Voic(ed) Project Comission

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A few months ago, the countertenor talented Carl Alexander approached me about composing for the first iteration of his Voic(ed) Project. Now the project is live on the internet, and I can finally share some of what I've been working on conceptually...

The endeavor as best described on the Voic(ed) Project website:

The Voic(ed) Project is an organization that seeks to perform, record, and promote new music by new, young, and un-highlighted composers from the world at large. Through engagement with composers and their works, we hope to generate community, conversation, and congruence. This organization enhances and uplifts young compositional voices for a lifetime.

This season, through a recording project that will be released on all major streaming services, we hope to create a platform for young composers to use their voices to tackle the issues facing their communities at large and to detail the experience of a generation under fire. This specific project serves as a means of examining and expressing Black identity through the concert medium. With this endeavor, we hope to build a sense of community between artists and receivers of their art while sharing personal narratives of the Black experience and reflecting the needs of communities through the works included in this project.

The recording sessions will take place in March and April of 2018, and the EP will be comprised of works by 21 Black composers under the age of 40. The recording will include everything from songs for solo unaccompanied voice and art song, to large chamber works. Carl Alexander, Countertenor, will be the featured artist in this project.

The recording process will take place in Chicago, Illinois. The final release is planned for June 2018. Publicity for the release will include interviews with the composers, an EP release gala where a few of the works will be performed, as well as other media to give further exposure to the composers and their new works.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin and now The Fire This Time compiled by Jesmyn Ward have been a large inspiration to the big social justice movers and shakers of the United States. Both of these works address the Black experience from decades apart but very few things have changed with the injustice that is imposed upon the diaspora of black and african communities.

Furthermore, as we seek to explore and address social and political issues through music, it has become increasingly apparent that the voice of the young Black composer has been stifled in an art form that is primarily composed of artists that don’t look like them and that don’t come from similar experiences. The Voic(ed) Project seeks to uncover these forgotten composers and feature their works.

Through this project, we seek not only to engage compositionally and musically with our communities, social fractures, and political junctions but hope to generate conversation amongst our own communities and seek real social engagement and dialogue through the arts.

This project enters new territory. The world of music knows the experience and music of people of African descent prior to the 1980’s, but the tides have changed. Race, Religion, Politics, Sexism, among others are structures that still reinforce schisms and lack of community in the Black experience in new found ways, and this project aims to serve as the communal therapy session for a breakthrough in true, social activism.

A brief description of the new work commissioned for this particular project is detailed below:

For Countertenor, Cello, Oboe, Percussion, Fixed Media, Interactive Electronics
Society has a myriad of psychological and auditory expectations surrounding black music. This work will take sonic stereotypes, turn them on their head and ultimately, deconstruct them; creating a tapestry that eludes to the familiar while wholly rejecting the traditional premise of black music. From a vocal perspective, the piece plays with phrasing and the deconstruction of words into sounds that marry with electronics to create a dynamic sound where the vocalist transcends their perceived box and becomes an instrument. In a similar fashion, the instrumentalists may indulge in vocal sounds, by speaking into their instrument. “Fire is necessary in order to clear the old brush to make way for the new. A musical conflagration, deconstructs the known and paves the way for a new brighter future.”

I'm excited to share updates on this project as they roll out!

The Top of Level 8 or the Bottom of Level 9

Hurricane Irma, totally messed with my blogging plans for this month, but she also caused a shift. During the hurricane and ensuing days without power, I had a great deal of time to think... about my career and the next moves that I need to make. Along time ago, someone once asked me "Do you want to be at the top of Level 8 or the bottom of Level 9?" This year has been a parade of second chances, from my near death experience in the hospital to almost losing everything in the storm... I've been timid to put myself back out there full force as a solo artist, but I feel that now is the time to push myself... to be completely grateful for all these chances and opportunities that have been afforded to me in the last several months and days.

I've worked so hard to get to this point, but I'm not content to rest on my laurels... I'm ready to push myself, to be at the bottom of the next level and continue the process of growth. So for now, I'm at the bottom of Level 9, but I'm determined to get to the top of Level 9 and push on to the bottom of Level 10.

