Darius Jones: For The People Monday, November 5, 2018 Performance 8pm / Doors 7pm
What: Part concert and part community event, For the People, organized by Darius Jones in collaboration with The Wet Ink Large Ensemble brings together musicians and activists on the eve of the upcoming midterm election. When: Monday, November 5, 2018 Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR Cost: $18 presale, $25 Doors Info: www.roulette.org / (917) 267-0368 Tickets: http://bit.ly/FA181105
Brooklyn, NY – For the People is a community-based event and concert organized by Darius Jones on the eve of the November midterm election. The evening is centered around a collection of compositions by Jones—in collaboration with The Wet Ink Large Ensemble—that uphold the belief that artists have the duty and power to inform, inspire, and empower their community. The evening includes the world premiere of Being Caged In ICE, followed by the second performance ever of America The Joke, and concludes with the return of LawNOrder (pronounced “law no order”), a game piece examining social justice and American History in which each player represents a separate character and is handed a law to follow at the beginning of the piece. Onnesha Roychoudhuri, Brooklyn-based activist, editor, educator, and author of The Marginalized Majority: Claiming Our Power in a Post-Truth America to speak.
Appearances by: Eric Wubbels: piano Ian Antonio: percussion Josh Modney: violin Weston Olencki: trombone Amirtha Kidambi: voice Gelsey Bell: voice Nina Dante: voice Sugar Vendil: piano Sean Conly: bass Michael Vatcher: drums Daniel Givens: electronics Jean Carla Rodea: voice Shelley Nicole: voice Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet Leia Slosberg: flute Jessica Jones: tenor sax Sam Newsome: soprano sax
Darius Jones is a critically acclaimed alto saxophonist and composer. In 2008, Jones was awarded the Van Lier Fellowship by Roulette, which he used to launch the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit, a project dedicated to new works for voice. Roulette continued to support Jones’ work through a Jerome Foundation Commission, awarding Jones an Artist-in-Residence opportunity for the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit to premiere his vocal composition, The Oversoul Manual, in2014. Jones made his compositional debut at Carnegie Hall with The Oversoul Manual in October 2014. In 2013, Jones was nominated for Alto Saxophonist of the Year, and for Up & Coming Artist of the Year two years in a row by the Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards. He was one of Jazz Times’ Debut Artists of the Year for 2009, and his 2012 release, Book of Mæ’bul (Another Kind of Sunrise), was listed among NPR’s Best Top 10 Jazz Albums of that year.
Elliott Sharp: IrRational Music Thursday, November 1, 2018 Performance 8pm / Doors 7pm
What: A concert celebrating the release of Elliott Sharp’s forthcoming album Dispersion and the publication of his book, IrRational. Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR Cost: $18 presale, $25 Doors Info: www.roulette.org / (917) 267-0368 Tickets: http://bit.ly/FA181101
Brooklyn, NY – Seminal composer and multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp returns to Roulette to mark two important forthcoming releases: IrRational Music, Sharp’s memoir and rumination on thought, music, and art published by Terra Nova Books with Found Sound Nation, and the release of his latest album Dispersion, a collaboration with the Vendi Ensemble on Mode Records.
The evening features a solo set by Sharp on 8-string guitarbass, playing selections from his album Octal, in addition to the realization of his graphic score Mare Undarum. The second half of the program brings SysOrk, Sharp’s ensemble dedicated to performing algorithmic scores and graphic notations together with the members of Veni Ensemble to perform three of the pieces included on the Dispersion: The Hidden Variable, Dispersion of Seeds, and Flexagons. Sharp and Veni’s collaboration comes out their residency in Kosice, Slovakia in 2015.
A central figure in the avant-garde and experimental music scene in New York City for over 30 years, Elliott Sharp has released over eighty-five recordings ranging from orchestral music to blues, jazz, noise, no wave rock, and techno music. He is is a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, and a 2014 Fellow at Parson’s Center for Transformative Media. He received the 2015 Berlin Prize in Musical Composition from the American Academy in Berlin.
