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

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

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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

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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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Interview: Sarah Kirkland Snider with Jodie Landau by Liquid Music

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider joins Jodie Landau for a conversation about Snider’s song cycle, Unremembered, which has it’s U.S. premiere this Saturday in Minneapolis as part of the SPCO’s Liquid Music Series. “One of the most significant and harrowing releases of [2015]” (Thought Catalog), Unremembered explores the fragility and nuance of memories and emotions in an hour-long, 13-part song cycle inspired by poems and illustrations by Nathaniel Bellows.

Jodie Landau is a 24-year-old composer, vocalist, and percussionist and is the newest addition to the renowned Icelandic record label Bedroom Community. Frequent collaborator with LA-based new music collective, wild Up, his debut album with the group, you of all things, was released to critical acclaim.  


JL: Unremembered is something I’ve been listening to for quite some time and I know it really well — as something that I sing along with, as something I’ve played in my car, at home and especially on hikes. It’s been really nice to listen to it, as I often do with projects, where I can hone in on one album and learn the entire thing and then I take a pause. Having this discussion upcoming was a great excuse to re-engage with it again, which has been extremely beautiful because it’s been raining a lot here and it’s so green. I’ve been going off on all of these different trails and singing and conducting through it. So it’s been really fascinating to get to know it in a way that is first and foremost about movement and exploration and nature. The music is a vehicle for me to engage with the world around me — in particular this one hike spot — and I think this provides an interesting context for my experience of the piece and then therefore our discussion of it.

SKS: First of all, thank you — it means a lot to me to hear that this music was something you developed a relationship with. When I really love an album I too listen to it obsessively, trying to divine the secrets of every detail, and my goal in making this record was to give it enough layers that it would invite and reward that kind of repeated listening. Second, it’s really interesting that you spent time with the music while being outside, hiking. As you know, landscape and nature are one of the main muses of the project; the relationship between a child and the landscape was at the genesis of the cycle. At the core, the cycle is about innocence and experience, and the way places in our past can have a psychic hold on us the rest of our lives, one that can instill both affection and dread. In Nathaniel’s past, nature and landscape and animals exerted an overarching magnetism and magic and companionship, and helped bestow some hard-won wisdom. Every song has a connection to the outdoors, so it’s wonderful to think of you getting to know the piece that way. I too spent a lot of time outside while composing it, talking long walks in the woods behind our house.

JL: You said that you spent some of the time composing while walking?

SKS: Yeah I do that a lot with every piece that I’m writing, but I did it twice as much with Unremembered. I spend a lot of time walking and singing lines and counter-lines to myself and recording them into my iPhone. I find that when I get stuck writing, walking is the only thing that helps me get unstuck. We have woods behind our house where you can sort of lose yourself, so I do a lot of walking back there. There’s something about the way my brain creates things outdoors that is different from when I’m indoors.

JL: When you’re walking you record into your phone?

SKS: Yeah that’s where I do a lot of coming up with motives and counterpoint. But I also do a lot of broader-scope work, listening to mockups of what I’m working on or just going over it in my head to figure out pacing. I feel like I can’t figure out pacing unless I’m walking outside. When I’m working on a computer or looking at a score it’s hard for me to get a sense of scale and scope. I’m listening too closely, which is not the way an audience listens, and I have to constantly remind myself of that. Even the listening of a super engaged audience member is not the listening of a composer listening to their own piece. So I find that in order to forget I’m the composer I need to step away from the music and try to look at it with some distance, and walking helps with that.

Nathaniel Bellows image for "The Estate"

Nathaniel Bellows image for "The Estate"

JL: That comes back to my experience with Unremembered and what it means to engage with the piece and move. I like to think of the music as a means of moving through the world. Being on a hike,  going off on a trail and discovering a certain tree or the way a hill has bloomed in an unexpected way…. The music gives me a pace to engage with it, like here’s a moment where I’m gonna run up the hill or when the music comes to this big crescendo and then stops and holds back and I want to sit and view the landscape that’s in front of me and slow down for a moment. So it feels very appropriate that it’s a part of your process.

SKS: Exactly. It is a part of my process but I also love to listen the way you described. I hear and feel different things if I’m listening while out in the world than I do when I’m just sitting and listening in my study with headphones. And I love the way the world looks different through the prism of music. There’s a really interesting relationship that happens there that’s bidirectional. That’s the ineffable wonder of music — it colors or informs your emotional response to whatever you’re experiencing while listening to it. And actually that’s another parallel with Unremembered, because, like music, innocence is a prism that informs one’s perception of the world. I have these two young kids (now eight and six), and they are so full of marvel, wonder and outsized reactions to everything (though I see this starting to change a bit with my eight-year-old.)  This was something Nathaniel and I talked about a lot when we started working on Unremembered — the way that a child has heightened sensory awareness and intense, unruly feelings. It’s almost like they’re swimming in them. We wanted the music to speak to that in some way, with bold gestures and sharp contrasts and very emotionally direct musical statements.

JL: It’s very appropriate and I’m glad you went there because I was going to ask about that. For me it’s one of the things I connect to deeply about the piece — that heightened sensory skill that kids have. There's something about what it is to be really scared. In “The Slaughterhouse” you have an image of seeing all of these animals slaughtered: “I’d seen it once on another farm and I never will forget.” That question of what it is to experience something that will never quite leave your mind. It will most certainly change and develop in later years and looking back it will become a memory of the memory. So there’s something about listening to this piece and even though the some of the witchy and ghostly elements aren’t something I’ve directly experienced it’s still hits me nonetheless and does have this sense of… I think as a kid growing up I had magic as a thing that was kind of given to me. My aunt is an incredible playwright and director and every year growing up we went to the Berkshires in Massachusetts for 4th of July and she would lead these fairy hunts. So we would explore the woods and so I did have some elements of some of these poems in there. But there was this incredible sense of wonder and magic where everything is heightened. And also this sense of play with everything, even the things that are scary. Listening to this piece also reminds me of my desire to engage with the world in the type of way I do when I’m listening to the piece. Or the way that I do when it brings up these certain memories that I have. So I’m curious for you if there’s a sense of memories that had an impact you won’t ever forget or even this idea of “I never learned to love someone the way I did that place.”

