Category: Blogcast


Roulette has suspended its live programs

In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and keep our artists, staff, and larger community safe and healthy, Roulette has suspended live programming for the time being. We hope to resume programming as soon as officials and health experts advise that it is safe to gather. 

We will continue to stay alert to information and guidelines offered by city, state, and federal officials, as well as the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we will update this space as any new developments affect our operational decisions. 

If you purchased tickets to a Roulette performance originally scheduled between March 13 and June 30, please contact us at for an exchange or refund. Alternatively, if you are in a position to convert your ticket purchase into a tax-deductible donation or make a tax-deductible gift to Roulette, please know that your support would mean so much to us and the community of artists that we serve. 

We believe in the importance of art in difficult times and we remain committed to supporting and nourishing our artists and community. While live programming is suspended, we invite you to subscribe to Roulette’s newsletter for special digital content drawing on our archive, community news and resources, and the most up to date information on our programming.

We wish you all good health!


Our 2020 Van Lier Fellows

Roulette is proud to present our 2020 Van Lier Fellows: composer and audio technologist Anastasia Clarke and composer, musician, and multidisciplinary artist Anjna Swaminathan.

A longtime partnership with the Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund of the New York Community Trust has enabled Roulette to offer year-long fellowships to a number of outstanding young artists to create, rehearse, experiment, and investigate new directions in their craft. Past Roulette Van Lier Fellows include Matthew Welch, Matana Roberts, Tyshawn Sorey, Ha Yang Kim, Paula Matthusen, Darius Jones, Maria Chavez, Mary Halvorson, Brandon Lopez, and Kelly Moran.

Anastasia Clarke is a New York-based composer, performer, and audio technologist working in live embodied electronic music performance. Her sprawling custom instrument-interfaces and deliberately confusing sound performing systems make theatre out of human-instrument interaction; therapy out of earnest sound exploration; and jokes out of the impossibility of ever understanding exactly what is going on. In addition to custom electronics, monologues, movement, and the destruction and repurposing of sound-generating materials figure heavily into Anastasia’s whimsical sonic textures, guiding performers and audiences into complex plays of attention without any hand-holding.

Clarke’s work is performed in galleries, concert halls, DIY venues and unsuspecting community spaces across the United States. Clarke has also engaged audiences through speaking and pedagogy, most recently at Cycling ’74’s Expo ’74, NIME 2018, The School for Poetic Computation, and various colleges and universities.  Clarke earned an MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College in 2018, and has received support for subsequent work and research from the Queens Arts Fund, EMS (Stockholm), CCRMA, and a 2020 Van Lier Fellowship at Roulette.

Anjna Swaminathan is a queer multidisciplinary artist, composer, violinist, vocalist, writer, theatre artist, educator, and dramaturg. As an artist with a passion for sociopolitical work, community building, and critical consciousness, Swaminathan’s artistic practice is an extension of her activist spirit. Informed by her rigorous training in the Carnatic and Hindustani music traditions of India, Anjna creates in New York’s vibrant creative music and improvisatory scene, in hybrid classical compositional work, and in her own multidisciplinary projects. Since 2018, Anjna has been under the compositional mentorship of Gabriela Lena Frank and continues her training in Hindustani music with Samarth Nagarkar. Swaminathan holds a BA in Theatre from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Oren Barnoy: future erasure

The prayer is the physicalization of an intention to have something to revisit every morning. Both building upon and executing over and over as it becomes part of the musculature of the body, it becomes a semi-automatic experience. A sequence of movements that can be done in small spaces and large depending on location. From this prayer or movement sequence we amplify it in our own ways. — Oren Barnoy

On February 5-7, 2020, Roulette will present New York-based choreographer and dancer Oren Barnoy’s newest work, future erasure. After a rehearsal in the final days of 2019, the three dancers for whom Barnoy created future erasure joined him in conversation with Roulette Director of Communications Caitlin Gleason to discuss working collaboratively, embodiment and individual expression, and the role of sound in the piece.

Caitlin Gleason: Tell me about the piece you are presenting in February at Roulette.