SysOrk Elliott Sharp – Guitar, Clarinet Rachel Golub – Violin Shayna Dulberger Terry L. Green II
Veni Ensemble Brano Dugovič – Clarinet David Danel – Violin Fero Kiraly – Synth Lenka Novosedlikova – Percussion Juraj Berats – Guitar Ivan Siller – Piano Daniel Matej – Objects
Roulette’s 40th Anniversary Gala Honoring Hal Willner Thursday, October 25, 2018
What: Roulette honors eclectic and prolific musician/producer Hal Willner at its 40th Anniversary Gala When: Thursday, October 25, 2018. 7–11pm. Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR Cost: Remaining tables start at $5,000, Tickets at $100 Info: www.roulette.org / (917) 267-0368 Tickets: http://roulette.org/gala/ Roulette’s Director Jim Staley and Board of Directors are thrilled to announce Roulette’s 40th Anniversary Gala honoring eclectic and prolific musician/producer Hal Willner. The evening will feature performances by artists from Willner’s extensive career, including avant-pop icon Laurie Anderson, incomparable performance artist and filmmaker Kembra Pfahler, Joan Wasser (Joan as Police Woman) of Antony and the Johnsons, composer and slide-trumpeter Steven Bernstein, SNL Musical Directors Lenny Pickett and Eli Brueggemann, singer Janine Nichols, singer/songwriter Teddy Thompson, actress Chloe Webb, saxophonist Doug Wieselman, and more. Mr. Willner’s unexpected approach to curation and music production has made him one of the most refreshing musical connectors of our time. His many concept albums and live events celebrate unlikely collaborations—his Kurt Weill tribute records feature the likes of Sting, Charlie Haden, Lou Reed, Nick Cave; while his Amarcord Nino Rota tribute album features Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Bill Frisell, Muhal Richard Abrams; his Disney album features performances by artists like Sun Ra and Ringo Starr; and his live events bring together dozens of leading creative voices across film, comedy, music, and theater. He has been the sketch music producer of Saturday Night Live for the past 30 years and is currently working on his next concept album celebrating the music of T. Rex. All proceeds from the evening go to the creation of Roulette’s Future Fund—a multi-purpose reserve fund to help build a strong, sustainable future for our organization and the artists we present. Support for the Future Fund will be matched up to $150,000 by the Howard Gilman Foundation.
BENEFIT COMMITTEE CO-CHAIRS Meredith Monk Joseph Walker
BENEFIT COMMITTEE Sean Buffington MV Carbon Dick Connette Mario Diaz de Leon Robert Flynt Paul + Rochelle Gertner Mary MacArthur Griffin Simon Hanes Anne Hemenway Pauline Kim John King Gordon Knox John Madsen Stéphanie Palmer Zeena Parkins Catherine Pavlov Tomeka Reid Ned Rothenberg Jason Weiss Scott Wollschleger
Ken Thomson: Sextet Album Release Show Sunday, October 7, 2018 Performance 8pm / Doors 7pm
What: Ken Thomson debuts new project and album: Sextet on New Focus Recordings. When: Sunday, October 7, 2018 Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR Cost: $18 presale, $25 Doors Info: www.roulette.org / (917) 267-0368 Tickets: http://bit.ly/FA181007
Brooklyn, NY – Roulette welcomes Brooklyn-based clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer Ken Thomson for an evening of music featuring the New York premieres of “Ripple” and “Pall”, followed by a performance by Thomson’s ensemble project, Sextet as they celebrate their latest album, out now on New Focus Recordings.
“Ripple” for bass clarinet and string quartet (2017) “Pall” for clarinet and string quartet (2018) New York Premieres
Ken Thomson, clarinet Katie Hyun and Lena Vidulich, violins Wendy Richman, viola Jeffrey Zeigler, cello
Ken Thomson: Sextet Ken Thomson,alto saxophone
Anna Webber, tenor saxophone Russ Johnson, trumpet Nick Finzer, trombone Adam Armstrong, bass Daniel Dor, drums
Ken Thomson is a staple of NYC’s contemporary music and jazz community, known for performing with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and composing and playing with the bands Slow/Fast and Gutbucket. He has written music for the JACK Quartet, Ashley Bathgate, American Composers Orchestra, and others. Thomson is known for a unique voice that blends a variety of styles, with the Chicago Reader exclaiming that “few musicians travel as assuredly and meaningfully between jazz and new music as saxophonist Ken Thomson.” Guided by a desire to create music in which composition and improvisation are equally important and codependent, Sextet is the latest in a series of recordings the composer has made unifying these traditions. With this project, Thomson aims to fuse the intensity and thematic cohesiveness of modern composition with jazz’s spontaneity and openness.
Brandon Seabrook Trio: Convulsionaries Album Release Monday, October 1, 2018 Performance 8pm / Doors 7pm
What: The Brandon Seabrook Trio celebrates the release of their newest album Convulsionaries now out on Astral Spirits. When: Monday, October 1, 2018 Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR Cost: $18 presale, $25 Doors Info: www.roulette.org / (917) 267-0368 Tickets: http://bit.ly/FA181001
Brooklyn, NY – The Brandon Seabrook Trio celebrates the release of their latest album Convulsionaries on Astral Spirits. For this all-string group, guitarist and composer Brandon Seabrook is joined by two revolutionary players – rising upright bassist Henry Fraser (Anthony Coleman, The Full Salon) and Daniel Levin (Tony Malaby, Mat Maneri) on cello. The trio aims to decipher Seabrook’s thorny compositions, which perpetually surprise and unseat the listener and audience through rhythmic precision oscillating between ominous repeating ostinatos; angular, intricate, and with a massive dynamic range which changes rapidly. Seabrook’s imaginative compositions are a study in transforming sense of impending doom into a cathartic release, allowing equal space for improvisation and rigid execution of the complex scores.
