Tag: Spotlight On

Spotlight on Val Jeanty

On November 22nd, sound artist Val Jeanty and performance artist Risha Rox—two Caribbean American artists whose work explores the diaspora, death, ritual, the ancient past and an envisioned future—present a live art show in which they create a ritual, merging Jeanty’s soundscape and projection work with Rox’s live painting of human canvases. Ritual Emerging uses the black body as focal site of breath work, movement, projection, sound and visuals.


Tell us about yourself and what you do.

My name is Val Jeanty; I am a Vodou-Electronic Music composer. Being born and raised in Haiti until the age of 12 exposed me to a merging in sound structures and left an impression on the way I hear and create musical compositions. Living and creating in New York City for over a decade has granted me access to advanced study and knowledge of electronic sound composition. This knowledge in sound merging and design inspired me to create a new genre called Afro-Electronica, which is the incorporation of Haitian traditional ritual music with electronic instruments, the past and the future.

Who would you ideally like to collaborate with?

Diamanda Galas, Shelley Hirsch, Pamela Z, Sun Ra, John Cage, Phillip Glass. These great minds inspire me.

What is influencing your work right now?

Voudou Culture and the current state of the world.

What is your first musical memory?

Listening to my heartbeat.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Be humble.


Val Jeanty and Risha Rox: Ritual Merging premieres Friday, November 22 at 8pm.

This piece was commissioned by Roulette and made possible with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and New Music USA.

Spotlight On jaimie branch

On May 4th, ghostly avant-garde trumpeter jaimie branch presents her 2019 commissioned work: May the 4th Be With You.


Tell us about yourself and what you’re planning for Roulette.

My name is jaime branch; I am a trumpetist, composer, and improvisor from Chicago, based in Brooklyn. I wrote a multimedia piece for this Roulette performance for my electronic duo Anteloper with Jason Nazary and Chicago-based video artist Kim Alpert. In this work, we will be exploring the visuality of sonic spectrums, turning the audible into the visual. The second set is a rare NYC set with Fly or Die—my quartet featuring Lester St. Louis on cello, Jason Ajemian on bass, and Chad Taylor on drums and Mbira.

What is your first musical memory?

My first musical memory is probably watching my older brother Russell practice piano — he was ten years older than me and played the shit out of some Billy Joel. I was pretty much hooked from the jump wanting to play music from the time I can remember. There’s also a picture of me in a bunny suit playing some keys circa 1986, but that one’s less of a memory and more of a feeling.

What is influencing your work right now?

So many things are constantly influencing my work, but it’s mostly my surroundings, the people I play with, the cities I find myself in… I’m interested in art that is fully saturated — this is not to be confused with density or volume, although it could be both of those things. Potent music. I’ve come to find that music is an ether—sometimes it swirls just out of reach, but it’s always in the air. Sometimes we choose to tune in and sometimes we don’t. But music doesn’t go anywhere one note played one time echoes throughout eternity. I’m trying to tune in to the hidden music of the universe, ya know? 

What is the most vivid dream you’ve ever had?

I had a REALLY vivid dream on the plane just the other day — I thought I had leaned over and hit a bowl ON THE PLANE. Just a one hitter (I’m not that fancy, even in my dreams) and even though I was holding in the smoke like a champ, some got out and another passenger noticed and started fussing. I then jerked awake only to find that I was in a plastic box, then I fought through the confusion and actually woke up. I straight up thought we had landed. I’m all, “Why isn’t anyone getting off the plane?” Twenty minutes later, they announced we were beginning our descent into Knoxville. Pretty cool blue dream.

Spotlight On Mary Prescott

For her Roulette commission, interdisciplinary artist, composer, and pianist Mary Prescott presents Songs Between Life and Death—a performative song cycle integrating music, word, movement, physical theater, and installation—on Tuesday, April 30th.


Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I’m a Thai-American interdisciplinary artist, composer, and pianist from Minneapolis. I trained exclusively as a classical pianist for most of my life, but “converted” to experimental generative work within the past couple of years for the same reason my sister converted to Catholicism in her early 20s. (Who converts to Catholicism??) She said she had been searching for something for a long time, and then when she encountered Catholicism, she felt fulfilled. Well, that’s exactly how I feel about my practice, and even though technically art is not a religion, maybe IT IS. It’s the place where I get closest to understanding myself and the world, and the place where I feel like I can begin to untangle some of life’s bigger questions.

My experiments started with piano music, probably because I felt “safe” with a medium that was already attached to my identity. But now I allow myself to create with whatever seems best, whether I know that medium well or not—although just about everything is performance-based. So I might project a film I made, or do a choreographed movement, or install a set piece that bears some significance to the rest of the work. And those things will interact within a performance and play off each other to more deeply express an overarching concept. One of the big hangups of classical training is that everything is expected to be perfectly executed according to a holy manuscript, and there’s a lot of prior experience and skill that one must develop to attempt it. But I think that’s a very limiting way to approach art-making, and actually, pretty exclusive, too. As hard as it was at first (and still is), I’ve tried to let go of that mindset, and I feel like it’s allowed my practice to grow in ways I never could have anticipated. 

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

I’m creating a performative song-cycle called Songs Between Life and Death for chamber ensemble. It’s about the conscious spiritual experience unattached from the physical body. Although I don’t intend for it to be morbid at all, I do acknowledge that it could go there for some people. For me, it’s more objective, maybe. About the first-person experience of what happens emotionally and psychologically when our spirit has disconnected from the physical world as we know it, but can look back in on it. I think the fear of this unknown has had a pretty heavy impact on cultural and social development, and I’m really interested to examine that dynamic a little more closely. And it’s also something I just want to spend more time with in focused contemplation…hash it out for myself, so to speak.

What is influencing your work right now?

So, this may seem sort of silly, but I recently moved into a place that overlooks the construction site of a new residential development, and watching these huge glass buildings go up gradually but actually really quickly has been kind of amazing. I’m seeing the foundational pieces go into the ground itself: enormous cranes hoisting gigantic slabs of material, locked into the sides of the building for support, the gnarly innards of the floors and walls, and then all the fine details of the interiors. The scale of each of those things is so extreme, the power and intricacies of movement. It’s mundane, but fascinating to watch workers systematically bust up the entire block of sidewalk with heavy machinery one day; and the next day, they are very carefully painting the corner edge of a living room or squeegeeing the fingerprints off the floor-to-ceiling windows with perfection and care. Seeing a project like that in all it’s enormity and detail, with all the steps it takes on so many planes, and with such a spectacular result…a year ago that was just an overgrown vacant lot. It is strangely really inspiring in a very beautiful, dirty, dusty way. 