Oren Barnoy: We have been working on it for at least three years. The priority has always been the creation of movement and material, which is difficult to do in New York because of the lack of resources to rehearse. Additionally, it takes a while to make material that doesn’t reference ballet or other modern forms [of dance] because of the training that resides in our bodies. In my work, I recognize how the past lives in our bodies. I try to figure out what to embrace and what movements have an ideal ideology and which ones I don’t exactly feel as in line with. That work has been a dialogue between us. In the case of this show, it’s a little bit different because we’ve been working for a little while, so now I feel like we’re crafting it, working on the compositional elements of it a little more.

CG: What is the role of sound and music in this piece?

OB: I’m excited to work with [sound designer James Lo] because he is who he is, and also because he’s not me [laughter] and can offer a different perspective. I’m not going to be thinking of what sounds right, I’m coming from a place of an urban kind of soulful house music, hip hop sounds, and so on. James has his history and his life and his music and his interests, and so far it seems like what’s happening is I’m able to see the material more with the sounds that he’s making. We’re asking the same questions. What is this sound doing and why?

And the work is that question. James mentioned that a lot of that work consists of trying to see the movement as it really is and trying to imagine the different ways that the movement could be seen.

Paul Hamilton: That really resonates– just based on how we first started working with the material…when we did it at Gibney and we had house music and we started off with the prayer. Which was, for me, kind of a weird house flashback because back in the day when you would go dancing with friends you would say, we’re going to go to church, you know?

And so we started off with this stepping idea about the prayer and the house music, but now, as the piece continues, the music and movement have evolved, but far more interesting is how the movement is executed and how it lives in my body differently based on the different soundscapes that it exists in. It’s been really interesting to see what James has brought in and how it has affected the movement. It has reshaped and reformed, or been reborn in my body. The soundscape is very different.

CG: Oren, you mentioned that this work is more of a collaboration, rather than a choreographed piece for a group of dancers. How so?

OB: That’s right. Although, I don’t think it’s a historically-defined collaboration. It’s not a standard choreographer-to-dancer relationship either. It’s not a collaboration but it is people coming together to make a work.

Candace Tabbs: Oren, you’ve used the word “practitioner” before, like we are practitioners in this work, and I think that speaks to how we exist in the making of it. That it’s about how the movement is starting to live in our bodies. This kind of kneading it, like dough, letting it settle and then thinking of how we can expand it and stretch it to see what opens up and what evolves in the movement and the different shared phrases that we have in our group. Like the prayer, it’s kind of common ground where we explore. So “practitioners” kind of always stuck for me.

Molly Lieber:  Yeah because there is really detailed movement work happening. I wasn’t with Oren and Paul when this movement started, we [Candace and Molly] came in a little bit later. As a group we started really pulling apart movements and found if you stretch apart something, you can see it in a different way and get different things out of it. That’s what I feel like we do. The movement has been really stretched out so you could extract it and you can change it. I feel like there’s a vocabulary that we all understand and practice.

CG: That’s interesting too. I’m thinking about the relationship to music and scores and how that kind of functions in the same way.

PH: Yeah, I mean, all of us work with choreographers and I think all of us work in situations where we are in collaboration with choreographers. But there is something about the intimate nature of the style of this movement or the fracturing of the prayer in each person’s body because we’re kind of taking a source material and all doing it in our own way, which then kind of personalizes it in a very particular way. It gives us each a certain amount of agency over how we are interpreting the movement. There is of ownership over your own interpretation what you’re doing.

OB: When you say ownership, that’s so clear. That material is really that person’s material.

PH: And it would look very different if someone else was doing it and it would then become theirs.

OB: When you look at them you can see that they’re the same movements. But that is the work we’re doing, the movement becomes embodied differently in each dancer because we’re trying to amplify it and amplifying it means something slightly different for each person. Each person it expresses the movement a little differently but it’s the same. It’s an expression of them. We’re dancing from all sides.

I personally think that if the dancer has the interest or the willingness and the space inside to express themselves, that they’ll feel empowered and then hopefully as a group we would feel empowered, and that’s ideal. It’s part of my plan to find ways to express empowerment.

CG: In the winter of 2019, you presented work as part of Roulette’s New Movement Series, organized by Molly and Eleanor Smith. Did future erasure grow out of that work? Are they related?

OB: It’s a clear continuation.

CG: In what way? What elements are moving forward?