SKS: Yes, definitely, I have some childhood memories that were profoundly impactful and that influenced the writing of this music and made me relate deeply to the cycle’s concept and messages. So I let that guide my empathy, but my primary goal was to tell the stories in music that Nathaniel told in words. So there were visits to Topsfield, Massachusetts, the town he grew up in, to visit all the sites of the various poems, and there were lots of talks about what each poem meant. One of the things we talked about the most was the way that we remain attached, in a kind of Stockholm Syndrome way, to places and times in our childhood where we experienced difficult things; that we feel some very complicated, complex mix of affection and revulsion, dread and nostalgia, and that what we experience there often has a kind of hold on us for the rest of our lives. That's why I decided to take a couple of stanzas from the last song, "The Past", and create a Prelude to the cycle with them, particularly those lines you mentioned: "It all comes back inchoate/the meaning has no base/I never learned to love someone the way I did that place." To me those lines were heart-rending in the way that they expressed gratitude but also possibly revealed a failure of human connection: that the narrator had never loved a person as strongly as he did the place, never discovered a home in another person that was truly a safe harbor. Or perhaps this was a good thing, if the love in question is one suffused with darkness. Either way we are dealing with a complicated mix of polarized emotions. So I knew I wanted to have a simple, almost childlike melody express the lines of this song, cradled in clouds of subtly dissonant harmony, with some darker ones passing in the middle (which sample musical material from Prelude.) I wanted there to be a palpable tension between lighter feelings of nostalgia/affection and darker hints of bitter, stoic resolve.  

Nathaniel Bellows image for "The Past" 

Nathaniel Bellows image for "The Past" 

JL: Yeah I feel like it’s present throughout the cycle but especially in “The Past.” I’m really struck by that co-existence and juxtaposition of playful, joyous, childlike wonder and this painful childlike trauma. Especially in the intro of that piece, as it’s moving towards darkness and then it suddenly gets interrupted by the guitar and harp. So it feels likes it’s gonna go somewhere intense and then it jump cuts back to playing on the playground where it’s all light and fun and bubbly. Then it’s able to get really heavy and intense as it returns to “the way I did that place”. That’s something that to me, every time I hear it, is extraordinarily satisfying compositionally. And it’s emotionally somewhat jarring; it takes me through such a wide array of emotions just in one movement.

SKS: Wow, that’s really gratifying to hear, thank you. I think that for me in many ways “The Past” is my favorite movement because it sort of encapsulates what the whole song cycle is about. I think it’s something that a lot of people can relate to because we’ve all had times in our lives that were difficult or unhappy but that we wouldn’t trade because the wisdom and strength we gained through endurance made us who we are in the present. Those early heartbreaks and disappointments and even traumas were so much more painful for being the firsts, but there is also beauty in having the capacity to feel things deeply, and one can definitely feel a nostalgic longing for that--for the days of having a softer heart.

JL: With that it's very appropriate that I just happen to be looking at “No so low, the flying slicing wing, it says that there is beauty inside your suffering.”

SKS: It’s funny because that line was actually a source of questioning for Shara and Padma. Most of the cycle text is story, metaphor, and allusion — stories that convey messages indirectly, obliquely. “It says that there is beauty inside your suffering” is a line that was direct and straight, and they weren’t sure how to approach it vocally. Which I totally understood, but I also loved the presence of that line because the cycle has so much elliptical representation; once in awhile it’s nice to have a kind of thesis statement saying, simply and directly: “here’s what this is all about.”

JL: Yeah. And to me, one of the things I love about it is that there’s still something very complicated about it — it can be very confusing to acknowledge that, yes, there is beauty inside suffering, because how much do we as people want to choose to suffer? And I know at least for me there was a period of time where I got a little invested in exploring that. I wanted to sit in it, find all of it beautiful and suffer a little bit. But now I’m in a place where I feel like, cool I did that for a bit and now I’m going to try to see those past moments of suffering as beautiful but make a different choice. And that relates a lot to nostalgia; what it is to sit inside of both nostalgia and suffering and to look to the past, and the choice of that. Whether it’s to repeat cycles of the past or to see it as a framework that involved a lot of suffering but was also a kind of emotional height, where you’ll never learn to love someone that way, where it was a pinnacle of your existence. So I think that line is both direct and endlessly complicated.

JL: On a different note, I’m curious about the relationship of being young and coming to terms with life and death.

SKS: Yes, this is of course a huge part of what the cycle is about: the child learning about a death, trying to make sense of it, trying to incorporate it into their worldview. That is the ultimate loss of innocence, and it usually happens pretty early for kids — a character in a book or movie dies, they see a dead animal on the road, or more traumatically, they lose someone close to them. One of the greatest challenges I’ve had as a parent is talking about death with my kids and trying to explain it to them what it means, when I myself don’t really know. I try to present them with all of the different ways of thinking, different religions, philosophers’ takes on it. But ultimately there is no right answer. It’s a constant challenge to live with that awareness and yet still take risks and live fully and deeply and consciously.

JL: One of the things I really appreciate about Unremembered is its allusions to the idea that life doesn’t end with death. That life only continues on in a new form. Especially in “The Speakers,” which, as an aside, the intro is one of the greatest musical things I’ve ever heard. Everytime I hear it it’s the most beautiful and satisfying sound. The first time I heard it I was like “What is happening” and then Shara sings “I’m sorry” and I was just blown away. And it’s exactly how those words should be set. And also the orchestration with the harmonics in the strings leading up all kind of following each other. That texture that’s created is perfect.  

SKS: Thank you! Yeah Shara’s incredible. You don’t have to give her any direction, she just gets it. She’s incredibly smart, sensitive, and intuitive. But yeah Nathaniel does have references to reincarnation in several movements — that line in “The Barn” (“the dance of life continues after death”)... the conversation between the hare and the leaf in “The Speakers”...

JL: ...And in “The Slaughterhouse”, seeing slaughtered cows that are “dead but still bleeding”. And the end of “The Speakers” when they say, “I die and rise invisibly like the ghosts you won’t allow.” That idea of death being this continuation of life. I actually hadn’t realized this about Unremembered until recently; I was listening to a Bob Thurman podcast and he was talking about reincarnation a lot and then as I revisited Unremembered, all of sudden all of these lines that I had previously connected with had another layer of meaning to them.

SKS: That’s interesting! Yeah, death is the great mystery of life, and as a child it’s even more scary and mysterious. So as I wrote the music I tried to put myself back into that head space and channel how it felt to be a young child thinking about death. As a result, there is definitely some anxiety and fear in this collection of songs, but there is also a lot of warmth, tenderness, and hope. Just like Nathaniel’s text.


Sarah Kirkland Snider's: Unremembered will be presented at Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis, MN on Saturday, March 11 at 8:00pm.

Tickets and details here: http://www.liquidmusicseries.org/snider-unremembered/
Students and kids attend FREE.


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The darker side of memory: the writing of nathaniel Bellows by Liquid Music

by Jeffrey Niblack

Photo from Unremembered website

Photo from Unremembered website

Sarah Kirkland Snider's Unremembered has its U.S. premiere March 11 at Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis as part of the SPCO's Liquid Music Series. The text of Snider's song cycle was written by poet and artist Nathaniel Bellows, and his drawings, interleaved with photography and video, will be projected as part of the performance.

Bellows is the author of two novels, Nan and On this Day, as well as a book of poetry, Why Speak?. He also is a prolific artist, posting his art and sketches frequently to his Tumblr page

Additionally, Bellows is a musician – in 2016 he released an album entitled The Old IllusionsBelow is a video for the song "The Reason" from the album featuring Bellows' drawings. 