How did your interest in your work begin?

As I mentioned before, I was trained as a classical pianist for most of my life, and even though I always had an interest in improvising, it seemed elusive for me to take on. Or maybe because I didn’t have training in it, I felt like I couldn’t or shouldn’t do it. It occured to me that I was only going to be able to improvise if I just did it. That seems really obvious, but I think it’s actually one of the more difficult concepts to wrap one’s head around. 

Anyway, a handful of years ago, my friend Jesse Stacken, a really great fellow Minnesotan pianist and one with a mainly jazz background, had just finished up a project where he recorded an improvisation every day for a year and put the results online. I thought, “that seems like a good way to hold myself accountable.” So without a moment to think twice about what I was getting into, I started Where We Go When, which became my daily blog to do the same thing as Jesse, but from the keyboard of a non-improviser. Without getting into too many details, I’ll just say, that project was hands down one of the most important learning experiences of my life. It’s still up on my website, and I still think about it and mull over some of the same questions I had when I was in the thick of it.

Where We Go When was really the very beginning of my generative work. Even though my practice has expanded a lot since then, it gave me a bit of courage and a really solid foundation for experimentation and trust for the process.

What artists are you interested in right now?

I am really into Pina Bausch right now. I saw her work for the first time at BAM just a year and a half ago, and it changed my life. This was right on the cusp of when I started interdisciplinary work, and is probably one of the main reasons I went in that direction at all. Her work really cut to my heart, and gave me that rapturous sense of cathartic understanding that I am always searching for. I really love the way she pulled seemingly ordinary and unrelated concepts and gestures together to express something so vulnerable and raw. And she could address really difficult social disparities head on without drama or propaganda. She just put the work out there. She wasn’t telling you how to feel or react. Through an utterly marvelous and totally genius set of physical expressions, she made available some truth of humanity. All the good and bad and ugly and beautiful. All the unfairness and injustice, longing and loneliness. You feel it all at once with her. Really powerful, potent stuff. 


Mary Prescott: Songs Between Life and Death takes place on Tuesday, April 30th 2019 at 8pm with performers: pianist Mary Prescott, violinist Ilmar Gavilán, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, bassist Nick Dunston, and vocalists: Nina Dante, Ariadne Greif, and Sara Serpa.

Spotlight On Alex Weiser

On Tuesday, June 18th, composer Alex Weiser presents the first act of his opera State of the Jews as part of his Roulette 2019 residency. Born and raised in New York City, Weiser creates acutely cosmopolitan music combining a deeply felt historical perspective with a vibrant forward-looking creativity.

Alex Weiser and the performers of his May 2017 commissioned work “And All The Days Were Purple” onstage at Roulette. Photos by Steven Pisano for Feast of Music.

 


Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I’m a composer, concert curator, and event producer. I was born and raised in New York City. I write music drawing inspiration from literary sources, ideas or inter-textual relationships from the history of classical music, and often from my fascination with and personal connection to Jewish culture. I helped run the MATA Festival for about 5 years and founded and continue to direct the new music series, Kettle Corn New Music.

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

I’m working on a historical-drama opera about Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), an Austro-Hungarian Jewish writer who, in response to rising antisemitism around the turn of the 20th century, ignited a movement supporting the idea of a Jewish homeland. The opera, which I’m writing with librettist Ben Kaplan, explores some of the little known details of the politics of that time and also interweaves the story of Theodor’s relationship with his wife, Julie, and the toll that his political work took on their marriage. Julie provides a stark, contrasting response to the same set of historical circumstances, exposing the complex and in many ways still un-resolved challenges of that moment. One of the things that really fascinates me about this story is that even with the benefit of hindsight, its meaning in history still remains fraught and contested.

Image result for Ben Kaplan and alex weiser

What is your favorite album?

Steve Reich’s 1980 “Octet • Music For A Large Ensemble • Violin Phase” is a long time favorite of mine that I return to often. I love how its surface bubbles with ecstatic energy, while underneath there is a broader sense of meditative stillness, and on yet another level, all of this is flowing in an always unfolding developmental arc. Besides, it’s just totally beautiful music.

What is influencing your work right now?

For the past three years I have been the Director of Public Programs at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research where I have curated and produced programs exploring and celebrating the rich history and culture of the Jewish people (with a particular focus on Yiddish speaking Jewry and their diaspora). YIVO has been a thought-provoking and inspiring home base for my work, and some of the stories, music, and literature that I have encountered there have made their way into my work as a composer.

What is your favorite Roulette memory?

I was at a concert at Roulette in December 2012 which featured John King’s Astral Epitaphs performed by TILT Brass and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. The piece had this incredible urgency and visceral power. John had the chorus surrounding the audience on the balconies, and there was this moment where they suddenly entered, with their sound enveloping everyone from all sides. I was really blown away by the experience and I loved the way the physical space and directionality of the sound became a part of the composition.

 


Alex Weiser: State of the Jews takes place on Tuesday, June 18th 2019 at 8pm with  vocalists: baritone Mario Diaz-Moresco, mezzo-soprano Augusta Caso, tenor Chad Kranak, bass-baritone Adrian Rosas, and the Os Ensemble choir directed by Raquel Acevedo Klein and musicians: pianist Marika Bournaik, cellist Julian Schwarz, violinist Avi Nagin, and clarinetist Bixby Kennedy.

Spotlight On Anjna Swaminathan

For her Commission at Roulette, Anjna Swaminathan presents WOVEN: Entangled Memorabilia—a multidisciplinary work that brings together original music, poetry, and improvisation to meditate on personal, cultural, and artistic rituals of nostalgia, loss, and mourning. The project was initially inspired by the works of Indian Malayali painter and artist Raja Ravi Varma (1848–1906) and Tamil poet Subramania Bharati (1882–1921), both late 19th to early 20th century artists who were integral to shaping images of women as vessels for Indian national identity during the movement against the British Raj.

Photo by Gal Shaya

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

My name is Anjna Swaminathan and I am a violinist, composer, vocalist, theatre artist and educator. I was primarily trained in the Carnatic (South Indian) art music tradition, but my creative work has branched out to include Hindustani music, creative music, western classical music, new music, spoken word, and theatre. I’m committed to creating artistic and activist work that considers the multitude of histories, privileges, and marginalizations that each of us carries.

