Category: Blogcast

Joan La Barbara at 70

By Mia Wendel-DiLallo

The little chilling details speak volumes about the complexities of an individual.” — Joan La Barbara

In honor of her 70th birthday, vocalist and composer Joan La Barbara premieres a new piece for the stage — “The Wanderlusting of Joseph C.” — an epic song cycle materializing from the life, work, and dreams of the reclusive visual artist Joseph Cornell. For her followers, the work will be a surprising departure from the virtuosic vocal abstractions that they have come to know. Joan’s performances typically undulate from wordless whispers, warbles, and hums to her famous circular breathing acrobatics, examining the use of the voice-as-instrument in resonant pulsations of sound. By contrast, “The Wanderlusting of Joseph C.” returns in cyclical fashion to the artist’s interest in language itself. The libretto, written by author Monique Truong, unravels the tragic nature of Cornell’s personal relationships, and is sung by a collection of greats from the operatic world, including opera diva Lauren Flanigan, baritone Mario Diaz-Moresco, and the young soprano Julia Meadows. Music will be played by Ne(x)tworks, with cellist Yves Dharamraj, harpist Shelley Burgon, Miguel Frasconi on glass, flute, and laptop, pianist Stephen Gosling, trombonist Christopher McIntyre, and Joan La Barbara herself performing vocals.

Joan first became acquainted with Cornell through his melancholy shadow-box collections of trinkets, letters, toys, and photographs, but it wasn’t until she was sent a book of his dreams that she truly came to know him. The collection, which included fragments from his journals extracted by editor Catherine Corman, was sent to Joan from Exact Change publishing house as a request that she create a work inspired by one of their publications. Joan began to play with the excerpts, seeing what music they could reveal, and ended up composing “Habité par ses rêves et les phantasms,” for voice and hand-held percussion which she premiered in 2009 at Issue Project Room.  Like Cornell’s shadow-box pieces, the fragments provided a unique window into his world, and served as a jumping off point for Joan’s research into his life. Biographies such as Deborah Soloman’s “Utopia Parkway,” aptly named after the street that Cornell lived on in Flushing, Queens, further fleshed out his complex character for Joan.

Cornell’s life was stunted by an unhappy childhood, and as a result he never strayed too far from New York. He would spend hours wandering the city, scanning thrift stores, streets, and the Queens shoreline in search of the objects one sees populating his work. The little bottles that crop up in the boxes came from these expeditions, as do odds and ends ranging from scissors and small figurines to the “leftovers” from the 1939 World’s Fair held in Flushing. He would then take his spoils home with him and categorize them, and the objects would become his mind’s travelogue.

Dream-like themselves, the shadow-boxes created a purely imagined universe — one in which Cornell could live out the life he could never have. The shadow-boxes illustrate a “wanderlusting,” a coined word found within Cornell’s personal writings, in their desperate focus on distant places, intimate fan letters to famous actresses and ballerinas, and uncanny collaged creations of objects and images. In German, wanderlust is defined as a strong and innate desire to wander or travel. While this definition gives agency to the wanderer, it does, perhaps as in Cornell’s case, show the hopelessness of achieving true satisfaction in wandering. Through his artistic creations Cornell could portray a freedom that he could not find himself, and it is this passion and pain that lead Joan to her opera.

“The Wanderlusting of Joseph C.” was born from a creative process that Joan has honed for years: making lists. She begins every piece by writing down lists of her ideas. These verbal collections are sometimes borrowed from other people’s written or spoken words, but are mostly her own fragmentary contemplations. She then works over the fragments to discover where the music calls out to her. Over the course of her career she has compiled thousands of these lists, mixing and matching a collage of her selected thoughts and ideas to form the whole of the piece.

Although she doesn’t consider herself a researcher or historian, Joan’s recent ensemble works have been heavily focused on the excavation of real events through lyrics. “A Murmuration of Chibok,” with lyrics also written by Monique Truong, was created by Joan as a way of honoring the memory and willpower of the over 250 girls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014. To not let the world forget their voices, Joan imagined the joy and laughter of the girls right before their kidnapping, returning to school with lively innocent calls and chatter to each other. The piece, which was presented in 2016 at both National Sawdust and Merkin Concert Hall, will again be performed in May at the Bang on a Can Marathon at the Brooklyn Museum. The work features a heartfelt performance from a children’s choir comprised almost entirely of girls who are poignantly the same age as the young Nigerian women, when they were abducted. Joan has also undertaken a project on Virginia Woolf’s letters, writing, and personal history, in the hopes of weaving Woolf and Cornell’s stories together in a future piece. Through an award from the Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition in 2004, Joan was given access to the British Library’s collection of letters and notes. Inspired by Woolf’s communication with Leonard and her sisters, and her powerful suicide letters, Joan delved into a new work that will intimately bring to light Woolf’s words. The opera will focus on Woolf’s “Moments of Being,” the posthumously published collection of autobiographical essays in which the writer explores moments of reality, versus what she considers the status quo of non-reality. The performance will put special emphasis on Woolf’s difficulty processing the death of her mother, and, of particular interest to Joan, Woolf’s dream of creating a time machine.