In his work, Bellows often evokes images of growing up in New England, focusing on landscapes and structures.  He vividly describes these places, but there's also a sense of  the specific emotional meaning attached to these places for him. Bellows discussed finding inspiration from his memory of the New England landscape in an interview on the website Largehearted Boy:

I am definitely influenced and inspired by the New England landscape—the seaside and the marshes, meadows, forests, and orchards. The whole area has a haunted quality that I've always felt very deeply, which has infiltrated all of my work, like a reoccurring main character. There's something about the rough bleakness of the winter, and the almost primordial fecundity of the summer that makes you feel both at the mercy of the natural world, and that you've been invited to viscerally experience the raw beauty of its extremes.

His writing style is deceptively direct. His poetry can read like prose, with strong elements or narrative or character. However, as the poems unfold, he gradually introduces something mysterious or even supernatural.  

Nathaniel Bellows image for "The Estate" from Unremembered website

Nathaniel Bellows image for "The Estate" from Unremembered website

One of the striking themes of Bellows' writing is a tension between nostalgia and some of the more negative emotions buried behind that nostalgia: sadness, regret, or fear. A memory in his writings may begin quaint or ruminative, but turns darker and more sinister. The closing stanza of "The Estate", the second part of Unremembered, begins with an anthropomorphized view of a natural setting that seems peaceful, but quickly turns into something ghostly and terrifying. 

The field has breath, the pond a voice
I’ve known since I was small
They told me then to leave this place
Or stay and lose it all

His novel, On This Day, examines similar themes of memory as it examines a brother and a sister who have recently lost both their parents.  As they deal with their grief, they often visit their memories, sometimes tangibly as they spend a little too much time in the house in which their parents died.  The novel moves back and forth in time, so there's a palpable sense of the past's impact on the present.  

The poem "Some Traditions" from Why Speak? presents similar images of a house abandoned, maybe to be sold or perhaps to be left alone and rot, closing with the following:

The radiators stood in an awkward swirl.

No more days of crinoline or hedges shaped
like fish and bears. The curtains came down and were
shredded, twisted, stuffed under doors.

The piano remained in the hall, like an obelisk,
as if to haunt the place we had to leave;
it would have played on its own, we knew,

had we not robbed it of its keys

Unremembered closes with a beautiful concluding section entitled "The Past," the text of which ruminates on our difficultly separating from the past, the need to reconcile oneself to change, and the impact that memories have on our lives. 

Nathaniel Bellows image for "The Past" from Unremembered website

Nathaniel Bellows image for "The Past" from Unremembered website

The meadow lost its golden hue
The trees let go their leaves
The air grew colder, cleaner, blue
Pale as centuries

Someone breathed into my ear
The vapor of the dead
It woke me up, I was asleep
It circled round my head

It all comes back inchoate
The meaning has no base
I never learned to love someone
The way I did that place

 


Sarah Kirkland Snider's: Unremembered will be presented at Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis, MN on Saturday, March 11 at 8:00pm.

Tickets and details here: http://www.liquidmusicseries.org/snider-unremembered/
Students and kids attend FREE.


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Change Begins Within: Shara Nova (My Brightest Diamond) interview with Composer Molly Joyce by Liquid Music

Not many people can front a rock band, sing Górecki’s Third Symphony, lead a marching band processional down the streets of the Sundance film festival and perform in a baroque opera of their own composing all in a month’s time. But Shara Nova can. In addition to her multi-faceted career as My Brightest Diamond, she will also be returning to Liquid Music on March 11th for the US premiere of Sarah Kirkland Snider: Unremembered, a 13-part song cycle inspired by poems and illustrations by Nathaniel Bellows that explores the fragility and nuance of memories and emotions. 

Composer and staff member of New Amsterdam RecordsMolly Joyce spoke with Shara about Unremembered, her relationship with Sarah Kirkland Snider and the direction her own music.


You worked with Sarah in 2010 on Penelope. What has it been like collaborating with her for a second time on Unremembered?

Maybe the best way to talk about that is to describe the recording process for UnrememberedWe recorded the whole thing in three days. It was like twelve hours of singing every day and some of the most challenging sessions that I’ve ever done. And a really wonderful thing happened because DM Stith ended up being in the same sessions. We were just throwing ideas back and forth while I was in the recording booth and I think that was the first time I’ve ever had anybody produce my vocals in that kind of way. So the process between us felt really collaborative. He could say things to me as a singer, giving me a different image or approach and I really responded to that. And then the vulnerability that I have with Sarah, the transparency in our friendship, I was able to expose a part of myself in those recordings that were very intimate. I was really on the edge of what I was able to do expressively. That comes from having years of a relationship and then building that with someone, where you’re able to go into the booth and be in a really vulnerable place when you record. That level of vulnerability is more rare than I think it is.

And when she was composing the work, did you two collaborate pretty tightly?

Not at all.

But she already knew what worked for your voice?

Yeah by that point we had a whole lot of time together, whereas for Penelope, it was a very new relationship.

Does it feel different performing or recording your own music versus someone else's? Do you approach it in the same way?

That’s the funny symbiotic relationship that I have with Sarah. When I receive a piece from her, even if it’s just a MIDI mockup, I’ll be devastated and so moved by the level of thought, detail and care that she puts into her pieces. Then the musical vocabulary feels very familiar to me and so I’m able to sink right into it. It doesn’t feel like putting on someone else's costume. It feels like a tailored dress that is made exactly for your dimensions. There’s a really big difference when approaching something that was made specifically for you. You have an easier time getting to interpretation quicker because you don’t have as much resistance.

And the freedom and the beauty of doing a project like Unremembered is that these are stories that aren’t necessarily going to be told in pop music. Maybe in a Tom Waits song or something. But to be able to jump into a character like the witch through the narratives and the storytelling or to be able to sing this beautiful poem about the death of a swan, these are the kinds of moments that remind me why I love classical music so much: because there’s not a kind of prescription about what songs need to be about that exists in popular music. Maybe that’s all illusion anyway. But I like the storytelling aspect because it’s almost operatic. And that’s why it's so fulfilling to do this music. To be in Nathaniel’s beautiful, twisted fantasy. And then thinking about the Salem witch trials and how women were treated. And then now to be on the forefront of women still having to articulate their rights and not step aside. These stories are still culturally relevant.

Going into your own music, when I started transcribing some of your music for you I noticed that you aren’t really concerned how it will look on the page. Whereas when I want to write music I have to go into music notation software. I guess I was amazed just receiving all of these files and how it still worked with the voice leading and harmony. Could you talk about your composition process of singing through everything as you write? Maybe if I had a voice like yours I would sing everything out too, but how do you approach composing with your voice?

