and interest in contemporary music and multidisciplinary approaches to art. 

Keep up with Liquid Music Artists in Virtual Residence Ashwini Ramaswamy and Jace Clayton through journal entries and updates on the LM blog:
 Artist in Virtual Residence: Ashwini Ramaswamy
Artist in Virtual Residence: Jace Clayton/DJ Rupture

Follow Ashwini Ramaswamy:
Website: http://www.ashwini-ramaswamy.com/
Instagram: @ashwiniramaswamy (instagram.com/ashwiniramaswamy/)
Facebook: facebook.com/ashwini.ramaswamy

Follow Jace Clayton:
Website: jaceclayton.com
Instagram: @djrupture (instagram.com/djrupture)
Facebook: facebook.com/DjRupture/
Twitter: @djrupture (twitter.com/djrupture)

Follow Liquid Music for Updates and Announcements: 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries (instagram.com/liquidmusicseries
Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic

Interview: Elayna Waxse on Collaboration by Liquid Music

In late October, TU Dance and Bon Iver spent a weekend in residence at April Base Studios to begin work on their spring 2018 Liquid Music world premiere. We asked Elayna Waxse of TU Dance to reflect on the excitement, challenges, and "buzzing" creativity involved in early project development. 

All photos by Graham Tolbert

All photos by Graham Tolbert

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How did you come to be part of this project?

I first officially met Toni and Uri [Artistic Directors of TU Dance] in 2011, and was invited to join the company in 2012. Being involved in this project is one of many perks of my job.

What excites/intrigues/challenges you in creating with Bon Iver (and performing live with the ensemble)?

I’ve already experienced the power of Uri Sands’ choreography when he is working with just the dancers, and I’ve experienced the power of Bon Iver’s music. Now I’m excited to see what happens when these powers combine.

Have you done anything similar to this before?

I’ve been involved in several projects that utilize original musical compositions, but none quite as collaborative as this one. In the past it's been more remote, with musicians and dancers creating their work separately, and collaborating to make the two independent works merge into one cohesive unit. It’s been straight up magical to witness both the dance and music taking shape at the same time and in the same space.

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Tell us about the first residency weekend with Bon Iver at April Base in October. What was your method for collaboration?

The first word that comes to mind is surreal. It felt like the room was literally buzzing with the amount of creative energy being cultivated.  We came with some raw movement material, but mostly worked with ideas generated in the moment in response to the music. Customarily dancers respond to the music with movement, so it was pretty electrifying to realize that at times the reverse was happening and the music was responding to our movements. 

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Do you have any insights, inspirations or curiosities as you observe the musicians’ process?

It’s really inspiring to see the musicians bring their individual artistry and brilliance to the group, while also feeding off one another as they create new material. One of the things I love about working with TU Dance is that everyone brings 100% of their commitment, intensity, drive, and creativity to the work. I sense the same from the musicians. I can’t wait to see what the combination of these two groups produces. 

Finally, on a more personal note, why is this project important to you?

I believe live music drastically alters the space in which dance exists, and maybe the opposite can occur as well? I think it’s important to explore the connection.

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Photo by Michael Slobodian

Photo by Michael Slobodian

Elayna Waxse is a Twin Cities-based dancer, choreographer, teacher and member of TU Dance. She's performed locally with Minnesota Dance Theatre, Black Label Movement, BodyCartography Project and Live Action Set, and internationally with Cie. Ismael Ivo e Grupo Biblioteca do Corpo at ImPulsTanz Vienna International Dance Festival 2014 and in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Waxse also creates her own choreographic work, which has been presented by Minnesota Dance Theatre, Zenon Dance Zone, Bryant Lake Bowl 9x22, Detroit Dance Race, Public Functionary, and Future Interstates.

 

Waxse will perform with TU Dance in collaboration with Bon Iver at the Palace Theater, commissioned by Liquid Music, on April 19, 20, and 21, 2018. Tickets are currently SOLD OUT. Follow Waxse and TU Dance to keep an eye out for additional local performances in the future: 

Follow Elayna Waxse:
Website: https://www.elaynawaxse.com
Twitter: @ewaxse

Follow TU Dance:
Website: http://www.tudance.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TU.Dance.MN/
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/tudance

Follow Liquid Music for updates and announcements: 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries (instagram.com/liquidmusicseries
Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic

JT Bates on Collaboration by Liquid Music

In late October, local powerhouses TU Dance and Bon Iver met up for a weekend-long residency at April Base Studios just outside of Eau Claire to begin work on their spring premiere for Liquid Music. We spoke with JT Bates, a Saint Paul-based drummer, curator, and producer who will be featured as one of the band members on the project.

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By Katie Hare
All photos: Graham Tolbert


For decades, drummer JT Bates has been involved in a wide array of musical things. As an artist, he has dabbled in many genres and worked closely with a variety of musicians. He has toured with fellow improvisers Tony Malaby, Anthony Cox, John Medesk, and Craig Taborn; and has played alongside some of his personal favorite singer/songwriters Pieta Brown, Phil Cook, Erik Koskinen, Dead Man Winter, and the Pines. For 20 years, Bates’ well-loved modern jazz/avant garde series “Jazz Implosion” has maintained a strong identity as a significant staple of the Twin Cities music and jazz scene. He is a recipient of American Composer Forum’s “MECA” grant, with which he made his first solo recording, Open Relationships, in 2015. Bates is also a lifelong member of two bands: Fat Kid Wednesdays, a jazz trio featuring Adam Linz and Michael Lewis, and rock 'n roll outfit Alpha Consumer featuring Jeremy Ylvisaker and Michael Lewis. Currently he is working on two records – one for Michael Rossetto and David Huckfelt, and another with the Bates/Cox/Malaby trio and his latest group Grain, a Hammond B3 organ trio.

Eagerly awaiting his performance with TU Dance and Bon Iver next Spring (April 19-21) at the Palace Theater in Saint Paul, we asked Bates to tell us a bit about the project's creative process thus far. Here, he discusses what he experienced within the first residency at April Base and reflects on the challenges, curiosities, and motivations of collaboration.

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Initially, how did you become a part of this collaboratative project?
Justin [Vernon] asked me if I was up for being in the band. The answer was "yes".

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In creating new music and performing with Bon Iver/TU Dance, what excites, intrigues, or challenges you?
Improvising is definitely a home base for me, so creating new music and collaborating is something I always look forward to. It's fascinating to watch the different combinations of mediums and people and what comes of them. This, of course, can also be a challenge. Collaboration doesn't always fall into place right away – people have to learn each others' processes. Creating in groups is such a growing experience. Putting up what you might consider to be some of your best ideas and having them fall to wayside can be difficult, but learning to rise through those frustrations is ultimately a beautiful lesson in understanding that a collaboration is about creating something larger than any one of us could on our own.

Have you worked with dancers or dance companies before?
I have been involved in a fair amount of dance projects, and in different capacities, as both composer and performer. I was involved in a great collaboration in 2015 called Stripe Tease through the Walker Art Center (and toured multiple other cities) with choreographer Chris Schlichting and composer Jeremy Ylvisaker. Initially for that project, we did some days of improvising, but in different areas of the building as Chris wanted to have the sounds and movements not necessarily dictated by one another. Chris and Jeremy then took audio and video recordings and began to find combinations that they liked and, after that, brought myself and Michael Lewis back in to develop and rehearse those ideas. That was an interesting way to see what stuck from what we had worked on initially, and how those things had grown/morphed into their own. I have also worked with Zenon Dance Company on a few different pieces, including Luciana Achugar's "Molten Substances."

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Tell us about the residency weekend at April Base in October. What was your method for collaboration?
I just tried to be open to the sights and sounds around me. Specifically as an instrumentalist, I brought a variety of gear along – I didn't really know what the palette would be. I started with a rather traditional drum set and eventually added more electronic percussion in as it seemed to be leaning in that direction. Conversely, the third day, we ended up in a very beautiful, quieter vibe with voice, guitar, brushes and saxophone. Not sure how much of all of that will remain in the final piece, but this is exactly the unknown map that I love to follow on these initial days of creating.   

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What are your hopes for the project as it continues to move forward?
I hope that the collaboration continues to grow more and more into it's own. That we all can find something new together, as well as for ourselves. Something we can feel proud of as a group, and something that we can take away with us to other things we are involved in. And that the audience might see or hear something unexpected or new to them – that they might feel something different or maybe think about something in their own life a little differently. I guess that's my hope with most art. 

On a more personal note, why is this project important to you?
Three things: 
- I finally get to be a part of Liquid Music!
- I get to play some shows at the Palace Theater.
- Justin got BJ Burton to play some shows, and I get to play those shows too.

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Bates will perform with Bon Iver in collaboration with TU Dance at the Palace Theater, commissioned by Liquid Music, on April 19, 20, and 21, 2018. Tickets are currently SOLD OUT, but it's hard to miss Bates considering his active involvement in the Twin Cities music scene...

Follow JT Bates for updates and event listings:
Website: http://www.jtbatesdrums.com/
Instagram: @floortomhanks
Twitter: @jt_bates

Follow Liquid Music for updates and announcements: 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries (instagram.com/liquidmusicseries
Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic

Liquid Music Artist in Virtual Residence: Jace Clayton Dj/Rupture by Liquid Music

Liquid Music intern Ines Guanchez profiles 2017.18 Liquid Music Artist in Virtual Residence Jace Clayton, exploring Clayton's music and writing, including his previous Liquid Music appearances. Over the course of the next year Clayton will work with Minneapolis based dancer and choreographer Ashwini Ramaswamy to develop a new work for music and dance to be premiered in the 2018.19 Liquid Music season.

Described by The Wire as a “pan-global, post-everything superhero,” Liquid Music is proud to welcome back Manhattan-based composer, DJ and writer Jace Clayton as one of our Artists in Virtual Residence for the 2017.18 Season. Also known as DJ /rupture, Jace Clayton’s journey began in Massachusetts, where he was a founding member of Toneburst, a DIY experimental electronic art/music/DJ collective. Clayton began to gain exposure in 2001, when he released a three-turntable, sixty-minute mixtape named “Gold Teeth Thief,” which was named one of the “50 Records of the Year” by The Wire. In “Gold Teeth Thief,” Clayton created a groundbreaking, highly-influential mix that combined hip-hop, Jamaican dub, Japanese noise, London jungle, and many other diverse genres.

Jace Clayton by Erez Avissar

Jace Clayton by Erez Avissar

Clayton has developed a strong emphasis on working with a DIY global-scale ethic. His more recent projects include The Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner (a touring performance piece that debuted in Liquid Music's inaugural season) and Room 21 (an evening-length composition for 20 musicians). He has also composed original music for ensembles such as the Bang On A Can All-Stars and collaborated with various artists, including filmmakers Jem Cohen, Joshua Oppenheimer, poet Elizabeth Alexander, singer Norah Jones, and guitarist Andy Moor.

One of Clayton’s more prominent projects is Sufi Plug Ins, a free suite of ‘software-as-art’ music released in 2012 with seven audio software tools that readjust and retune western sounds according to non-western notions of sound with the goal of providing an alternative to the Eurocentric technology of late capitalism.

Screenshot of the Sufi PlugIns Maqam synthesizer Bayati

Screenshot of the Sufi PlugIns Maqam synthesizer Bayati

This is a concept that is prominent in Clayton's book Uproot, which recounts his experiences traveling the world listening to music and understanding how sounds are created and used. Uproot explores the concept of “audio terroir,” described as “the ways in which environments… can gestate and nurture novel sounds.”

Clayton last shared his talent and music with Liquid Music audiences in April 2016, premiering a composition for Saul Williams and the Mivos Quartet at the James J. Hill Reference Library in celebration of National Poetry Month. This season, Clayton will be developing a new work with Minneapolis-based dancer/choreographer Ashwini Ramaswamy, commissioned by Liquid Music and premiering in the 2018.19 season. Make sure to follow their artistic progress on the Liquid Music Blog.