Brandon Seabrook Trio
Brandon Seabrook – Guitar/Compositions Daniel Levin – Cello Henry Fraser – Double Bass
Brandon Seabrook is a guitarist, banjoist, and composer living in New York City whose work focuses on the intersections between improvisation and structure through fragmented and rapidly changing soundscapes. Described by Spin as “An apocalyptic, supersonic general of the banjo…” Seabrook has established himself as one of the most unique and volatile guitarists and banjo players working in New York today.
VX Bliss: Audiovisual Arrangements by Ginny Benson Wednesday, November 7, 2018 Performance 8pm / Doors 7pm
What: Roulette welcomes back intermedia artist Ginny Benson, deploying a new immersive project in sound and video. When: Wednesday, November 7, 2018 Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR Cost: $18 presale, $25 Doors Info: www.roulette.org / (917) 267-0368 Tickets: http://bit.ly/FA181107
Brooklyn, NY – VX Bliss is the solo project of intermedia artist Ginny Benson. Her live performances use analog synthesis to create densely layered electronic music that drifts between melodic soundscape and atonal noise, integrated with video collages made from VHS tapes, circuit bent mixers, and feedback.
VX Bliss explores techniques of blending and juxtaposing sound and video to create an immersive abstract environment where audio and control-voltage signals fuse modular synthesis with analog video technology. Found images from VHS tapes, layered and woven into video feedback, are distorted into shapes and patterns – samplers and synthesizer glitches, drones, and other electronic ephemera create lush compositions that stimulate and disrupt the viewer’s perception.
Tomas Fujiwara: 7 Poets Trio Wednesday, October 10, 2018 Performance 8pm / Doors 7pm
What: Tomas Fujiwara presents new music with Patricia Brennan and Tomeka Reid. When: Wednesday, October 10, 2018 Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR Cost: $18 presale, $25 Doors Info: www.roulette.org / (917) 267-0368 Tickets: http://bit.ly/FA181010
Brooklyn, NY – Drummer and composer Tomas Fujiwara premieres new work for his latest ensemble project, 7 Poets Trio. Composed specifically for this ensemble, with Fujiwara on drums, Patricia Brennan on vibraphone, and Tomeka Reid on cello,Fujiwaraaims to utilize the distinct musical personalities of his collaborators as well as the unique instrumentation of the trio. 7 Poets Trio seeks to strike a balance between composition and improvisation, to offer each musician a number of roles—foreground and background, soloistic and supportive, melodic and percussive—and, most importantly, to provide an environment for a truly collaborative ensemble sound.
Tomas Fujiwara: drums Patricia Brennan: vibraphone Tomeka Reid: cello
7 Poets Trio formed in April 2018 during Fujiwara’s residency at The Stone. The rapport was instantaneous and the trio’s debut was described by All About Jazz as “a meshing of chamber jazz, modern classical composition, and improvisation, although most of Fujiwara’s music sounded well organized in advance. All three players rose to an individual expression, working as a composite unit to deliver solo embellishments. Roles were malleable, as the listener decided whether everyone was soloing, or no-one. All three members were devoted to establishing a sensitive group consciousness, and they succeeded eminently.” The trio is a continuation of several of Fujiwara’s musical interests – the flexible roles and multifaceted possibilities of a particular instrument, the sounds of multi-percussion ensembles, drawing from his days as a performer in Stomp and his bands Triple Double and Double Double, as well as other double-drummer ensembles he’s been a part of such as Living By Lanterns, No Moto, and the Taylor Ho Bynum 7-tette.
Roulette has always maintained a relationship with dance artists, and I pride myself with being part of the adventure since the early 1980s. Jim Staley was the first to ever ask me to improvise live in concert (in 1982) and there has been no looking back—on stage or in my studio.
Beyond the world of improvisation, I also trace my choreographic roots to Yvonne Rainer and the 1960s Judson Dance Theater of which she was a founding member. When she asked me to be part of her newly formed dance group in 2005, I had been choreographing for over two decades. Although I had never wanted to be a dancer in anyone’s company before, you do not say no to your dance hero—and it was an unforgettable experience from 2005 to 2011.
Before, during, and after, Roulette has been a cherished source of support for me and so many others in the performing arts community and is still introducing me to a wild range of incredible artistry. My admiration for the legacies of experimental dance and movement, music and sound arts, and everything in between overflows in celebration of Roulette’s 40th!
On November 29th through December 1st, artistic director and choreographer Sally Silvers presents the three-night run premiere of her dance piece ALONG at Roulette. A low-tech, science fiction based “girl power” adventure, ALONG imagines a place where different worlds and body languages confuse, collide, and waveringly communicate. The piece is intended to be a stark meeting of “super-heroes” stranded on a desert isle. Since there is no shared language, it starts from scratch to build a communality of difference. The cast includes dancers Brandon Collwes, Dylan Crossman, Megan Curet, Lindsey Jones, Cori Kresge, Benedict Nguyen, Veraalba Santa, Melissa Toogood, and Joshua Tucson and features three Gotham Girls Roller Derby Skater All-Stars: Lauren Corry (aka Caf Fiend), S.C. Lucier (Fast and Luce), and Katherine Rugg (Space Invader).