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

For my commission at Roulette, I’m very excited to be presenting the latest exploration of WOVEN, a philosophical, political and artistic project that has lived and matured with me for over eight years. This iteration is entitled WOVEN: Entangled Memorabilia features seven string instrumentalists including Stephan Crump (bass), Naseem Alatrash (cello), a string quartet/Greek chorus featuring Leerone Hakami (violin), Manami Mizumoto (violin), Lauren Siess (viola), and Thapelo Masita (cello). I’m excited to work with these wonderful musicians (and people!) to explore ideas of ritual, memory, loss, attachment, abandonment, and many other ideas of nostalgia and memorabilia that we carry within ourselves, our instruments and our interconnectivity as human beings. Something I am particularly excited about for this performance is that I have tapped into my diverse community of artists, thinkers, immigrants, and people who have graciously offered their personal vocal reflections on these subjects to help build the sonic landscape of the work. 

What is influencing your work right now?

Personal and communal mental health. I’ve been increasingly recognizing that the issues that come up for me are not only connected to internal questions, traumas, and experiences but also to communal ones—and even ancestral ones. In January of 2018*, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder after a long battle with anxiety, depression, and other chronic manifestations of an unmanaged mental health issue. In naming and facing the patterns of fear, attachment, and misunderstanding that directed many of my decisions and impulses until then, I have gained a deeper empathy for the cultural nostalgia, collective feelings of abandonment, and communal anxieties that cripple much of society today—regardless of political and cultural allegiances. My diagnosis, as well as the conversations, realizations, and resolutions that I have experienced since then, have contributed to a greater sense of vulnerability in my music, and an attraction to inviting a larger community to be vulnerable with me in our shared art-making. I’m very grateful that the artists involved in the performance and production of WOVEN: Entangled Memorabilia are equally enthralled and nurtured by the leap into honesty, vulnerability, and sharing that this project invites them to take. 

How did your interest in your work begin?

This project was initially a response to frustrations with the funeral rituals surrounding my mother’s death in 2010. As a rebellious 18-year old, I thought that researching the intentions behind the rituals might give me some direction in coping with her death—or at least give me some intellectual rationale for resisting the process of coping. Since then, it has transformed to consider rituals of memorializing in which we partake outside of a funeral space and more recently, it has been about memory and how it exists in the body, cultural, and mythical nostalgia and its personal and political implications, as well as the chronic resonances of ancestral trauma.  

How long have you lived in New York City, and what brought you here?

I have lived in New York City for almost five years! I came here for music—mostly following my sister Rajna Swaminathan, a musician who had built a small community for herself here. I’d initially planned to move here to get away from the relative lack of musical community that I felt in Maryland, but after I attended the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music in the summer of 2014 and got the opportunity to work with amazing musical elders—particularly women of color like Imani Uzuri and Jen Shyu—I began to see a potential for New York to be a space to free my artistic voice and lean into a community of people like me who not only survived, but thrived in sharing their full selves. 

Rajna and Anjna Swaminathan. Photo courtesy of the artists.
Rajna and Anjna Swaminathan

Anjna Swaminathan’s WOVEN: Entangled Memorabilia takes place on Sunday, April 28th 2019 at 8pm with performers: bassist Stephan Crump, cellists Naseem Alatrash and Aaron Stokes, violinists Leerone Hakami and Manami Mizumoto, and violist Lauren Siess.

*Correction: In the printed version of this article, Swaminathan’s diagnosis with BPD was reported as occurring in January of 2017; this version has been corrected to reflect the true year: 2018.

Spotlight on Anaïs Maviel by Gelsey Bell

For her first Van Lier Fellowship concert at Roulette, vocalist and composer Anaïs Maviel premieres who is this ritual for and from? featuring collaborations with pianist and composer Sam Yulsman and choreographer Daria Faïn on February 5th.

The first time I heard Anaïs Maviel sing still echoes in my memory, infused with a June breeze, her drum beat, and sunshine spilling into a Brooklyn backyard. We were playing on a bill together for one of Mara Mayer’s Home Audio concerts (along with another Roulette favorite Gabrielle Herbst) that Mara had smilingly named Three Sirens. This was back in 2013 before Anaïs moved to New York from France, and her music wrapped into me like a fishing line, a siren song that continues to delight and inspire me. Now after five years in New York City, Anaïs has become an integral part of music and interdisciplinary art-making in the city.

— Gelsey Bell

Anaïs Maviel: who is this ritual for and from?


Tell us about what you’re planning for your shows in the spring at Roulette.

I’ve been thinking about a way I could take the February 5th show as a passage ritual for my solo practice, wrapping together my inside and outside, earthly and cosmic, past and future processes—an occasion for me to assess how my language and ability to relate have developed hand in hand, and to share cohesively intimate and common finds, blurring lines between self and other. What has come up so far is a fluid spiritual and bodily relation with acoustic and vibratory phenomenons I’ve come to approach as healing, as oneness. Some ways to access “otherness,” digging inward, seem to reveal collective stakes in performance, and its function in society. I’m interested in the witnessing experience being performative and the performing experience being meditative. I’m exploring gaps between meditative and cathartic practices, and the mediation of articulate language between these realms, in order to transform shared reality with continued intent through vibration. I’ll try to touch on some of this, as well as the collaborative processes that nurtured these inquiries: With choreographer Daria Faïn—who, alongside Robert Kocik (the Prosodic Body), has helped me realize every sounding body is already moving, that every moving sound contains language—and with pianist and composer Sam Yulsman, whose understanding of the symbolic undercurrents of my music has helped me unfold a compositional language.

The piece I’m performing at Roulette in Summer 2019 will be a continuation of my recent collaboration with Swedish visual artist, activist, and instrument-maker Jonatan Malm, with whom I’ve explored the resonances between ancient (trans-generational, diasporic wisdom) and future (immediate, urban cyborg) spaces of sound and their politics. Between music that comes from Northern forest lakes entities and Southern mangrove spirits, there are many conversations to have to address our current globalized ideological crises. We’re looking at this critical human dependency on the environment, and the sacredness of the realm of so-called nature, informing every step of human emancipation and collapse. From there, I dreamed a piece involving several synthesizers and wooden percussion instruments, played by vocalists and multi-instrumentalists—mediators between ancient and future relations to sound in space. This will be a toe-dip into some kind of an opera pointing at different layers of current reality and including my recent work around subconscious song-writing, micro-tonal and multi-modal harmonic systems.

We’re also doing a show together! Joined by Amirtha Kidambi and Megan Schubert, we will have a night where each vocalist-composer makes a piece for vocal quartet. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning for that and what you get out of collaborating with other vocalist-composers?