I just had this issue with another piece too where it was like “OK, well you didn’t think about how the voice leading was gonna work”, and then I do have to kind of make sense of who’s doing what and re-organized the parts. But I know at least how the rhythm or the harmony is going to go. I have started to trust my ear more and more and just be intuitive about the writing. And a lot of times I have to be because the fastest way that I can do things is to sing them straight out of my head. It might be that way because I've sung in choir since I was a child, so I’ve spent so much time in choral music of all kinds. Whether that’s Bach or John Rutter or gospel music. My dad was a choral conductor so being in and around choirs is really natural to me. So I really focused my writing career on choral music in the last couple of years in writing for the voice, doing less instrumental work because there’s more of a gap for me.

I was thinking about your album, This is My Hand, where you are approaching issues of body image and whether or not you could really dance when you perform. What’s your approach to the physicality of performing something like Unremembered?

I live by the principle that the audience is going to respond to what information I give them. It’s not that they need my permission to respond in a certain way but how a person moves helps you interpret the music. I think in the classical tradition that wasn’t always the case. In some ways, it was about removing the visuals and the physicality.  But for me as a theater/pop person, I want to feel this visceral movement. And if that means in a song like “The Swan” from Unremembered, for example, say I only raise my hands at one point. Then suddenly that imagery, even a minimalist gesture puts the picture more solidly in my mind. It’s both give me a stronger a connection to the music and the audience. So it’s not just that I’m vocalizing the music, it has shape in the body as a storytelling mechanism.

When I interviewed you last year you had this quote about putting on your own oxygen mask before putting on someone else’s. And how change begins within, which I feel like I live by now. I feel like in more of your recent work there’s a shift to music that perhaps is more socially conscious and active.

I look back at my third album, All Things Unwind, and there’s a song called “There’s a Rat” which is actually about Dr. Ossian Sweet who was an African American doctor from the early 1900’s who moved into a white neighborhood in Detroit and hundreds of white people gathered in his lawn to put pressure on him to move out. It’s a very traumatic story. Then there’s songs like “High, Low, Middle” which were looking at class. I felt like even using the marching band for the fourth record had social elements. The marching band is a symbol of All-American folk music. Like, here is a playground where class and public school education and music meet, All of these things manifest in the marching bands in public schools in America. In so many ways I feel like there were social elements I was trying to articulate and on the new album and still working with how to talk about racism. What is my response to injustice? There’s so many in which I feel like I have approached the subject but never fully gone there. Because it’s really challenging to figure out how to both have a humility in the writing such that you’re not brow-beating the audience, but also creating a space that offers a question or that invites empathy.  So I wrestled with that a great deal and will continue to do so.

Going back to the “change begins within” notion, do you feel like you’re asking audiences to find change within and to look within to find that empathy?

That is absolutely all of our work. You know I take so much to heart in James Baldwin's words. I’m paraphrasing but he said something like “If the white people were to actually deal with racism they would have to look at their own insecurities and the things they are most afraid of.” And so that is my invitation: to begin to dismantle the racism in my own mind and, as I begin to do that, start opening up that process so that other people can see that as well. There’s so much to be said about white fragility but when you start actually digging into what white fragility is, we’re so afraid of being a good or a bad person. But there are aspects of our thinking that are not in line with the highest truth. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. It means that there are thoughts that you have or systems that we have grown up with that have created these patterns in our thinking and in the way that our entire society is built. It’s based on oppression and inequality. So it’s my job as a musician to become aware of my own racism and try to articulate that in music. Putting it into music is challenging, for sure. But music offers us a place where we can create empathy, where you could be listening or dancing side by side with someone who’s completely different from you. That’s the beauty of this crazy thing that we get to do which is make vibrations.

Is there anything else you wanted to add about Unremembered?

Just understanding the rarity of this performance. It’s just such an incredible thing that this music is being heard live. Just to get Padma Newsome from Australia is like a year's worth of paperwork. So I’m enormously excited to have the opportunity to perform this music live.


Sarah Kirkland Snider's: Unremembered will be presented at Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis, MN on Saturday, March 11 at 8:00pm.

Tickets and details here: http://www.liquidmusicseries.org/snider-unremembered/
Students and kids attend FREE.

About Molly Joyce:
Molly Joyce’s music has been described as “impassioned” (The Washington Post) and written to “superb effect” (The Wire). Her works have been commissioned and performed by several distinguished ensembles including the New World Symphony, New York Youth Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the New Juilliard, Decoda, and Contemporaneous ensembles. The 2016–17 season will see the first commercial releases of Molly’s music, both on New Amsterdam Records. These releases include an EP of two violin and electronics works, and a work on Vicky Chow’s album of electroacoustic piano compositions. As an active participant in other aspects of the music industry, Molly is currently the digital content manager for New Amsterdam Presents/Records and has served as an assistant to Glenn Kotche, Missy Mazzoli, and Shara Nova, among others.

Listen to her works here: http://mollyjoycemusic.com/

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Death and its alternatives: A project update from Tunde Adebimpe by Liquid Music

by Jeffrey Niblack

In May, Tunde Adebimpe comes to Minneapolis for the world premiere A Warm Weather Ghost, commissioned and presented by Liquid Music, the Walker Art Center and 89.3 The Current. Tunde Adebimpe is perhaps best known as a member of TV on the Radio, but his artistic pursuits extend to actingdirecting, animation and visual arts.  

A Warm Weather Ghost is conceived of as a hero’s narrative pushed through a psychedelic fever dream, the surreal work unravels and bewilders as a crew of special guest musicians, vocalists, visual art by Adebimpe and narration coalesce into a magically disorienting and unforgettable performance.

Since announcing the project last year, Adebimpe has assembled an impressive lineup of musicians to perform with the project including "Money" Mark Ramos Nishita on synthesizers, guitars and keyboards; Mia Doi Todd on vocals and guitar; and Jaleel Bunton of TV on the Radio on percussion. As the project has developed, he graciously provided us with a small sample of the animation he is working on as part of the performance and answered questions on AWWG's progress. 

You've assembled a really impressive lineup of musicians to work with on the project.  How did you bring them together?  What do you hope they bring to the project? 

I’ve been a big fan of everyone involved for a while. I've known Jaleel from TV on the Radio, Mark is a legend, and Mia is one of my favorite singers/songwriters in the world. It came together pretty fortuitously. I ran into Mark at a barbecue and we were talking about what we were up to. I mentioned the project and asked if he’d be interested in working together and he was into the idea.  I was looking for a singer to voice one of the characters in the story and Mia was first on the list. I sent some artwork and a rough synopsis to her and thankfully she was into it. Also it turned out that she and Mark are longtime friends which was an added bonus. What they bring to the project is tons of experience and a willingness to play with rough ideas and make them their own.

What has the development process looked like?  Have there been challenges?  What do the next several months look like for the project?

