thingNY and Varispeed: Musical Voices Around A Table

Wednesday, May 30, 2018. 8:00 pm

thingNY and Varispeed: Musical Voices Around A Table

Wednesday, May 30, 2018. 8:00 pm

Gelsey Bell – Voice, Percussion, Celtic Harp
Andrew Livingston – Voice, Double Bass, Cello
Paul Pinto – Voice, Percussion
Erin Rogers – Voice, Saxophone
Dave Ruder – Voice, Clarinet, Guitar
Jeffrey Young – Voice, Violin
Brian McCorkle – Voice
Aliza Simons – Voice

Experimental composer-collectives thingNY and Varispeed perform Rick Burkhardt’s Passover and Kenneth Gaburo’s Maledetto.

Passover, commissioned for thingNY, is a performance-ritual for six singing/speaking instrumentalists seated at a dinner table on which there lies a double bass. Each performer relates the story of a friend’s escape: from a bad marriage, from an unfair situation at work, from a run-in with a traffic cop, from an ethically compromising opportunity, from an awkward family dinner. Ultimately, it becomes clear that all of these friends form one collective identity.

For Maledetto, thingNY is joined by Varispeed to celebrate the semicentennial 1968 cult-classic with a new homespun arrangement. Maledetto is a fusion of taxonomy lecture, absurdist inner dialogue, Dadaist choral music, and your uncle’s dirty jokes for seven “virtuoso speakers.” It is the masterwork for Gaburo’s theories of compositional linguistics. Varispeed’s arrangement updates the piece for the twenty-first century by splitting up the original authoritative voice among the collective and passing the seven roles around the table, like a dinner platter, in an attempt to uncouple patriarchy and heterosexuality from the piece’s incredible exploration of the vocalist as singer, storyteller, and orchestra. Both vocal-heavy works are performed around a communal table on Roulette’s stage.

thingNY is a quirky New-York-based collective of composer‐performers who fuse electronic and acoustic chamber music with new opera, improvisation, theater, song, and installation. Founded in 2006, thingNY performs experimental works created by the core ensemble and by adventurous composers such as Robert Ashley, Frederic Rzewski, John King, Pauline Oliveros, Rick Burkhardt, Miguel Frasconi, Vinko Globokar, John Cage, Julius Eastman, James Tenney, David Snow, and Andrea La Rose. The musicians of thingNY have collaboratively created three concert-length operas: This Takes Place Close By (2015), Time: A Complete Explanation in Three Parts (2011, with Panoply Performance Lab), and ADDDDDDDDD (2009). In 2016, thingNY released minis/Trajectories on Gold Bolus Recordings. thingNY also created In House (2011), a sound installation with music created for each of the rooms commonly found in a home; SPAM (2009-2012), marathon performances of hundreds of premieres culled from a mass call for scores and including every single response; and has worked with Jeff Young and Paul Pinto, Helado Negro, Face the Music, and Varispeed.

Varispeed is a collective of composer-performers that creates site-specific, sometimes-participatory, oftentimes-durational, forevermore-experimental events. Founded by Aliza Simons, Dave Ruder, Paul Pinto, Brian McCorkle, and Gelsey Bell, Varispeed came together in June 2011 to perform Perfect Lives Brooklyn, a 12-hour celebration of Robert Ashley’s landmark opera. Subsequently, they were invited to perform a new arrangement of Perfect Lives across the river as part of Performa ’11 and have subsequently performed the piece in the Catskills, Pittsburgh, and Jersey City. In 2012, Varispeed presented their second full scale project, an overnight arrangement of John Cage’s Empty Words, which was performed at Roulette, Exapno, and across the Brooklyn Bridge. In August of 2013, Varispeed created an arrangement of Arthur Jarvinen’s Adult Party Games, a collection of conceptual scores, during a residency at Mount Tremper Arts. Since 2011, the members of Varispeed have delved deeply into the work of Robert Ashley, performing not only Perfect Lives but premiering the composer’s final piece, Crash, at the Whitney Biennial 2014 (reprised at Roulette in 2015 and at Wesleyan University in 2018), performing in the restaging of That Morning Thing (2011), arranging a trio version of Love is a Good Example (2014), and creating their own arrangement of Public Opinion Descends Upon the Demonstrators (2013).

Rick Burkhardt is an Obie-award-winning playwright, composer, director, and performer whose original music and text pieces have been performed in Australia, Europe, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, and over 40 US cities. He studied at the University of California, San Diego and Brown University. He is a founding member of the Nonsense Company, an experimental chamber music-theater trio, and the Prince Myshkins, a cabaret-folk political satire duo. His works have been commissioned and performed by ICE, Wet Ink, Yarn/Wire, Surplus, Ascolta, Mocrep, hand/werk, ensemble XII, sfSound, radical 2, Dal Niente, Echoi, Collegium Novum Zurich, Red Fish Blue Fish, La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, Olympia Chamber Orchestra, and more.

Kenneth Gaburo was an American composer who created work with and for instrumentalists, vocalists, electronics, and actors. His interest in the musicality of the voice and language led him to develop compositional linguistics. He founded the New Music Choral Ensemble in 1960 and the Lingua Press Publishing Company in 1974, both of which focused on 20th-century experimental music. He also established the Institute of Cognitive Studies, in 1982, and taught at several colleges, including the University of California at San Diego and the University of Iowa. His works include “On a Quiet Theme,” which won the Gershwin Memorial Contest in 1954, a series of “Antiphonies,” “Mouth-Piece,” “the Flow of [u],” and many works in the Lingua series, including Maledetto.


thingNY’s commission of Rick Burkhardt’s Passover has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program with generous funding provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund. Gelsey Bell’s Rolodex is being created with the support of the EtM Ridgewood Bushwick Composer Residency, administered by Exploring the Metropolis, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.