It is very exciting for me to get to write for such powerhouses. I’ve been feeling strongly about writing for voice, and I am absolutely thrilled to be involved in such an endeavor. Being part of each of your process as an interpret, at the same time as I write for each of you – what a dream way to be creative with other voices! I feel like it opens up possibilities, in terms of texture, range, and language. I hope I can honor each specific talent of yours and hopefully contribute to a collective expansion.

My piece starts from formlessness, soundscapes that fill our ears as we live our lives, that give flavor to each moment we experience, the light buzz and the cat’s walk, the blowing wind and the plane growl. Time shifts that move a sound shape to another, the extraordinary alignment of poly-rhythms between street work, breeze, pedestrian paths, crickets and bird jams, and their amazing harmony. Sometimes these epiphanies happen in long cycles, sometimes they are immediate, and they all speak to me as a language of interdependency between realms. Although some sounds have a certain opacity to my ear because I don’t understand their function, they still have a certain transparency as they intertwine with my reality and impact my way to be present to it. And ultimately, my body forms around these sounds to create language.

As far as content, I’m invoking the symbolics of a divine feminine shifting paradigm, the intuitive and practical Pallas-Athena—as other than the old-school sassy Venus. I experience womanhood as a critical point of view on current societal shifts. While these transformations impact society and human evolution as a whole at different paces, I experience their correspondences with interest. Like rivers whose streams are slow and take years to reach the ocean, while other streams are almost ubiquitous. I’m wondering about the role of femininity in this transformation, as I am concerned by the state of our species, our relation to each other across genre, age and culture, and to all forms of life in a strange race to destruction.

Your music often involves a mix of singing and drumming. How do those two activities interact in your work and compositional / improvisational process? Do they feed each other?

To sing and drum is at the root of my experience as a musician. I believe music, as a form of communication prior to articulate language, is fundamental to human experience. Pre-language in music is really interesting to me, a lot of my research focuses on the gestation process of expression, the alignment of pre-language with post-language music somehow. Music interests me to the extent that it carries the potential to (re)-organize our brains, as a prelude to the way we imprint our imagination onto reality.

Voice and drum offer direct access to the intuitive perception of vibration, as a laboratory for sonic alchemy. As a teen, I was lucky to be involved with sacred Shona music (from Zimbabwe); Realizing then that the entrancing function of rhythm in relationship to singing was key for transcendental experiences really hooked me on music for good. In Shona music, when you’ve sung for hours and the air is thick with woven vibrations, the magic of overtones takes hold, and the durational interaction of metallic buzzes and whirling calabash seeds sound like divine voices. Trance is key to bliss, accessing various states of consciousness, and collective transformation—voice and rhythm being its prime triggers. These principles are found in most traditional music which I find fascinating because it comes down to human coexistence transcending cultural differences, through the shared experience of hearing and sonic interaction.

Since connecting these dots, I’ve been obsessed with dimensional shifts, when repetition becomes a canvas for more harmonics and polyrhythms to reveal themselves, the ones that are already present on our surroundings and that, as musicians, we excavate or allow to appear—depending on the method. Also, percussion instruments, as well as voices, challenge dominant ideas of pitch. I love the whole percussive tonal world, how it refines the ear to over and undertones and how it impacts the way I sing. One would think a percussion instrument has only a couple notes, but the surdo, singing bowls, bells, and gongs have been for me infinite wells multiplying melodic paths I can explore vocally. Tuning my ear to percussion-impulsed shifting and bending intervals has impacted my harmonic perception, and how I approach rhythm and harmony together. As a composer, I’ve been exploring minimal, cyclical possibilities of drumming as a trigger to multi-modal, polyrhythmic explorations and odd textures combining voice and percussion. Personality splits have also been interesting finds, as the drum has this very conversational quality to it. I experience language shifts when I express myself with drums, or voice, or when both communicate under their own physical terms. All these are related to shamanism, which is inherent to such practice.

In what way do you see the place of politics in your work?

It is core and shell, although I want to be very careful about my work proving any point. Politics are ethics and aesthetics combined. I believe that as an artist, my function is to catalyze new political thoughts. As a utopian, I mean to open up possibilities for realities ahead. As a love warrior, I intend to deconstruct ideologies and to liberate hearts, minds, and bodies.


CONTRIBUTOR: Gelsey Bell

Gelsey Bell is a New York City-based critically acclaimed singer, songwriter, and scholar. She has released multiple albums, including most recently This is Not a Land of Kings, and Ciphony with John King. She received a 2017 Music/Sound Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, has had work included in PS1’s Greater New York exhibit, and has had both a residency and a commission from Roulette. She is a core member of thingNY, Varispeed, and the Chutneys. Performance highlights include Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 (on Broadway) and Ghost Quartet, Robert Ashley’s Crash, Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler’s River of Fundament, John King’s Micro-Operas, Yasuko Yokoshi’s BELL, Kate Soper’s Here Be Sirens, and Gregory Whitehead’s On the Shore Dimly Seen.

Nick Dunston in Conversation with Darius Jones

On January 30 2019, in his first Van Lier Fellow performance, composer/bassist Nick Dunston presents his quintet, Atlantic Extraction, completed by Louna Dekker-Vargas on flutes, Ledah Finck on violin, Tal Yahalom on guitar, and Stephen Boegehold on drums, along with the world premiere of The Floor is Lava!—a work written for five double basses featuring the diverse talents of Kanoa Mendenhall, Almog Sharvit, Eva Lawitts, and Lisa Hoppe.

Nick Dunston: Atlantic Extraction/The Floor is Lava!


Darius Jones: Who is the Brooklyn-based composer, bassist, and scholar named Nick Dunston?

Nick Dunston: Well, I grew up in New York City—I was born in DC and moved here when I was four. I started off as a cellist. I guess my start in music wasn’t really for any “good reason;” my mom made me play cello, and the first time I switched to electric bass was because I just wanted to be cool. That’s really what it came down to. It took me a while to develop a sense of discipline in working hard at anything, really. My parents stressed the importance of at least working hard in school from an early age. My mom is Puerto Rican, and my dad is African-American, so they really stressed the importance of making sure you represent yourself in the best way possible—fighting the social odds against you. Even still, in music, I wasn’t super disciplined at first, and I had to develop that as I got into high school. As I spent more time actually practicing, motivating myself, and forcing myself to see things that was hard to do when I was younger—that’s really what contributed to my love for music: working harder and seeing that work actually pay off. So yeah, that’s how I got started with the actual discipline of it. I spent a lot of time as a kid not really hanging out with a lot of other kids my age. I really just daydreamed all day. I didn’t do much; I kind of would play ridiculous, fantastical scenarios in my head.

DJ:  Like what?