“The Wanderlusting of Joseph C.” and Joan’s relationship with Woolf’s letters mark a wonderful cyclical completion in Joan’s artistic career, in a return to words as a source of inspiration. As a young student, Joan was dually enrolled in the English and Music Departments at Syracuse University, and even recalls an essay she wrote during her studies, in which she explored color symbolism in Woolf’s beautiful novel Orlando: A Biography. This interest in words, however, receded early in Joan’s career, and was replaced by sounds and song that seemed to touch somewhere beyond our language, still communicating volumes, but without speech. In her works today, they have risen to the surface again, in wonderful creative collaborations with artists and writers, both living and legendary. Observing this cyclical narrative illuminates analogies between Joan’s list-making, Cornell’s collecting, and even Woolf’s stream of consciousness, that perhaps indicate an immediate induction of “The Wanderlusting of Joseph C.” into the canon of curiosities.

A Mixography of Mixology

By David Weinstein

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The Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair

In 1913 composer Maurice Ravel was recorded playing his own piano music using the exotic Welte-Mignon recording process. This was a player piano that captured not just the notes but dynamics and tempos as well. In that incredible year and for some decades forward, many composers did the same, including Paderewski, Busoni, Grieg, Scriabin, and Debussy. The remarkable thing about hearing these is the loose and funky approach they had to the music. Some of these characters made extra cash playing piano in bar rooms and brothels. Imagine The Sunken Cathedral as a barrel house, stride piano romp. Our romantic interpretations go sour.

These recordings are an historical marker in our appreciation of the composer as performer. This tradition is ancient but thinly documented. Mozart’s “embellishments” in his live shows are legend, and are preserved in transcription. The practice certainly goes back millennia. Imagine riffing in Gregorian chant, for sure.

The Festival of Mixology is Roulette’s celebration of this tradition. Technology meets the hand of the maker. This is key. The composer’s voice is uninterrupted by interpreters or production noise. The MixFest focuses on “new and unusual uses of technology that incorporate sound”. Technology liberates the composer to be more than two hands. Over the last century that has become very interesting.

For example, the use of the turntable as a musical instrument. John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape No. 1 of 1939 used variable speed turntables and pre-recorded test tone records. Pierre Schaeffer went further using a disk-cutting lathe, four turntables, a four-channel mixer, filters, an echo chamber, and a mobile recording unit. He is also the first composer to use magnetic tape (incredibly liberating then, but clumsy compared to our digital currency). Schaeffer also started incorporating noises as musical material, which launched musique concrète.

Then we have arguably the greatest multimedia event of the twentieth century (though John Cage’s HPSCHD is a close second). The Philips Pavilion of 1958 in Brussels was designed by architect Le Corbusier, and elevated by the great composer/engineer Iannis Xenakis and the sounds of Edgar Varèse’s Poème électronique (hundreds of speakers throughout!). It combined architecture, multi-channel sound, projections, sculpture, light, and audience interaction. You can’t touch this. They tore it down.

My own first experience with electronic music performance was nothing like this. The lights went down and two pin lights appeared on the speakers. In the dark we listened to a spectacle of stereo sound. Years later a revolt occurred. Composer/performers actually appeared on the stage with their apparatus. Diddling and tweaking sounds. Over time this, too, grew tiresome. Watching someone work is a piece you only need to see once. So, composers began to get off the table of gear, with controller gloves and wands and all types of gadgets. What do we need to see? What do we want to hear?

Where do we go now?

This year’s Mixology Festival is an investigation into space. Multi-channel sound can create illusion and wonder and an artful experience. Curator Michael Schumacher has long championed this aural magic. His Diapason Gallery was the longest running, and only dedicated, listening space for sound art in New York. The hand, and the voice, of the maker will be heard. Go listen.

David Weinstein is a co-founder of Roulette and curator of the first Festival of Mixology in 1991. He is currently working to restore historic radio broadcasts, digitize the Roulette audio archive, and introduce new artists on his radio show on WFMU.

Roulette’s Mixology Festival Runs from Feb 22 – Feb 25 and presents works by: Jim O’Rourke, Olivia Block, Jason Lescalleet, Mario de Vega, Cecilia Lopez, Greg Fox, Stefan Tcherepnin, Eli Keszler, Kenneth Kirschner, Daniel Neumann, Anne Guthrie, Ben Manley, Liz Gerring, Michael Schumacher, Leila Bordreuil, and, Ursula Scherrer.

