Where to begin? Where does one begin, when the possibilities seem as infinite as a chasm with no bottom? Lately, my brain has been buzzing with ideas for solo works, as well as a parade of collaborations with individuals across a wide variety of disciplines.
Presently, I am preparing a new work with Helen Hansen French, that explores fear through movement and music. The work will have performances in St. Petersburg, FL as well as Omaha, NE as part of the Omaha Under the Radar Festival. In addition to creating a new artistic work, Helen and I will be facilitating two public workshops that allow participants to probe the subject of fear from a variety of angles. Assisting in the panel discussions, will be a mental health professional and a certified music therapist. My stance as a "millennial" is that fear travels faster due to the easy spread of information that technology foists upon us, whether or not we are willing to accept the data presented. While my approach to the subject of fear is fiercely rooted in ties to the digital realm, Helen has been approaching the project from a much more humanistic sense and it has been great to marry those two alternate viewpoints together.
Through Omaha Under the Radar, I got on the radar (So punny!) of a local visual artist by the name of Cassia Kite, who works in a unique medium called Soundstitching. I met up with Cassia a couple of weeks ago and loved her idea of turning visual images into sound. I quickly agreed to begin a project of interpreting her works visual pieces for solo piano. Then the collaboration morphed even further when I introduced Cassia to both Kellie Harmon (Artistic Director of RogueDance) and Helen. Now, under the direction of Kellie, with a new collaborator Filipe Bergson, we are making a dance film inspired by Cassia's soundstitching Pot Luck Dinner at Longboat Key Center for the Arts, 2016.
2017 is also proving to be the year of duos, and duo recordings. Currently, I am working with composer and multi-instrumentalist Erich Barganier for a recital at 3:00pm on April 30th at The St. Petersburg Main Branch Library as well as an album to be recorded this summer of original works for mandolin, toy piano, electronics, bass guitar, and other oddities. One of our favorite new pieces was inspired by a historical slave song. Erich adds some great extended techniques to the mixture, a mandolin is bowed like a violin... and that's all I'm giving away for now!
Simultaneously, I am collaborating with the upright bassist and improviser Thomas Milovac on three sets of works: one a journal of graphic scores penned by Thomas, second interpretations of Renaissance madrigals by the infamous Carlo Gesualdo, and third a group of movement works with upright bass that employ interactive electronics. Last Saturday, I spent some time in the dance studio working on creating movement phrases in silence. A large part of the interactive electronics requires me to have Wiimotes strapped to my body, which trigger sounds synth sounds from the computer or external audio devices. In experiments, from other studio times, I realized quickly that creating the movement with the Wiimotes and audio running is a reactionary form of choreographing, so this weekend my goal was to create a phrase in silence and then add the Wiimotes and sound in another studio session. Other duo collaborations are in the works, but I can't give everything away just yet!
In the sea of chaos that one might assume is part and parcel to such a busy docket, I am finding a great deal of unexpected clarity and a fresh look at old works. A couple of years ago, a dear friend Eli Ponder-Twardy wrote a solo toy piano piece for me just before he left for the United Kingdom as part of the Fulbright scholar program. The piece uses a loop pedal and, I cannot lie, it is incredibly difficult to play live because the loop pedal that I have is not precise and Eli wrote in some very particular rhythmic figures, which require a certain degree of finesse. Additionally, at the time I was using a contact microphone on the toy piano, which did not capture the full harmonic resonance of the instrument, and was frequently unreliable. To make things more challenging for me Eli requested that I use a delay in Pro Tools, that has to be turned on and off throughout the piece, so the gymnastic dance of playing became even more intricate! Nevertheless, I took the piece on tour with me and made some adjustments to make the piece work in live performance. After my tour in Fall 2015, I put the piece to the side, occasionally, bringing it back into my practice rotation, each time viewing it with new eyes. Almost a full two years later the piece has a new personality, it means something different to me. The conversation that we have has a new dynamic. The upshot of all of this is that I ended up figuring out how to build a Pro Tools session where I can perform the piece to a grid, using a series of overdubs and a clearly defined custom click track. Finally doing a proper studio recording of Predilection for Eli (and the world) will be one of my most exciting accomplishments this year. Though it has been a comedy of errors getting to this point with the work; I strongly feel that, I needed to grow as a person, an artist, as well as afford myself time to really ruminate on Eli as an individual as well as his inspiration for the work, in order to create an interpretation of the work that is more than just a robotic regurgitation of the notes on the page.
In the other sector of my solo career, I have been working on "downsizing" my rig, for a number of reasons. One on the practicality side, having a smaller setup makes me more mobile, which increases the number of gigs and locations of gigs that I can take. From an artistic point, the "limitations" of smaller gear inevitably push me out of my comfort zone. Two important pieces of gear that I've acquired thanks to funding, are a MOOG Mother 32 semi-modular analog synth, which puts many of the sound possibilities of MOOG's retro modular synth into a small package that fits comfortably on my 18-key toy pianos. Another game changing piece of equipment is the Organelle by Critter & Guitari, which is a Pure Data based instrument, meaning that as long as one can figure out how to program/code a patch in the open source graphic programming software known as Pure Data, the Organelle can read the patch and operate as a host of devices including: an effects processor, a synthesizer, a sampler, a looper, a vocoder... it is MAGICAL and also fits on my 18-key toy piano! In one tiny setup of three devices, I am forced to think in the lands of acoustic music (toy piano), analog subtractive synthesis (MOOG), and algorithmic computer music (Organelle); and somehow marry the three distinctive worlds together! This solo setup is perhaps the most challenging from a mental/conceptual standpoint, but it is pushing me into a new sonic dance with which I am quickly falling in love!
I am so excited to share more of my work in the coming months of this fellowship. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunities it is affording me, to create and represent my community to the best of my abilities in a variety of outlets.