ND: I was into superheroes. I would spend time imagining superheroes or fantasy worlds—nerdy stuff like that. I played some video games, but I really just liked imagining creatures or people. And it’s not like I had a bleak childhood, I mean I was living in Brooklyn—it was all cool. But yeah, whenever I was walking around or doing anything, my mind was going-on with ridiculous, otherworldly thoughts and images and scenarios. I think that’s what allowed me to constantly churn out new music as a composer: there’s really no shortage of ideas and stuff that I see as valid. I’m so used to always re-imagining and re-imagining things and going back to things that I imagined years ago and developing those in my head. When I realized that I could be a composer, that mindset manifested into music.

DJ: When did you become aware that you could be a composer?

ND: It started in the beginning of high school. I played in a rock band before that in middle school. The band wrote songs together, and I would make up my own bass lines. I don’t know why, but at the time, I never thought of that as composition; I thought of it as just playing the bass. I think I realized it when I went to high school—I went to an art school. I would be sitting in the library and because I’m constantly playing stuff in my head, I would transcribe it onto manuscript paper. I don’t think of it this way now, but back then I was thinking, “oh, because I’m writing this down, that makes me a composer,” in a traditional sense. So since then, I’ve been working to deconstruct that idea because I was still pretty ingrained with a mainstream, eurocentric idea of what it meant to be a composer at that time.

DJ: So what is your compositional and instrumental process? How do you feel your process as a composer and instrumentalist leak?

ND: So, as a composer, it can start a number of ways, but typically I’ll solidify a really basic idea, whether it’s something as vague as a rhythm or a series of pitches or even just a really general sound. I’ll take between one and three of those and solidify them either by recording it into my iPhone or singing it or writing it on paper—or writing the idea of it. Then I try to work with as few materials as I can  to try to see how much I expand each one. Once I’ve sort of developed or brainstormed on a certain idea, I’ll try to make up a large-scale form. I’ve spent a long time doing that and really working out the form and basic order of events. At that point, it’s kind of just filling in blanks and seeing what makes sense. When I’m actually sitting down and composing, I try to take advantage of the one thing that I don’t usually do when I’m improvising and set up a goal and destination. That way I can pace myself and work my way towards those. That’s what I’d say my general process is as a composer.

As an instrumentalist, I used to start by warming up on the bass, making sure that the physicality of it is already there, but I’m starting to drift away from that. I’m finding it’s better for me if I start on the bass with a more musical approach, then blend it with the physicality of warming up. I think that the first thing I do on the instrument needs to be something more than just a physical approach. The physical approach is super demanding and super taxing. There are new things I’m doing like yoga to help me with that. But I think when I actually have the instrument, I need to start with an artistic kind of statement. Oftentimes, I’ll improvise for a stream of five to twenty minutes.

DJ: What are you trying to communicate with your ensemble Atlantic Extraction?

ND: Atlantic Extraction is the first band I’m leading as the sole leader. At first I was thinking about what kind of band I wanted in a general sense—a large or small group—before eventually settling on a quintet. It forced me to be really inventive with the way I compose for improvisers because not everyone in the group comes from the same idiom of improvising. Half the band members are classical musicians who have different ways of approaching improvisation. At first, we didn’t really know each other that well, so it has been about developing a personal relationship, as much as a musical one. That was something I did on purpose—I wanted to grow a band instead of finding one. It’s easy to find a band in our community, but I really wanted to build something from the ground up. We’re never going to escape our models or influences—and I’m not trying to reinvent anything, necessarily—but I find that by growing this band from the ground up, I don’t have a full vision of what we will be, but I’m realizing that it’s becoming clearer to me as we progress. There are things that are really surprising me about this band—there are definitely more curveballs than I had originally thought. I think the vision is also changing as the band grows. Whereas, if I started the group knowing what it would sound like or having any really strong expectations, I feel the whole process would be more about fulfilling that expectation rather than allowing for growth and evolution. So far it’s going great. It’s felt very trusting, very open, very vulnerable, and I’ve been surprised so many times with the music that we make. I think that’s because I freed myself from expectations.

DJ: Why did you choose the instrumentation for Atlantic Extraction?

ND: Well, some parts were functional, and other parts of it actually didn’t have to do with the instruments, at first. For functional reasons, I knew I wanted to do drums[Stephen Boegehold] and guitar [Tal Yahalom]—there are lack of pianos in New York—and really I’m very happy with letting that dictate some of my forms. I met Louna Dekker-Vargas who plays flute and Ledah Finck, a violinist and violist, a couple of years ago at the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival. I was there as a composer, and they were there for another project. I knew that I wanted to play music with them in some kind of capacity and  Atlantic Extraction made sense because they don’t play rhythm section instruments, in the conventional sense. That was the only functional requirement that I was looking for to fill rest the band. I’d always been interested in classical music and chamber music which is where I heard these instruments first, so I think that elevated the idea that it was kind of an unconventional instrumentation. It didn’t really register to me as that at first, but now that I look back on it it makes sense where it came from.

DJ: It’s a cool front line—flute and violin—it’s really cool. Essentially, as you said, you have this conventional rhythm section that we’ve seen before, but then this front line that is really unique.

ND: Yeah, I know a ton of saxophonists who double on flute and who play really good flute, but it’s not the same. It’s also interesting writing something where flute is the only possible option. It gives me puzzles to work on.

DJ: I can hear that in the music. The fact that you are saying, “I have to write for flute; I have to write for violin,” seems to be influencing the whole compositional process.

ND: Very much so. I really like puzzles and so in some ways it’s a balance of being really strategic and a game-maker. But another part of me is really into the idea of giving myself a slab of work and then working my way through it and treating everything like puzzle.

DJ: What’s the compositional approach to the ensemble?

ND: There isn’t any single approach, but as of recently, a bit for this ensemble and for another new group,I’m dealing with some timer stuff—stopwatch stuff—and gestural stuff. I’m experimenting with this notational approach where I’ll have between one to three simple themes. I’ll have those kind of off to the side – theme one, theme two, theme three. The rest of the notation is gestural – giving just information that is needed to execute the general realm of what I’m hearing while making room for the improvisers. It’ll look like, bass one and bass two play theme one and then there will be another part that says go down then they’ll go on. Then it’ll say sax one play long tones against this and I’ll be as specific as that. It’s this unfolding of people doing really basic tasks, but they to commit it and as they hear what’s going on against it they’ll naturally gravitate towards playing together.

DJ: How much do your personal aesthetics inform your decisions at this point in your career?

ND: I’m finding that it seems like my decisions are informing my aesthetics. I’m recently finding that I’m more into quirky, fucked-up stuff than I thought I was, but I only came across that by composing what felt right. I don’t really feel like my aesthetics, when it comes to composition, is predetermined. It feels more like I compose and then I’m like oh, okay.

