Blogs The Green Room Ross Koeberl

Ross Thomas Methuselah Koeberl is a Walker Performing Arts Intern and a student at the University of Minnesota studying Linguistics and Furniture Design. He also works at Radio K and has hosted a number of their genre-specific programs, primarily hip-hop and bluegrass. In his free time he bakes pies.

Listening Mix: Devendra Banhart & Friends

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. For his two-evening event this weekend, Wind Grove Mind Alone, singer/songwriter Devendra Banhart has gathered a group of collaborators, contemporaries, mentors, and friends. It wasn’t so long […]

Photo: OSK

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview for artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

For his two-evening event this weekend, Wind Grove Mind Alone, singer/songwriter Devendra Banhart has gathered a group of collaborators, contemporaries, mentors, and friends. It wasn’t so long ago, however, that he was working with a group of artists he referred to as “The Family.” In this New Weird America movement, Banhart was cast as the key figure willing not only to sketch out the family tree but trace it back to its roots, with a constant willingness to give recognition to his influences. One could consider Wild Grove Mind Alone a sort of culmination of these efforts. As the McGuire stage is shared by Lucky Dragons, Jessica Pratt and Greta Morgan, Helado Negro, William Basinski, Rodrigo Amarante, Hecuba, and Harold Budd with Bradford Ellis, each could be said to embody a unique element of Banhart’s ever-shifting sound.

Banhart’s musical career coincided with the beginning of the century, busking around San Francisco, slowly compiling demo recordings on “shoddy and broken four tracks” and friends’ answering machines. A decade later, fellow San Franciscan Jessica Pratt found success with a similar analogue authenticity, along with a vocalic intimacy that aligns them both with unsung folk forebears like Vashti Bunyan and Linda Perhacs. Banhart’s early aesthetic also effortlessly incorporated Spanish-sung ballads and polyrhythmic samba send-ups, hearkening to his adolescence in Venezuela. Roberto Carlos Lange’s music as Helado Negro has also found a center in an effortless bilinguality, and trades off Latin influences for pop efficacy with a similar ease. These elements also unify Banhart with fellow Venezuelan Rodrigo Amarante, with whom he has collaborated throughout his last several records.

While the decade moved on and The Family grew, so did Banhart’s sound. As his guitar and vocals were integrated into songs by Anhoni, he exchanged the influence of her contemporary William Basinski, a purveyor of sonic intimacy, melancholy, and wonder. This sense of wonder saw shades of klezmer, comedy, art rock, and gospel begin to appear on his records, enacted with the same sense of conviction he had left on answering machines in years prior. Lucky Dragons seem similarly committed to rearranging commonplace sounds, pursuing strange experiments, and retaining an acoustic instrumentation to give their work a sense of distorted familiarity.

After 2009’s What Will We Be, Banhart took a break from music to focus on a love of visual art fostered by his album cover illustrations and selection of tour-mates like Hecuba, a visually-motivated LA duo whose music develops naturally alongside its choreographed, costumed, and projected elements. In 2013, Banhart released his eighth album, Mala, and last year published a book of his art, I Left My Noodle on Ramen Street. The book contains a series of paintings inspired by the minimal piano pieces of Harold Budd, which Banhart had also expressed a wish to emulate on Mala, an album equal parts intimate and ambitious.

Just as in Banhart’s career, Wind Grove Mind Alone confronts a wide spectrum of sounds. Together, they create an ambitious portrait of a family of sounds that continues to grow, and where they’ll wind up next is anyone’s guess. For this listening mix, I’ve paired songs from across Banhart’s discography with collaborators and influences alike: the minimalist soundscapes of Budd and Basinski, the Spanish-sung ballads of Helado Negro, the intimate folk of Pratt and Vashti Bunyan, the heartfelt electronics of Hecuba and Arthur Russell, the abstract experiments of Lucky Dragons, and more.


Wind Grove Mind Alone—a copresentation with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series—will be performed over the course of two evenings in the Walker Art Center’s McGuire Theater. Devendra Banhart will perform with Lucky Dragons, Pratt and Morgan, Helado Negro, and Basinski on Friday, May 13 at 8 pm, and with his full band, Amarante, Hecuba, and Budd and Ellis on Saturday, May 14 at 8 pm. Tickets are currently sold out; a wait list will begin one hour prior to the performance at the Walker box office.