OB: The material itself. We are developing some new core physical movement material and there’s some material from the work’s previous iteration that is part of it. Often, I think that performances do not necessarily happen exactly when you’ve finished the piece. So at this point, it doesn’t feel like a finishing. It feels like such an infinite kind of experience and that last year’s work and February’s performance are one whole piece.

CG: Do you have any non-dance influences such as text, music, or artists that contribute to your process?

ML: Honestly, a lot of conversation in the room influences what’s happening. I feel like that’s something that’s hard to grasp in a performance, but I do feel like the whole nature of the vocabulary of the work, like saying again, it came from a shared vocabulary of open steps. Everybody knows each step, but then what’s shown is a version of those steps that comes from stretching it out and finding something that each person’s body can relate to. I think when you’re seeing it in performance, you’re seeing something that is hard to grasp. A lot of times people have seen this work and said to me “oh were you improvising the whole time?” No, each person knows what they’re doing the entire time. But it has the feel of improvisation, where you are doing something that’s a little hard to grasp. Yet we’re getting somewhere, and the fact that we’ve been doing it for so long and it’s still hard to grasp, speaks to the intrinsic nature of this vocabulary.

I think another influence is what we’ve been talking about in the room because there is community when you meet with the same people over a period of time – I’ve gone from being pregnant to having a two-year-old, Candace has gone through her journey, Paul has gone through his, and Oren has gone through his. I think that all shows up in the performance.

CG: I like that very much.

PH: I feel like the first time we presented this work, the title was a group of lines, a symbol.*

OB: Yes, it’s a big difference.

PH: Not that I’m holding on to that but in a way, for me, the symbol represented a lot of the inner-outer workings of the piece and in some sense represents how I feel about the matriarchal work in that it’s constantly moving, constantly overlapping, folding in on itself, opening out. I know we’ve gone on and different elements are being introduced, but I still do see the symbol as a frame. It’s like an eight-headed monster. There’s so much going on, there’s a space, then that, then this, then bodies moving in, and out and down and up. That’s my experience in it.

CG: I think that’s interesting that you bring up the symbol and then thinking about this transition to a written title. It seems like it follows the evolution of the piece.

PH: Yes. A symbol moving into words.

CG: Could you talk about working at Roulette? Is there anything that stands out about working in that space?

OB: There’s just a nice feeling about it overall. I feel a sense of freedom there and also the sound quality is so amazing. It feels like at Roulette you can blast it if you want, you can really feel the bass. I love that – I love the sound. And working with everybody there is really cool and they work with you to support your vision. It seems to be really about the work, zero drama.

PH: We’re excited. When I found out this was happening I was like, that’s really awesome. Roulette, Brooklyn, exciting space and we have a history of working there and I feel very good about presenting work there.

OB: I also like that it’s different than Danspace Project or similar historically dance-presenting spaces. Roulette has a different history. It’s an honor to show your work at a space that started out as a platform for avant-garde music and has expanded. It feels a little different than working in a purely dance-based space, in a good way! We’re excited.

*In May 2019, Oren Barnoy presented at Roulette. Titled with a symbol, the piece was performed by Barnoy along with Hamilton, Lieber, and Tabbs.

Make a Difference for Artists Like Mary Halvorson

Everything we present at Roulette is underscored by two questions: “What do you want to do, and how can we help?” To us, this question will always be fundamental for the healthy longevity of art and—most importantly—for the wonderful people who make and enjoy it.

One of these extraordinary artists, 2019 MacArthur Award Winner Mary Halvorson, shares just how broadly your support has strengthened the lives of so many, including her own:

I have been going to shows at Roulette since 1999, when it was located in Jim Staley’s loft in TriBeca. For these 20 years, Roulette has been going strong—supporting and encouraging creative and experimental artists in all stages of their careers.

Roulette was one of the first organizations to award me a commission in my twenties. This commission was hugely important to me and was the push I needed to form my longstanding quintet. Since then, Roulette has invited me to present diverse projects of my choosing, allowing me complete artistic freedom to experiment and explore.

I am also a member, and enjoy attending concerts. There is a real feeling that Roulette is 100% a platform for artists, run by artists. They always have terrific programming. Within any given season, it’s particularly exciting to see Roulette nurture and support emerging artists, alongside many of my musical heroes.