FOLLOW THE VIRTUAL RESIDENCY:
Liquid Music Artist in Visual Residence: Ashwini Ramaswamy

FOLLOW JACE CLAYTON:
Website: jaceclayton.com
Instagram: @djrupture (instagram.com/djrupture)
Facebook: facebook.com/DjRupture/
Twitter: @djrupture (twitter.com/djrupture)

FOLLOW LIQUID MUSIC FOR UPDATES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS 
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Liquid Music Artist in Virtual Residence: Ashwini Ramaswamy by Liquid Music

Ashwini Ramaswamy by Ed Bock

Ashwini Ramaswamy by Ed Bock

Minneapolis-based Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer Ashwini Ramaswamy is one of this year's Liquid Music Series' 2017.18 Artists in Virtual Residence. Known for her ability to "weave together both fearfully and joyfully, the human and the divine" (New York Times), Ramaswamy will be bringing her craft to the 2018.19 Liquid Music season in collaboration with DJ, composer, and author Jace Clayton (our other Artist in Virtual Residence) for a premiere of their new work. Throughout the process, Ramaswamy will document her personal experiences with the project. Here, in her first writing entry, she reflects on her ancestral roots, wandering art museums in New York City, and getting to know Clayton as a collaborator through conversation, performance, and artistic influences.

Blog Entry #1
By Ashwini Ramaswamy

The new project for Liquid Music that I am working on with DJ/composer/author Jace Clayton has been ebbing and flowing in my head for a few years. I have long been interested in the restlessness and unpredictability of cultural memory, which is deeply embedded in my own transnational existence. Like a phantom limb, my Indian ancestry lingers with me, informing my artistic work and daily interactions and sparking my interest in the specter of cultural memory. I wanted to go outside my comfort zone to create an organic collaboration with a DJ and composer with whom I would have otherwise never partnered. Liquid Music curator Kate Nordstrum connected me with Jace, a master of electronic manipulation, who has worked on a number of past Liquid Music programs. The collaboration is also alien for him, too: he’s never before partnered with a choreographer. We come from very different artistic spheres and backgrounds, and are using this Virtual Residency to find our connection points and weave them into the new work.

This July, I went to New York City to gather inspiration and have an initial meeting with Jace about our project. I used to live in New York, and always savor my visits. More often than not I am there to perform, so when I have the luxury of enjoying the city without the pressures of a performance, I try to take full advantage. I visited the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, saw a performance at Lincoln Center, and Jace accompanied me to an exhibit at the Rubin Museum called The World is Sound curated by my friend Risha Lee. Risha was gracious enough to give us a personal tour of the exhibit, which took over two years to conceive and execute.

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At the end of October, Jace came to the Twin Cities for our second meeting, which also involved the consumption of art. We attended the first event of Liquid Music’s sixth season – Breaking English, by Rafiq Bhatia, with an opening piece, Spiritual Leader, by Ian Chang, at the Walker Art Center. Integrating other artists’ performances, readings, or exhibits into our collaborative process is something that I hope will continue in the coming months – that undercurrent of creativity helps spur conversations that can go in unexpected directions. 

Ramaswamy and Clayton outside of SPCO/Liquid Music offices in Saint Paul.

Ramaswamy and Clayton outside of SPCO/Liquid Music offices in Saint Paul.

Clayton performing at Honey in NE Minneapolis.

Clayton performing at Honey in NE Minneapolis.

Artistic inspirations have been the main crux of what Jace and I have discussed in our meetings thus far – from Abram Tertz’s A Voice Form the Chorus to Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy, the work of visual artist Doris Salcedo to a documentary on musician David Byrne. While our project is still in its infancy, these discussions help us navigate and discover each other’s working styles and influences. I played Carnatic (south Indian classical) compositions for Jace at the Ragamala studios in Uptown Minneapolis, and I saw him do an experimental, improvised DJ set at Honey in the Northeast neighborhood. By our next meeting, we will have a narrative framework in place that will further define the work and drive it forward. 

We’ll have more to share soon – until next time!

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Follow the Liquid Music blog for more entries and updates from Ashwini throughout the season – she will continue to share her journey of the project's evolution through a series of posts including writings, photos, and videos!

Follow Ashwini Ramaswamy:
Website: http://www.ashwini-ramaswamy.com/
Instagram: @ashwiniramaswamy (instagram.com/ashwiniramaswamy/)
Facebook: facebook.com/ashwini.ramaswamy

Follow Liquid Music for updates and announcements: 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries (instagram.com/liquidmusicseries
Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic

'This World Is Too ____ For You': An Interview With Emily Wells by Liquid Music

By Katie Hare, Liquid Music Intern

On November 16, 2017, New York-based multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, and producer Emily Wells brings the world premiere of her new project, This World Is Too ___ For You to Minneapolis. With our current cultural moment in mind, the project includes arrangements of Wells' music by violinist/composer Michi Wiancko and original visual work designed by Wells exploring the depth of repetition and body movement. 

In anticipation of the project's premiere, we asked Wells a few questions about her creative process, influences, and collaborative experiences in the making of This World Is Too ____ For You, chatted about her beloved dog Oly, and discussed finding a sense of comfort and friendship within art.

Emily Wells by Shervin Lainez.

Emily Wells by Shervin Lainez.

Tell us a bit about your background and explorations of various musical genres.
I grew up playing the violin and my dad was a musical minister so church music was a big part of my life – like it or not. He took a classical approach, though, more of the Brahms approach to church music. Over years I became really fascinated with writing and recording music. I got a four track when I was a teenager and thought, "This is it. This is so fun". It set my path toward being interested in what a songwriter could do beyond the simple structure of a song, but also through production and layering. Being a string player, I was interested in the sound of an ensemble. In the meantime, I also discovered all sorts of music via whatever was happening, I guess, in the early 2000s. That's sort of the seed of where it started, but it's developed over the years and through every record. Every tour I've learned so much. 

What did you listen to growing up? Was there a particular artist or genre that you were most influenced by?
It was highly classical music. Being a violinist, it was Vivaldi, Beethoven, Brahms, Bach. You know, all of those traditional old guys you learn from. I had an older brother, though, so I had a window outside of my sheltered existence into Nirvana and the Beatles and stuff like that. Also through his girlfriends I was introduced to gods like Tori Amos and Björk. Everyone in my school was into hip-hop, we were all obsessed with Outkast, Tupac. That was all happening at that time. I think I'm revealing my age, perhaps...

As a multi-instrumentalist, what is your favorite instrument to play and why?
I mean, I really love playing the violin because that's what I know how to play. With other instruments, I'm just trying to get an idea across. I also love the voice. Sometimes I hate it because it's mine but for the same reason I love it because it's truly uniquely mine and it's the thing that can express lyrics. 

What inspired and drove you to work on the project, This World Is Too ___ For You?
I had just come back from a European tour and whenever you get back from a tour, you feel kind of washed clean. You have a new mind. You come back to the life that you had created for yourself before you left and have to reorient within that. 

The world we are all inhabiting now is so wild and confusing... I had to find a way to focus inside of that and channel some of the storm. I tried to approach every song structurally and simply, almost in opposition to the way I've created in the past where I can get hung up on the production or what the arrangement will be. Knowing that I was going to hand the songs to Michi Wiancko and also Greg Fox (who is playing drums)—and these players were going to be able to do things on their instruments that I couldn't do on my own in the studio—was incredibly liberating as a writer. It allowed me to think in terms of form, less so in product. I was able to think through ideas more simply. It was such a gift. Working solo and producing so much of my own work is a very alone recording process, and this has enabled me to have these sorts of imaginary friends, even though they won't be imaginary forever! 

Was there a particular setting that helped you in working through this project?

Wells' studio space in NYC.

Wells' studio space in NYC.

Mostly I recorded in my in my studio in New York, which is a recording studio I've created. It's a humble setting, but it's mine. It has four windows, a little sound booth. It was such a haven. I have a fourteen-year-old pit bull, Oly, who has been at my feet for like every record I've ever made, so she was there snoozing on the couch through the whole process. She can't really walk so much anymore, so I have a giant dog stroller that I walk her to the studio in every day.

I also gave myself a self-imposed residency in the middle of the process. Some friends let me borrow their cabin upstate, so I went there for a week and set up all my gear and wrote there as well. That was interesting after having a focused couple of months in the city, to then take that energy to a really different place and be totally alone. 

Does Oly ever make it on tour with you?
Yes! She came on the road with me several times. Although, I think she may be getting too old now, sadly. She was the best tour companion anyone could ever hope for. She had minimal votes on what restaurant we went to, she would always spoon me at night in the hotel. So, she is pretty perfect.

Wells' studio space in NYC.

Wells' studio space in NYC.

Oly the fourteen-year-old pit bull.

Oly the fourteen-year-old pit bull.

How has working with Michi Wiancko helped build the project?
I usually create my own arrangements through recording and performing. I don't often put sheet music in front of a player and say, "okay, go"... I feel my way through the dark. It's more of a recording-oriented process of composition, so this project is really different because A: I wasn't arranging, and B: Michi is a different writer, a different player, she comes from a different background. It has been really fascinating to hear what she has come up with and how these songs called to her as an arranger. I wrote, she responded, and we created something together.

What can we expect from a visual media standpoint? Is this something you have worked with before?
A few tours ago I started adding this element. I got interested first in Pina Bausch, which then opened up my world to other contemporary dance. That has really influenced what the visuals have become. It's not all dance footage – that is part of the footage that I use, but I'm also interested in repetition and how bodies move. I try to focus in on form and find correlations. I don't want to give too much away about what the visuals will be, but I am working on a new piece that is specific to this project. It is going to incorporate a lot of the same ideas that I've used in the past, but with fresh eyes.

Check out some of the ways Wells has explored contemporary dance and body movement in her previous work and performances:

Do you have any pre-performance rituals that you are dedicated to?
I love to go for a run if I can. Also, this sounds so cheesy, but I try to remind myself to enter the experience from a place of gratitude. That's a bit of mantra before I step on stage. 

Is there anything else you would like the audience to know before being introduced to This World Is Too ____ For You?
Going back to the notion of gratitude, just how special it's been for me to write with the SPCO in mind and get to visualize something so specific for the writing process. For artists like me, who often write a record and figure out how we're going to play it live, and then go on the road and play clubs, theaters, churches, etc... You walk into a lot of situations where you have to deal with whatever you have in hand and figure out a way to make it work there. It has been extraordinary for me to get to visualize a performance so far in advance with such specific parameters and know that it could open into these certain ways. I'm really grateful to have had a chance to write in that way.

Prior to and throughout the process of creating This World is Too ____ For You, Wells admirably referred to two books: About Looking by John Berger, and Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle as well as a self-curated musical playlist. Not only did this content help her find a sense of stability within our current cultural moment, but it also stood as a strong symbol of art's purpose and why she continues to create it: 

I started making the playlist as a way to communicate with Michi before we met and then it ended up becoming a real dialogue with myself through the process. If I would hear a song that spoke to me specifically with this project in mind, I would put it on the playlist. Some songs lasted, others didn't. I finished it around the time I went to the cabin for my self-imposed residency and I probably listened to it a hundred times that week. It was truly my friend. I think that's another thing this process has been and also those songs have been to me: a form of friendship. When you're alone making, you have to find friends in those who have come before you – they help make sense of what you're doing. Sometimes making art feels totally senseless, especially when the world has so many things going on that need attention... Those songs spoke to me and reminded me why I make work. They are now imprinted on me in a really specific way – they'll always be in that order in my mind. 

On About Looking and Madness, Rack, and Honey:
I started reading the John Berger book while I was still on tour, so in a way it wasn't so much a part of the process while I was writing, but it was the lead-up. It allowed my mind to push beyond concepts like, "how long are we driving today?" or "what is our soundcheck time?" When you're on the road, you're so day to day, and you need a window to look through to even believe that you'll ever have a future. It's six weeks of a life of repeating the same thing every day. I love how Berger approaches really big concepts through art – art making, looking, thinking, and our relationships to those things. The first essay is about photography and our relationship to it. He references a lot of Susan Sontag's On Photography, which I also picked up. It's a really good conversation between two artists. She's responding to him through her work and he's responding to that. I was moved by the way he made more of her work come to life. I considered this as I was creating This World Is Too ___ For You. Berger's writing helped me understand an intention that I wanted to bring into my process. 

We all approach 'making' differently but 'fear' is also always a part of the process in some way. You have to find a way to move around it. Madness, Rack, and Honey is a book of lectures by Mary Ruefle – it's really interesting because it's so direct, her individuality so present. The thing that hooked me was this lecture she has on fear, speaking directly this idea of "why are we doing this, what's the point?" and how we have to face that as makers. She's a poet and talks a lot about poetry and references poets. She helped me to be brave around language and look for its potency, to explore ideas in really humorous and totally engaged, present ways. Everything is so distracting right now... it's hard not to be caught up in the distractions of the day such as looking at the news. Ruefle really helped ground me in thinking about ideas and not "what did our president do today that's ruining our lives?" These are ideas to be explored and they all relate to each other and to now and the future.