ALONG features live sound design and electronics by Bruce Andrews and Michael Schumacher, video by Ursula Scherrer, lighting design by Joe Levasseur, costumes by Elizabeth Hope Clancy, and drones by Charles Dennis.
For Roulette’s 7th issue, here she is in conversation with friend and collaborator, Yvonne Rainer.
Yvonne Rainer: How do you begin to make a dance; what are the very first “moves”—physically and cognitively?
Sally Silvers:I usually start a new piece cognitively with literature (in the past: Jean Genet, Gertrude Stein, James Ellroy), or movies (eg. Hitchcock, Godard), or music/opera (Berg’s Lulu, Hindemith’s The Four Temperaments, Luigi Nono’s opera on revolutions), or a famous figure or concept (Tina Modotti, Sor Juana, cyborgs, women scientists, girl/group/power) and do a lot of watching, reading, listening for months—or mostly at the beach—trying to get a feeling, an instinct, and a grasp. I’ll start saving pictures, writing down movement ideas, daydreaming—in the past I would find some music that seemed relative and record myself improvising to it for movement ideas. To be honest, these days at my age, I have such a backlog of improvisations, I’m often reaching out to my younger pre-recorded self for current ideas.
I’m not sure why I chose science fiction this time. With few exceptions, I have been a true reality-based choreographer who wants to problematize the relationship to the body and others as a practice of social/political commentary hard-wired into the composition. I think it’s the current political state we are in now that maybe brought me to sci-fi to escape with utopias or with dystopias. I’ve narrowed myself to sci-fi written by women and that addresses my theme of communication (such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman by Naomi Mitchison), which hopefully takes up some of the problems we’re having now, however obliquely. I think of myself as a social modernist somewhat—I know that’s contradictory.I might be an abstractionist at heart.
YR: To what extent do you want your sources to be recognizable in the finished product? I think I’m more of a literalist in that I want my literary affects to run parallel with movement in the form of readings, but if my memories of your work are accurate, you seem to let your literary influences lie kind of subliminally in relation to the “choreography.”
SS: My experience of your work is you want parallel tracks but often they don’t seem related. They seem like you want associations that don’t connect; that are related only by time.I think I’m going for a connection, but a mystery as to why.
YR: It’s true, I deliberately go for the obvious “radical juxtapositions”—connection between word and image comes and goes, maybe usually “goes,” but the “mystery,” and perhaps the power, of your dances is not the why but how it works. Do you consider what you do more narrative than abstract?
SS:I think “mystery” might have been a cop-out word.Maybe I meant I was going for a connection that is a by-product of a constellation of all that is going on in the moment—things that link but can also contradict, therefore creating a challenge or dialogue. I really fight against the word “narrative.” Even if there is a story, as in [the Hitchcock-inspired dance pieces]: Actual Size (2014) and Tenderizer (2017)—which both premiered at Roulette—or when I did a version of Berg’s Lulu (1996), I make the “story” into situations or references, or abstractions (like making a space pattern that occurs at three different times out of the design of the opening credits of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest). The dancers can play any and all of the characters at any time or do many things that don’t seem to refer to an identifiable character at all. (Is a sequence of moves without characters really a narrative?)Although I’ve noticed I don’t do much gender-crossing. Maybe that’s next. ALONG is going to be very influenced by Ursula K. Le Guin’s sci-fi novel The Left Hand of Darkness about a genderless society—anyone can give birth—on a planet with entire vocabularies for ice. I see the derby skaters as a kind of “set design” of the constancy of “ice” while still operating as superheroes, for instance.
YR: I’m intrigued by your “…making a space pattern out of the design of the opening credits of North by Northwest”—do you mean all those diagonals followed by the milling crowds? (I looked up the credits on the internet). Ha! I thought my huge collection of newspaper photos and sports videos was an inexhaustible resource, but I never would have dreamed of going to movie credits—which suggests a modus operandi that might be described as “eclectic incongruity” in addition to your “social [post]modernism.” The world-is-your-oyster kind of thing—but I’m still curious about how much of these resources are buried or recognizable in the final product, and I can’t remember if you credit them in your program notes or if that’s even an issue for you.
SS: I like that—“eclectic incongruity”—because there is a layering beyond just using the credits as a potential space pattern. For instance, the “diagonals followed by the milling crowds” led me to my movement instruction library where I found my book on billiards and chose a pattern illustrating how to get a particular ball in the pocket, so I layered that on top of the idea that came from the diagonals in the film. And the milling crowds, from an overhead film shot became a small triangle of people in the downstage left corner of the space who moved using vocabulary I learned from my book on beginning Labanotation. How recognizable these resources are in the final product is not very important to me. You would be surprised how many people have not seen North by Northwest or any other film of Hitchcock’s for that matter.Although I’ve chosen a particular book, or artist, or film, because I am interested in it or it brings up issues that I am exploring, I think of the resources more as treasure chests of potential ideas to make a dance out of—blueprints or roadmaps to lend structure or ideas to start with in rehearsal: a way to both enhance and limit my imagination. Not chance procedures at all, but still a way to get outside of what’s typical or habitual in my own decision-making—I would probably never have chosen to pack six people in a small space downstage left on my own—I will identify the overall resource in the program i.e. “channeling Marnie, Psycho, and The Birds but nothing internal.I think the piece has to stand for itself, and I don’t like being too literal. Here comes that abstractionist again. Or that impressionist.