DJ: Do you feel like the things you are aesthetically attracted in your work are being reflected in your choices and in the decisions that you’re making at this point?

ND: In terms of my life around music, yes. Over the past year I’ve been particularly introspective and doing weekly therapy sessions to kind of figure out myself and work through stuff that I haven’t really worked through in my life. I’m finding that by putting my work at the center of my life and focusing on that, everything else falls into place around it, particularly as it relates to my direct community and really investing in those relationships with people whether it relates to music or not. I’m working on finding a marriage between my personal life and musical life. Recently I have been placing a lot of importance on  my relationships with people and that approach has heightened my understanding of who they are as musicians and I think has refined and increased my own awareness of who I am as a musician, whether it be as a composer, as a leader, or as side person.

DJ: What are a few things that influence your work besides music?

ND: I really like movement-based activities. That could be dance but even stuff that is found more in everyday life, like looking at the way people walk. My mom would always tell me to make sure I sway my arms when I walk. When she saw me walking with my arms straight down, she would always say, “walk with your arms in movement.” She was always nagging me about that, and my posture, and generally the way I present myself. She was teaching me about body awareness and now, body alignment is always on my mind. I’m fascinated by it. Whether it be in dance, the way people walk, the people’s posture, or body language really interests me.

DJ: Do you have a code that you live by?

ND: I never thought of it in that specific word, code, but I would say that yes—always believing in myself with one hundred percent conviction and commitment and really doing things on my own terms. I’m still learning about other traditions and other systems, but ultimately not letting any hierarchies or ways of making music dictate my work or who I am as a person. I’m creating my own standards and my own terms, and how I present myself as a person.

DJ: Now that we’ve reached the end, are there any questions you wished I would have asked?

ND: I mean I still have, you know, tons of anxiety about the way I declare myself as an artist and the person getting solidified. I thought you would ask more questions, but I’m glad you didn’t, haha.

DJ: No no, it’s because—well, how old are you?

ND: Twenty-two.

DJ: Yeah, man, I didn’t know what the hell I was trying do at twenty-two. I had an idea, for sure, but you know—at forty thinking about the kid at twenty-two, man. It’s light years. I would say, you are in a very different place than I was, but it’s great that you’re letting it flow, and I think that’s the right way to be at twenty-two.

ND: Yeah, I’m trying to work hard and be kind to myself and follow my interests.

DJ: One question I would like to ask you end it—there seems to be a large group of young, really interested, really talented players with vast perspectives on making work coming up right now. I mean you guys are kind the early twenties crew of cats that are in the interesting position of not being bogged down to any type of style or path. It seems you can do whatever really truly interests you. How do you feel about that?

ND: It’s exciting, but more so, a huge responsibility. I think it’s partially because of the huge open lines of communication and, arguably, lack of privacy. There’s just so much communication, such fast communication—and tons of people in the generation or two above us who are generous with their time and their thoughts, like yourself. We have so many resources, so it’s exciting to see what people are doing with these things, but it’s also a huge responsibility because it’s like, Okay you have all this stuff. We’re laying out all these ideas and influences here for you—here you go. Get to work. What are you going to do with them?

DJ: Exactly. Get to work. I like that.


CONTRIBUTOR: Darius Jones

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 his chamber ensemble, the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit, a project dedicated to new works for voice. Roulette continued their support for Jones’s 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, in spring 2014. Following that performance, Jones made his compositional debut at Carnegie Hall with The Oversoul Manual in October 2014. Jones has collaborated with Gerald Cleaver’s Black Host, Oliver Lake Big Band, Eric Revis Quartet, Nasheet Waits Quartet, Trevor Dunn’s Proof Readers, Matthew Shipp, Branford Marsalis, Jason Moran, and more.

Spotlight on Kelly Moran

by s. karabush

 

On Friday, September 7th, Kelly Moran premieres a selection of electro-acoustic keyboard works for her first Van Lier Fellowship concert at Roulette.


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.

Spotlight On: Anna Wray

Anna Wray

Sportsmen choose Lovegra thanks to its long effective drug duration: its action lasts for nearly 36 hours on end. It also contains medicines that have been previously authorized for marketing but are currently no longer authorized. In clinical trials prior to Viagra Introduction to the market, the most common side effects were headaches, nasal congestion, impaired vision, flushing, and indigestion.

Resist x Improvise: An Evening for Roscoe Mitchell
Tuesday, June 5, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I am a percussionist living in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I perform avant-garde jazz and new classical music and am starting to learn more about Brazilian and Cuban rhythms. Some of my favorite artists in New York right now are So Percussion, Roomful of Teeth, and Zeena Parkins. I currently study with Josh Quillen.

I was born in 1991 in Park Slope and went to the children’s YWCA program next door to Roulette. When I was five, my family, who had lived in a huge Fort Greene brownstone for nearly twenty years, moved to an old house in Sleepy Hollow, NY. I began studying music when I was six, first piano and then percussion, in private studios. The public schools also had great music programs with jazz ensembles, orchestras and musicals. I remain close to the directors at Sleepy Hollow’s Junior and High schools, offering workshops and participating in the music honor society.

After high school, I spent a number of years on the West Coast, first in Oakland, CA to attend Mills College where I pursued percussion performance, studying with percussionist William Winant and improvisation with Roscoe Mitchell. I continued my musical studies at CalArts in Los Angeles, receiving an MFA in percussion performance, studying Brazilian, Indonesian, Electronics, African, and North Indian music with percussionists, Randy Gloss, Amy Knoles, and David Johnson. After my masters, I taught full time as a general music teacher at an elementary school in Compton, Los Angeles. It was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I’m still in touch with my students. I returned to New York in 2017 to live closer to my family. I missed seeing my niece and nephew grow up and I really missed the New York Yankees. Also, New York City is the city where many artistic collaborations are happening.

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

I wrote Roscoe Mitchell in 2016, asking if he would consider writing a new work for vibraphone. He agreed, as I saved up money at my cafe job for his commission. A few months rolled by and I wanted to make more music with my good friends, Marilu Donovan and Christopher Foss, so I asked Roscoe if he could create a new work for vibraphone, harp and bassoon. In response, he told me that he had a baritone piece he wrote for Thomas Buckner and piano, that might work well with this new orchestration. We contacted my colleague, and Roscoe’s former student, Daniel Steffey to orchestra the virtuosic piano part for vibraphone, harp and bassoon. I then asked my dear friend Michael Lofton to join us as our baritone voice for the quartet. I’ve wanted to work with Michael my whole life, so I’m excited for our first performance together. One of my first memories of seing Michael perform was in the NYC Opera production of Carmen. (Unfortunately, I was crying as the curtain went up, rather than when Carmen dies, because my mother made me kill my pet Tamagotchi when she discovered it in my pocket. I hadn’t considered the noise it could make during the performance. You couldn’t turn off a Tamagotchi, without killing it. But it had become a level 4 frog from a tadpole! I must have fed the Tamagotchi in the middle of the night for weeks. However, seeing Michael in a blonde wig made everything okay.)