The development process is pretty much the same for everything I do. It usually starts with writing or drawing until something seems interesting and then I head a little further in that direction to see if the idea has anything else to say. A lot of the ideas/art/music for this project first showed up in 2012 when the band was on a break. When I was approached about doing something for the series, I went through the files and found some ‘Warm Weather Ghost’ pages and thought it’d be a good chance to figure out what they were all about.  Most of the music is done and being rehearsed so the next several months will be a lot of drawing/ painting, animating and shooting the visuals.

We're really excited to see how the visuals integrate with the music.  Can you give us an update on how the visual components of the project are coming along?  

The visuals are coming along pretty well. It’s a lot of work! A lot of very enjoyable work mixed with a lot of “ is there an easier way to do this?” work. But I haven’t found an easy way to do it, so I’m basically locked in a garage building a little trip for the next few months.

What themes are you exploring with the narrative elements of "A Warm Weather Ghost"?  

Death and its alternatives.

For those mainly familiar with you through your work in TV on the Radio, how will A Warm Weather Ghost be different musically?

AWWG will have sounds created in the service of one specific visual, so it’s more a live soundtrack (instrumental passages, noise, narration) than a set of songs like we do in TVOTR.     

How has the project changed since you first envisioned it?

I have all of the elements of the original ideas, but really, I think I’m still envisioning it. The way everything is coming together still feels really active, so it changes a little bit every day. 

AWWG incorporates different facets of your artistic universe – acting/theater, visual art, music, storytelling… Have you ever done a project like this before, that displays so many artistic sides of you in one package?

I’ve made visuals for music videos and soundtracked things, but I’ve never done something where I have to be present and performing and locked in to the visual while it’s running. So mostly I’ll be trying not to wipe out, or figuring out how wipe out in the fanciest way possible.


Tickets for Tunde Adebimpe and A Warm Weather Ghost are available here.  


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David Lang's "darker": A Reflection by Liquid Music

by Lisa Perry, D.M.A The University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

 

Still image from darker. Art by Suzanne Bocanegra

Still image from darker. Art by Suzanne Bocanegra

In early December, the SPCO’s Liquid Music and the Walker Art Center presented David Lang’s immersive musical experience, darker, at the Ordway Concert Hall. Accompanying Lang for the performance were visual artist Suzanne Bocanegra and video processing artist Jeff Larson, who created a live liquid light show that was projected in conjunction with the composition. The continuous hour-long work featured twelve musicians from The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Mischa Santora. 

As part of his visit, Lang recorded a "Music in the Making" podcast co-produced by the SPCO, American Composers Forum and Minnesota Public Radio (to be released this spring). In attendance were musicians from the SPCO along with a devoted crowd of new music enthusiasts and Liquid Music supporters. With host Steve Seel of Classical MPR, Lang discussed several of his works (including darker and Crowd Out for 1000 voices) and detailed his creative process. 

darker, Lang explained during the podcast interview, is a piece dedicated to the memory of a friend who had recently passed away. His intention was not to convey a specific emotion, but rather to create a musical and visual landscape that could allow audience members to focus on their own emotions and experiences as the work unfolds. Contrasting many pieces that encompass a broad range of feelings, emotions, and gestures, Lang intentionally created a work that remains largely static, only changing by subtly altering the music through slight variances in harmonic colors, orchestration and dynamics. In an interview with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Lang stated: 

I just noticed that classical music did not have the same emotional range as my life, and I wondered what it would be like to make a piece of music that worked that way. A piece of music that actually felt to me like my life – which is a lot of activity, a lot of intense concentration, and not getting too far. […] There are a lot of things going on and everyone has a lot to do, but it doesn’t change very much, because our days are pretty much like every other day. And so what I thought was: What if I made a piece that got a little bit darker – not a lot darker, it doesn’t get miserable or depressing, it doesn’t range you from high to low, it just says: What if we spend a lot of energy doing something and it feels like we are staying in place, and then by the end of the piece we realize we are somewhere that is a little more complicated than where we started. That seemed like a piece of music that was more like my life.
Mischa Santora and members of the SPCO perform darker

Mischa Santora and members of the SPCO perform darker

Highlighting the subtle changes in the music during the performance at the Ordway Concert Hall was the live liquid light show by Bocanegra and Larson. Using colorful oils, powder and natural materials (such as branches and dried leaves), Bocanegra created live art that was projected onto a screen behind the musicians. The constantly evolving visual illustrated the prolonged and subtle transition from light to dark, while enhancing the atmosphere of the overall work. 

Together, the visuals and music created a highly unique and powerful immersive experience for those fortunate enough to be in attendance.


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Taking Action to Find Hope: Artist in Residence Nathalie Joachim on Global Connectivity and Giving Back by Liquid Music

Nathalie Joachim is Liquid Music's 2016.17 artist in virtual residence. As part of this, she is documenting the development of Fanm d'Ayiti, which will premiere as part of the 2017.18 Liquid Music season.  In this blog post, Nathalie Joachim reflects on how current events in the United States and Haiti are affecting the development of the work as well as how Haitian history and music have continued to inspire her. 


As an artist, you sometimes forget that the forces of the world may from time to time bring your ability to create to a grinding halt. Because our creative work is so deeply tied to our inner work, it is easy to forget that the part of you that is human will need to find its way, in spite of the part of you that is a workhorse. This happened to me this past fall. Over the course of one month I was hit in what resonated as very personal ways by two untimely world events: Hurricane Matthew touching down in my family’s hometown in Haiti, and the election of Donald J. Trump.

Anti-Inaugural ball in NYC

Anti-Inaugural ball in NYC

If you’ve ever experienced the paralyzing anxiety that comes when your ability to protect your loved ones has been taken from you, then you understand what I mean, and you can understand how these two events, while extremely different from one another, impacted my life in somewhat similar ways. Let’s just say I needed a minute... a moment to not be absorbed by my creative work, as is my tendency. A moment to take action, and to send small ripples of positivity into the lives of my loved ones (and I mean that in both a familial and global sense). I needed a minute to see beyond myself.  

Fundraiser in Dantan, Haiti

Fundraiser in Dantan, Haiti


For me that meant giving back. In the days following the election, I gave and I gave and I gave: to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Immigration Law Center, Natural Resources Defense Council and so many more. For Haiti, I launched a fundraiser to rebuild my family’s hometown school in Dantan, raising nearly $9000 to invest in the educational future of a community that has been home to so many generations of my family (and built a new well for access to clean water to boot!!). The giving...it was cathartic and empowering; healing and effective. 

As I turned back to my own work, and began to look at all of the work that lies ahead for us as a nation, I began to find solace in human connectivity, as a concept and as a practice.  Connecting – with women, with people of color, with artists, with immigrants, and the communities that we make up. This connective tissue invited me to dive deeper into my research for Fanm d’Ayiti.