CURATOR-TO-CURATOR

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Jennifer Lafferty In Conversation with Alexis Convento

Since 2014, dancer and curator Jennifer Lafferty has invited choreographers to present as part of [DANCEROULETTE]’s New Movement Series. As she begins her fourth season this February, Alexis Convento, curator of the CURRENT SESSIONS contemporary performance series, speaks to Jennifer about the “emerging” artist, non-curation, and fluidity between curatorial and performance roles.

Alexis Convento: Hi Jennifer, thank you for taking the time. I’m excited to speak with someone else who moves between artistic and curatorial roles. Having experience on both sides can bring a lot to a curatorial practice. To begin, I’d like to learn a little more about how you started with the New Movement Series.

Jennifer Lafferty: It was good timing, really. The New Movement Series was my first curatorial opportunity. Most days I still call myself a performer–I work with a number of choreographers, most recently Rebecca Lazier and Beth Gill. But I also try to see as much performance as possible. I love how many ways dance can be presented to the audience. Works-in-progress at Movement Research, mixed-bills at Center for Performance Research, and seasoned choreographers at The Kitchen, New York Live Arts, and The Chocolate Factory… I try to see as much as I can. The city is always changing and filled with good ideas. After each performance, I like to start a conversation about the choreography presented. This is what led me to where I am now. After seeing one another at several shows, a former Roulette curator reached out about programming the New Movement Series. This was back in 2014, and February will now be my fourth series.

AC: Yes, great timing. So tell me more about the New Movement Series. What artists are involved? What sets this series apart?

JL: The New Movement Series was established as an “emerging” artist platform. I found that term a bit challenging at first and spent a lot of time trying to define for myself who I considered an “emerging” artist. Ultimately I decided to interpret the term broadly and focus on young artists who can create suspense through movement and experiment with different techniques. What’s most important is that I find choreographers who are always curious. It doesn’t matter to me if artists are classically-trained, but rather that they are immersed in a personal practice, and that they continuously explore their craft.

And to answer your second question, what separates New Movement is that I try to work towards an idea of non-curation. I think it’s particularly important when working with artists in the early stages of their choreographic development–

AC: –I’m so used to doing just the opposite. Whenever I put together a show I am always searching for a through-line, trying to fit narratives and themes together. It’s nice that you can let go of control in that way. Can you elaborate on what you mean by non-curation? Why is it crucial for emerging platforms like the New Movement Series?

JL: There are so many practices out there,  I want to let them come into contact with one another. As an organizer, I try to listen and keep an open mind. I also think it’s important to provide opportunities for emerging artists. With New Movement I want to give young artists the space they need to explore, make mistakes, and take risks. To allow room for failure as part of the research in early stages of making. If these choreographers have the opportunity to explore it’s unfair for me to limit their creativity by restricting them to a certain concept, style, or focus.  My first concern is to provide the resources, time, space, and personnel, for these artists. What I ask in return is trust, transparency, and a shared commitment to the presentation of great dance for an audience that is curious.

AC: It is important to make space for artists in early stages of development. Okay, last question: I feel like this may come naturally for you because you’re often around other artists, but how do you think the part of the curator differs from that of the performer. Do you find it challenging to switch between roles?

JL: Luckily, as a performer, I find myself among people who are constantly investigating, pulling apart, and discussing performance in a multitude of ways. This contact allows me to learn about new movement, and encounter artists as they are building work.

A question that I often revisit is how much my own aesthetic should read within the New Movement Series. I try to find balance by letting the space between performer and curator remain fluid while organizing evenings that allow for multiple perspectives and entry points.

[DANCEROULETTE]’S  New Movement Series runs from February 15-18, 2017, and presents choreography by Abby Levine, Anonymous – Cori Kresge, EmmaGrace Skove-Epes, Jessie Gold, John Hoobyar, Maddie Schimmel, Marc Crousillat, Marilyn Maywald, Melanie Maar, Netta Yerushalmy and Marc Crousillat, Rebecca Brooks, and Tatyana Tenenbaum.

An Interview With Susie Ibarra

By Mia Wendel-DiLallo

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Percussionist Susie Ibarra is a cartographer of sound. Her work in installation, performance, composition, curation, and research connects indigenous practices with a modern voice, creating an auditory space where improbable unions are realized. Her projects have spanned from Kalinga Music of the North Cordilleras to the Aeta music from Zambales; from choirs of Visayas to circadian rhythm practices of the Cayuga Nations; and to many other regions and cultures across the globe. Ibarra’s pieces are often polyrhythmic, with a primordial pulse one imagines drawing from ancient wisdom. She brings humanity, nature, and collective consciousness into an environment to be performed and experienced. On February 8, 2017, Ibarra and her new collective, Dreamtime Ensemble, demo music from their forthcoming album, Perception, in a premiere event at Roulette. The performance features Claudia Acuna on vocals, Jennifer Choi on violin, Yves Dharamraj on cello, Jake Landau on guitar, piano, and keyboards, Jean-Luc Sinclair working the electronics, and Susie Ibarra’s masterful percussion — moving fluidly from solos to trios to quartets. The ensemble’s title comes from the practice of Philippine T’boli Dreamweavers and Australian Aboriginals whose dream worlds mirror their waking lives. It is an allusion to “time outside of time,” as Ibarra puts it, and how our perceptions change accordingly. With Perception on the horizon, Mia Wendel-DiLallo interviewed Ibarra on her central role both as a percussionist and organizer:

Mia Wendel-DiLallo: How did you begin playing music?