YR:Yeah, dance is such a drag in that way: unless you’re doing pantomime it is inevitably abstract and ambiguous with regard to MEANING despite the materiality of the actual bodies; so it remains always self-referential or tied to our familiarities with particular dance histories or training and so susceptible to interpretation. We give names to our configurations: clump, milling, collision, et al, which brings me to what you describe as “the current political state we are now in” and how to unpack that via “dance” in these perilous times. This may be my dilemma right now, more than yours in that I’m currently more interested in writing than in choreography.
SS: It’s true in dance–meaning is mostly in the eye of the beholder. That’s either delightful or frustrating, but it goes with the territory. The less literary an art form, the more ambiguous—though my literary tastes and collaborations tilt pretty severely toward ambiguity. But isn’t that part of the attraction too? And even when the movement goes against the grain of anything literal or character/narrative based, I still think it can have some leverage. When I’m choosing material that is socially-charged and make it collide in drastic or weird juxtapositions, it seems capable of making sparks for or marks on the viewer.
YR: How do you deal with your aging body as both performer and maker? Will you be one of the sci-fi “girls?” (One of my most brilliant choreographic decisions was to have you imitate right on the spot in performance the bravura male solo in Agon as it played out on a DVD with the player facing upstage, for your eyes only). Does the geriatric belong somewhere in what seems like your infinite collections of subject matter? Will you be performing in the new work? Knowing you, I see you reluctant to give that up. As I am. (Let’s go walking and running and gesturing into that good night!)
SS:Right now (as of August 13th, 2018), I don’t plan to be in the current piece. That will be a first for me in presenting one of my larger dance evenings. I know I’m not giving up performing as you haven’t (your many geriatric versions of Trio A and your “interventions” in your own recent work when a dancer is sick, injured, or otherwise unavailable are priceless and thrilling), but for sure I am cutting back. There are all the societal pressures of being an older woman, much less an older dancing woman. Coming to terms with decreasing physical prowess is an ongoing conversation with myself in relation to the times and the patriarchy in which I live.
YR:All the more reason to challenge those norms. A fantasy just entered my brain: you and I make a talking/dancing geriatric duet. But we should wait until you’re as old as I am!
SS:Well, Yvonne, you would be 102 when I get to be your age. Fantasy remains fantasy—which is a category of sci-fi—but I love the idea.
CONTRIBUTOR: Yvonne Rainer
Yvonne Rainer is a dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker who has been recognized as one of the leading conceptual artists of the past fifty years. She emerged in the 1960s as a pioneer of the Judson Dance Theater movement, an avant-garde performance style that blended elements of dance and visual art, and later turned to experimental film. Rainer is the recipient of numerous awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships, three Rockefeller Fellowships, a MacArthur Fellowship, a Wexner Prize, and in 2015, the Merce Cunningham Award. She currently lives and works in New York.
On September 11, 12, and 13, Roulette will host the sixth Resonant Bodies Festival. The festival gives outstanding and inventive vocalists, regardless of genre, 45 minutes of stage time to fill however they want. We asked founder and curator Lucy Dhegrae to talk about the performers on this year’s program and how she goes about filling the bill.
Kurt Gottschalk: Composer and singer Paul Pinto’s operas owe a stylistic debt to Robert Ashley but with a near-future, dystopian vision that reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s fiction. His productions can be really funny. They can also be really foreboding. Do you think he’s a cynical humorist or a humorous cynic?
Lucy Dhegrae: I would say…cynical humorist! Paul is an extremely lovely and hilarious person, so I would say he is a humorist first, cynic second. Paul has virtuosic stage charisma. His energy is infectious. I think the work he is bringing for ResBods is more on the serious side, though I am sure Paul will defy expectations—which is part of why I love his work.
KG: Helga Davis sang in the 25th anniversary staging of Philip Glass’s seminal Einstein on the Beach and has worked with director Peter Greenaway and composers Missy Mazzoli and Paola Prestini, to name a few. She’s also been likened to the great jazz singer Jeanne Lee and regularly collaborates with Davóne Tines, whose set of gospel songs at last year’s Resonant Bodies was as staggering as it was unexpected. What appeals to you about Davis’s work and how do you see Resonant Bodies crossing between, on the one hand, art song and contemporary composition and, on the other, jazz and gospel?