Even though selfish Irma ruined so much, she definitely gave me a kick in the pants! I hope all local artists are feeling the pressure change and making using this second chance to the fullest.

Regression to the Mean

Regression to the Mean

In order to truly know ourselves, we must be willing to deconstruct and evaluate the multitude of pieces that form our identity and our personal reality; in so doing we gain perspective, and perhaps there is an alteration in our fundamental functions once reassembled as the only expectation that remains relevant is the intermittency of change along a generally stable defined measurement of normality. Eventually everything regresses to the mean...

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Keep Pushing Forward

My schedule hasn't really slowed down, but I'm definitely getting more comfortable with documentation of myself. When you are a performing artist your physical image is so closely linked to your profession that underlying frustration can set in and fester quite quickly if you aren't happy with what you see in the mirror. The last year has been one of continuing acceptance and adaptation as my body re-morphed into that of a capable dancer. The numbers on the scales don't necessarily mean much to me... but I feel strength in my core and an improving self-esteem. 

The following is a short film made from rehearsal footage for a duo with me using Source Audio Hot Hands to trigger synthesized sounds through movement with my dear friend Thomas Milovac on upright bass. The fixed media encompasses poetry by myself and Maureen McDole, that has also been used in another work of mine which features choreography by Helen Hansen French. The film below is an exploration of my personal choreographic voice... and how it relates to a sonic conversation with another musical creative.

Moments Along the Path

The last month has been absolutely wonderfully busy. I've been afforded a lot of opportunities in both the dance and music sectors of my practice. July started with travels to Omaha, Nebraska to premiere a new work with Helen Hansen French, and revived an older work that Helen had choreographed on me for a showcase of works in progress at St. Pete Opera in mid-July. I subbed for a chamber orchestra in Orlando, played back-to-back shows, alternated between dance and music rehearsals, in addition to modeling for a photo shoot at a junkyard. AND THE BAKER-BARGANIER DUO RELEASED OUR DEBUT ALBUM! You can check out the album via Bandcamp an expect it on all channels for digital distribution by the beginning of next week!

Kellie Harmon & The Baker-Barganier Duo Recorded live at St. Petersburg Opera Company on July 14, 2017 In this work, Elizabeth A. Baker MIDI mapped Wiimotes that are attached to Kellie Harmon, as she moves Kellie becomes a musical instrument and the Baker-Barganier Duo (which had been coding via Supercollier) becomes a defacto musical trio.

One thing that has changed is that I am making more of a conscious effort to document more of my performances and working processes. The biggest change is that amidst a schedule that would make most people cry, I have found little flowers and moments of wonder along the path. While I don't have a great deal of time to physically spend with friends, I've integrated Skype power lunches into my week, so I can spend time with wonderful people who are often on the other side of the country or world. I've rediscovered the joy of writing well-thought and detailed letters. When I was driving home from chamber orchestra rehearsal in Orlando to get ready for dance rehearsal in St. Petersburg, I caught a glimpse of the watercolour sky from the bridge as the Sun dipped below the sky. As we were leaving Omaha, I stumbled upon a groove from the large construction machines and just had to stop to take a field recording. Helen and I took our GoPros out as we happened upon several unexpected parks and other interesting spaces during our travels, we have enough footage for a dance film as soon as we finish will some live projects in St. Petersburg!

Command Voices for Piano & Vibrating Objects Elizabeth A. Baker (composer/performer) Recorded live at St. Petersburg Opera Company on July 14, 2017. Command Voices In patients with psychosis, command voices are the ones that instruct them to do destructive things or behave in a certain manner.

While I work incredibly hard to push myself in my art and fulfill engagements related to my career... I'm constantly reminded along the path, that there is time to laugh, time to love, time to be grateful for this precious fragile gift of life.

What happens when you make music with vibrators?

Recently, I started taking my philisophical concepts about non-authoritative relationships between musician and instrument in to the real world. I started by experimenting with my primary instrument the traditional piano. Very logically, I deduced that putting vibrators in the piano would make it speak to me and  drastically change my conversation.