Susie Ibarra: I started studying music at the age of 3. I studied and played classical piano and sang in choir throughout my grade school and in high school. My uncle and aunt had a kulintang set in their house (Philippine bowed  gongs). Mostly it was Philippine choruses that would visit our homes during the winter holidays. Not until I moved to New York City did I start to play regularly in Philippine kulintang, and Javanese and Balinese gamelan groups. I also played piano and organ in church. In high school I was invited to play in a punk band 10 days after I got a drum set, when I was 16 years old. My parents allowed me to play performances on the weekends in Houston, Texas. I first heard a recording while in high school of Thelonious Monk’s Dream on a college radio in Houston and a recording of Sun Ra’s Arkestra playing “Pink Elephants.” It influenced my interest for playing and listening to jazz.

I came to New York City to study visual arts and languages in college and I brought my drums. Shortly after I began taking lessons on  drum set in New York and Teaneck, New Jersey with Sun Ra’s drummer, the late Earl Buster Smith.  I started playing jazz and I also used to play solos down by the Hudson River in the West Village. Many of my first performances for events, weddings, etc… were supported by some of the Lesbian community in New York, and also I played small shows, cabarets and in the downtown experimental and jazz scene. These were some of my first experiences studying and working in music.

MWD: What does percussion do that isn’t achieved by other types of instrumentation?

SI: Percussion can provide those magical rhythms that sync and support other instruments playing in the ensemble. It has the capacity to create drama with one huge range of dynamics, colors, and textures.

MWD: How do your humanitarian interests manifest themselves in your work with music, both in performance and installation?

SI: Perhaps our humanitarian interests are always there whether subtle or direct. The longer I continue my music practice, like a tree, it has its branches that grow and connect, sometimes break and, if we’re lucky, regenerate. A desire to help others especially if there is a crisis or a definite need is something inherent in so many people.  My work archiving and filming Indigenous music in the Philippines over a period of 12 years brought this out. There are so many struggles with the lack of environmental and cultural preservation, issues with climate change, social, and economic inequity, that how could I not become involved in unpacking and addressing the issues?

Recently, I started to collaborate on social projects in Brazil with Chef David Hertz, around gastronomy and music for the underprivileged communities. I am about to begin two climate change projects, one scoring a film by Sean Devlin about the story of the Visayas and the displacement and loss after devastating storms. Another is a collaboration with glaciologist Michelle Koppes, which we will begin developing in 2017, where I will be recording glaciers and music communities along the Himalayas, and composing a sonic map for this story of the Himalayas—its glaciers and its communities, particularly along Tibet and India.

MWD: What are your thoughts on gender politics as a percussionist?

SI: It depends if I am thinking about it as an American or a Filipina, but usually I am trying to listen and think about it from both perspectives to see how one view can live with the other. America is a patriarchal society, while the Philippines is very much a matriarchal society. Percussion music has historically been passed down for the majority by men. In the Philippines, the percussion, particularly gong music, has been passed down through the women, and the string music is traditionally passed down by men, especially in the south, Mindanao. Just as historically many of the great composers in the Philippines have been from the north Luzon and so many of the great singers are from the Visayas in the middle.

Our great iconic composer/improviser, humanitarian, and dear friend, whom we just sadly lost, Pauline Oliveros, once told me that when she was a little girl she was asked to go pick an instrument to play in class. She went to pick up the drums and the teacher handed her a flute. Isn’t it strange that we can also place a gender on instruments, inanimate objects? I have been feeling compelled to write something about this more in depth, it is a strange phenomenon that became normalized. It was not an easy time for me growing up. I was definitely a minority as a female percussionist. Also as I taught workshops across the US, I would hear a recurring story of young women saying “ I wanted to play drums but…” and then their story. I think again it is very strange to place a gender on instruments. I am hopeful though that there are more women artists who are playing percussion and drum-set today and support this, of course. I think it is wonderful how people like Mindy Abovitz of TomTom Magazine have been able to feature so many women drummers and percussionists.

MWD: Could you describe your approach to sound installation?

SI: I am very much interested in both live and immersive music and sometimes connecting them both together in one time-sensitive piece. Sound installation for me is very much a site-specific experience. I am thinking about creating a work that collaborates with what is asked of for the environment, the space, and the community.  I am thinking about the people that will visit, walk, and listen and watch the work and focusing on creating music or sound pieces that either fit, or engage in the most optimum way.