As the program develops, I have invited more of my colleagues to join the program, such as Brian Adler’s Human Time Machine. Through discussions with Brian Adler and Michael Lofton, we decide to focus this evening’s performance on African American social justice and equality.

What is your favorite place to eat or drink near Roulette?

Bedouin Tent, which is around the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Bond Street (Cash only!)

What is your favorite record?
The Harder They Come soundtrack (Jimmy Cliff! Toots!), Live at Roseland, NYC by Portishead, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, and Metamorphosis by Philip Glass. Some of these albums I grew up with, while others were introduced to me at significant times in my life. I constantly return to them, listening to the album in entirety. Each time, I find new musical elements and textures, as well as new meanings from the lyrics.

What is influencing your work right now?
Brian Adler’s Human Time Machine. Brian has taken the time to meet with me and explore more ways to approach rhythm. Such as, focusing on syncopation as a downbeat, seamlessly switching from a triplet feel to a sixteenth note feel, and developing patterns in 5. Performing in the Human Time Machine is helping me develop my voice as an improviser.

What artists are you interested in right now?
I’m interested in The Knife and MIA. Their ability to create dance songs that include a powerful political message blows me away. I love that these two artists have a sound that is so distinct, and clearly their own. I find that empowering and I hope to one day find my own.

Describe Roulette in three words.
Safe, encouraging, loving

Spotlight on G. Lucas Crane

[RESIDENCY] G Lucas Crane: Time Boiler
Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I’m a sound artist, musician, and performer, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I collage together sound steeped in magnetic tape aesthetics, and I use sounds on the common cassette tape as my instrument. I’m a tape DJ. An ancient and future sounds DJ.

I say “sound artist” here because through my sound practice, the process that I use to compose sound artwork is a spiritual, conceptual exploration of where I stand on the contemporary cyborg continuum,  and I’m exploring those concepts in sound. As we externalize our nervous systems into increasingly sophisticated devices, synthesizers, samplers, sequencers; what is making the music at any given time? Making artwork today that uses recorded media as its source material, I feel like the contemporary information warfare zeitgeist we live in makes it important to be constantly critical about where your media is coming from and how much  “integrity” it has as it relates to the self. I’m not a luddite or an analogue / digital purist by any means, I just want to know what’s going on, you know? Viscerally, physically, in the making of artwork. There’s something comforting about my media mostly coming from piles at my feet. I’m trying to remake recorded material from my life, and contemporary sensory life is replete with slick attention hijacking almost at every moment. So my work is kind of like performing anti-brainwashing rituals for myself. I have to admit I fail most of the time. Still, I can have the freedom to consider, in the time-bound folds of a tape loop, that time and life is not just for endlessly rushing forward consuming till death, I can create a space for revisiting the past, the ever cut-up present, and help divine the future through these musical processes. So that’s what sound art means to me, currently. Using attention to the sonic environment to fight the brainwashing.

I put “musician” here because regardless as to why I do anything with sound, I try to humbly situate myself amongst the world-spanning musical tradition, in that music as a craft is a pillar of human expression and the output of the daily plying of this trade has a relatable impact on all humans. So seeing oneself as a musician is in some way to try to recognize sonic impact over sonic intent and realize that “music” as a sound practice is located in the web of interconnected social fabric that exists between people making and listening to sounds as music. It’s really about something you do that someone else hears and the recognition of sound as a nonverbal communication medium, as well as an extremely intimate form of communication between practitioners. I really enjoy and get a lot out of this tradition of world walking bards, heads, jammers, tapers, nerds, weirdos, and citizen-musicologists, and I’m trying to ultimately make something that people listen to and get something out of (as opposed to, say, the conceptual motivations).

Lastly, I put “performer” here because the different mindsets that come with studio composition and live performance is important to my work, and I try to do a percentage of sonic decision making in a ‘live’ context. Non-live composition, especially for collage based media work I’m making, then becomes developing systems of sound relationships that have different probabilities of success or failure, and have these systems and decisions play out in a live setting. Performance is important to me as both a composition tool and social ritual. It’s a really potent human tradition.

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

I’m working on bringing something new for Roulette. New for me anyway. It’s called Time Boiler. Where I boil down some time. It’s an expansion of writing and music I’ve been making on the subject of time travel and ethics. Treating time travel and the mindset it requires as real and then working backwards from there to come up with how I remain an ethical human in all of that. How I remain myself. And how the time traveling mindset can reference and illuminate today’s society and the tyrannical control we are asserting over our reality and the reality of others. I think the practice and craft of music keeps one moral and honest, but that’s just me. For the past year I’ve been trying to expand my mind on the subject of time itself, which is sort of an outgrowth of my music practice in general. My music is made up of bits of sound from other times, and when I put them all together in real time, in a particular now, I feel the intense compression of time going into that moment, since my samples are frequently years old, mixed with things I just recorded. Music, as a medium ripped free of its mode as purely “personal expression,” is ultimately a “time binding” art form, where we fuse intent with what I consider a probing, a testing of reality via the body. Even when I don’t know who made a piece of music, I can hear it’s time-specific qualities, it’s made with machines and at a fidelity and style that correspond with a particular moment in time. Music is so hyper technological these days, that you can hear the time something is from via the the aesthetic qualities of the tech they are using. Even a recording of, say, a solo violin piece feels futuristic to me when recorded and reproduced in intense modern hi fidelity. if you reverse that consideration, it’s “a way to tell time” or to explore time. especially, I believe, right now! The act of making music is so time expansive, that during the act itself time does really weird stuff, shrinks down to where I’m exploring fractions of a second at the same time as focusing on an hour. This is almost a horrible insult to music in a way, as I’ve been speaking about music as collections of time and not how it sounds, but this is the most basic way I can try to understand what’s going on, since the sounds themselves are the things that conscripts my soul and makes for a compelling thing to listen to for others. There’s what you mix and then a how you mix it, and in my process the what, the actual sounds, grips me in the moment, leaving the how to be a more conceptual exploration of time, through how I make, organize, and relate to the tapes that I mix. I’ve just, lately, been thinking about what sound does to me and that leads to considering when it comes from, what it is, where every piece of the sound has an origin in thought or in time. I’ve been making sound work about this experience, which I feel like leads nicely to the recursive nature of my work in general; time chunked up and remixed, about time, in a time. So this new piece Time Boiler is my attempt at synthesizing these concepts into a performance.