Roulette would be nothing without the people—like Mary, like you—who have come together in curiosity with us over the past 41 years. As long as we’re here, Roulette will never stop supporting artists, will never stop shining as a beacon for the underground, and will never stop needing the amazing community of people who make this work possible.

2019 MacArthur Genius Mary Halvorson is a guitarist, ensemble leader, and composer who is pushing against established musical categories with a singular sound on her instrument and an aesthetic that evolves with each new album and configuration of bandmates. She melds her jazz roots with elements of experimental rock, folk, and other musical traditions, reflecting a wide range of stylistic influences. One of New York City’s most in-demand guitarists, over the past decade Halvorson has worked with such diverse musicians as Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum, John Dieterich, Trevor Dunn, Bill Frisell, Ingrid Laubrock, Jason Moran, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey, Jessica Pavone, Tomeka Reid, Marc Ribot and John Zorn.

Spotlight On Brandon Lopez

On December 16 2019, bassist and composer Brandon Lopez presents sun burns out your eyes, a new work for trio and 4tet developed as part of his Roulette Residency and made possible with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation.

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

I’m a bassist and composer and my work deals with improvisation. This coming December, I’ll present music for trio and quartet. The work, I think, will involve repetition and stasis and also none of it.

Who would be your ideal collaborator?

The ideal collaborator has little problem with frustration and the wrong choices being the right ones and the right ones needing a little shit on them.

What is influencing your work right now?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the intangible, the left hand path, and how to make a cat happy. Unsure how that cocktail is influencing me, but I need to stand up. The level of inebriation can only be seen then. Unsure if the legs work. Will see in December.

What is your first musical memory?

Swearing off the stuff after getting a D in 3rd grade music class. My recorder had melted next to the family’s wood stove, and I was too sheepish to ask my mother to order a new one. That was maybe the first time I muttered, “fuck music”—and by no means the last of the sentiment.

How would you describe the New York music scene?

The New York music scene seems, by the grace of god, a fertile valley. Have to admit, all these condos feel like watching the fast-motion bleaching of the great barrier reef that creates a sometimes overwhelming sense of dread.

Brandon Lopez: sun burns out your eyes takes place on Monday, December 16, 2019 at 8pm with performers: drummer Gerald Cleaver, electronicist Cecilia Lopez, and saxophonist Steve Baczkowski.

The New Yorker —Roulette: A Steadfast Bastion of Experimental Music

Illustration by Molly Snee

In the course of Roulette’s evolution, from its humble beginnings in a Tribeca loft, in 1978, to its present home in Brooklyn, the venue has become one of New York City’s most steadfast bastions of experimental music; there’s so much going on this week that you scarcely need to look elsewhere for aural intrigue or edification. On Dec. 5, the excellent Momenta Quartet collaborates with the composers Elizabeth Brown and Frances White in pieces that draw on Japanese folk music, Persian poetry, and a W. G. Sebald novel. The following night celebrates Sylvano Bussotti, a trailblazing Italian avant-garde composer and queer activist; Gamelan Kusuma Laras, a group that specializes in courtly Javanese repertoire, performs on Saturday. On Dec. 9, the Anagram Ensemble introduces “I Looked at the Eclipse,” a new opera by James Ilgenfritz and Sarah Krasnow which incorporates improvisation and video, and, on Dec. 10, Judith Berkson, a distinctive composer, vocalist, and cantor, presents new music with the protean ensemble Ordinary Affects.


This article originally appeared in The New Yorker, December 2019

Matana Roberts — “I’m traveling the world, doing my work because of Roulette.”

Artists are thought leaders and culture producers who challenge us to think, talk, and engage with one another in openness and curiosity. Yet they and their work remain fundamentally undervalued and underfunded in the very society they so strongly enrich. Put simply: artists can’t thrive without committed organizations on their side, and Roulette can’t thrive without caring individuals like you on ours.

Roulette had the privilege of commissioning the extraordinary Matana Roberts when she first moved to NYC in 2007, and for many iterations since. Matana recently shared onstage how much that initial support meant at a time when she needed it most:

I get a phone call from Artistic Director Jim Staley, and I might be paraphrasing but I think he said, “Would you like some money?” I’ll never forget it, I was like, “YES. I would like some money! What am I supposed to do with it?” And he said, “Anything you want to do.” From that initial commission, I was able to create the work that I’m still working diligently on: COIN COIN.