I recently scored a piece for a speaker installation in Jackson, Wyoming at the National Wildlife Museum 2015 outdoor exhibition of Ai WeiWei’s Circle of Animals Zodiac Heads. Upon discussing with the museum’s curator, it was apparent that although it was a touring exhibit, they wanted a work that was grounded along the sculpture trail. We chose speakers to install along the pathway of the exhibit and I invited sound engineer/designer Wayne Horwitz of the Exploratorium in San Francisco to install the work with me.

I also have been exploring possible collaborations and storytelling with modular music app walks in cities. There is one, Digital Sanctuaries, New York City, which engages with twelve historic sites in Lower Manhattan commissioned by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and New Music USA, one which engages with poets’ work and a historic walk in North Pittsburgh through the City of Asylum.

Publishing in 2017 for iPad and iPhone will be a modular app for architecture and music with Moroccan architect Aziza Chaouni, titled Musical Water Routes of Fez, in the old city, the Medina of Fez, Morocco. This modular app walk connects people to historic sites along historic river routes and fountains in the old city. Fez used to be called the city of 1,000 rivers and many of the rivers were cemented up and became polluted.

Surround sound has been an intriguing way to move sound and create another layered environment amidst live performance. One piece, titled Hidden Truths: Prayer for a Forgotten World, which I created during a residency with Harvestworks, incorporates field recordings of seven indigenous Philippine music groups that I have worked with and archived, while live performance, by Electric Kulintang, was in the center of the circle.

I also created a surround sound piece at EMPAC in Troy while conducting 80 live percussionists, titled Circadian Rhythms, which incorporated 8.1 surround sound of field recordings from the Macaulay Library of Bird and Animal sounds at Cornell.

At the moment I am thinking of scaling a polyrhythm game as a city installation for people to play on. I am very much interested in looking at cities as a creative palette and find them to be a great place for interdisciplinary collaboration, intervention, and creative research. I am also fascinated with the creative practice of mapping in many forms.

MWD: How do you see perception embodied in your composition for Dreamtime Ensemble?

SI: Perception is the title of my forthcoming album on Decibel Collective performed and recorded by the Dreamtime Ensemble. Perception allows the ability to take in sensory information, make it into something meaningful and to interact with our environment. It is through all of our senses that we can experience the world. There also isn’t a fixed meaning to anything. The meaning of something can change depending on how a person senses sees, hears, smells, or tastes. And yet, we depend on perception for living and surviving with each interpretation and interaction. Perception is different from reality and it becomes one’s reality. I like very much the quote by Albert Einstein: “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

The pieces for this album were inspired by the idea of perception and sensory experiences. In dealing with the process of grieving and loss in my life I found that it is a time when my senses have been very vivid. I found that in my perceptions I didn’t believe in fairness or justice as much as I believed in goodness and kindness. Some of these compositions are inspired and composed around these ideas which I also found are beautiful spoken about by Lao Tse in the Tao Te Ching. They are titled Goodness, Alegria, Memory Game, The Uncertainty Principle, among other pieces. I composed these pieces from experiences of sensing these emotions, thoughts, actions, or ideas. I also like very much the idea that the perception of each of the pieces can change depending on its interpretation of being played and which musician(s) it will focus on.

Susie Ibarra’s Dreamtime Ensemble performs at Roulette on Wednesday, February 8, 2017.

New Roulette TV: Gelsey Bell and Erik Ruin: Prisoner’s Song

Roulette TV sits down with Gelsey Bell and Erik Ruin to discuss their performance at Roulette, the way in which they developed this piece, and how the piece is meant to function for a viewer.

Prisoner’s Song is a performance created by composer Gelsey Bell and visual artist Erik Ruin about the prison experience. Using shadow puppets and projections alongside a variety of musical idioms, the piece draws on historic ballads, poetry, audio interviews with people who have spent time in prison, and other primary sources to create a fragmentary encounter with the states of mind and heart prison engenders.

Produced by
Jim Staley

Directed and Edited by
Wolfgang Daniel

Photographed by
Wolfgang Daniel
Sonia Li

New Roulette TV: BERANGERE MAXIMIN // Siklon Sound Objects, Microphonics, Digital Chimeras

Roulette TV talks with Bérangère Maximin about the solo set at Roulette, the development of her creative practice, and her relationship to music.

Bérangère Maximin’s music engages the listener in considerations of space and textures. Since her debut album, Tant Que Les Heures Passent on Tzadik (2008), she has gradually developed a hyper-personal style, creating sensual, hypnotic, sultry pieces with immediate impact. The electroacoustic composer’s repertoire is marked by encounters that have inspired her writing in various degrees.