And speaking about the performance, it’s important for me to use this opportunity at Roulette to attempt something that could only happen here, this being about time there has to be a trail aspect to the performance, so I’m setting up a few precarious musical feats I have to pull off and there’s no guarantee I’ll succeed. I mean I can practice, but there has to be this aspect of “even a failure will be specific to this time here.” I’m “racing against the clock” like we all are if we let ourselves. And the good thing is that any failure will just be another piece of music to the listener. No ones dying on a table if I can’t pull this piece off.

Another idea I’m exploring in Time Boiler is that of the rarified time object. Since I work with cassette tapes to hold my samples, there’s this solid touchstone aspect to sound that over the years of playing various samples I start to get really attached to specific tapes. Like I fetishize them to an unhealthy degree. So for this piece, I’m exploring making the tapes super crazy to the point where they could be treated like holy objects. There are only one of these tapes, and that weird sacred quality will then extend to the sounds that I put on these tapes, and these qualities will extend into affecting how I situate these samples into the overall composition and performance. I like relating to each sample as a physical object. I find it to be a mentally healthy consideration to have with sound. I get really angry sometimes at all the samples I have on my computer, like “what are you even doing in there in that dumb place.” Just numbered files sitting in a list in a simulacra of a folder in a box. Putting them on tapes frees me to really play with them, juggle them, get a physical grip on them. And making them increasingly crazy looking then effects how I come to feel about them and subsequently how I play the sounds contained therein in a piece of music. I’m trying to unite all the different factors of what truly goes into my musical performance moment to moment.

What is it like living and working in New York City?

Well I’m from here, from right here on 3rd Avenue! So it’s like home to me always, and I have to constantly remind myself to not feel too at home too much of the time because the reality of New York City as a place people move to to work on their lives is starkly different. I want to be able to put myself in people’s shoes. That’s the advantage of living in this city — people and their lives are all around you and you have a better opportunity to learn about people and experiences that are different from yours. The sheer scale of this quality is mind-boggling and unlike anywhere else. New York City, it’s got SHEER SCALE, with everything, the bad and the good. I’m pretty into people and what they do, I’m anti-misanthropic, and so this city is great and curious to me. You also have the opportunity to experience first hand how shitty a city can be to its people and how shitty people can be to each other, and that’s a different learning experience. This scale of human potential and depravity is deeply spiritually educational, and it’s a stark experience. When I go other places these realities are muted and more hidden in their locally specific ways, and I get pissed off and bored. I’m sort of a city rat, a creature of New York. In that way I’m kind of naïve and spoiled. I find any other place than New York City to be deeply exotic. “Oh so your clean trains turn off at night? Huh, wow. Crazy.”

What are you really excited about right now?

My dreams are crazy right now. Like full on sci-fi wonderland dreams with sequels and reboots. It’s making me question my memory and my waking life. My memory of these dreams is so intense, but it always comes with the feeling that these memories can only ever be half the story, or a third of the story. Are my dreams lies? Mis-remembered? Are they nonsense? Are they deeper truth? How could a labyrinth made of creosote logs that is also a submarine lit with jars filled with fireflies have some deeper truth? Or are the stories that affect me like what happens in my waking life? I’m psyched about this — its going to take me the rest of my life to figure out. I suppose it’s something we all have to reckon with, but I’m excited about it. I’m probably going to make some sort of…card game?…out of my dreams. Not sure. It’s going to sound funny but I’m really excited about how the human mindset is reacting to contemporary technology and how its going to require this intense criticality about what kind of information we take in to even survive with a sense of self, it’s already happening and these last few years has really shown that the casual violence of human communication can be harnessed into a psychic environment that conscripts us all. So that usual background notion of achieving or living in some type of “freedom” is going to be harder and harder to find without a new generation of intense criticality about what we take in and how. I have hope it’s going to lead to actual resources for leading a healthy life, because we all know how good the internet is for getting the same old poison into our psychic systems. So I would like to focus on and promote the good tools, not the bad. And I’m excited that it will be harder and harder to ignore the bad parts of human society. It’s all coming out now. The masks are slipping.

What’s your absolute favorite place in the city to be and why?

Wandering, just wandering around everywhere. The places I really like are the connective tissue of the city. I just like sitting on a random bench somewhere. I like going into a places I’ve never been. Rejecting what the phone tells me.

How did your interest in your work begin?

For me, there is a strong mental relationship between sound and narrative. Successions of sounds are sentences; a song is a paragraph. Sound as text. I started off when I was younger in love with words and what they do, their limits and advantages. Every sound I work with evokes some sort of story to me, but this is distinctly related without using words. It’s incredible that smashing sounds together can do this through the medium of the human brain, and my work is an attempt to plumb the depths of this relationship. Articulation can achieve clarity but kill innovation; saying something well trumps saying something of substance, etc. sound is a medium of different possible meanings existing in the same moment in time. Articulation with words fixes its nature, collapsing meaning back into an either/or realm that we are trained for. Even recording sound onto media fixes its nature and allows it to be remixed, further collapsing its potential meaning. I’m interested in sound recordings as texts of my memory and fragments of my own story, but I’m trying to discover associations that will lead me into my own future by cutting up and collaging my past. I’m extremely interested in forging a path through sonic art despite my training being firmly outside musical tradition and training. I think there’s a way to approach sound art as story making, and even if I sound like an idiot along the way, I’m interested in the outcomes of working deeply with these tools and concepts.

What is influencing your work right now?

Time travel and the chasing down of what it means to be an at a particular moment in time, and how we go about relating to our past and future selves, who we can only experience in the present. Trying to expand my consciousness through complex performance rituals and the time-specific concepts of hope vs. truth in time and as it relates to how we live half on and half off the Internet now, where time is compressed. To do something even if you can see into the future, is to have hope, to have an audacity, a type of insanity. The truth of things might be hopelessly cynical and rational and risk-averse, being right on the Internet now stands in for action or community, but hope for a better world and the values that hope requires still are important, even if you have a time machine and have tried and failed a hundred times to change the past, or see the future that might be inevitable. You still have to try, un-cynically. I might never make the nicest, most palatable music manhandling my sound memories on tape, but I can exemplify the seeking values of wonder by experimenting.