LD: Helga is first and foremost a powerful voice and stage presence. I would be excited to see her do pretty much anything on stage, and that is the foremost quality I look for in any artist for the festival—an amazing performer. Her work defies genre and classification, and that too makes her perfectly at home in ResBods.
What I would like us all to focus on, for this festival and all Resonant Bodies festivals, is not genre or even aesthetics: it’s the person. I want us to get to know the person not only based on the sound of their voice or the mode in which they present, but in how they present their work, whom they collaborate with, and what makes them light up on stage. Every performer on the festival has a magic, but no two performers possess the same magic. There is no universal experience of the voice, no one right way to do it. What is such a delight for me as an audience member is to see someone who wants to be there, sharing something with us that is important to them, something they love. When you ask talented performers to do this, to me—it doesn’t get any better than that.
KG: Jen Shyu is truly a multi-talent, a composer and a dancer who sings in multiple languages. On top of that, she plays violin, piano, and several East Asian string instruments—all instruments that themselves have resonant bodies, as it happens. How do you weigh all the different job titles (composer, instrumentalist) that the singers you present possess?
LD: The voice is so fascinating to me because of how it manifests itself through the individual: through their physical body, but also through each person’s history and experiences. In addition to Jen’s training in a variety of instruments, she has also trained in vocal styles that accompany the instruments. You can hear the multifaceted stylistic approach in her voice: virtuosic timbre! She is one of the rare performers who embodies a variety of approaches to the voice from dozens of influences. So thrilled she can be a part of this year’s festival.
KG: Nathalie Joachim has worked in classical, hip hop, jazz, indie-rock, and electronic music. She’s also a member of the Grammy-winning chamber ensemble Eighth Blackbird and has performed at the Bang on a Can Marathon with her duo Flutronix. I understand that you don’t put any restrictions on the performers, but do you think the festival has a particular aesthetic?
LD: Our motto is “curated unpredictability”—I myself am very much an aesthetic omnivore, and I like that our artists (like Nathalie) are too. We’re a home for artists who don’t belong to any one genre. The music world is a geography: artists are metropoles. Genre and aesthetic interests travel through and around the artists like roadways, but they are not the destination. I know that’s a giant metaphor, but this idea of Resonant Bodies illuminating the “map” of the adventurous vocal world is part of the function that we serve in the community. We can’t possibly show the whole map, or even conceive of its entirety, but we can begin to know it by presenting individuals who have their own unique domain. I think also by covering a greater literal geography with the festival, year by year we can bring together some of the various parts. Spoken word, beatboxing, rap—I’m interested in and open to presenting these in the future.
KG: Caroline Shaw is getting to be a well-known name. She’s the youngest-ever recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music and she’s built quite a following over the last few years and I’m sure will be one of the more anticipated sets on the program. But I’m sure it’s more than a prestige booking. What made you want to include her on the program?
LD: I think most people know Caroline as a composer, violinist, and/or ensemble singer, but probably many of them don’t know her as much as a solo vocalist. She is hugely talented, and I wanted to see what she would do with the prompt of “here’s 45 minutes: approach this space as a solo vocalist.” As one of her fans, I’m really looking forward to hearing her on the festival! I know she has been developing this material for a while, and I am so grateful to her for cooking up something special just for ResBods.
KG: The German soprano Sarah Maria Sun put out a truly remarkable record on Mode Records, performing challenging works by Heinz Holliger, Salvatore Sciarrino, György Kurtág and others. At Roulette, she’ll be presenting a very different program, with works by Georges Aperghis and Rebecca Saunders, among others. I wonder if you could say something about what virtuosity means to a singer and what it means to you as a curator.
LD: Vocal virtuosity was probably my starting place as a curator. And there are many kinds of virtuosos in singing: virtuosic range, dynamic control, language, character, timbre, stylistic flexibility, emotional communication, audience interaction and so on. Sarah is not only a virtuoso in many of these aspects, but she has the added bonus of being completely compelling and vulnerable on stage. Virtuosity is totally worthless if one doesn’t have that, and Sarah has it in spades. I’ve been a huge fan of hers for almost a decade so I am over the moon that she is able to join us on this year’s fest.
KG: Pamela Z is an artist well known to Roulette audiences; she’s appeared on Roulette’s stages a number of times over the years and is a forerunner in working with voice and electronics. Do you think electronics is still a novelty in new music? Is it a crutch? Or is it just a more versatile piano that’s easier to move around?
LD: I think electronics (in all its different forms) is an instrument, and Pamela Z is a modern master of that instrument. She is a great example of someone actually performing with electronics. She’s not staring dull-eyed at a laptop; she is a wizard casting a spell. Is the piano a crutch for Elton John? Is the guitar a crutch for Jimi Hendrix? In an interview I did with Jennifer Walshe for the 2017 Festival, I asked her about the line in her New Discipline (non)manifesto that mentions “maintain[ing] sexualised eye contact with audience members whilst manipulating electronics”—while this is kind of a joke, it’s also serious. Jen recognizes how difficult it is to manipulate electronics on stage in a way that keeps the audience engaged with the performance. Pamela Z has mastered this. I bow down to her artistry!