She studied under the musique concrète composer Denis Dufour (a member of the famous GRM and a pupil of Pierre Schaeffer). Taking inspiration from the New York improv scene and her European tour in solo and in duo with the likes of Fred Frith, Fennesz, and Rhys Chatham, her work developed towards live practice, playing with laptops and midi controllers delivering what she calls her digital chimeras. This work led her to compose No One Is An Island (Sub Rosa, 2012), the second and only collaborative album so far, and the confirmation of the respect Bérangère had started to get from established artists. The minimal series Infinitesimal (Sub Rosa, 2013) describes a slow transformation, a deep introspection far removed from the convention of the genre, very special imaginary areas where only matters the physicality of the moment. Dangerous Orbits, out since May 2015, is her first album for Crammed Discs’ Made To Measure series.

Produced By
Jim Staley

Directed by
Wolfgang Daniel

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By Mia Wendel-DiLallo

Archivist of the unexpected; Documentarian of energy; Emissary of the omniscient; Steward of experimenters. — It is hard to imagine that these divergent and elusive nomenclatures could describe a single person. Yet Victoria Keddie encapsulates these (and many more) titles, and assumes each with the precision of a scientist, the imagination of an artist, and the curiosity of an explorer.

For fall 2016, Victoria has been invited by Roulette director Jim Staley to organize a video-based festival that approaches the medium in a new way, excavating what is going on in experimental video right now. The festival is multi-day, running from November 2 – 4, and will return in the fall of 2017 to explore timely topics in video composition. For the November 2016 iteration, Victoria has divided the festival into three days, under the titles: Parallax View; TV EYE; and Encoder/Decoder.

In Parallax View, Victoria presents artists who use synthetic space and fantastical architectural environments, and who engage in building and creating elaborate worlds. It features Jeremy Couillard, who premiers his virtual reality game which begins at the last ten minutes of your life, and includes audience engagement in this sinister activity. Victoria brings Canadian artist Sabrina Ratté to New York, for a live video performance of her architectural mapping projections which depict an entirely imagined universe. TV EYE features artists using different signatures of televisual practice, including explorations of their involvement with a live audience, camera play, seriality, and timing. The evening includes a screening component as well as live performance. Encoder/Decoder, presents artists whose process takes precedence over the product, in a night of live performances delving into signal-based works for sound as well as video. These artists work with restrictive systems using algorithms or a series of rules and constraints to produce the piece.

This project is a culmination of Victoria’s unique audio visual explorations. Sound is at the start of her creative process, and it is through sound that her projects in video, choreography, and curation are realized and become compositions unto themselves. Creating and stressing these points of contact, or “dialogue” as Victoria puts it, between sound and other art forms is an essential part of her work. While sound is a foundational constant to her practice, she puts the stability of it to the test again and again, probing the outer limits of its ability, the depth of its uncertainty and, as a self proclaimed mediator, strives not only to forge but to reveal the breaking point of the bonds. In Victoria’s Aelita (2014) a single channel video piece dedicated to the Queen of Mars, she seeks the fallibility of repetition in a live session recording of balanced sound and video waves. Exploring the point just before the signal collapses, she works to “show and expose, these moments right before something gets pulled away.” It is these moments of collapse she finds the most beautiful and in “trying to pick up on signals and interference, unknown interference, discontinuities of sound…That’s where the mystery of it is.”

Victoria began her trajectory studying the preservation and archiving of the moving image, but turned instead to the collection and documentation of sound artifacts. From there, her work branched off into an inquiry of the term “media” — how to collect and record radio, sound experiments, and video work. From an archivist standpoint, Victoria sees analog machinery as key in the presentation of sound and video because of its relationship to electromagnetic signal. Analog works by “pushing and pulling at the signal in a kind of language structure” through which Victoria can develop her own language. She finds this language of the electromagnetic compelling because “we exist in a magnetic field, we ourselves have that energy, we are conduits….It is directly linked to how we exist and what we exist in.” And, she says, it is paramount to “work with machinery that is geared to vocalizing that or visualizing that, or trying to communicate it.” This is what she calls a “close language” that is laid open in her work, either for interpretation or obfuscation. That dialogue takes into consideration “how the room I am in also participates in this, as well as what my body is doing and how much the choreography of my body is interacting with the machines I use.”

Further explorations of the human relationship to machines can be seen in her performance piece Headbanger (2015), which explores complex questions such as: What are the primordial rhythms we find even in states of complete repose? What are the breaking points of these states? What is the machine that documents us? Who mothers us through all of this? Headbanger involved a visual score, a visualized sound recording, a fabricated stainless steel sculpture, and a live performance. The performance was focused around a sleep related rhythmic movement disorder, referred to as “headbanging,” in which the patient repeatedly and forcibly bangs or slams their head while sleeping. There is a “violent percussion,” as Victoria calls it, in this repetitive motion, documented by a polygraph unit, and translated by observers of the machine’s results. Victoria became transfixed with the “strange artifact and presence of the machine,” which in another sense is the “translation of the unconscious state.” In the same way that we wonder why we remember certain dreams, Victoria wanted to expose the complexities of why we retain a quasi-rhythmic structure while in sleep and what it means for the conscious, waking world.

