s t a r g a z e: Collaboration and Interpretation / by Liquid Music

By Jeffrey Niblack

The world premiere of “Music for the Long Emergency” brings together two distinctive musical artists: Poliça and s t a r g a z e. While Twin Cities audiences are likely familiar with Poliça’s music, this performance marks the U.S. debut of the “renegade new classical ensemble,” (Boiler Room) s t a r g a z e, a Berlin-based collective. 

s t a r g a z e often performs new and existing compositions, but they also have a history of collaborating with musicians outside of contemporary classical music. To better understand the unique contributions of s t a r g a z e to their projects, we are presenting a series of comparisons using some of their collaborations with or interpretations of the music of others.

The Dodos
The Dodos are known for lush pop music that incorporates strong poly-rhythmic components. As part of performances in London, The Dodos collaborated with s t a r g a z e to revisit several of their songs. Writing about these performances, The Huffington Post said “orchestral support can often feel self indulgent and egotistical with the orchestra often only there to serve the band. But here it feels entirely equal; two like-minded musical entities fluidly playing and communicating with each other." The below performances of the song “Transformer” illustrate this. The original version is dominated by two distinct guitar parts. In the version with s t a r g a z e, one of the guitar parts is taken over by strings and woodwinds. As the song grows, the number of instruments expands until it reaches an exciting wall of sound.  Although the basics of the song remain much unchanged, the musicians of s t a r g a z e add a richness and dynamism to the original version. 

The Grateful Dead - “What’s Become of the Baby”
On the recent Day of the Dead tribute compilation--a collection of contemporary musicians performing Grateful Dead songs, curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner--s t a r g a z e performs “What’s Become of the Baby”. The original recording is a bit of an oddity in the Grateful Dead catalog: Jerry Garcia sings an a capella chant-like melody, his voice obscured by heavy echo, the song occasionally bathed in a faintly perceptible drone.  

The s t a r g a z e rendition uses the vocal line in the original song as an inspiration and a starting point: different instruments--including voices late in the piece--take on the vocal melody and repeat it.  The shifting instrumentation creates small movements through the piece--more complex than the original version and wholly unique. 

Deerhoof Chamber Variations
Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier composed Deerhoof Chamber Variations which took several of his band’s songs and arranged them as a single piece for chamber musicians. “Data," one of the songs included in the piece, is made up of angular guitar lines and punctuated by percussion. The s t a r g a z e recording of the "Data" section of Deerhoof Chamber Variations replaces the guitars and drums with strings, harp, and brass, but the most intriguing augmentation is the vocal part. Using stereo sound, the dual voices interactively layer to become their own instrument, their emotional reservedness providing a stark contrast to the warmth of s t a r g a z e's instrumental arrangement.  

Terry Riley: In C
Terry Riley’s composition “In C”, a series of 53 musical phrases for unspecified instruments and musicians, is defined by the collaboration and interpretation that is part of every performance. Riley provides guidance on its performance, but there are many choices to be determined by the performers. 

s t a r g a z e began a string of collaborative performances of “In C” in 2013, collaborating with artists including Nils Frahm, Bill Frissell and Sam Amidon. Below are separate performances with Nils Frahm and composer Terry Riley.  

The two recordings below illustrate how the collaborative process can yield vastly different results. The performance with Frahm sets off with a burst of tension and energy, culminating with most of the musicians giving it their all. In contrast, the performance with Riley builds slowly, closing quietly, in an almost meditative state.  

With these comparisons, we see how s t a r g a z e can add or reveal new elements in the music and what a vital and joyful presence they are when they collaborate with other musicians.  We can’t wait to see what they bring to Liquid Music and the world premiere of Music for the Long Emergency.  

See the world premiere of Music for the Long Emergency:
Copresented with The Current
Friday, November 18, 2016, 8pm (SOLD OUT)
Fitzgerald Theater, Saint Paul, MN

Keep up with Music for the Long Emergency on the Liquid Music Blog:
First Look 
Tables Turned: André de Ridder interviews Channy Leaneagh
Catching up with s t a r g a z e: Weekender Festival, Berlin 2015
Virtual Residency Mini Doc Part I
Meet s t a r g a z e
From Virtual to Reality: s t a r g a z e + Poliça's First Musical Meet-up
Music for the Long Emergency: Naming the Virtual Residency with Poliça and s t a r g a z e
Podcast interview with Channy Leaneagh on Liquid Music Playlist 

Follow s t a r g a z e:
Website: we-are-stargaze.com
Twitter: @wearestargaze (twitter.com/wearestargaze)
Instagram: @we_are_stargaze (instagram.com/we_are_stargaze)
Facebook: www.facebook.com/wearestargaze/
Vimeo: vimeo.com/wearestargaze

Follow Poliça:
Website: thisispolica.com
Twitter: @thisispolica (twitter.com/thisispolica)
Instagram: @thisispolica (instagram.com/thisispolica)
Facebook: facebook.com/thisispolica
Youtube: youtube.com/user/polica

Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
Instagram: @LiquidMusicSeries (instagram.com/liquidmusicseries
Facebook: facebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic
Podcast: Liquid Music Playlist