KG: Gelsey Bell is another name familiar in these circles.She was an artist-in-residence at Roulette in 2015 and has been commissioned by Roulette with the Jerome Foundation. She’s also recorded works by Robert Ashley and John Cage and last year released an album with violist and composer John King. To say she’s a name to watch out for would be to put it mildly. No doubt she deserves the attention she’s received, but what do you think accounts for her star power?
LD: There are some people who, when they walk out on stage, without singing a note or saying anything, I just instantly fall in love with them. Gelsey is one of these performers. When she’s on stage, you feel her excitement to be there, and you feel her genuine curiosity and commitment to what she’s performing. This seems so simple, but it’s one of the most important tools of a good performer: the ability to reach down within yourself and connect to your love of the thing. It’s almost child-like. And it’s completely disarming for me as an audience member. The performer proceeds with (seemingly) zero self-consciousness, and so do we. Gelsey’s work pioneers new sounds from a place of love and joy, and it’s just a pleasure to take in.
KG: Last but certainly not least, we get to one Lucy Dhegrae. As a curator and producer, how do you decide when to include yourself on a bill and what can we expect from your appearance on the festival’s opening night?
LD: The first year we did Resonant Bodies, I performed as well as produced/curated, and while it was thrilling, it was also physically exhausting and not sustainable year after year. I swore I wouldn’t perform on the festival again until I had lots of staff support and I felt like I had something really special to share. I feel ready for this year’s festival because both of those criteria are met.
Resonant Bodies is by no means my vanity project; it is very much built by and for a community of curious vocalists. It is a lot to get up on that stage and share your heart and soul—a precious gift that an artist shares with the Festival and the audience. I can only be a proper steward of that gift if I myself go through it. I will be making music with friends new and old on stage, presenting new works as well as ones I am familiar with. Looking back at 2013, I feel I have changed and grown so much as an artist since then, and I am excited to invite the audience into my musical microcosm for 45 minutes.
CONTRIBUTOR: Kurt Gottschalk
Kurt Gottschalk writes about contemporary composition and improvisation for DownBeat, The New York City Jazz Record, The Wire, Time Out New York, and other publications and has produced and hosted the Miniature Minotaurs radio program on WFMU for the last ten years.
Tell me a little bit about your upcoming album. On November 2nd, my album Ultraviolet will be coming out on Warp Records. I’m really excited because I’ve been a huge fan of Warp since I was a teenager. Many of the artists on Warp are why I got into making electronic music in the first place—Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Boards of Canada, etc. These musicians have been hugely influential to me in so many ways. To be part of that legacy is really affirming to me as an artist, especially since I’ve faced so much rejection for not fitting within an easily categorizable musical genre. It felt so amazing to be accepted by a label *because* I’m such a weirdo! This record feels like a culmination of what I’ve been working towards for the past few years; it’s all prepared piano, but I designed a lot of detailed sound-worlds around the piano using different synths and electronic textures, so it sounds very lush and dreamy. It’s also more improvisatory than my past records—all of the pieces began as improvisations that I recorded and later refined, so I sound really untethered and free on the album. Writing and working on the piano parts for this album really changed the way I play, and I feel like I’ve discovered a new way of playing my instrument that is idiosyncratic to my personal musical tendencies. You were the sole engineer and producer of your last five solo albums. Why do it yourself? I’m a control freak! Haha. But really, I studied recording engineering and production in college because I really wanted to be able to make music without relying on other people to record or produce it for me. I was naturally interested in it to begin with, and I always felt that working alone forced me to come up with creative solutions to any roadblocks I’d encounter. And of course, another reason is the fact that I’ve always been hyper-aware of the fact that the production world is very male-dominated, and I feared that letting someone else produce my music meant that they would end up getting all the credit for it. I wanted to show that I was capable of doing it without anyone’s help to make sure people knew I was the mastermind behind all the intricacies in my music. Now that I’m a bit older and have established myself by making a few records all on my own, I feel more relaxed about working with other people. Ultraviolet is the first record I let someone else produce with me, and it was really thrilling to get a different perspective on my music for the first time. How has your creative voice developed since BLOODROOT, and through your work with Oneotrix Point Never? My entire creative process has changed since Bloodroot, and it made me really excited that I was able to shift gears so radically for Ultraviolet and create a sound that was completely new for me. Bloodroot sounds just a little bit stiff and academic to me to me at times; while writing it, I was sitting at the piano with staff paper tediously writing these awkward, little melodies with weird, angular harmonies that were sort of uncomfortable—physically—for my hands. Most of the songs on that record were so short simply because the music was challenging for me to write, and I’d get exhausted and want to move on to something new! It’s not the most enjoyable music for me to play either because of some of the positions and patterns. But Ultraviolet is rooted in improvisation to a greater degree, and I really just let myself go wild without overthinking chord changes or harmonic structures. I stopped intellectualizing things so much and forgot