Haitian music is a standing representation of global connectivity, and I will be exploring that a lot through this project.  As of late, I’ve taken a deep interest in listening to Yanvalou: a Haitian folkloric and ceremonial song tradition that is rooted in the African music history of Haitian slaves. Most Haitian slaves came from regions of West Africa – Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana and predominantly the region that is present day Benin, aka the birthplace of voodoo and Yanvalou. This music represents a long history of storytelling, spirituality, social commentary and survival. Yanvalou music is to Haiti as the negro spiritual is to America - more than songs, they are a means of communicating, both subtly and overtly. That music was essential to the preservation of the culture of black people and thus their survival. That music is celebrated each year on January 1st as Haitians commemorate their independence with soup joumou.

One of the greatest interpreters and arrangers of traditional Yanvalou is Toto Bissainthe (1934-1994), a Haitian singer, actress and activist. Yanvalou is recognized often for its signature drumming patterns, but Toto Bissainthe had a way of bringing a sense of through song and lyricism to this music – a take that I am particularly drawn to. She spent many of the formative years of her career living and performing in France, where she started Griots – France’s first black theater company, which specialized in the celebration of black and particularly Haitian culture. In other words, she was oozing with my absolute favorite brand of black girl magic, and it’s no surprise that she is my muse for this project.

Nathalie's mom and dad in the 70s

Nathalie's mom and dad in the 70s

She was a champion of Haitian music abroad, which was an overall triumph for Haiti. Her messages, though strong, were thought to be “safe” to be consumed by the masses of rural Haitians because she sang predominantly in French. Most rural Haitians only spoke Haitian Creole, and at that time were being led in a false assertion of black nationalism by dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier (and subsequently his son, Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier - the dictators my parents escaped when they immigrated to America). To Duvalier, she was not a threat because the people most effected by his reign of terror were intentionally denied access to education, and therefore couldn’t understand her words, though they identified with her use of Yanvalou as a symbol of their cultural heritage. It wasn’t until Toto Bissainthe began to share her messages of dissent regarding the state of Haitian political and social affairs through songs sung in Creole, that she was officially exiled by Duvalier. And yet... her message prevailed. Duvalier was known for threatening rural people with voodoo curses if they went against his rule... and yet it was the message of voodoo music that saved them.  

In one of her most famous songs, "Ayiti M’pa Renmen’w Enko" she speaks out strongly against a corrupt and short sighted leader and the failings of Haitian institutions as a result. Towards the end of the song, she finds hope. The lyrics translate to say:

“But the blue and red rainbow [of the Haitian flag]. Haiti, the youth. Haiti, the hope. Haiti, the deliverance. Haiti, when you rise and stand, my country… I love you.”

The messages here? They are not lost on me. Being an ambassador for Haitian music abroad. Being a strong woman with a voice. Celebrating the culture and history of our ancestors. Knowing that their attachment to their beliefs and traditions is part of what makes the world connected and beautiful, and that continuing those traditions of connectivity is essential to our survival. Knowing that people with inflated senses of power will prey on the less fortunate, and sometimes convince them to make choices against their own best interest by pretending to stand for their traditions and values. And knowing that those of us with voices may face opposition, but that as long as we take a stand, our messages will prevail for generations to come. Let’s just say that I’m grateful to have been able to turn back to this project. I am grateful for this platform of connectivity. They are guiding me through the madness right now. They are giving me hope.

Keep up with Fanm d'Ayiti on the Liquid Music Blog:
Introducing Nathalie Joachim
Liquid Music Connects: Students Visit "Virtually" with 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
Crowdrise Fundraiser: Hurricane Matthew Relief for Dantan, Haiti
 
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Extra Curricular Listening: Origami Harvest w/Chris Misch-Bloxdorf by Liquid Music

Ambrose Akinmusire

Ambrose Akinmusire

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 (<—key word) to provide through our 'Extra-curricular Listening' blog series. 

We will provide some extracurricular listening (or watching) and some rabbit holes for LM followers to excavate and discover their own exciting but perhaps obscure corner of the music world. In preparation for the world premiere of Origami Harvest with Ambrose Akinsmusire, Kool A.D., Marcus Gilmore, Sam Harris and Mivos Quartet, Wednesday, Feb. 15 at Amsterdam Bar and Hall.

This week Chris Misch-Bloxdorf, trombonist, composer and Ambrose Akinmusire fan shares his playlist for Origami Harvest.


Ambrose Akinmusire: our basement

Ambrose’s latest release, the imagined savior is far easier to paint, is a genre-defying record which draws as much from classical music as it does from jazz and contemporary music. This track features vocalist Becca Stevens whose own improvisational ability allows for Ambrose to weave in and out of punctuated jabs and flowing accompaniment. The fluidity of the performers makes it difficult to determine what is composed material and what is the “magic” caused from the space in between. 

Kool A.D.: Ok

This is a 100 track album with nearly 100 different artists featured throughout — variety is inevitable with that much of a cast. The album was released alongside Kool AD’s novel under the same title and the prolific nature of the content dropped in November of 2015 is an ode to his ability to produce quality material across a depth of mediums.

Woody Shaw: Time is Right

Amidst the heritage of trumpet players that shifted the paradigms of jazz, Woody Shaw is arguably the most important figure in not only the improvisational language used but also the technical facility on the instrument in the last few decades. This piece is not necessarily one showing his seemingly endless virtuosity, but captures a side of Woody as a composer and band leader which very much aligns with Ambrose.

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

Miles Davis was known for his constant experimentation with form, genre and instrumentation. Birth of the Cool, recorded in 1949, is an early example of Davis’ explorations. With an unusual nonet of trumpet, trombone, alto sax, baritone sax, French horn, tuba and rhythm section, Birth of the Cool features unusual timbres, complex arrangements and counterpoint that were revolutionary to the sound of jazz.

Das Racist: Who's That brown

The Brooklyn-based trio, compiled of Kool A.D., Heems, and Ashok Kondabolu (Dap), were hilarious, insightful artsy dudes that put their energy into making powerful music that reflected their experience in America while always having production that pretty much anyone could dance to.

THE RABBIT HOLE

Artists we couldn't fit in, but think are worth mentioning (in no particular order):

Busdriver
Dawn of Midi
Mary Halvorson

Milo
Tigran Hamasyan

Thundercat
Jaga Jazzist
Children of The Light Trio


Special thanks to Chris for his work on this post. Keep up on his goings on here:
https://chrismisch-bloxdorf.bandcamp.com/

See Ambrose Akinmusire's Origami Havest Live in Saint Paul Wednesday feb 15 at 7:30pm at Amsterdam Bar & hall

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Rapper, Author, Future Farmer: Kool A.D. by Liquid Music

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by Jeffrey Niblack

On Wednesday February 15 rapper Kool A.D.joins jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire for their latest project, Origami Harvest, at Amsterdam Bar & Hall in Saint Paul, commissioned by the SPCO's Liquid Music and Kaufman Music Center's Ecstatic Music Festival. Origami Harvest features Mivos Quartet alongside pianist Sam Harris and drummer Marcus Gilmore. For more information on the project, read an interview with Ambrose Akinmusire about the project on The Liquid Music blog, available here.