I did a short improvisation with one vibrator and posted it on Facebook for friends and colleagues to see and the next morning, I wake up to a sea of questions about my work. Ray Roa from Creative Loafing did a great interview with me for an article and that led to requests for radio performances and other opportunities.

I must say that I am very pleased that people are embracing my work, and interested in the concepts behind my methods. Since there have been so many inquiries about my piece Command Voices for Piano & Vibrating Objects, I created a couple of videos. The work always spins out in a new way because each piano has different quirks and in many ways this parallels the life of a psychotic patient, who has a variety of responses and interactions with their auditory hallucinations from day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year.

On July 14th at St, Petersburg Opera, I will present my first public performance of Command Voices alongside many other works by local choreographers, Helen Hansen French and Kellie Harmon; in addition to new compositions by my duo with Erich Barganier.

For now, please enjoy some iterations of Command Voices!

Perpetual Motion

Perpetual Motion

Everything is in a state of perpetual motion and everything is changing. Often it can seem like the whole world is moving forward and your consciousness is lagging behind a physical ship traveling at warp speed through the stars. There is so much of our lives that lives in an oscillating state of misalignment, our personal lives, our artistic lives, our quiet movements for self-reflection.

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Changes & Ideas Abound

The last week and a half has been highly productive, though I have to admit, it has also been quite exhausting and so my planned blog for last week has morphed into a late blog for this week.

Last week, I went down to Naples to introduce students to experimental music making devices, thanks to an invitation from Barron Collier High School's Orchestra Director, Jordan Lamb. I played for the students using my small format setup (mini grand toy piano, Mother 32, Organelle, and Indian Harmonium) along with a visual synthesizer. I also, brought down two 25-key tabletop toy pianos, my Wiimote/Wii Balance Board interactive synthesizer rig, and a theremin. After performing for the students and fielding many insightful questions about music for commodity and art music, I allowed them to have "petting zoo time." It was interesting and amusing to see how following initial teenage reluctance, they embraced the instruments with childlike creativity and had a wonderful time. I have to say that I felt completely worn out and yet fully energized by this experience. I love to perform and create works for dance as well as film, but introducing other people to different ways of thinking about music is always a highly rewarding aspect of my life as a performer.

Baker-Barganier Duo Rehearsal & Album Planning...

Baker-Barganier Duo Rehearsal & Album Planning...

The past week has also, been full of album planning. Erich and I  mapped out a summer recording schedule and came up with the title for the Baker-Bargainer Duo's first full-length album. I should mention that we have a unique way of coming up with titles for pieces and albums... we start tearing apart my library and opening to random pages in books to find fragments of sentences that we find particularly appealing. I'll reveal the title in a later blog post but after reviewing several books including: The Andy Warhol Diaries, The Zombie Survival Guide, Psychology of Music, and a variety of other titles; we settled on a passage from *The Bible*!

As if planning to record a duo album wasn't enough to fill my plate, I finally became highly inspired yesterday for a new solo concept album. I have been reading an incredibly thought provoking book called Digital Stockholm Syndrome in the Post-Ontological Age by Mark Jarzombek, which I picked up last month while I was in NYC for a performance and lecture. All of a sudden, I happened upon a phrase "Microbes + Algorithms = Life" and this resounded with me in a deep manner. As I sat at Bandit Coffee enjoying my typical Kyoto drip iced coffee and lavender macarons, the words kept drawing me in... the multitude of people in the coffee shop began to melt away, and it was if I was being physically pulled into the pages of the book through a tunnel. I kept reading over the equation over and over again, then the paragraph directly above it, then the passages right below it... the narrative came to me as if from another dimension beyond myself... I had begun to completely envision the flow of the album and the instrumentation... I could hear... I could feel the vibrations of the music, the text coursing through my veins, I could see the choreography and visual performance aspects, and then... RogueDance's Artistic Director, Kellie Harmon brought me out of my trance! It was time to work on RogueDance planning and branding.