Anyway, I digress, but it was total light for me...

Poems, even when narrative, do not resemble stories. All stories are about battles, of one kind or another, which end in victory and defeat. Everything moves towards the end, when the outcome will be known. Poems, regardless of any outcome, cross the battlefields, tending the wounded, listening to the wild monologues of the triumphant or the fearful. They bring a kind of peace. Not by anaesthesia or easy reassurance, but by recognition and the promise that what has been experienced cannot disappear as if it had never been. Yet the promise is not of a monument. (Who, still on a battlefield, wants monuments?) The promise is that language has acknowledged, has given shelter, to the experience which demanded, which cried out.
— John Berger, (Courtesy of Emily Wells)
Emily Wells live from bowery Ballroom by Karlie Efinger and Scott Carr.JPG


Liquid Music Series presents the world premiere of Emily Wells: This World Is Too ____ For You on Thursday, November 16, 2017, at 7:30pm at Machine Shop in Minneapolis. The performance features violinist/composer Michi Wiancko, percussionist Greg Fox, and musicians from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Purchase tickets here.

 

Follow Emily Wells:
Website: emilywellsmusic.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtMNKOMwMrV1Ft-I4_c-JPQ
Instagram: @emilywellsmusic
Twitter: @emilywellsmusic

Follow Liquid Music for updates and announcements: 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
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Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic

Ian Chang's Contraption by Liquid Music

by Patrick Marschke

Ian Chang by Sara Heathcott

Ian Chang by Sara Heathcott

This weekend Son Lux's drummer Ian Chang makes his way to the cities to perform Spiritual Leader, a solo performance consisting of drums, a laptop, and an infinite palette of sounds. Although the technology involved in making his performance possible was developed very recently, Ian is part of a long tradition of musicians that have consistently and completely redefined what it means to be a drummer by their ingenious embrace of new technologies.

Trap Kit Innovator Warren "Baby" Dodds

Trap Kit Innovator Warren "Baby" Dodds

Drums or “membranophones” are very old and ubiquitous instruments, the earliest archaeological evidence from as early 5500 BC, second to voice as a tool for musical expression. The modern drum set as we know it today is, by comparison, very young. Its conception was spurred by technology and a few visionary innovators at the turn of the 20th century. The “Trap Kit” (short for contraption) was a way for a single musician to cover all of the parts of a marching drum section: bass drum and cymbals (the hi-hat) with the feet, and snare drums/toms with the hands. It was practical and malleable — need a cowbell for the bridge? Attach one to the bass drum. Need a gong? Why not THREE. By 1940s the trap kit was distilled to the drum kit we recognize today.

Sonny Greer with Duke Ellington and a ton of stuff

What is fascinating and unique about the drum set is that unlike instruments like piano and violin, whose designs have remained practically identical for centuries, the modular nature of the instrument has allowed its practitioners the ability to modify and redefine their sound through the nearly limitless potential customization of the “standard” kit: each drummer can build their instrument to accommodate the specific needs of their musical situation.

Fast forward to the 70s. Suddenly, sounds weren’t solely being created by vibrating membranes anymore. Synthesized sounds began to creep into nearly every genre — sine waves, envelopes, noise, and filters sought to replicate the familiar and, more thrillingly, created sounds that had never been heard before. Sonic explorers as they tend to be, drummers found ways of incorporating these new-found sounds into their contraptions.

Kraftwerk’s Karl Bartos wired up one of the first electronic “drum sets” to accompany the band’s revolutionary pulsing synths.

Kraftwerk’s Karl Bartos wired up one of the first electronic “drum sets” to accompany the band’s revolutionary pulsing synths.

Along with the 80s  came the introduction of the drum machine: notably the LinnDrum and Roland TR-808, whose rhythmic infallibility was initially seen as a threat to be-sticked percussionists. Why lug around a bunch of heavy empty cylinders and their human counterparts when you could plug in a slick little box that could fill a room with groovy beats with the push of a button? Critics accused the drum machine’s gridlocked pulsations of coldness and sterility. Musicians like Prince thought differently. Ever-adaptable, drummers persisted and with the advent of digital samplers found new ways cue up these sounds through pads played with fingers on an MPC or through stick-triggered rubber drum-like pads.

In the 90’s and early 2000s the advent of affordable laptops meant that drummers could add some serious computational processing to their contraptions, giving them instant access to any conceivable sound, signal processing, looping, and interactive generative performance environments. As thrilling as all these new sounds and ways of accessing them was (and still is!), there was something missing. Acoustic drums have a mystical quality: the sensitivity to touch, the way their incredibly complex frequencies interact with a room and our bodies. In the past decade, a few pioneering drummers have come up with some incredibly creative solutions to this acoustic/electronic divide by simply taking the best of both worlds. Below is a completely un-exhaustive look into those methods culminating in an in-depth look at what makes Ian’s approach stand out:

Deantoni Parks || The Micro Sampler

Deantoni maps tiny samples to a midi keyboard, much like one would with the above mentioned MPC sampler, while maintaining the nuanced control and accuracy provided by piano-like keys. He sacrifices his right hand and makes up for it with a completely inhuman left hand. Seriously, how does he do that?? The shortness of the samples obscures and abstracts their source, creating an incredible percussive and musical palette framed by Deantoni’s rigorous and patient song structures.

Nate Wood || One Man Band

Nate Wood sounds like 5 people even when he is only playing drums in Kneebody. Somehow he has figured out a way to forgo having a band all together, because why not? Here he plays synths, electric bass, and sings all without dropping a beat OR a stick. WHAT?

Josh Dion || Soul and Rhythm

Josh’s approach is similar to both Deantoni and Nate with a small synth covered by his right hand with the addition of an incredibly soulful voice, killer songwriting, and unparalleled groove.

Martin Dosh || Hometown Hero

Twin Cities local Martin Dosh uses a band’s worth of instruments and slick looping techniques to slowly unfurl fully fledged songs.  

You’ll notice that all these videos have something in common: each drummer has an additional interface or instrument to create the non-drum sounds, which means they sacrifice a hand and end up juggling an instrument or two. It is incredible, but certainly not intuitive. Sunhouse Sensory Percussion, the technology used by Ian, came up with a novel solution to this: a sensor analyzes the frequency information of a given drum and uses machine learning to map samples to 10 distinct “zones”. What makes this different than a traditional electronic drum or drum trigger is that these 10 zones flow seamlessly into each other, creating hybrid sounds rather than stark contrasts. Finally the physicality and nuance of drums has been translated to the digital realm with revolutionary implications. Ian Chang was one of the first musicians to utilize this system and has completely embodied the technologies' potential.

If you watch a muted video of Ian playing it looks like a drummer playing drums. Unmute and a world of sounds spills out. The power of the technology comes from its intuitiveness, and at the hands of a master practitioner like Ian, the results are unprecedented.

We asked Ian a few questions about the project:

PM: What came first, the technology or the idea of having a solo set?
IC: The technology came first. I started putting ideas together for a solo project when beta testing Sensory Percussion.  

What aspects of the technology are you excited to explore in the future?
I'm excited to collaborate with people more on my next release. Doing the first release solo has given me the opportunity to dive in pretty deep on the technology, and I think it has some exciting collaborative possibilities!  

How do you find your sounds/samples?  
I'm lucky to be part of a musical community where there is no shortage of people who are incredible at their instruments, so I'm always trying to tap into that as much as possible.  There's nothing like the sound of somebody playing an instrument that they have a deep relationship with.  

Are there solo drums + electronics projects that you admire?  
Definitely. Shigeto, Deantoni Parks and Dosh come to mind.  

Is there music that was particularly influential on this project?  
Not intentionally, I think any musical influences are more subconscious.

Have you used this setup in collaborative settings?
I have! Both in the studio as a writing/ arranging tool as well as in live settings both improvised and not. It's super flexible!

Do you think that it is important for listeners to know how your music is made/generated?
The goal is to make music that can stand alone, so that it doesn't require a footnote for people to connect to it.  However, I do think that the process is central to what makes this project unique, so it's both important and unimportant.  

How is the live iteration of this project different than the EP?  
Not very.  The challenge I placed on myself with this EP was that every track would be made up of unedited performances.  The main difference is that the experience of seeing it live is visual, both in terms of seeing it performed and also there is a lighting component to the show.


See it live: Ian opens for Rafiq Batia
Saturday Oct. 21

FOLLOW LIQUID MUSIC FOR UPDATES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
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Patrick Marschke is a Minneapolis-based percussionist, composer, and electronic musician trying to make all of those things into one thing. He is a member of the Minneapolis-based music collective Six Families and occasionally writes about music for the SPCO, the SPCO’s Liquid Music Series, and Walker Art Center in addition to working at The American Composers Forum

Liquid Music 17.18 || Interview w/ Series Curator Kate Nordstrum by Liquid Music

by Patrick Marschke 

Patrick Marschke is a Minneapolis-based musician, member of the music collective Six Families, and works for the American Composers Forum.

6th isn’t as widely lauded an anniversary as a 10th, or 50th, but this year's Liquid Music season feels like a milestone. It’s probably just as easy to say this about any of the previous seasons, but 17.18 seems like the most “Liquid Music” of any season yet. Subjective as this might be, a truth emerges from this vague feeling — “Liquid Music” has become its own adjective, especially for longtime followers of the series. You’ve probably caught yourself listening to something and thinking “this would be perfect for Liquid Music” or maybe been caught with a lack of words when describing the series to a friend who has somehow remained unfamiliar. Perhaps you have discovered an artist watched their career flourish since. Each year the definition of “Liquid Music” gets refined but no less familiar and useful. This seemingly intuitive distillation has a source – Liquid Music curator Kate Nordstrum has quietly turned the cogs and connected the dots of the national and international New Music scene for a decade and created a vital new musical resource for the Twin Cities

If you have been to a Liquid Music show in the past you know that in most circumstances Kate lets her incredible projects speak for themselves. In celebration of this season’s lineup, we thought we would give some space for the voice of Liquid Music Curator and Executive Producer of Special Projects at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra to tell us about her beginnings and visions for the future.


Liquid Music Curator and Executive Producer of Special Projects at The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Kate Nordstrum. (photo by Cameron Wittig)

Liquid Music Curator and Executive Producer of Special Projects at The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Kate Nordstrum. (photo by Cameron Wittig)

How does this season of Liquid Music compare to what you thought the series would be like when you first conceived of it?
Over the years, Liquid Music has evolved in its role as an instigator in the development of new and one of a kind projects. We are always looking for opportunities to partner with artists in project building, not simply to present road-tested work. This season you will see this in full effect.

Dance is a recent addition to the series, which I hadn’t thought about including initially and am thrilled it’s happening (Orpheus Unsung; TU Dance & Bon Iver; Ashwini Ramaswamy & Jace Clayton).

From the beginning, Liquid Music encouraged artistic exploration, risk-taking, collaboration, and an openness to new sounds and ideas at the highest level – that has stayed the same!

How does LM’s programming compare to series’ in other cities?
This is a question I prefer to have others answer!

I will say that Liquid Music is an anomaly when compared to other subseries of U.S. orchestras. The SPCO is incredibly progressive in its openness to supporting a flexible, dynamic program that is meant to foster a love of music without borders and broader understanding of the new music landscape. The orchestra is then part of a dialogue; not sequestered.

Liquid Music has sister series/festivals/institutions across the country like Contemporary Art Center Cincinnati led by Drew Klein, Ecstatic Music Festival at Kaufmann Center curated by Judd Greenstein, Big Ears in Knoxville, MASS MoCA in North Adams, EMPAC in Troy (NY), and there is a kinship now in some Eaux Claires programming. Each has its own thing going and distinct brand, but there are through-lines. I am very conscious of and interested in this ecosystem.

What do you imagine the series looking like 5 years from now?
I like the idea of Liquid Music satellite series with a few national partner institutions – it would be wonderful to premiere work and move it along a track cost-effectively. On a more boring but important note, I imagine a much larger base of individual donor support to underwrite and expand projects and commissions (which could include albums, staged work, writing, multi-media elements, residency possibilities as well as performance). Perhaps in five years there’s been a Liquid Music spin-off involving new music for dance…

I hope for enhanced project documentation and media output, as the SPCO is doing with its concert library. It would be a dream to live-stream Liquid Music world premieres. I’m interested in more process documentation and behind the scenes footage too, arguably more interesting!