Rapper Kool A.D. is not one to rest on his laurels.  Perhaps most famous for his participation in the indie hip hop group Das Racist, he set forth on a solo career soon after that group disbanded in 2012.  In 2016, he released 10 albums, two of which featured 100 tracks. Much as Origami Harvest promises a melding of genres, Kool A.D. has played with genre and form across his recordings. His rhymes veer sharply between the hilarious, the political, and the formally audacious. 

In addition to his music projects, Kool A.D. is a visual artist, author (a novel and a children's book were published in 2016), and voluminous tweeter.  

Kool A.D. graciously answered a few questions via e-mail in advance of the premiere of Origami Harvest

You've known Ambrose for quite awhile.  What was exciting about working with him on this? How did this collaboration begin?  How has the process of developing the piece worked?

We've had a few friends in common since high school but didn't really kick it 'til later. We've both been doing music since we were kids though, so after some time kicking it, I guess it was inevitable to end up working together.

What about the development of the project surprised you?  Is it different than how you first envisioned it?

We still don't really know what it is yet [laughs]. I know Ambrose isn't big on describing his process anyway, so I won't spoil it.

"Origami Harvest" is described as a convergence of genres, colors, and patterns. How has it been working with multiple styles and genres on this project?  

I work across genre regardless but I guess maybe one of the more significant points where we converge is improvisation.

You had an exceedingly prolific 2016.  Will you keep up the pace in 2017?  What will be next for you after "Origami Harvest"?

I got a couple other shows on calendar now, maybe a little tour in the summer, but more immediately, a reading for my novel at the Center for Fiction in New York on February 22nd, an art show called Total Relevance at Idio Gallery in Brooklyn opening February 23rd, another project [redacted for contractual reasons] I guess I'm not allowed to talk about still [laughs] and some more recording projects. I've got a few other books I'm working on but not sure if I'm publishing any this year... maybe an art book, I don't know. Basically, I'm just chillin', living life, plugging away at my little ideas for whatever they're worth, trying to carve out some peace for me and mine. Eventually I want to get into organic, sustainable farming? I don't know... I probably won't do that for a few more years at least.


The world premiere of Ambrose Akinmusire's Origami Harvest is Wednesday, February 15, 7:30pm at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall. Co-commissioned by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music and Kaufman Music Center's Ecstatic Music Festival.

Information and tickets can be found at: http://www.liquidmusicseries.org/akinmusire/

FOLLOW LIQUID MUSIC FOR UPDATES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS: 
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Podcast: Liquid Music Playlist

Dealing with the Invisible: Interview with Ambrose Akinmusire by Liquid Music

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by JP Merz

Jazz trumpet virtuoso Ambrose Akinmusire is known for his "unfurling lines that confound expectation" (Chicago Tribune) and the "strong aesthetic compass" (The New York Times) that guides his compositions. On Wednesday, February 15, Akinmusire premieres his latest project, Origami Harvest, at Amsterdam Bar & Hall in Saint Paul, commissioned by the SPCO's Liquid Music and Kaufman Music Center's Ecstatic Music Festival. Origami Harvest features rapper Kool A.D. and the Mivos Quartet alongside pianist Sam Harris and drummer Marcus Gilmore.


Music has always been more of a religious experience for me, you know, dealing with the invisible.

Tell us a bit about your musical background

I was born and raised in Oakland, California. My dad is from Nigeria and my mom’s from a small town in Mississippi. My dad came to Oakland in his mid-20s and my mom when she was a teenager. Both of them come from religious families. It’s hard for me to give a musical background without giving the background of my parents and their religion. Music has always been more of a religious experience for me, you know, dealing with the invisible.  I started on piano in church and then started playing trumpet in church. When I think about the images from my upbringing I have these soundtracks from that time. The music that was being played in the cars or at church or on the radio. These things kind of play in my head when I think back to these images from my childhood. So that’s what got me into music, just things that I was seeing and hearing.

What were some of those soundtracks?

A lot of gospel. Just black music. A lot of hip hop. A lot of funk. Every Sunday my mom would play the Aretha Franklin amazing grace concerts. After we went to church, that record would be on all day. Or James Cleveland, Bobby Bland. My mom listened more to blues and gospel and my dad listened to Nigerian music like King Sunny Ade and Fela Kuti. Growing up, I was listening to all of that and hip hop. So when I went to a jazz camp in 8th grade I was just like ‘oh ok this is just like the stuff I’ve been hearing just played on instruments’. It wasn’t like “now I’m playing jazz.” Jazz has never been this separate thing from black music for me because I was saturated with it as a kid. When you think of blues or black gospel music or hip hop these things are obviously black and come from the black experience. I didn’t really have the “normal” kind of American introduction into jazz.

Turning towards this project, Origami Harvest, what sounds are being evoked and what does the title mean for you?

With this project I was kind of thinking… I hate the word mashup... but that’s what this is. I was thinking what if I were able to play a bunch of stuff from iPod all at the same time...what would that sound like? It would be this! We have some electronics, some jazz, some classical, some hip-hop and all kind of melting into each other, forming new shapes that are also impermanent. And that’s why I like the word harvest. Harvesting is circular there’s the off season and the on season, you keep going and going and there’s no arrival. And then I have this image of kind of slowing folding papers and collecting them... Music is really like a crop... now I’m just getting very vague but that’s how I think about it.  But I do think this is a beautiful time in music. A lot of people like to talk about genres or “crossing over” but I think if you look at what New Amsterdam is doing or Kendrick Lamar or lots of people in jazz... it’s like everybody’s erased genres. They’ve erased these boundaries of where you can and cannot go and what can be considered jazz or hip hop or classical. I think this is a great time for this type of project.

You’re not just trying to play all of the ‘right’ notes, you’re considering the ‘right’ notes and the ‘wrong’ notes.

How do you navigate working with musicians from different musical backgrounds in an improvisational setting?

I think now in 2017 it’s hard to find musicians that don’t improvise. Not everyone needs to know how to play a jazz standard like Cherokee in all twelve keys to improvise. Not to get too cliche or deep but we as humans are evolving and evolution is improvising. You can’t really evolve without going into the unknown. I think that in order to make music now, the music of this time, improvisation is something you have to understand. 

On your last album, The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint you also worked with a string quartet, what feels different or new about this time with the Mivos Quartet?

On my last album, there were certain things I was trying to address. I went through this long period of trying to address the lack of sustain in jazz. Most “jazz” instruments can’t sustain a note for very long. Drums, Piano, Bass, Guitar, even trumpet can’t sustain for very long. So I thought, what about having strings to sustain the note for a very long time. Or having Theo Bleckmann layering his voice on a loop pedal. I wanted to create an album that almost never had a silent moment. So that’s what I was dealing with on that album sonically. With Origami Harvest it’s very different, especially with a string quartet like the Mivos Quartet. When I think of Mivos, I don’t think of them as a group there to sustain. I think of them as a rhythmic machine, a living organism.