Later that evening I downloaded a new minimalist word processing  program and began fleshing out further details for my upcoming solo album. I have to say, I am absolutely in love with the minimalist markdown method of writing and the focus feature of the program. My ideas are flowing so seamlessly because I am not hindered by formatting and other elements on the screen. Tuesday, while at work, I was completely able to finish the outline for the album in both text and musical form, thanks to the new interface, there were no distractions to hinder my progress.

While productivity and the ability to be a self-starter has never been much of an issue for me, the structure of having to maintain a regular blog has also caused me to delve back into a project in which my participation over the past year has been quite spotty. The Iteration Project, founded by the wonderful Harper Addison in Tennessee, gives participants a prompt each week and then asks them to interpret the prompt in any medium of their choosing. The prompt for the week of April 10 was *Falling* and, I took on the task of interpreting the prompt as well as experimenting with my new gear to create a short piece, which I then posted on Soundcloud. My interpretation of falling came more from the idea of "falling from grace" and those that fall from grace in our society are seen as outcasts. While I didn't broach the subject further, on a publicly traceable platform, I did ruminate on the subject of falling from favor throughout the week. How often in our lives do we fall from the grace of our friends, loved ones, and professional colleagues? Quite often throughout our lives, because nobody on this earth is perfect... How do we rebuild our reputation after a fall from grace? Can we rebuild our relationships after a fall from grace? These last two questions are highly subjective and do not have universal answers... thus leading me to an intellectual impasse.

Perhaps, this impasse is a great place to stop for the time being... for now, I leave you with my product of Iteration 30: Falling.

Elizabeth A. Baker

Celebrated for her “terrifying dynamic range,” cleanliness of sound, as well as unique sensitivity and ability to sculpt her performance for the acoustics of a space, Elizabeth A. Baker is a dramatic performer with an honest, near psychic connection to music, which resounds with audiences of all ages and musical backgrounds. As a creator, her understanding of sonic space from organic intuition and studies in music production, pair with a unique eclectic voice, making for a spatial and auditory experience of music. Eschewing the collection of traditional titles that describe single elements of her body of work, Elizabeth refers to herself as a “New Renaissance Artist” that embraces a constant stream of change and rebirth in practice, which expands into a variety of media, chiefly an exploration of how sonic and spatial worlds can be manipulated to personify a variety of philosophies and principles both tangible as well as intangible.

An active performer highly sought after for her unique concert presentation methods, which break the fourth wall and draw the audience further into the music by asking them to listen beyond the surface through interactive dialogue, reminding them that there is no such thing as an incorrect interpretation of a work. Elizabeth firmly believes that every person will encounter music in a unique manner because each person comes from a different set of cultural norms, life experiences, and even the way they physically hear can be a factor to consider when seeking to relate with a work. Her solo performances have featured engagements at Lamar University (Beaumont, TX), Flying Monkey Arts Collective (Huntsville, AL), Eyedrum (Atlanta, GA), Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX), Georgia Museum of Art (Athens, GA), Spectrum (NYC) and the Good Shepherd Chapel (Seattle, WA).

Emmy-award winning composer Larry Groupé has referred to her works as “Perfect.” and compared one of her early works to Debussy’s Engulfed Cathedral. Elizabeth’s works have been featured by Composers Circle, FIVE by FIVE, TEDxYouthTampaBay, Tampa Mini Makers Faire, Orlando Mini Makers Faire, as well as at the 2014 Electronic Music Midwest Festival and the 19th International Festival of Women Composers. Her compositions have been studied in academic institutions throughout the United States including USC-Thornton and the University of Georgia – Athens.

Elizabeth is author of Toyager: A Toy Piano Method, the first comprehensive instructional book for toy piano, featuring principles of technique, practice strategies, music notation, as well as improvisational tactics. Additional books include a multimedia collection of writings and photographs called Musings of a Young Composer and Compositions for the Contemporary Student Pianist, an anthology of solo piano pieces

Elizabeth is Founder and Executive Director of The New Music Conflagration, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and 509(a)(2) public charity founded in the State of Florida to promote the work of contemporary composers and musicians. She is also, Founder and Director of the Florida International Toy Piano Festival.