What are some projects that have gone on to live on in other iterations? 
The collaboration between Poliça and stargaze really took hold. They continue to work together and will release their second album (Music for the Long Emergency, a LM commission and premiere) this February. Without giving anything away, it’s clear that the TU Dance & Bon Iver project will live on in a plethora of incarnations. Daniel Wohl’s Holographic (album, visual art and live performance commissioned by Liquid Music, Baryshnikov Arts Center, MASS MoCA and Indianapolis Museum of Art) has had a nice life, scaled up (LA Phil and Ate9 dance company at Hollywood Bowl) and down (various incarnations in the U.S. and Europe) – still ongoing.

Saul Williams and Ted Hearne met through a 2015.16 Liquid Music commission and now have a huge new work together premiering with LA Phil in the spring. That makes my heart sing!

Looking at the season ahead, there will be a lot of “next iterations” post-premiere – Rafiq Bhatia’s Breaking English, Nathalie Joachim’s Fanm d’Ayiti, Emily Wells’ The World is Too ____ For You.

How do you keep seasons fresh from year to year?
It’s hard! I challenge myself to seek new relationships and reach out to artists who aren’t reaching out to me. The very point of the series is exploration, so predictability is really not an option. We move around to different venues… I keep tabs on other presenters’ offerings – locally, nationally, and internationally – and work to give Liquid Music its own profile. I want Liquid Music to have an edge and stand out in the world.

photo by Cameron Wittig

photo by Cameron Wittig

Can you talk about the process of building these projects? How do they start and develop? What do you look for in potential LM projects?
Artists reach out to me/the SPCO, I reach out to them (or in co-presentations with the Walker, Philip Bither and I share this role), and artists/colleagues make introductions. I’m looking for A) special project ideas, not a rep concert* pitch or club tour, B) a variety of perspectives across the season, C) cultural relevance, timeliness and storytelling, D) emotionally engaging, generous work, E) extraordinary minds and musical abilities, and F) artists who are taking risks.

*[Repertoire Concert: a concert made up of pre-existing music from an artist’s catalog]

What are some of the first projects you put together?
The first ever concert featured Chamber music of Nico Muhly and Valgeir Sigurðsson in 2007 (pre-Liquid Music). The first couple concert programs I worked on were in partnership with Wordless Music.

Some of the first Liquid Music-developed* projects were:

  • Reid Anderson: The Rough Mixes, a full-evening work for electronics (Anderson), string trio and percussion, with video design by architect Cristina Guadalupe
  • An evening of new music involving Zola Jesus, composer/pianist Stephen Prutsman, SPCO quartet, cellist Ashley Bathgate, percussionist Ian Ding, and composer Ted Hearne 
  • Olga Bell: Origin/Outcome with Angel Deradoorian, local Russian-speaking vocalists, chamber ensemble, and visual design by Alejandro Crawford; a Walker co-presentation
  • Sufjan Stevens, Serengeti, Son Lux: Sisyphus album commission and release party; another Walker co-presentation/co-commission

*Origin/Outcome and Sisyphus projects were co-developed with the Walker Art Center.

What’s the difference between curating, programming, and producing?
Programming involves selecting artists and presentations for a series, season or festival. Curators are called upon not just to select, but to organize, contextualize/interpret and present. Producing is the process of bringing a project to life logistically and technically, from idea/concept to premiere/final incarnation.

What does curation mean for you in your role at the SPCO?
I take seriously that I am at an orchestra, that Liquid Music exists within an organization committed to classical music. I want there to be connective threads with the orchestra each season, so I think a lot about what is fitting (and expansive) given that environment. I work closely with Kyu-Young Kim, who sets the orchestra seasons, and we’ve just begun annual festival programming that involves both Liquid Music and orchestra presentations under a conceptual umbrella (last season’s Where Words End; this season’s No Fiction; and we are actively working on next season’s festival offering with SPCO Director of Education Erin Jude and Artistic Programming Manager Paul Finkelstein).

One of the goals of Liquid Music is to encourage a culture of curiosity, exploration, and a genuine hunger for discovery — in our audience and our artists. This is an essential investment for a classical organization: it infuses the whole organization with possibility.

What makes the Twin Cities an ideal place to host this series?
The people! The culture! Liquid Music was tailor-made for Twin Cities audiences, who are some of the most musically adventurous, curious and art-forward people in the country. Also, this is a great place to build and premiere new work – not only is the audience hungry for it and very responsive, but artists are better-supported here in their endeavors than in larger U.S. markets. We are able to go above and beyond in ways that just aren't feasible other places: being able to house artists, give lots of time and space for rehearsing and checking sound, and carrying the brunt of the marketing/PR load so that artists can focus on what they do best.

Kate and LM alum Roberto Carlos Lange aka Helado Negro at Whitewater Preserve near Palm Springs, CA.

Kate and LM alum Roberto Carlos Lange aka Helado Negro at Whitewater Preserve near Palm Springs, CA.

Is there a space in the Twin Cities that you would like to host a show? Nationally?
Mancini’s in Saint Paul would be a psychedelic dream.

Nationally, Hollywood Bowl!

I also think about nature preserves, conservation sites and National Parks. Site specific works. I spent a fair amount of time in California this past year and can imagine some incredible possibilities out there. I’d love to work with park rangers and environmentalists to draw attention to land and spaces where federal protection is in jeopardy. The best kind of music experiences to me feel like worship – my heart, soul and body one with a higher power – and nature brings me to the same place.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Whittling 75 strong project ideasby artists worthy of Liquid Music investmentdown to 10 each season.

How do you keep up on the state of New Music in the US and abroad?
Talk, listen, read, travel as able… I do what I can as a mother of two! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed because keeping up is rather impossible. And maintaining a rich inner/personal life also necessitates antidotes to constant information-gathering, so… there’s that to consider. I challenge myself not to rely on old favorites, old relationships, old judgments, conference offerings (or I’ll become a predictable old curator quickly), so that means I have to get out of my house, kick habits, get uncomfortable, learn about stuff I don’t know.

Kate at age 6

Kate at age 6

What lead you to curating and programming music? How did you first get involved in New Music?
I did not set out to do the work I’m doing today (you’ll notice not many performing arts curators do) but was incrementally led in this direction over time. I can now look back and see a path that adds up, but I didn’t see it at the time. I played violin (Suzuki) and danced (classical ballet) from a young age and especially loved dance, though my skill level was mediocre. Still, the magic of art and performance was very real to me. I ended up going to business school (Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota) and it didn’t take me long to realize that the only way I could survive emotionally in a business setting is if I applied my work toward something I was highly passionate about. So I created my own major, took internships in NYC in the summers, and figured out what arts administration was all about. One of my internships was at Lincoln Center, and that experience sealed the deal. I was determined to land there permanently. Post-college in NYC I worked in the marketing departments of Lincoln Center and City Center – I loved being close to dance, but learned a ton about music presentation as well. I soaked it all in; it was the best education. I loved the high art and performance values of Lincoln Center and City Center but countered it with time spent at the Knitting Factory, The Kitchen, Arlene Grocery, CBGB, Living Room, etc. Randomly, I met a number of musicians (ones I still work with today) through a yoga class I taught in Hell’s Kitchen (Sonic Yoga, how fitting). Tony Award-winning actor/musician Michael Cerverisyoga student for a seasonmade me mix CDs full of great slowcore music that I used in my classes and internalized.

Fast-forward to Minneapolis: I was doing marketing & communications work for the Southern Theater and found the venue to be ideal for music acoustically and atmospherically. I was inspired when I noticed a programming gap in the Twin Cities that I thought I might be able to address. The Southern was only a 200 seat house, a good size to start a new series, so I asked the Artistic Director at the time (Jeff Bartlett) if I could try my hand at some music programming. He was encouraging – what a gift. I was also in touch with Ronen Givony who was starting Wordless Music in NYC at the time (Ronen came from Lincoln Center too, the Chamber Music Society) and we partnered on some of the initial Southern presentations. It was great to connect with and be sharpened by a colleague embarking on a similar mission. The programming was driven by the particularities of the venue and by what wasn’t happening elsewhere in the Twin Cities. I learned on the job and made a lot of mistakes, but overall the series succeeded because it had its own profile and purpose. I loved growing into this work (I still do).  

New Music, the genre, was an important part of the mix of music presentations but it wasn’t alone. Electronic, traditional classical, experimental, and multi-disciplinary offerings were also core components. I was always going for ‘new music’ un-capitalized and chamber music without borders.

Kate at age 13

Kate at age 13

With my background in dance, I’ve always gravitated to music and sound that resonates deeply in the body, that is first and foremost felt. This is very subjective, but it is why I am drawn to the work of Ben Frost, Caroline Shaw, and Ryoji Ikeda for instance, and the resonant vocal texture and word choices of Saul Williams.

Some of the first artists I worked with also shaped my course. Bedroom Community and New Amsterdam Records were both founded at the same time I started programming (Bedroom Community in 2006, New Am in 2008). We all connected back then, shared our values, and navigated the industry on somewhat parallel pathsat this point they feel like family.

Nico Muhly as artist advocate #1 (in 2007) did not hurt the new music connections early on.

What music do you listen to at home? In the car? 
At home: A lot of ambient, electronic, orchestral/chamber, choral… Julian (my son) called this weekend’s selection “sad music”. It does sometimes veer toward the melancholy. I defer to my kids’ choices a lot too – I try to encourage music in their lives without too much judgment.

In the car/running: Podcasts (On Being, Modern Love, The Daily, Song Exploder, Nadia Sirota’s Meet the Composer), Radio K, and an evolving personal playlist of lyrical music that pumps me up / brings joy. If I’m driving late Monday or Thursday nights, I’ll tune in for David Safar’s New Hot or Jake Rudh’s Transmission.

My love for Nick Cave and TV on the Radio knows no bounds.

One of my all-time favorite songs is Radiohead’s "Staircase".

A fun party song that LM commissioned is Sisyphus’ "Rhythm of Devotion".

I’m lucky to own a lot of great unreleased music. My Infinite Palette colleagues Daniel Wohl and William Brittelle have tracks that I want so badly to share with the world! Keep an eye out for "Melt" by Daniel and "Spiritual America" by Bill. The Polica/stargaze track "Agree" is very binge-worthy (out in February!). And Tunde Adebimpe’s A Warm Weather Ghost, commissioned last season by Liquid Music and the Walker Art Center, is listened to regularly. I pray that Tunde releases this album!

I was recently so pleased to learn of the artist Rhye via an interview with Bonobo on Song Exploder. I heard Rhye’s song "Open" years ago and thought it was Sade… and searched and searched for this beautiful, illusive Sade song using only the lyrics I could remember (which sadly did not include the title of the song “Open”). Fortunately years later Bonobo asked Rhye to do a song with him ("Break Apart"), talked about it (and what attracted him to Rhye’s voice) on Song Exploder, a bell rang and now I can (and do) listen to the little gem "Open" regularly. The journey to this song makes it sweeter!

Who are some of your idols/heroes? Who inspires you?*
Artist and developer Theaster Gates - for his investment in Chicago’s South Side through his Rebuild Foundation and Dorchester Projects. Gates is an incredibly gifted artist who’s chosen to pursue a calling far beyond the gallery – he seeks the transformation of a neighborhood, a city and its people.

Krista Tippett, creator and host of On Being - for her singular voice and vision, business acumen, pursuit of answers to big questions of meaning, a local treasure

Nick Cave - for his honesty, strength and ecstatic vision; my dream collaborator. I was introduced to him by Warren Ellis years ago and froze… I’ll never forgive myself.  

Barack & Michelle Obama - where do I begin? My gratitude overflows.

Writers Hilton Als and Frederich Buechner - for turning our gaze from the subject at hand to the greater picture

The New Amsterdam Records crew: Sarah Kirkland Snider, Bill Brittelle and Judd Greenstein - brothers and sister in the industry, friends and collaborators from very the beginning

Toni & Uri Sands - for their investment in Saint Paul through their company and school, their undeniable grace and technical prowess, their kindness, and powerful honesty. They lift our community.

Mom & dad - my teachers, cheerleaders and second parents to my children; models of faithfulness who instilled my love for nature and the arts.

Eddie, my husband - whose taste is better than my own! He should get artistic advisor credit for all things Liquid Music. In all seriousness, it would be impossible for me to do this job without his support. He is my spiritual partner; his own work [as a developer] and passionate environmentalism inspire me.

*Tip of the iceberg.


Learn more about the 17.18 lineup and buy individual or season tickets.