How has working with Victor Vazquez (Kool A.D.) shaped this project?

Victor is from Oakland as well so we’ve known each other for a very long time and have a lot of mutual friends. We’ve always kind of been one step away from working with each other… I think now at this point in my life and my career I try to surround myself with musicians and people who are willing to present all sides of themselves because then you can deal with honesty and actually have a real conversation. In 2017 with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the media, it’s very tempting to only present the good sides of yourself. But I like people who are just as comfortable with the ugly sides of themselves as they are with the beautiful sides of themselves both in their craft and socially. And I think Victor embraces that in his lyrics and his life. I think once you get to that level in an improvisation setting, the possibilities are limitless. You’re not just trying to play all of the “right” notes, you’re considering the “right” notes and the “wrong” notes.

Has anything in this project surprised you along the way? Or not gone as you anticipated?

No because I don’t anticipate things. The way I’m dealing with music as I get older is that I’m just here as a scribe, just writing things down. I’m not trying to shape to be any one particular thing. So there is no surprise but it is all discovery. It’s just what is coming out, there’s no judgement there’s no preconceived ideas. There’s a bit of editing with instrumentation and sonics. I’m not usually surprised by how things turn out. But on the other hand I’m always very surprised because I didn’t know anything about the music beforehand.

Is there anything else you’d like the audience to know before the show?

Not really. For this project, I feel like I’m in the audience as well because of the way I’m dealing with the music. Sure, my name will be at the top of the composition but the music doesn’t belong me, music doesn’t belong to anyone. Music will be here, it was here before all of us were born and when we die it will still be here. We are just here to serve the music. So I have just as much insight as the audience and I’ll be experiencing as they experience it.


The world premiere of Ambrose Akinmusire's Origami Harvest is Wednesday, February 15, 7:30pm at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall. Co-commissioned by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music and Kaufman Music Center's Ecstatic Music Festival.

Information and tickets can be found at: http://www.liquidmusicseries.org/akinmusire/

FOLLOW LIQUID MUSIC FOR UPDATES AND ANNOUNCEMENTS: 
Twitter: @LiquidMusicSPCO (twitter.com/LiquidMusicSPCO)
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Facebookfacebook.com/SPCOLiquidMusic
PodcastLiquid Music Playlist

Poligaze: The End Signals the Beginning by Liquid Music

By Lauren McNee

On Friday, November 18 at 8:00pm, Liquid Music audiences filled the sold-out Fitzgerald Theater to see a show nearly two years in the making. Minneapolis’s own indie-rock favorites Poliça and the Berlin-based contemporary ensemble s t a r g a z e shared the stage to present Music for the Long Emergency, a transatlantic collaboration between the two ensembles. Throughout the 2015.16 season, Liquid Music offered audiences the unique opportunity to see this artistic project from beginning to end.  

After 18 months of sending sounds back and forth via Skype and email, collaborating in-person and performing together in Berlin, Poliça and s t a r g a z e became kindred spirits on a personal and musical level. Members of s t a r g a z e arrived in the Twin Cities the Monday before the show for five days of intense rehearsals, friendship and daily breakfast at Mickey's Diner. 

A darkly lit stage signaled the start of the show, as musicians from s t a r g a z e entered one by one, gradually joined by Poliça for a rendition of Reich’s “Music for Pieces of Wood”, originally written for five claves. Reich’s minimalist piece took on a fresh character with the addition of new instrumental voices, synthesized beats and Leaneagh’s soulful voice as audiences began to hear the distinctive voice of the new band formed by the fusion of these two ensembles: Poligaze.

The stage lighting alternated between a fiery red, reverential purple and celestial star-like effect as Poligaze performed original works, including a touching Prince medley. True to Poliça’s reputation as political mavericks, Leaneagh introduced the show’s finale, “The Long Emergency” by reading a passage from an essay by Sarah Kendzior on “how to be your own light” in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election:

“Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.”

"The Long Emergency", a song title with meaning derived from the name of the project, Music for the Long Emergency ended with a standing ovation. As audiences exited the theater, the effect of this beautifully visceral show is clear: this is only the beginning for Poligaze.  

Liquid Music Holiday Gift Guide by Liquid Music

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What should you get that persnickety music fan in your life? Or what should you get to help expand the musical horizons of a good friend?  We are here to help with our 2016 Liquid Music Holiday Gift Guide!

Does everybody you know have tickets to upcoming Liquid Music concerts? There are still five amazing projects left in our current season!  Single tickets are available on our website or you can order a Create Your Own Series over the phone, giving substantial savings when you purchase tickets to three or more concerts.  

Besides concert tickets, many past and future Liquid Music artists have released new projects in 2016. Some key releases include:

Vicky Chow, A O R T A
Pianist Vicky Chow plays electro-acoustic works from six contemporary composers.  

Eighth Blackbird, Hand Eye
Hand Eye transports us to a Soul-studded jam session (Ted Hearne), the buzzing contagion of an internet meme (Andrew Norman), a high-velocity adventure-ride (Robert Honstein), a shimmering yet blinding landscape (Christopher Cerrone), the flickering and pulsing of ink on paper (Timo Andres), and a warm but tattered beauty (Jacob Cooper).

Daniel Wohl, Holographic
A Liquid Music commissioned album, released to critical acclaim this year. 

Jace Clayton, Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture
In his book, Jace Clayton aka DJ Rupture examines the boundaries of music and technology across cultures. With humor, insight, and expertise, Clayton illuminates the connections between a Congolese hotel band and the indie-rock scene, Mexican rodeo teens and Israeli techno, and Whitney Houston and the robotic voices in rural Moroccan song, and offers an unparalleled understanding of music in the digital age.

For the young music lover, consider The Life of James Dewitt Yancey.  This children's book about the life of the hip hop artist better known as J Dilla is boldly illustrated and conveys the joys of both music-making and listening.

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For someone looking to expand their horizons in music, Ben Ratliff's Every Song Ever provides a primer on how to better find music that you love in a world where our choices are so overwhelming.  Ratliff eloquently and simply writes about basic characteristics of music in way that can increase our understanding and appreciation of more complex music.  As a bonus, there are listening recommendations at the end of each chapter (and an associated Spotify playlist) to make the reading much more fun! 

 

For someone looking to make some innovative music on their own, consider a melodica, an EBow, or music-making software such as or Logic Pro X.  

If your friend loves music of the season, consider Phil Kline's Unsilent Night, a fun document of an offbeat holiday tradition and a unique spin on holiday music, emphasizing community and connection.

 

 

And if records, books, or instruments aren't your thing, Liquid Music curator Kate Nordstrum recommends some new attire for concerts (or a night on the town) from Cliché, an uptown boutique.

 

Photo courtesy Cliche.

Photo courtesy Cliche.