“The machine” figures strongly in her projects as the conveyor of the “omnipresent authorship” of a controlled situation. Her works in surveillance, in particular, touch on the unseen narrative. In Victoria’s Cannibal Méchanique installation she coordinated machine play, live sound, and larger-scale choreography to determine how we can communicate and understand movement. Historically, the viewer watches these actions through a single lens, stationed solidly at one angle of the room, which loses the experience of the dancers, the energy of the performance, and the shape of the space. Following the typical example of museum surveillance, Victoria multiplied the cameras in the room so that “you were seeing what was perhaps, invisible” and were, furthermore, able to witness a once invisible presence watching and recording. It is easy to conclude that these themes of surveillance are allusions to the government, to being constantly watched without our knowledge and without our permission. Surveillance, with Victoria, resists these tropes, setting aside the “big-brother” presence, and focusing on the all-seeing, omnipresent author. Her focus is to highlight “something already present that I’m tapping into.” The concealed hand has been made obvious, although not entirely explained.

Ominous, sinister, expansive, and strange, you move through Victoria’s work, whether it be a dance performance, video festival, or a visualized soundscape, with the sense of Another. Moving her hands like a puppeteer, she refers to the great “author,” whom one can imagine shifting time and space without the weight of moral obligations. Although she insists that she is not personally this omnipotent presence, you cannot help but see a majestic reflexivity in Victoria Keddie’s orchestrations of sound, video, and performance.

New Roulette TV: KEELY GARFIELD // POW

Roulette TV sits down and talks with Keely Garfield about such things as her artistic practice, the power of dance to allow the artist to be fully present in a moment, and the relationship of Frankenstein to the development of POW.

Keely Garfield’s personal and professional engagement in the world at large is the heart of all of her creative work. Alongside her choreographies for her acclaimed company, Keely Garfield Dance, the British-born choreographer, dancer, teacher, and curator has created work for ballet dancers at the Dance Theatre of Harlem, directed the movements of antique puppets for The Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre’s production of Golem, and choreographed musical theater productions including Gypsy (Sundance Theatre, Utah), Carnival (New Jersey Shakespeare Festival), and Yeast Nation, The Triumph of Life! (Perseverance Theater, Alaska). Keely has made dances for students (Barnard, Hunter, The New School etc), children (DTW’s Family Matters, Lincoln Center’s Reel to Real etc), and MTV (Adam Ant, Herbie Hancock). Keely holds an MFA from UWM, and is engaged as a visiting professor of dance in many university departments. Additionally, Keely is an E-RYT 500 yoga teacher, a Donna Karan/ Urban Zen Integrative Therapist working in oncology and hospice.

Produced by
Jim Staley

Directed by
Wolfgang Daniel

Photographed by
Wolfgang Daniel
Sonia Li

Glenn Branca

Writer Kurt Gottschalk sits down with legendary experimental guitarist Glenn Branca to discuss his premiere The Light (For David), a new work written for David Bowie, premiering at Roulette on October 8, 2016.

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KG: Your relationship with the electric guitar is well-known, from the twin guitars of Theoretical Girls in the late 70s to works for 100-guitar orchestras. For your appearance at Roulette, you’ve composed for four electric guitars along with bass and drums. How do you determine the shape of an ensemble for a given project?

GB: I had decided that if I was going to continue The Ascension project I would use the same instrumentation in all of them, although the tunings are different. In recent decades my symphonies for guitar ensemble are usually eight or nine guitars, bass and drums. Anything bigger is too expensive to tour. There are also the two symphonies for 100 guitars but they are always one-offs. I get the guitarists from whatever city we’re playing in. So far it’s worked out incredibly well but takes a lot of time online with the musicians since the scores are always in different tunings and in staff notation.

KG: Do you have a way of notating the particular sonic properties of the electric guitar, such as feedback and overtone, or are those decisions communicated verbally or left to the individual players?

GB: I don’t notate the sonic properties of the guitar. The pieces are written the same as I would write for any instrumentation. The sonic quality of the guitar speaks for itself, although I like to use an overdriven sound with no effects of any kind. This is the kind of sound I’ve used since the late 70s when I was doing rock bands. In the 80s, when I was working with a harmonic series tuning system, it was often a mistaken conception that I was working with overtones. The overtones are there, of course, but I was interested in the nature of sound produced by the harmonic series itself, or what is in fact the series of natural numbers.

KG: The Light (for David), which will receive its premiere at Roulette, is dedicated to David Bowie. When did you first start listening to Bowie’s music. What has it meant to you over the years?

GB: I first heard Bowie in the late 60s when Space Oddity would be played on FM stations. I thought it was great but I didn’t know who it was at the time. Later, in the early 70s when I was working in a record store, I came across Hunky Dory and was totally knocked out. I started looking for anything by him that I could find. I found The Man Who Sold the World in a bargain bin. Worst production ever. They’ve fixed the mix and the master at this point, after [Kurt] Cobain covered the title song.