I cannot impress upon you enough that I have a career because of Roulette. I’m eating regularly because of Roulette. I’m traveling the world, doing my work because of Roulette.

The thousands of artists Roulette welcomes to its stage each year, like Matana, deserve serious, lucrative opportunities to get started, and just as many opportunities to keep going. Your support makes this all possible—and it makes all the difference.

Matana Roberts is an internationally recognized, Chicago-born saxophonist and multidisciplinary sound conceptualist working in various mediums of performance inquiry. She is well-known for her acclaimed Coin Coin project, a multi-chapter work of “panoramic sound quilting” that aims to expose the mystical roots and channel the intuitive spirit-raising traditions of American creative expression.


Roberts celebrated the record release of Coin Coin Chapter IV: Memphis at Roulette on November 17, 2019.

Our 2019–2020 Resident + Commissioned Artists

Roulette is proud to announce the Resident and Commissioned Artists for our 2019–2020 season. Trumpeter and composer Jaimie Branch; saxophonist Aaron Burnett; composer, producer, and pianist Kelly Moran; bassist Brandon Lopez; and interdisciplinary artist, composer, and pianist Mary Prescott have been selected for year-long residencies. Commissioned artists include multi-instrumentalist and composer Morgan Guerin, sound artist Val Jeanty, bassist and composer Max Johnson, interdisciplinary performance maker Muyassar Kurdi, and composer Cassie Wieland.

Each artist will present new work at Roulette in 2019–2020.

Roulette operates a Commissioning Program and an Artist Residency Program, supported by funds from the Jerome Foundation and New York State Council on the Arts. These programs accelerate the careers of talented musical creators, giving them the financial and technical resources to create signature work in our state-of-the-art theater.

2020 Roulette Residents

A mainstay of the Chicago jazz scene and recent active addition to the New York scene, Jaimie Branch is an avant-garde trumpeter known for her “ghostly sounds” (The New York Times) and for “sucker punching” crowds straight from the jump (Time Out). Her classical training and “unique voice capable of transforming every ensemble of which she is a part” (Jazz Right Now) has contributed to a wide range of projects not only in jazz but also punk, noise, indie rock, electronic and hip-hop. Branch’s prolific and as-of-yet underexposed work as a composer and a producer, as well as a sideman for the likes of William Parker, Matana Roberts, TV on the Radio and Spoon, is all on display in her debut record Fly or Die – a dynamic 35-minute ride that dares listeners to open their minds to music that knows no genre, no gender, no limits.

Aaron Burnett began to study classical saxophone at age 11. After attending University of North Carolina at Greensboro for Classical and Jazz Performance (1999-2001), he relocated to Berklee College of Music for Classical Composition (2005–2008), graduating with a degree in Professional Music. Burnett has always stressed the importance of establishing a unique sound for himself, studying classical Baroque composition techniques, advance harmony, world music, and atonal composition. He has performed with renowned musicians such as Vijay Iyer, Teri Lyne Carrington, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Michelle Rosewoman, Jeff Tain Watts, and Kim Thompson, and toured with three-time Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding in her 2012 world tour with Radio Music Society. Burnett retains what he feels is the true nature of jazz in his music and his playing, always searching for new ways of interpretation.

Aaron Burnett: Compound Gravity

Brandon Lopez’s work has been praised as “brutal” (Chicago Reader) and “relentless” (The New York Times). He has worked beside many experimental music’s luminaries; Jooklo Trio, Nate Wooley, Sun Ra Arkestra, Ashley Fure, Okkyung Lee, Gerald Cleaver, Ingrid Laubrock, Tony Malaby, Tyshawn Sorey, Bill Nace, Tom Rainey, Steve Baczkwoski, Chris Corsano, and many others. He was the 2018 Artist in Residence at Issue Project Room and a Van Lier Fellow at Roulette Intermedium. In September 2018 he was featured soloist with the New York Philharmonic.