FOLLOW LIQUID MUSIC FOR UPDATES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS 
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Patrick Marschke is a Minneapolis-based percussionist, composer, and electronic musician trying to make all of those things into one thing. He is a member of the Minneapolis-based music collective Six Families and occasionally writes about music for the SPCO, the SPCO’s Liquid Music Series, and Walker Art Center in addition to working at The American Composers Forum

Luigi Nono: La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura, Madrigale per più “caminantes” con Gidon Kremer by Liquid Music

SPCO Artistic Partner Patricia Kopatchinskaja is performing Luigi Nono’s La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura on Thursday, October 26, at 7:30pm at the Walker Art Center as part of the SPCO's Liquid Music Series and the Walker Art Center's Target® Free Thursday Nights. Composer and Music Theorist Ryan David Stevens gives insight into the musical and political background of Nono's enigmatic musical style.

Patricia Kopatchinskaja by Astrid Ackerman

Patricia Kopatchinskaja by Astrid Ackerman

La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura was Luigi Nono’s penultimate work. Merely a year after it was finished, Nono passed away at the age of sixty-six. It was an ambitious piece, and in a way it shows the audience a glimpse of Nono as a man, and as a composer nearing the end of his life.

Luigi Nono initially came out of the school of total serialism. The original twelve-tone technique of Schoenberg and Berg was a thing of the past by the late 1950s. Composers like Stockhausen and Boulez wanted to take the building blocks set by composers like Webern and Messaien to the next level by adding strict sets of rules to rhythm, dynamics, and timbre.

In addition to being a driving force in the serialist movement, Luigi Nono was an outspoken political activist.  He joined the Italian Communist Party in the 1950s, and was a devout anti-fascist.  Unlike his contemporaries, he sought to use his music to express his political views.  His controversial cantata Il Canto Sospeso for choir and orchestra, sets text comprised of farewell letters by anti-fascists who were executed by the Nazis. The piece was praised for its strict use of total serialism, but was criticized for using such provocative text in a time when Nazi war crimes were not a popular topic in Germany.

However, Nono was not the only serialist to speak out against political ideologies. Nono’s predecessor and Father-in-Law, Arnold Schoenberg, wrote a handful of pieces criticizing Hitler’s reign of terror. His cantata, A Survivor from Warsaw, depicts a man living in the Warsaw ghetto watching his fellow Jews get sent to their deaths. Schoenberg also wrote a piece for string quintet and narrator that uses the text of Lord Byron’s Ode to Napoleon. The poem is a critique of Napoleon, but in the context of World War II, the poem evokes a parallel between Napoleon’s reign and Hitler’s reign.

Over the decades, Nono continued to write more politically outspoken works. Many works reflected his views against capitalism and his condemnation of fascist regimes. The political injustice and social unrest going on around the world was always on Nono’s mind when writing.  Pieces like La fabbrica illuminata, A floresta e jovem e cheja de via, and Al gran sole all pushed Nono’s political and social ideologies to the forefront of his music.

La Lontananza was commissioned by violinist Gidon Kremer. The initial ideas for the piece began in 1988; Nono and Kremer went to a recording studio to record Kremer improvising on the violin, as well as recordings of other various sounds over the course of a few days. The tape portion of the piece was completed in four months. However, the solo part took much more time than Nono initially expected. Kremer did not receive a single page of the solo part until just two days before the premiere. Finally, Nono presented Kremer with the part piece by piece, on hastily handwritten manuscript paper. The work was premiered in September of 1988, but was revised in early 1989.

Although the piece was revised in 1989 it still feels rough around the edges, as if it was never really finished. In a way, the piece shows a portrait of Nono’s methods rather than a fully realized piece of chamber music. The score is hastily handwritten, and it has more instructions than actual notes. It is almost incomprehensible. The tape recording features a collage of ambient noise from the duo in the studio:  chairs moving around, doors being opened and closed, bits of a conversation. On top of that, the performer isn’t able to fully prepare for the performance. The performer does not know which music stand has the next section of music on it, and they must adapt to the room by walking around the stage as the recording plays (which is also different every time).

The title was inspired by an inscription on a monastery that Nono saw while he was visiting Toledo, Spain, which read “Caminantes, no hay caminos, hay que caminar" ("Travelers, there are no paths, you must walk"). Salvatore Sciarrino, whom the piece was dedicated to, explains his interpretation of the title as such:

"The past reflected in the present (nostalgica) brings about a creative utopia (utopica), the desire for what is known becomes a vehicle for what will be possible (futura) through the medium of distance (lontananza)."

La Lontananza's use of tape comes from the technique of musique concrète, manipulating unmusical sounds to be used in a musical context. This was common in music of Nono’s contemporaries, notably Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio and John Cage. It also implements aleatory elements, or choices determined by the performer. The tempos of the sections are to be chosen by the performer as well as the point in which the sections are played in relation to the recording.

SPCO Artistic Partner Patricia Kopatchinskaja will perform Nono’s La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura on Thursday, October 26, at 7:30pm (free, no tickets required) in galleries 4, 5 & 6 of the Walker Art Center. When asked about composers she enjoys performing in a 2016 interview, she had this to say:

20150212_kopatchinsaja_ credit Eric Melzer.png

“I am always looking for the musical partners, from whom I can learn something. I am not looking for ‘comfortable’ partners. I think I even have the tendency to play with extremely demanding people - something which gives me the important impulse to develop and enlarge my imagination.”

The art of Nairy Baghram (in Walker Art Center galleries 4, 5 & 6, where the performance takes place) will be on display until February 4. Deformation Professionnelle is an exhibit of sculptures, photos, and drawings that explore the human body as well as architecture and normal everyday objects. The idea is to distort objects to reflect ways in which a person can alter their worldview based on their experience. 

Ryan David Stevens is a composer and theorist from Minneapolis. http://www.ryandavidstevens.com/

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Nathalie Joachim: Travel Diary to Haiti, Part III by Liquid Music

Nathalie Joachim describes her family home and gives a first-hand account of a bus ride in Haiti in the third installment of her Fanm d'Ayiti travelogue.

Nathalie X_IMG_1226 Arthur Moeller.jpg

Today was a travel day, which after several days of excitement, I was happy for. It gave me some great time to reflect on all of the wonderful conversation I’d had while in Port-au-Prince, and allowed me to appreciate just how much more connected I felt to this project. The music has never been the real struggle of developing this work, but how to work in the storytelling aspect has been a challenge for me. I wasn’t sure what I would get out of these interviews I’ve had over the past few days, or if they would even happen. Now that they have, I’ve decided to allow the stories to be told by those who they belong to. Fanm d’Ayiti will be an evening length experience, so my plan now is to interweave the musical tales with the audio I’ve been collecting on this trip. I’m hoping that it will allow me to share my process in creating this work, and the stories of these phenomenal women as intimately as I’ve experienced them. I’m so excited to get to editing!

Anyway, funny story about my travel from Port-au-Prince to my next destination: my family’s small town of Dantan, Haiti. This drive is usually a part of all of my trips to Haiti – about 4 hours beautiful riding through the mountains and often on the coast. My dad and/or cousin will pick me up from the airport, and the ride will be filled with great conversation, lots of laughter short naps, and music – always music, with a touch of talk radio. You know... balance! This time, because of my Port-au-Prince adventures, Yolaine (stepmom/Fanm d’Ayiti assistant extraordinaire) and I took a bus. A BUS. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love a good bus. I’m a city girl! I take buses all the time, and I not ashamed to say that I have rocked a Greyhound ride or two in my day. But a bus in Haiti?!!! To actually call it a bus is to submit to a very loose understanding of the word. When I saw my luggage ascend to the top of this vehicle to be tied down with some rope, I think I actually swallowed a squeal and internally thanked every item in my suitcase for its service, Marie Kondo style. No part of this experience brought me joy. There weren’t any live animals on the bus... but it was so bad, that the ride would not have been worse if there actually were live animals onboard. I texted my siblings a minute to minute update of the entire experience for good humor, and also so there would be a record of all of my final thoughts in the event of my passing to be read at my funeral.

Group family text screenshot

Group family text screenshot

I planned to work on this blog entry during my ride, but mostly I held on for dear life and hoped for the best. That will likely be my first and last bus ride in Haiti, but I’m thinking about getting a t-shirt that says “I survived the wild Haitian bus ride 2017,” LOL!

Arriving in Dantan always feels amazing. The drive to my dad’s from the city of Les Cayes is just gorgeous, and every moment of it – the rice fields, the farmers, the cows and goats on the side of the road, the blue skies and sunshine, the friendly waves and curious stares – it all feels like home. This trip was slightly more somber because much of the vegetation was torn up by Hurricane Matthew. In fact, when we turned into our driveway, I almost didn’t recognize the place! But the love of generations of my family  was there to greet me as always.

Our family home is still a functioning farm, and I was happy to see that as the farming community are piecing their lives back together, there is plenty of new life to be celebrated. The trees are baring their first fruits since the storm, and signs of a productive spring were fully evident in the farm animals. All in all, there were 3 kittens, 5 puppies, 8 baby chicks, a whole load of ducklings and piglets too! 

After greeting these new additions, and sharing many warm hugs and kisses with family, I ate a great plate of home cooked Haitian food grown on the very land I sat on, and relaxed with my dad. It certainly does feel good to be home.

See the World Premiere of Fanm d'Ayiti
Wednesday, March 14, 2018, 7:30pm (purchase tickets)
Amsterdam Bar and Hall, Saint Paul

Fanm d’Ayiti Related Event:
On Being with Nathalie Joachim and Krista Tippett

Monday, January 15, 2018 (reserve tickets
Doors at 7:00pm | Conversation at 7:30pm
On Being Studios, Minneapolis

Keep up with Fanm d'Ayiti on the Liquid Music Blog:
Travel to Haiti Part II
Travel to Haiti Part l
Liquid Music Connects: Students Visit Virtually with Nathalie Joachim, Part II
Liquid Music Connects: Students Visit Virtually with Nathalie Joachim
Introducing Nathalie Joachim

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Nathalie Joachim: Travel Diary to Haiti, Part II by Liquid Music

Join Liquid Music Artist in Virtual Residence Nathalie Joachim on a virtual tour of Haiti as she collects research for her upcoming world premiere, Fanm d'Ayiti. Nathalie's account of Day 2 of her travels is included below (Read Day 1 here). 

Today was a day I'll remember for the rest of my life, without question.

Things started first thing this morning, when we drove to Milena Sandler and Joel Widmaier's home in Port-au-Prince. Quick recap: Milena is daughter of Toto Bissainthe, who is basically my muse for this project, and for sure someone whose artistry and history is SUCH an inspiration for me in this project and in life ❤️. Milena and Joel run Radio Metropole, one of Haiti's national radio stations, as well as the International Jazz Festival. To be casually invited to their home is like Rashida Jones meeting you blindly and being like "hey – wanna come over? I can tell you stories about when I was little and my dad, Quincy, and I used to hang out with young Michael Jackson!" I mean... I definitely changed my outfit 3 times before leaving the house.

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Anyway, we show up and Milena was super warm and welcoming. Immediately, she gives me a copy of this 2 disc compilation of her mom's greatest works, and also a book that she and Joel helped produced entitled "Grandes Dames de la Musique Haïtienne" (Grand Ladies of Haitian Music) aka... a book I wish I'd gotten about a year and a half ago...!!! She ushers us into her living room - it's flooded with natural light, and the treasures of a lifetime of world travel. For the next half hour, she tells me stories of her mother's life: her beginnings as an actress and founder of Les Griots – France's first African American Theater company; her tumultuous and sometimes dangerous relationship with Haiti; her deep love for music; and her deep commitment to activism (though she did not consider herself an activist or political in any way. Milena said "she simply believed in justice"). To hear her speak of her mother, was enthralling. And like her mother, her big doe eyes gave away every emotion: excitement, wonder, respect, and an underlying sadness for someone she loved deeply and feels was never during her lifetime appreciated as much as she should've been by a country she loved with her whole heart. The woman I've been reading endlessly about and listening to feverishly throughout this virtual residency came to life through Milena's words. We wrapped our conversation with an interesting chat about Milena's work to fight for copyright law in Haiti (which essentially doesn't exist...!!!), her work with the jazz fest, and some ways I might be able to get more involved in the country's music community... yahoo!