The Shape of Doo-Bop to Come: Steve Lehman and HPrizm

On Saturday, May 7, the Steve Lehman Octet will bring its spectral harmonies and cascading rhythms to the McGuire Theater. Lehman is a jazz stalwart, guided by algorithms and an abiding musical intuition which carried the Octet’s most recent release, Mise en Abîme, to the top spot on the 2014 NPR Music Jazz Critic’s Poll. At the same time, […]

Photos: Steve Lehman courtesy Willie Davis; HPrizm courtesy Sandra MAr Photographer

Photos: Steve Lehman (left), courtesy Willie Davis; HPrizm, courtesy Sandra MAr

On Saturday, May 7, the Steve Lehman Octet will bring its spectral harmonies and cascading rhythms to the McGuire Theater. Lehman is a jazz stalwart, guided by algorithms and an abiding musical intuition which carried the Octet’s most recent release, Mise en Abîme, to the top spot on the 2014 NPR Music Jazz Critic’s Poll. At the same time, the artist is keen to a relationship often in the periphery of the genre: jazz and hip-hop. On Thursday, May 5, Lehman will be joined by rapper/producer HPrizm (of abstract rap trio Antipop Consortium) to present a walking tour of the Walker galleries followed by a performance, giving guests the opportunity to see this complex relationship at play.

Communication between the two genres is a phone call often disconnected and redialed; jazz’s free authorship and hip-hop’s intertextuality have, historically, had a hard time meeting in the middle. ’90s Jazz-Rap gave recognition to the influence of the old on the new, but the constraints of sampling cut off spontaneity at the knees, leaving improvisation for only emcees. Jazz samples were truly that, a sample of what more jazz had to offer, and artists like Digable Planets and Guru, whose production made samples and live instrumentation indistinguishable, went silent before they could define just what more that was. On the other side, Miles Davis’ final record saw the 65-year old working with a 20-something hip-hop producer on “doo-bop,” a New Jack Swing–indebted flavor none were too eager to emulate. “Life’s a Bitch,” from Nas’s groundbreaking Illmatic, fades out on an understated trumpet solo by the emcee’s father (2:42), serving to only further illustrate the generational divide to be bridged.

As the years passed and rap began its era of commercial dominance, the paradigm was turned on its head. Rappers raised on jazz gave way to jazz players raised on rap. Robert Glasper and BADBADNOTGOOD were able to carve out their own niche, collaborating organically with emcees like DOOM, Erykah Badu, and Snoop Dogg. Contemporary stars like Vijay Iyer have been open to collaboration, albeit a bit high-concept. Roy Ayers was even featured on a Tyler, the Creator song. Most prominent is the synthesis being explored by LA’s Brainfeeder: producer (and nephew of Alice Coltrane) Flying Lotus, funk bassist Thundercat, and saxophonist Kamasi Washington, whose collaborations together and with celebrated artists like Kendrick Lamar serve to encourage the dissolution of these genre’s borders. While Washington’s sprawling The Epic placed fourth on NPR’s 2015 poll, Francis Davis took a critical tone in handing this designation out, unwilling to validate the sound’s freshness while recognizing that these malleable borders were bringing about changes not even he understood.

Lehman is still at the forefront, though, still topping polls, and his group’s employment of hip-hop isn’t all that subtle. Mise en Abîme transitions comfortably from a cerebral vibraphone solo into a riff on Camp Lo’s 1997 hit “Luchini,” and the Octet’s debut, 2009’s Travail, Transformation and Flow, concludes by covering a cut from GZA’s classic Liquid Swords. Tracks like these illuminate the visceral elements Lehman so adeptly balances with the intellectual. Regarding Antipop Consortium, Lehman once stated, “Part of what’s so compelling to me is the way that each MC establishes a distinctive and highly complex rhythmic logic while maintaining a profound connection to the underlying structure of the composition.” The same description could easily apply to Lehman’s own work.

For his part, HPrizm has always had one hand in the abstractions of jazz, be it organizing an entire collaborative album between Antipop and Matthew Shipp, forming an aptly named “Illtet” with poet Mike Ladd, Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker, and Octet drummer Tyshawn Sorey, or improvising with Iyer. Lehman and HPrizm have been developing a collaboration for years, and their work with saxophonist Maciek Lassere and Senegalese emcee Bamar Ndoye, as Sélébéyone, premiered in France a year ago, with a full album to be released in the fall. Their performance in the Walker galleries on Thursday, to that end, will serve as a preview of not only their forthcoming works, but of what is possible when genre is put to the wayside and artists are left to simply, unabashedly create.

Steve Lehman Octet performs at the Walker Art Center’s McGuire Theater on Saturday, May 7 at 8 pm. Join Lehman and HPrizm for a free walking tour and performance on Thursday, May 5 starting at 6pm.