about theory. So much of it was about the physical response I would have to the piano while improvising patterns and playing around with stretching and compressing rhythmic phrasing in new ways. Working with Dan (Oneohtrix Point Never) has also opened my eyes to new creative possibilities. I am really grateful to be part of his MYRIAD performances because he has such an incredible vision that is executed beautifully on every level: from the lights, to the video work, to the stage design, to the giant trash bag inflatables that slowly and menacingly inflate during the performance beside us. He really thought about how to create a multi-sensory experience for the audience on every level, and that’s definitely something I see myself striving for in the future. I don’t want to just play a concert; I want to give the audience an experience that delivers both sonically and visually, so it’s fully immersive. I want people to feel like they’ve slipped into another dimension for an hour. Tell me about the dialogue between musical traditions (New Music, Metal, Minimalism) that we hear in your music. What’s in there that’s hidden? That we might not catch at first listen? There are a lot more similarities between these genres than meets the eye, I think. When I started getting into black metal, my first thought was that it reminded me exactly of minimalism: both genres rely heavily on repeated notes/tremolos, a steady pulse, and a commitment to tonality. I’ve transcribed black metal songs on piano, and they legit sound like they could be Philip Glass piano etudes. A lot of black metal is actually pretty compositional if you ignore the terrifying banshee vocals—especially 2nd wave black metal, which to me is very catchy and melodic. Someday, I’d love to transcribe a metal piece for a chamber ensemble just to prove how similar it can be to contemporary New Music since they have really similar foundations. Tell me about the role experimentation plays in your work. There was a point in high school when I was in a practice room playing piano, and I heard someone down the hall playing the same exact piece, only way better. It was sort of a eureka moment for me because I realized I was striving to do something that a lot of other people could do way better than me, and it suddenly didn’t feel exciting to me anymore. I obviously love playing piano and learning music, but I personally don’t find satisfaction from playing pieces that every pianist has played. I wanted to seek out the weird, unexplored repertoire that was shunned by academia and discover new ways of playing piano. The piano department at my college didn’t want to give me academic credit for learning how to play prepared piano or contemporary music, which only made me want to do it more. For me, it’s not just about being different for the sake of being unique, but I genuinely love discovering new timbral combinations that feel wholly unique to my creative voice. When I made Bloodroot, I wanted to make a record that was comprised entirely of piano timbres, and I experimented with generating sounds from the piano in so many different ways. It challenged me and really opened me up to new sonic combinations I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. I am always going to be pushing myself to find uniquely different techniques of playing piano and new ways of combining it with other timbres to make it sound fresh and new. What are the hardest material restraints you’ve faced as an artist? That’s easy: not having the money or resources to make the music I want to make. Since I was never able to afford studio time, there are bird chirps and weird environmental artifacts on all of my records because I was always recording on my piano at my parent’s house. It’s been a huge blessing to receive the Van Lier Fellowship from Roulette in that it’s opened up so many possibilities I’ve never had before. When I first moved to NYC, I was freelancing as an accompanist, and I didn’t have a lot of extra funds to spend on things that weren’t food, rent, or a metrocard. Now I’m able to buy equipment and gear that I’ve wanted for a long time. The Van Lier Fellowship has also allowed me to work with other artists on my projects and actually pay them for their work when I wasn’t able to do that before. I’ve wanted to collaborate with video artists for so, so long, and I’ve been using part of my fellowship to work with with a designer to make projections for my upcoming performances. I’ve been dabbling in video art myself for a few years, but I’m by no means an expert and have really limited production capabilities in that realm. I’m really thrilled that now I am able to work with someone who can elevate the visual aspect of my performances to a higher level. One last question… I was checking out your Twitter account and there’s a lot of figure skating. Are you really into figure skating? Has anyone ever skated to your music? What’s up with figure skating? Yes, I am really, really into figure skating, both as a spectator and participant. I just love that it’s such a beautiful, expressive sport that’s also dangerous as hell. It looks so easy, but it’s SO hard. And it’s inextricably tied to musical expression! You won’t be considered a great skater if you don’t have a strong grasp of conveying the emotions behind the music you’re skating to. A lot of skaters I’ve met are also musicians, actually. I’m also really into the idea of a sport being so extreme that you willingly hurl yourself into the air at high speeds and land on ice with hundreds of pounds per square inch of force. That is absolutely wild to me. I love it. And it’s been great having a hobby that challenges me in similar ways music does – like music, skating requires a ton of discipline and practice. So much of skating is repeating the same movements over and over again, and I get a really big thrill from mastering the smallest maneuvers. As of now, no one has ever skated to my music but I would absolutely die of happiness if someone did, especially if they were Russian and prodigious. (No country is dominating figure skating like Russia is right now.)
CONTRIBUTOR: s. karabush
susan/snooze karabush is a musician who writes and dances. He has worked at Roulette since 2013, currently as Director of Operations.