From there, we went back to the National Theater, where I was hoping to go through archives, only to discover there were none, but to be offered a meeting with the Executive Director instead – who, as it turns out, is serving his second term as director, which is unprecedented in the Theater's history. So, I thought "I bet this guy has seen a whole lot, and probably has so much to offer me in terms of my research for this project!" Boy was I wrong. To be frank: it was what felt like 3 hours (but was maybe actually 30 min) of mansplaining, boasting and doing literally anything to avoid discussing the importance of women in Haitian music history.*  I guess I should've expected this from a government appointed official who is just trying to do his job, but...it was a real low point after so many highs on this trip. Basically he talked about how great he was, and I sat there looking at him like this: 

*(Side note: the Director was a nice guy, who was very generous with his time, and is very resourceful... just not for this project.)

Best thing to happen during this visit? We had been trying to reach Émerante de Pradines all morning (remember her? 99 year old living legend? See hopeful rant from Day 1), when the phone miraculously rang as the director was mid-sentence talking about something relatively uninteresting. It was Émerante's assistant saying that she was no longer at Hotel Olaffson, but was instead at a community music school that she runs in Pernier (a neighborhood outside of PAP's city center). She had no plans to return to the city (drat!), but was happy to meet me if I was willing to make the trek to see her (yahoo!). So after a swift goodbye and odd obligatory photo with the National Theater Director, Team Fanm d'Ayiti was off!

Major Kudos to driver James and fancy family friend Exume for managing to navigate to what turned out to be a pretty remote area. I'm not going to lie: I was pretty nervous that we'd gotten ourselves lured into a hairy situation, but that might only be because I watch too many action movies and have an active imagination...

Anyway, after a little bit of shady alley road waiting in the car, a random pick up of Émerante's assistant outside of an unmarked "church", and a short drive down a fairly treacherous and deserted road, we showed up at a quaint building that maybe used to be a church itself at one time. Her assistant leads us through a courtyard, and down a small corridor walks a gentle faced elderly woman whose smile reminds me fondly of my own grandmother. We introduce ourselves, and explain who we are and why we're there. She smiles at me and says that anything she can do to help me will be a great pleasure for her. It was a warm and honest greeting, which set the tone for our entire discussion.

I spent an hour with Émerante, and I wish I could've stolen several more, but I didn't want to overstay my welcome. A self-described beloved trouble-maker, Émerante's spirit shone through with every word. Born September 24, 1918 (!!!), her memory of beguiling ambassadors with her voice at the age of 17 with Haitian folkloric (aka vodou) songs (rather risky behavior at the time), which led to her America for what ended up being 65 years, was quite vivid. Upon arriving in the States, she was determined to go to Juilliard (eek!), but ended up studying with Martha Graham instead (double eek!!). You KNOW I would've passed out if we shared an alma mater! She considered herself a theater actress first, a dancer second, and a musician only because it ran through her blood (her father was a famous singer as well). She had a deep love for Haiti, and a desire to help those less fortunate whenever possible (hence moving back and starting this small music school, in an area so remote it surely isn't served by anyone else in her home country).

There were odd coincidences between Émerante and Toto: they both left Haiti for abroad and eventually felt called to return; though their songs empowered and continue to empower Haitian people, they hardly viewed themselves as singers; and certainly not as activists.

She told me story after story – almost too many for me to keep up with (very thankful for that Zoom recorder again!). My favorite story Émerante told was about meeting her husband. Many people had encouraged her to get a "real job", and "let go of all of this theater talk" as she put it (we've all heard it, am I right?!?! Shout out to all my artist friends doing the most with the least!). When she met her husband, a well known Latin American scholar and renowned university professor (for the likes of Yale, Stanford and Columbia among others), and told him what she did for a living, he said "wow... that's a lot! You need someone to help you!" And for Émerante, that was the first time that anyone had encouraged her to commit to this career path. And so she did. (Shout out to every artist's someone who told them they sure could and should!) And to see the look of love in her eyes when she said "and he did... he did help me," is surely one of the sweeter things I've ever experienced.

I asked Émerante if she could give one piece of advice to female artists today, what would it be? I also asked Milena what she thought her mom's one piece of advice would be. They both said two things (...which is two pieces of advice, but whatevs - better for us!):

  1. Don't try to be cute for anyone to get ahead with your work. Be honest, and be yourself, and if people can't accept that, too bad for them. Someone, somewhere will accept you for who you are, and it's probably the people who will end up mattering most.
  2. Never stop doing what you love. Keep your eye on the prize and keep moving forward. Don't give up!
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I gave Émerante a long hug after she said that. It's something I of course know, and believe in, and promote, but often times it helps to hear it. Especially from someone who's lived it for nearly a century.  

My whole heart is full after this day and this encounter with a true national treasure and one of the great voices of Haiti's golden age. I imagine I will be smiling about it for a very long time to come.

See the World Premiere of Fanm d'Ayiti
Wednesday, March 14, 2018, 7:30pm (purchase tickets)
Amsterdam Bar and Hall, Saint Paul

Fanm d’Ayiti Related Event:
On Being with Nathalie Joachim and Krista Tippett

Monday, January 15, 2018 (reserve tickets
Doors at 7:00pm | Conversation at 7:30pm
On Being Studios, Minneapolis

Keep up with Fanm d'Ayiti on the Liquid Music Blog:
Travel to Haiti Part l
Liquid Music Connects: Students Visit Virtually with Nathalie Joachim, Part II
Liquid Music Connects: Students Visit Virtually with Nathalie Joachim
Introducing Nathalie Joachim

Follow Nathalie Joachim:
Website: nathaliejoachim.com
Facebook: facebook.com/nathalie.joachim.39
Twitter: @flutronix (twitter.com/flutronix)
Instagram: @njoachim (instagram.com/njoachim)
Youtube: youtube.com/c/nathaliejoachim

FOLLOW LIQUID MUSIC FOR UPDATES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries (instagram.com/liquidmusicseries
Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic
Podcast: Liquid Music Playlist

Nathalie Joachim: Travel Diary to Haiti, Part I by Liquid Music

Liquid Music Artist in Virtual Residence, Nathalie Joachim is in Haiti conducting interviews with pillars of the Haitian musical community and collecting field recordings as inspiration for her new work, Fanm d'Ayiti. Nathalie created a travel diary, shown below, for Liquid Music audiences to join her on this incredible journey. 

Today was an absolutely incredible day full of pretty wonderful serendipity. This trip to Haiti has been a bit hard to plan because of a combination of island time and logistics. Nonetheless, I arrived today with a hopeful itinerary in hand. Little did I know that it would all pan out to be an amazingly eventful day, resulting in an exciting tomorrow!

After an early morning flight from NYC (ouch 6am... I need to stop doing that), I landed in Port-au-Prince (PAP), and was greeted at the airport first by a live band and then by my dad, stepmom Yolaine, aunt and step-uncle. It's really awesome to have them all here helping on my quest for music and history in Haiti.

Live band at PAP airport

The plan was to meet my dad’s good friend Jean Joseph Exume (a big time lawyer here in Port-au-Prince), who would hook us up with not only a driver, but the inside scoop on the top 3 things I want to accomplish in PAP:

  1. The plan was to meet my dad’s good friend Jean Joseph Exume (a big time lawyer here in Port-au-Prince), who would hook us up with not only a driver, but the inside scoop on the top 3 things I want to accomplish in PAP:

  2. A visit, interview and archive crawl at Radio Metropole (a major national radio station) run by a guy named Joel Widmaier, whose wife, Milena Sandler is daughter of Toto Bissainthe — you might remember Toto—now deceased—from my earlier blog post aka my muse for this entire project).
  3. A visit and tour (and maybe also an archive crawl) of the National Theater, formerly home of the Theatre de Verdure, which was the home of some of the most iconic performances of my featured female artists, going all the way back to "La Reine Chanterelle" aka Lumane Casimir aka one of the very first famous female singers (more on her later, but see my first blog post for a taste).
  4. A visit to Hotel Olaffson, owned by Richard Morse — founding member of ultra famous Haitian band RAM (like... the Rolling Stones of Haiti) and son of Émerante de Pradines, aka the only famous singer left from Lumane’s time, clocking in 99 years old!

All of this comes at the recommendation of Carole Demesmin (also a featured artist on my list, who I had the most awesome phone call with about a month ago, and who I plan to meet in person in September — all fingers and toes crossed). It's a long and somewhat far fetched list because Carole did a lot of recommending but not a lot of introductions, however… a girl can dream. Especially a slightly crazy, super ambitious New Yorker!

Radio Metropole

Radio Metropole

After a quick drive, we land at Exume’s house, and my stepmom (official Fanm d’Ayiti assistant), Exume and our driver James head immediately to Radio Metropole. We get there, tell our story and ask for Joel and Milena. There's a lot of back and forth and some name dropping when the woman at the front desk breaks and gives us Milena’s number. We call, tell our story, drop some more names and… she agrees to meet us at 5pm! WOOT! One mission down… sort of... and two to go. So, we head off to the National Theater.

Drive to Radio Metropole

Rehearsal space at Theatre de Verdure 

Rehearsal space at Theatre de Verdure 

We arrive there, and it's actually scary at first. The neighborhood is pretty rough and the streets are lined with trash but Carole had described the old amphitheater and the beauty of Theatre de Verdure as once having been surrounded by green rolling hills and the ocean in the distance. I see remnants of it beneath the grit. We walk in, do our name dropping bit and end up getting a personally guided tour of the space from the Artistic Director, Felix Amcito. Felix is a soft-spoken guy who's a bit suspicious of me and my zoom recorder but he is also kind and generous. He says there isn't much going on at the theater today but the first thing we run into is an epic Haitian folkloric dance rehearsal with live drummers (and later a flutist!!!). I record fervently and get left behind as Felix moves onto the next space, which is a rehearsal room where a singing duo is rehearsing a song together and others are gathered around a chalkboard full of music. At this point, I'm glad I've decided to just leave my zoom running as we tour the space because each turn brings new auditory wonders! We see a costume shop, run into a sculpting class taking place outside in the shade (run by two dudes in cute as ever dashikis who ask me about a world famous flutist I've never heard of — must Google), and meet Jean Miché Bellevue: a composer and trumpet player who was meeting with a young violinist and played a midi file of some of his music for me.

Folkloric Dance Rehearsal at Theatre de Verdure

Amphitheater at the Theatre de Verdure

Amphitheater at the Theatre de Verdure

Later, Felix shows us remnants of what was once a sweeping tarp that shielded the entire amphitheater from the sun (destroyed in the 2010 earthquake). He tells us a glorious story about how when Lumane Casimir performed here it was one of the most iconic performances to date — for which she was not paid. In fact she was never paid in her career, but she loved to sing and people loved her, so she continued singing. She actually died living in extreme poverty (we'll unpack that later). He tells us about how the government sought to unify the arts in Haiti, and so changed the name to the National Theater and took control in the 80s... effectively destroying this gorgeous place mostly unintentionally. At this point, I wander into the theater on my own to stand on the very stage these Haitian songstresses performed on. The stage creaks and feels like it will cave in at any moment. I climb to the very top of the amphitheater steps and look out to take in what I know was once an incredible view, now surrounded by slums...it was heavy. But at the same time, I was glad to see so much of the arts still happening in that space. And still being enjoyed by people who simply love what they do.

Panoramic view of the amphitheater 

Panoramic view of the amphitheater 

So Felix wraps up the tour, and I ask daringly about the archives. Do you know what this amazing human turns to me and says? “The best archive we have is our Executive Director, who recently returned for a second term. We can set up a meeting for you. Does tomorrow at 11:30 work?” After picking my jaw up from the floor, I say yes and thank you too many times, and Exume kindly escorts me out to the car so I don't stand there blubbering like an idiot, LOL.

That visit was a WIN. My first real win of the trip, with so much inspiration and so many stories recorded and safely stored to creatively unpack when I get back to NYC because my mind is currently exploding.

But truth be told: my heart sunk when we drove out of the Dream gates into the nightmare streets covered in trash. There was literally a river of it. How did this happen to such a beautiful place?

River of trash outside the Dream gates

River of trash outside the Dream gates

Our next stop is Hotel Olaffson, where Carole tells me I'm sure to find Émerante, who she assures me is still alive at a reported 99 years old. I tell Yolaine and Exume all of this and they are pretty skeptical... as am I.