Kelly Moran is a composer, producer, and pianist from Long Island, New York. As the sole engineer and producer of her five solo albums, her intricately arranged electro-acoustic compositions have been described as accomplishing “the rare feat of making the work of a single individual sound like the artistic output of a veritable creative army.” (Zoe Camp, Revolver.) Moran specializes in works that employ extended techniques and prepared piano. Her album Bloodroot was released by Telegraph Harp Records in March 2017 and received critical praise. She’s the lead keyboardist for Oneohtrix Point Never’s first live touring ensemble and collaborates with pianist Margaret Leng-Tan, The Manhattan Choral Ensemble, and Yarn/Wire. In 2010, Moran received a fellowship for the MFA program in Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology at the University of California-Irvine. She is a former 2018 Roulette Van Lier Fellow.

Mary Prescott is a Thai-American interdisciplinary artist, composer, and pianist who explores the foundations and facets of identity and social conditions through experiential performance. Her output includes music-theater, improvised music, an immersive chamber opera, a 365-day sound journal, and a film score for Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance, as well as solo and chamber concert works. Prescott is a 2019-21 American Opera Projects Composers and the Voice Fellow. She has held residencies at Hudson Hall, Areté Venue and Gallery, Avaloch Farm Music Institute and Arts Letters and Numbers. In 2019, she was awarded a Roulette Jerome Foundation Commission; and a National Performance Network Creation and Development Fund Award, co-commissioned by Public Functionary (Minneapolis) and Living Arts (Tulsa).

2020 Roulette Commissions

Multi-instrumentalist, composer and audio engineer, Morgan Guerin grew up in Baton Rouge and New Orleans and was raised in Atlanta. With his mother being a pianist and his father being a bassist, Morgan began playing drums, piano, and bass early on in addition to sax and EWI (electronic wind instrument) later on. Currently residing in New York City now at age 21, Morgan performs regularly with Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, Esperanza Spalding, Amina Figarova Sextet and Tyshawn Sorey. His debut record The Saga was released in 2016 followed by The Saga II in 2017.

Haitian electronic music composer Val Jeanty creates esoteric sounds that tantalize the subconscious while creating a healing/cosmic frequency. By synergistically combining acoustics with electronics and the archaic with postmodern, Jeanty incorporates her African Haitian musical traditions into the present and beyond. Her AfroElectronica installations have been showcased in New York City at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, and The Village Vanguard. She is also recognized internationally and has performed at The SaalFelden Musical Festival in Austria, Stanser Musiktage in Switzerland, Jazz à la Villette in France, and the Biennale Di Venezia Museum in Italy.

Val Jeanty and Risha Rox: Ritual Merging

Creating complex worlds of sound, bassist and composer Max Johnson challenges his listeners to engage deeply and be rewarded with a complete musical experience that is always jubilantly crafted with love, care, and clarity. “Johnson is an intrepid composer, architect of sound and beast of the bass…” (Brad Cohan, New York City Jazz Record). With 9 albums, and over fifteen hundred concerts under his belt with artists like John Zorn, Mivos Quartet, Chris Thile, Anthony Braxton, Mary Halvorson, among others, Johnson has proven to be an unparalleled force on the bass, and a unique, exhilarating voice as a composer.

Muyassar Kurdi is a New York City-based interdisciplinary artist. Her work encompasses sound art, extended vocal technique, performance art, movement, analog photography, and film. She has toured extensively in the U.S. and throughout Europe. She currently focuses her attention on interweaving homemade electronic instruments into her vocal and dance performances, stirring a plethora of emotions from her audience members through vicious noise, ritualistic chants, and meditative movements.

Cassie Wieland‘s music takes roots of expression and finds new paths of communication through them. In that vein, she often draws from source materials that relate to the human voice and works to replicate them through another musical medium. Experimenting with timbre and texture, specifically exploring intimate and fragile sounds, is also a large contributing factor to Wieland’s work. Processes such as removing sounds from their original environments and repurposing them into musical ones help her achieve the “hand-made” sound she is often looking for: imperfect, but intentional. Through her music, Wieland aims to show that vulnerability and intimacy can be synonymous with strength and power.

Roulette’s Residency and Commissioning programs are guided by the underlying question to artists: What would you like to do, and how can we help? The programs are intended to identify and support young artists whose work promises significant contributions to music, to accelerate the careers of talented artists, give them financial and technical resources as they create signature work, clarify their artistic direction, and build their confidence in their ability to pursue their art.