Then Ziggy, of course, and I was hooked. There were a few avant-garde bands that had some pop success, but nothing like Bowie. He was our hero. Intelligent, talented and with the desire to create a really new, different rock. It was important at that time for us (the avant-gardists) to have someone who spoke our language actually be heard on the radio. And of course he was beautiful and clever and compelling.

KG: Did you ever have a chance to meet or work with him?

GB: Yes, Tony Oursler was doing an installation for a German world’s fair in, I think, 2001. I was invited to write the music and Tony wrote the text which Bowie read and was played back on multiple channels. Tony had worked with Bowie a lot, doing video for him I believe. During the work on this gig, I got to hang out with David twice. One surprise was that we were both book collectors. He was really excited about a book he had just bought for $50,000. This was literally a few days after his company had gone public and he had made $50 million in one day. It was hard for him to think about anything else. He was over the moon. Just proved to me that rock stars don’t make anywhere near as much money as people thought. Of course, they don’t make anything now unless they’re tits-out superstars.

I had a very strange “relationship” with David over the years that started in the early 80s when his office called my record label, Neutral, for the purpose of getting a copy of every record in the catalog. For almost 20 years I would get a call about every couple years from someone who was trying to get us together for some purpose: collaborate, play on the same bill, always something. One time I heard he had played the entirety of my Symphony No. 6 for the audience before he come out to do a show in Europe. Another time I heard from one of the engineers on the Tin Machine sessions that he had brought in about six or seven of my records and told the engineer “Make it sound like this.” Stuff like that was always happening.

He died too soon, he was only a year older than me. I was shocked, just like everybody else. And with the release of his brilliant Black Star, I couldn’t stop listening to it. I hadn’t realized how much he had meant to me throughout most of my life and that album broke my heart.

I still can’t believe he’s just gone. It affected me even more than Lennon. I think that somehow knowing that he was here, in my case literally right down the street, was like having a muse. I don’t know what else to say. It hurts.

KG: Bowie worked with a remarkable succession of guitarists, from Mick Ronson and Carlos Alomar to Earl Slick, Adrian Belew and Reeves Gabrels not to mention recordings with Robert Fripp and David Torn. Is there something about Bowie’s use of guitar that speaks to you in particular?

GB: That’s a tough one to answer since most of that playing was part of a very distant past. I loved Mick Ronson at the time. There were few players getting that kind of sound. I was never into metal and found guys like Glen Buxton, Joe Perry and Johnny Thunders to be more what I wanted to hear. Ronson was one of the first, along with Mark Bolan. I think every single one of the guys you mentioned did a great job with Bowie’s music. And Reeves Gabrels could do anything. I think that’s why Bowie got him. His work on Outside was amazing. And of course there was Fripp, never a favorite, but what he did on Heroes was moving. It made the song.

These were guys that I loved to listen to, among many others. But as a composer my approach had almost nothing to do with any of them or anyone else for that matter. I wanted to do serious experimental rock and that sound, that approach, wasn’t gonna work. I liked to fool around with it very early on but the music was the priority. When Theoretical Girls and the Static started pushing the parameters, the audience just got bigger and bigger. After a very short time it became clear that this was going to be my work.

It’s never really been about the guitars. They just happened to be what was convenient. And as things have turned out they still are, although there’s far more I’d like to do. I’d really like to create an entire orchestra with mostly instruments that I create myself. But such things are far beyond my means.

KG: What’s coming up next for you?

GB: Death? I wouldn’t mind having Symphony No. 16, my second 100 guitar piece, heard in NYC, and maybe even properly recorded.

New Roulette TV: ROBIN HOLCOMB // Solo

Roulette TV sits down and has a discussion with Robin Holcomb about her solo performance at Roulette, her history with New York, and her lyrical process.

Pianist/vocalist/composer Robin Holcomb has performed internationally as a solo artist and the leader of various ensembles. Following Sundanese gamelan performance studies at UC Santa Cruz and several years spent sharecropping tobacco in North Carolina, she was active in New York for many years as a composer and performer with deep roots in the downtown avant-garde as one of the original Studio Henry mavericks. She has recorded her music for Songlines, Tzadik, Nonesuch and New World records. Currently living in Seattle, she composes and performs music for ensembles of all sizes, theatre, film and dance productions as well as several major song cycles including We Are All Failing Them, a sidewise regard of the Donner Party for film and magic objects, The Utopia Project concerned with utopian societies in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s and O, Say a Sunset reflecting the life and work of environmentalist Rachel Carson. She is a founder of the New York Composers Orchestra and now is a co-director of the Washington Composers Orchestra (WACO). She is currently recording with cellist Peggy Lee, a long-time collaborator.

Produced By
Jim Staley

Directed by
Wolfgang Daniel