Hotel Olaffson

Hotel Olaffson

We pull up and find yet another folkloric dance camp with live drummers. I record again, knowing that these rhythms and this movement will undoubtedly become part of my piece. When I'm able to pull myself away from the dance area, I turn to find what looks like a huge New Orléans style plantation home. The lawn is peppered with recycled object sculptures and weird vodou deities. It's got a whole lot of quirky character. While Exume is off sweet talking the ladies at the front desk, I can't stop taking pics of the artwork, of the architecture, of the tiling. It’s just... gorgeous. Exume seemingly strikes out with the front desk workers, so we decide to sit out on the veranda and have a glass of fresh passion fruit juice (my favorite!). Sitting there, it feels like we've been transported through time. It's sort of surreal.

Sculpture and voodoo deity garden at Hotel Olaffson

Enjoying passion fruit juice on the porch of Hotel Olaffson

Enjoying passion fruit juice on the porch of Hotel Olaffson

We finish our juices and begin to leave when Exume spots Richard Morse, who it turns out he knows! Richard introduces himself to me, and makes a few quirky jokes. I tell him about the project and he says “you've GOT to talk to my mom. she'll love you!” And tells us to call her assistant and have them make an appointment for us (ps: an assistant at 99?!?!!! Life goals!). So tomorrow morning first thing, we’ll call. The way this day’s going, I believe it will work.

At this point it's 4pm — we've been going strong all day, but we've got to get back to Radio Metropole. I gotta be honest: I figure there's no way Joel and Milena will show up, but they do! They invite us into the studio. They are both kind, but formal. Warm, but reserved. So I tell them about Fanm d’Ayiti and they tell me 4 things:

  1. They wrote a book about Haitian female artists and they want me to have it.

  2. They did an installation with all of these archival photos and interviews with Haitian musicians (male and female) and they want me to experience it.

  3. They would love to give me any archival recordings I need access to.

  4. They would love to invite me to their home in the morning so I can interview Milena about her mom’s life. Remember her mom? Aka Toto Bissainthe? Aka my muse? Aka a legend? Freaking. Out.

Nathalie and Milena

Nathalie and Milena

So that's that. Not a bad day at all, which admittedly ended with the most AMAZING plate of traditional Haitian food. I don't know how it could be possible to top it today... but tomorrow just might do it... stay tuned!!

Traditional plate of Haitian food

Traditional plate of Haitian food

See the World Premiere of Fanm d'Ayiti
Wednesday, March 14, 2018, 7:30pm (purchase tickets)
Amsterdam Bar and Hall, Saint Paul

Fanm d’Ayiti Related Event:
On Being with Nathalie Joachim and Krista Tippett

Monday, January 15, 2018 (reserve tickets
Doors at 7:00pm | Conversation at 7:30pm
On Being Studios, Minneapolis

Keep up with Fanm d'Ayiti on the Liquid Music Blog:
Liquid Music Connects: Students Visit Virtually with Nathalie Joachim, Part II
Liquid Music Connects: Students Visit Virtually with Nathalie Joachim
Introducing Nathalie Joachim

Follow Nathalie Joachim:
Website: nathaliejoachim.com
Facebook: facebook.com/nathalie.joachim.39
Twitter: @flutronix (twitter.com/flutronix)
Instagram: @njoachim (instagram.com/njoachim)
Youtube: youtube.com/c/nathaliejoachim

FOLLOW LIQUID MUSIC FOR UPDATES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries (instagram.com/liquidmusicseries
Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic
Podcast: Liquid Music Playlist

Unveiling the Liquid Music 2017.18 season artwork and artist by Liquid Music

by Jeffrey Niblack

As we eagerly anticipate the 2017.18 Liquid Music season announcement on June 13, we want to treat you to a sneak peak of artwork for the season, provided by GMUNK from his series "Inframunk vs. the Tracy Arm Fjord."  

In beginning to search for a piece of art representative of the 2017.18 season, Liquid Music curator Kate Nordstrum began looking for photography that captured her vision of "liquid music" in nature: divided streams and tributaries finding each other, flowing together into a larger body of water. Finding such a piece of art was not as easy as anticipated, and Nordstrum went as far as to contact park rangers and conservationists for their ideas.

While researching the work of Twin Cities-based artist Michael Cina (who will be a featured visual artist in the upcoming season) she found work by London-based artist Bradley G. Munkowitz (known by the moniker GMUNK). GMUNK has been prolific in a wide variety of media including graphic designphotographyfilm, advertising, concert visuals and music videos.

GMUNK's series "Inframunk" utilizes filters and film for infrared photography. In 2016, on a family vacation to Alaska, he traveled to the Tracy Arm Fjord near Juneau, Alaska, knowing, as he says, that "the epic mountains, with their wet, foggy rock formations would look incredible in infrared." The resulting series of photographs of mountains, icebergs, and wildlife both enhance the natural beauty of the environment but create something otherworldly through high contrast images with psychedelic palettes. To him, though, the root of the success of the series has been the natural beauty of Alaska. 

Selections from "InfraMunk vs Tracy Arm Fjord" by GMUNK

Selections from "InfraMunk vs Tracy Arm Fjord" by GMUNK

GMUNK first began to explore infrared photography while shooting a music video for the band Tycho, drawn to "all sorts of weird techniques to take advantage of the ultra-stylize palettes we could capture to tell a narrative."  Since then, he has continued to make it an integral part of his photography, developing a technique that includes modifications to his cameras as well as techniques to process the picture in Adobe Lightroom.  "I've been constantly shooting infrared because I love the world it puts me in."  This summer, he is traveling to Iceland for a nine-day adventure with other photographers to work, including some infrared photography. "I'm also looking at new techniques and approaches to make my infrared photography even better. Of course I want to be a Jedi Master, but it takes time."

About the photograph chosen, Kate Nordstrum said "the work brought forth an emotional response in me – the infrared lighting creating the look of blood, flesh or fire; the winding, tricking streams mixing and contributing; and nature in its glory captured so starkly. I've been thinking a lot about land and water, arts and culture – our legacy, our lives' gifts – and how our work to protect and nurture these precious resources comes from the same heart. We yearn to see ourselves, each other and our world more clearly, unharmed, untamed, responsive to what is true and what promotes flourishing."

Nordstrum added, "There is much to be said for the trickling streams in the 2017.18 Liquid Music artwork, their struggle and their strength. I hope when followers of Liquid Music see the GMUNK photos throughout the season they will think about our Earth and all that it inspires."

Prints from GMUNK, including images from his Tracy Arm Fjord series, are available at http://www.cinaart.com/gmunk

Stay tuned for the 2017.18 announcement this Tuesday, June 13. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

FOLLOW LIQUID MUSIC FOR UPDATES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries (instagram.com/liquidmusicseries
Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic
Podcast: Liquid Music Playlist

Liquid Music Connects: Students Visit Virtually with Nathalie Joachim Part II by Liquid Music

This past December, Liquid Music artist in virtual residence Nathalie Joachim connected virtually with elementary students grades 1-5 in twelve public schools in the Twin Cities through The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s CONNECT program. The first installment included an introduction video where the students were introduced to Nathalie as an artist. In addition to watching Nathalie's introduction video, students learned about Nathalie’s work as a composer, flutist and singer and heard a clip of her piece “Aware”. The students came up with response questions to ask Nathalie through “selfie” videos, which Nathalie received and responded to directly via video. 

Students from Kenwood Elementary, Mississippi Creative Arts Elementary, Pratt Elementary and Expo Elementary asked Nathalie questions about her hopes and dreams for the future, how she became interested in the flute and electronic music and what it’s like to perform all around the world.

The collaboration between CONNECT and Liquid Music’s virtual residency allowed students to learn about an alternative style of music and become inspired by the successful career of a young professional musician and living composer.

Keep up with Fanm d'Ayiti on the Liquid Music Blog:
Liquid Music Connects: Students Visit Virtually with Nathalie Joachim
Introducing Nathalie Joachim

Follow Nathalie Joachim:
Website: nathaliejoachim.com
Facebook: facebook.com/nathalie.joachim.39
Twitter: @flutronix (twitter.com/flutronix)
Instagram: @njoachim (instagram.com/njoachim)
Youtube: youtube.com/c/nathaliejoachim

FOLLOW LIQUID MUSIC FOR UPDATES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries (instagram.com/liquidmusicseries
Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic
Podcast: Liquid Music Playlist

Interview: Valgeir Sigurðsson with Scott Pollock (ASI Director of Exhibitions, Collections & Programs) by Liquid Music

Iceland’s Bedroom Community, “a creative hub of sonic geniuses that continues to evolve and produce incredible work” (BlackBook Magazine) is a record label and collective of like-minded musicians who collaborate across a wide breadth of musical projects. On May 9, Liquid Music and the American Swedish Institute are excited to present Bedroom Community and Friends featuring BC's own Valgeir Sigurðsson, Jodie Landau, Sam Amidon and Daníel Bjarnason alongside Finnish Violinist/SPCO Artistic Partner Pekka Kuusisto and Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh for a one-of-a-kind performance on the grounds of the American Swedish Institute’s historic Turnblad Mansion. In addition to founding Bedroom Community and engineering/producing albums for artists like Feist and Björk, Valgeir Sigurðsson is also a prolific composer and producer of his own albums and compositions. In this interview with ASI's Director of Exhibitions, Collections & Programs, Scott Pollock, Valgeir shares his thoughts on the philosophy and process of this innovative collective.  

On Gathering Places and The Values of Collaboration

SP: The American Swedish Institute self identifies as a gathering place for all people to share stories and experiences around universal themes of art, culture, migration and the environment. We’ve witnessed an increasingly active agenda coming from the Nordic region around the idea of collaboration, something that happens when you’re purposeful about gathering people together. Bedroom Community (BC) is so successful at bringing musicians from all different parts of the world, and across many musical styles and backgrounds together to create. It’s as if BC is a gathering place for creative music to be explored and experimented with — a place for the unexpected to happen that allows musicians and artists who are gathered together to better understand their own work in relation to others. What is so special about the gathering of musicians and artists together that BC makes possible?

VS: BC was founded on the idea of collaboration in a both direct and indirect way. Collaborations for BC really mean creating platforms for in-depth sharing, being in the same place at the same time to share ideas and make decisions together. It’s often done in ways just one artist or individual might not think of on their own. Collaboration involves opinion sharing, idea sharing and BC has become known as a soundboard of sorts for music and musicians to share. Someone you can trust. Especially if you work alone a lot. Collaboration is great because if you look at some of the most successful bands and the work they produce, you’ll notice that they allow room for each of their members to have different opinions. We built BC around this sort of thing. We wanted to create a space where artists can be interested in each other’s work and encourage each other to do this, that and the other. You get so much encouragement and feedback from ideas that are not your own. That’s valuable. A successful collaboration is something that extends one’s ability to do something. When one plus one equals more than two, then you know it’s been a successful collaboration.

I have to say, I’m really excited that this is slightly unfamiliar territory we’re exploring with this project in Minneapolis. Having the chance to work with an artist like Channy, who is stepping in for Mariam Wallentin due to visa issues, is a great, and somewhat unexpected opportunity for us all at Bedroom Community. While the need to replace Mariam is difficult for many reasons, we’re excited and appreciate the opportunity to create a new adventure and see what happens. Bringing Pekka in is going to be good too. While we’ve worked together before, he is always doing unexpected things and that’s what makes Bedroom Community projects so enjoyable to work on.

On The State of Iceland

Installation from "The Weather Diaries" exhibit at ASI

Installation from "The Weather Diaries" exhibit at ASI

SP: Many of the stories in The Weather Diaries exhibition project mention something about the creative spaces that Iceland provides. In the exhibition film, one artist mentions that Iceland provides a creative space, in part, because of its geographical isolation and relatively vast landscape alone. And you see that reflected throughout the exhibition in the work in the exhibit and things that are happening in the Western Nordic region. What is it about Iceland that contributes to the success of Bedroom Community?  

VS: We all have mixed feelings about why we choose do our work from here. Part of it is simply habit. You know family and where you come from is important and convenient for so many things. But for musicians, doing work from Iceland really has so many positive connotations at the moment. There is support and more interest for music here that’s being accepted and received well. It’s been going really well for people for the last decade. Those are all positive things.  But it’s not a utopia, you know. It seems like the press and tourism likes to paint that picture, but all of those things that bring success have their challenges. We, in fact, haven’t had a lot of time to adjust to the success. It’s almost like the Wild West. There’s a lot of uncharted territory. There’s lots of things happening here, but there’s an environmental impact to be aware of. It is like if we get overpopulated and there is so much demand, there’s no place to eat or sleep anymore. That’s going to reflect negatively on what we do. There are all these buses and hotels forcing many people out of the center of the city. Honestly, it’s looking like there’s a bubble about to burst, again. This time slightly different. Maybe not banking, but something is happening. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic. But we have a tendency to go into it too fast or too quickly and we just haven’t had a chance to think about all this success. There’s a feeling that the growth doesn’t feel organic enough. Balance needs to be struck.