Artistic Director Jim Staley receives nominations for Jerome recipients from artists and recommendations from members of Roulette’s 16-person Artistic Advisory Committee, many of whom are former Roulette Jerome Awardees. Roulette Jerome Commissions are awarded to emerging artists, and are nominated by a panel of artists committed to the next generation of creativity. Roulette Jerome Residencies are awarded to early to mid-career artists, many of whom have performed at Roulette, and whose work will benefit from further resources for development.

Cecilia Lopez on Folly Systems: Embracing Contradictions

by David Weinstein

Cecilia Lopez with her installation RED at Roulette, 2019

The sound and installation artist Cecilia Lopez was invited by Outpost Artists Resources to curate a festival that the Queens-based media arts center is co-presenting with Roulette on November 13 and 14, 2019 (11 artists, 2 days). Lopez spoke by telephone from Buenos Aires with Roulette Director of Special Projects David Weinstein to discuss what inspired her to take on the project.

What is the concept and context of the festival within the current art and technology scene?

When I was approached with the idea, the question was to curate a new media or a real time media festival that involved technology with live performances. All these terms raise questions, right? This is mostly what I do in my own work and I like the intersection of these things. That said, I find that there’s usually a little bit of an arms race aspect to it, in how people relate to technology and how its uses are imposed.

For me, technology is never neutral and lots of things are in play in the use of it. So I thought about who is using technology with a subject-based idea, like identity or experience or even simply what does technology mean? You know, it doesn’t matter how technical it gets. The question is more, what technology means for us, and what even constitutes technology? A piano is technology. Some people in the festival use very technical stuff and some do very artisanal things.

How did you select the work? Talk about a few of the artists and how their technology and approach fit the project.

I’m interested in concepts of precariousness and the organic even with electronics. Limitations are very freeing. So I’m trying to give a perspective on these questions. I chose work thinking about all this, which led to a wide range of people, which is interesting for me too. I was like, okay, this is cool. This works. For example, Amanda Gutierrez uses VR, and it’s a walk through a neighborhood with people that narrate their experience there so it’s not removed from our reality. It’s not abstract. The concept is at the service of something else. So, what’s that something else and how does that service happen? It’s about that interaction.

I’m interested in the complication of the subjective experience through mediation, layers; sort of like how we perceive our surroundings. I use the word mediation when there’s a distance, not removal, but a layer influencing the actual experience. Nao Nishihara builds machines but they’re very rudimentary and it’s old-fashioned in a way. So he’s less technological in terms of technique but the performance aspect creates a poetic interplay between the body and the mechanical. Ragnhild May builds clusters of wind instruments and wears them as an outfit and the visual/theatrical/sonic elements intersect with super technological stuff like algorithms and Arduino.

Image result for ragnhild may
Danish visual artist and composer Ragnhild May with her self-designed instrument: a one-woman recorder orchestra consisting of 132 recorders, a Nilfisk vacuum cleaner, and 5 air mattress pumps.

Aki Onda’s work addresses musicality and time and performance in a very particular way with simple means like glass bells and lightbulbs and projections. So again, it’s the layers between objects and actions that generate an augmented perception. Gil Arno will present an amplified customized projection machine that he’s built that generates pulsating images on an offstage screen, but watching him work is part of the experience.

What will the audience encounter that may surprise them?

The theater won’t be fixed in a typical auditorium format. There are things that require someone moving through the space. There are things that are more screen-based. It’s a traditional theater, and you can’t change the way it looks. But I feel like you can also use that dissonance in your favor to make it even weirder, you know? It sets up a contradiction, kind of like nonsense, which I’m interested in.

What do you hope emerges as the most valuable lesson or message from the festival?

Given the world we live in, I feel like being critical about the use of technology is sort of crucial and perhaps a way of questioning the system. I think a lot about these non-neutral aspects of technology and how the non-mechanical amplifies these questions. When things are not so normalized or not so standardized it brings them back to who made it, how did they make it, where…there’s lots of meaning in that for me.

Co-presented by Outpost Artists Resources and Roulette, Folly Systems comes to Brooklyn as a two-night festival presenting the work of a wide group of artists working at the intersection of performance and media art. Featuring artists Amanda Gutiérrez, Art Jones, Shelley Hirsch, Ragnhild May, Aki Onda, Gill Arno, Forbes Graham, Jean Carla Rodea, Nao Nishihara, Ian Kornfeld, and Ying Liu.

Folly Systems

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.