On Migration, Identity and Belonging

SP: At ASI, we're exploring the theme of Migration, Identity and Belonging this year. The theme has allowed us to present a suite of exhibitions and programs, like the ASI and SPCO Liquid Music co-presentation of Bedroom Community and Friends. What do these three words mean to you and the work you're doing with Bedroom Community?

VS: Each one separately and together are significant. Migration is so current and important right now. We see it reflected in the fact that Mariam wasn’t allowed to perform with us, despite our plans to do so. The borders that we’re putting up right now, all over in Europe and America are concerning. We’re starting to see things like collaboration being shut down, things that are an essential part of what BC is all about. When we started BC more than ten years ago, the foundation was to really have the freedom to create across borders. I really think BC would be unthinkable if it tried to get going today. So it’s sort of significant for me. On a more current, political context, it’s just kind of depressing to see this massive step backward in politics and policies as it relates to migration. I think we need to just keep making collaborations possible and encourage ideas to migrate, and singing its praise.

Identity is also significant for BC too. When we started BC, we thought about identity a lot. We made a rule that continues today. For every first record we produced, it was important to include an image of the person on the cover. We make sure that the person’s identity is present. That’s so important as a label. We encourage all our artists to establish themselves and their identity early in their career.

On a related note to identity is belonging. BC believes in that sense of belonging to a place where your music was nurtured before it was ever brought to a larger platform. As a record label, we are really proud that we create a sense of belonging in our own community. For example, we know many of the artists we work with will go on and have big careers and produce with other labels. But there will always be a sense of belonging to BC in a way that you can return to. We want to establish strong roots with everyone we work with so they will always feel welcome and a part of BC.


Extracurricular Listening: Bedroom Community and Friends by Liquid Music

Members of Bedroom Community

Members of Bedroom Community

Music from the Nordic region has had and continues to have an extraordinary presence in the United States. From the long history of Swedish popular music, like ABBA, Robyn, Lykke Li or Max Martin (who has written dozens of Top 40 U.S. songs over the last 20 years) to the more experimental and ethereal music of prominent Icelandic artists, such as Sigur Rós, Múm, Björk and many more. The cultural exchange between this part of the world and the U.S. is also well represented in the programming and presence of the American Swedish Institute in the Twin Cities community. On May 9, Liquid Music is excited to join ASI in a co-presentation of new contemporary chamber music from Icelandic record label and composer/performer collective, Bedroom Community. (Tickets and info)

As purveyors of contemporary chamber music with a growing and increasingly adventurous audience, we are wholeheartedly committed to the creation and cultivation of new and diverse types of music. An essential part of this process is providing bridges and context for new listeners to discover and appreciate what could sometimes be considered "challenging" music – context that we will attempt to provide through our 'Extracurricular Listening' blog series. Below is a sampling of music from the artists performing on Liquid Music's Bedroom Community & Friends concert, as well as a taste of other contemporary Nordic chamber music.

Valgeir Sigurðsson

In addition to founding Bedroom Community and engineering/producing albums for Icelandic artists like Sigur Rós and Björk, Valgeir Sigurðsson is also a prolific composer and producer of his own albums and compositions. His recently released album, Dissonance, takes inspiration from Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19, known as the “Dissonance” quartet. Sigurðsson takes the chaotic opening bars of Mozart’s work and stretches them out over the course of 23 minutes, creating a vivid and profound meditation on clashing dissonances.

Amiina

Comprised of classically trained multi-instrumentalists, just one song from Amiina can use violin, xylophone, tuned wine glasses, dulcimer, guitar, electronics and a musical saw. Initially known for their arrangement work with Sigur Rós, Amiina’s music has taken on a life of its own. Their soft and unique timbres draw listeners in, creating an intimate experience of a subtle yet broad sonic landscape.

Jodie Landau

Although he’s L.A.-based, composer, percussionist, and singer Jodie Landau has strong ties both professionally and sonically to Bedroom Community. His debut album with them, you of all things, was recorded in Iceland with musicians from new music collective wild Up and the Icelandic women’s choir Graduale Nobili known for their work on Björk’s Biophilia tour. On this track, titled as we sway, Landau’s gorgeously plaintive melody floats over a rumbling, slowly expanding texture of muted piano strings, harp tremolos and ethereal electronics.

Sam Amidon is another U.S. based musician on the Bedroom Community label. Drawing directly from traditional Appalachian folk tunes, Amidon creates contemporary interpretations and arrangements of these humble melodies and lyrics. Amidon’s voice can range from melancholy and raspy to calming or joyous, simultaneously sounding from the past and present.

Daniel Bjarnason

The title track of Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason's album of orchestral music reacts to the art of two abstract expressionists of the New York school. Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the first movement, "Over Light Earth" takes its name from Mark Rothko’s painting Dark Over Light Earth, the second from Jackson Pollock’s Number 1, 1949. Bjarnason gives an evocative description of the music and his inspirations below.

“For this piece I wanted to make music that was somehow frozen in time, like a painting.  So that you would not feel like you had been experiencing a narrative that is moving chronologically from A-Z, but rather that you are looking at the same object from different angles and in different light. For me this was a challenge because it is more natural to me to make music that is dramatic and has a forward thrust. But recently, and especially as I was thinking about the work of Rothko, I started to yearn for music that was not ‘doing’ anything. Music that was simply present, that you could spend time ‘inside’ and belong to without emotional attachment.”

Anna Thorvaldsdottir

Another established Icelandic contemporary classical composer is Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Her album Rhízōma, was recorded by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Daniel Bjarnason. The Icelandic title of the opening orchestral work, Hrím, refers to the gradual growth of ice crystals, a notion paralleled in this piece not only by the frosty shimmer of individual sounds, but also in the ways these sounds cling together: as clusters of activity outlining moments of greater structural importance and as threads of memory echoing throughout the work’s duration. This music sits more on the modernist/spectralist side of the classical music spectrum when compared to Bjarnason’s more minimalist and pop sensibilities, yet composers use great nuance and detail to craft elaborately lush textures.


Four Questions with Nick Zammuto by Liquid Music

by Jeffrey Niblack

Photo by Drew Brown

Photo by Drew Brown

On April 5, Liquid Music along with partner institutions Walker Art Center and Schubert Club Mix will present an evening of collaboration between Nick Zammuto and Roomful of Teeth, including a piece commissioned for the occasion entitled ToBeGinAGain. Zammuto received accolades for his duo The Books last decade and has since been releasing music with the band Zammuto (which includes his brother Mikey). Running through all of his music is a keen ear for the multitude of sounds around us and a playful willingness to experiment.  

In advance of his performance with Roomful of Teeth in Minneapolis, Zammuto answered a few questions for the Liquid Music blog.  

Tell us more about composing ToBeGinAGain.  What does it mean to you?

I've made a series of short songs from rhythmic repetitions of simple phrases accompanied by an analog synthesizer. In each song a soloist sings through a stereo pitch/delay unit that shifts their performance in time and melody against their real voice in various ways. The rest of the group supports the soloist and their impostor copies in real time. A counterpoint is created between the 'original' and the 'copy' much as we are constantly trying to catch up with our virtual identities in the digital world. I find that the copied and shifted voices are somewhere between supernatural and unnatural in a way that makes me simultaneously fascinated and discomforted. For me, the repetition of phrases within the chorus forces a normalization of these unnatural voice sounds in a way that makes them almost acceptable over time, but not quite. The analog synthesizer mirrors this tension by constantly shifting its role and identity from song to song.  Analog synth has always been a deep love of mine for its ability to create both a buttery emotional warmth and total alienation at the turn of a knob. This range is something Roomful of Teeth is particularly good at as well. 

Roomful of Teeth and Nick Zammuto performing "ToBeGinAGain" Source: WQXR Radio

What was the process of developing ToBeGinAGain? What was exciting about working with Roomful of Teeth? What was surprising about the development of the piece?

It was a real honor to be asked to write for Roomful of Teeth last summer. They spend part of their summers every year at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, and I live nearby in Southern Vermont, so I was able to spend a week getting to know them as musicians and people. They are all such unique voices that blend in such unique ways, and they are all so willing to be adventurous, the possibilities are endless. I floated the idea of having them sing through a pitch shifting delay pedal and had them take turns experimenting with it. I think they enjoyed the real time circus mirror feeling of singing through it and getting such unexpected sounds back, it became the basis for ToBeGinAGain. To have a layer of technology between the soloists and the audience was something they haven’t tried before, and it was a good challenge to build a system that could work in real time to add a new texture to their repertoire. 

What is most fun and most challenging about composing for Roomful of Teeth?

They are fun people and very willing to try out my crazy ideas. They approach what they do with a fearlessness that I really admire. The challenge has been dealing with the rigidity of incorporating a digital element into their organic flow. The soloists have to exist in a weird kind of bubble while they’re singing, so they need to close themselves off from the rest of the group in a way that makes them feel a bit strange. But really that’s part of the meaning of the piece for me. 

What music has been inspiring you recently?

I’ve been introducing my three sons to my musical loves recently on the drive to school, so I’ve been revisiting a lot of music from my past. We’ve been on a big Zappa kick recently.  The boys especially love 'St. Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast.'  They also love Weird Al, of course.  The ‘Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota’  is a really brilliant song.  My oldest boy gravitates towards A Tribe Called Quest's ‘Scenario’ while my youngest loves the knee movements from Phillip Glass’s ‘Einstein on the Beach.’  


All seated tickets for Nick Zammuto and Roomful of Teeth are sold out. A limited number of standing room tickets are currently available.


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Edges Holding Ground: A reflection on "Origami Harvest" by Liquid Music

by Andrea Mazzariello

Photo by Jayme Halbritter Photography

Photo by Jayme Halbritter Photography

There is an infant sitting in the bandleader’s lap. This is not what I expected to happen after hearing the same infant vocalizing, moments before, somewhere in the audience. This is in some respects a classical music concert, after all, and such interruption of rarefied, attentive silence typically sets off a ripple of poison glances followed by an ushering into the lobby. Also there’s no lobby; we’re in a bar.  And as it turns out the infant belongs to Ambrose Akinmusire, the aforementioned bandleader, who offers a knee. The little one settles and focuses primarily on Marcus Gilmore, which is understandable given what he is doing to the drums, how he is making them somehow sing in counterpoint, multiple textures and grooves interlocking to create a swinging technicolor breakbeat. 

Photo by Jayme Halbritter Photography

Photo by Jayme Halbritter Photography

Photo by Jayme Halbritter Photography

Photo by Jayme Halbritter Photography

This particular instance, infant-in-lap, of What We Were Not Expecting To Happen frames the performance, profound risk disguised as causal violation of art music’s norms and terms. This includes the norms and terms of genre collision itself; there are ways we will accept the fluidity of boundaries between music cultures versus ways in which a porous boundary feels uncomfortable. It is one thing to invite a rapper (in this case, Kool A.D.) to collaborate with a jazz combo and a string quartet, it is yet another when said rapper’s verses pull no punches in terms of graphic sexual content or when the freestyle-that-wasn’t encore lasts a half hour. Programming a piece written in the 21st century is a risk of sorts; this particular collaboration, though, even in the context of “redefining classical music,” does something else entirely.  

Photo by Jayme Halbritter Photography

Photo by Jayme Halbritter Photography

Perhaps especially in that context. Bringing wildly different musical worlds into contact invites Venn-diagram performances, sounds we can all agree upon, overlapping moves, consensus. Here, though, we got the sense that the abutting edges existed in aesthetic conflict, were even more idiosyncratically themselves precisely because they were being asked to hold ground. Mivos’ thorniest, most aggressive digging in was instructive in this regard: the gestures deliberately resisted the pretty or cinematic string quartet trope that might fold, with a minimum of friction, into a jazz situation or a “live sample” on a hip hop track. And the crowd was with it. Which is not to marginalize the beautiful, lyrical playing that became a kind of refrain throughout the piece; rather, it’s to suggest that the moments of intersection between musical worlds, the overlapping modes, meant catching our breath. The jagged edges, though, could take it away. 


Andrea Mazzariello is a composer, performer, writer, and teacher. He teaches at Carleton College and runs One More Revolution Records. The Operating System will release his first book in December 2017.


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