Rock the Garden 2016 Lineup: The Flaming Lips, Chance the Rapper, Poliça, and more

On Tuesday, April 5, the Walker and 89.3 The Current announced the lineup of Rock the Garden 2016. Due to construction at the Walker, this year’s concert will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at Boom Island Park in near Northeast Minneapolis, and will feature two alternating performance stages for our eight amazing bands. We liveblogged the announcement […]

RTG16 cover photo text

On Tuesday, April 5, the Walker and 89.3 The Current announced the lineup of Rock the Garden 2016. Due to construction at the Walker, this year’s concert will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at Boom Island Park in near Northeast Minneapolis, and will feature two alternating performance stages for our eight amazing bands. We liveblogged the announcement all morning, and you can see the entire list of bands below, along with a few fun facts about them.

BUY TICKETS HERE.

For more updates, follow the action on Twitter at @walkerartcenter@RockTheGarden, and @TheCurrent, and make sure to RSVP on Facebook.

The Flaming Lips, Oklahoma City

The Flaming Lips. Photo: George Salisbury

The Flaming Lips. Photo: George Salisbury

Chance the Rapper, Chicago

Chance the Rapper. Photo: Zoe Rain

Chance the Rapper. Photo: Zoe Rain

  • Chancelor Bennett has become one of hip-hop’s biggest successes at only 22. He recorded some of his first raps on an outdated laptop used by the 2008 Obama campaign, and he released his breakout 2012 mixtape 10 Day during a ten-day school suspension in his senior year.
  • Chance rode the wave of false-alarms drama surrounding Kanye’s newest record, The Life of Pablo, initially snubbed, then blamed for the record’s tardiness, and finally dropping a triumphant verse on epic opener “Ultra Light Beam.”
  • If The Current ever entered the realm of reality TV, we’d have the perfect pitch: Chance shares an LA residence with electronic artist (and collaborator) James Blake.

Poliça, Minneapolis

Poliça. Photo courtesy the artists

Poliça. Photo courtesy the artists

  • Locals may recognize the name of the group’s most recent LP, United Crushers, from the graffiti on the side of a grain elevator east of the University of Minnesota campus, but it’s an appropriate title to be shared by the album’s eerie, defiant, and politically aware style.
  • Singer Channy Leaneagh and her partner Ryan Olson have another big project in the works: parenthood! Their son Schwa was born in October and is already living the life of a baby rock star, as evidenced by the group’s Instagram.
  • Parenthood and political action collide in the group’s fascinating video for “Wedding,” set in an alternate Sesame Street where adorable puppets talk to children about the realities of discrimination and police brutality.

M. Ward, Portland

M. Ward. Photo: Sarah Cass

M. Ward. Photo: Sarah Cass

  • If the mid-June weather turns less than ideal, it might not phase this artist, whose recent eighth album is called More Rain. The Line of Best Fit called it “a therapeutic record, one where you can see through the darker moments to when the clouds begin to clear.”
  • Ward’s vintage sound comes with his devotion to analog recording. He told Time that every song begins as a demo on the same 4-track recorder he’s been using since his teens.
  • Many may be more familiar with Ward as half of She & Him, alongside sitcom sweetheart Zooey Deschanel. The actress cast Ward as a coffee-shop curmudgeon (or maybe just himself?) in a colorful video she directed for the duo, but unfortunately, a role for him on New Girl has yet to follow.

Hippo Campus, Minneapolis

Hippo Campus. Photo: Sarah Hess

Hippo Campus. Photo: Sarah Hess

  • Minneapolis’s most recent breakout band have already toured extensively, appeared at festivals like Reading and Lollapalooza, and sold out a headlining show at First Ave. The group’s median age? Around 21.
  • A set at last year’s SXSW caught the eye of a Conan music supervisor, who invited the band to play on O’Brien’s TBS late-night program only days later.
  • Despite the success, the group’s Wikipedia page remains humble: the article makes a point to list the quartet’s “street names” of Turntan, Stitches, Espo, and Beans.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Hermann, Mo.

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Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Photo: Brantley Gutierrez

  • Nathaniel Rateliff and his band have been launched into the spotlight after a Late Night performance of their single “SOB,” a barnstorming country-soul anthem that’s actually a tongue-in-cheek recounting of the singer’s experience with alcohol withdrawal.
  • Among the single’s fans are Britney Spears, who posted a video of her dancing to the video to Instagram. Rateliff responded in kind.
  • Rateliff’s career began upon his move to Denver, but he spent his childhood in Hermann, the “sausage-making capitol of Missouri.”

GRRRL PRTY, Minneapolis

Grrrl Prty. Photo: Kyle Kotajarvi

Grrrl Prty. Photo: Kyle Kotajarvi

Plague Vendor, Whittier, Calif.

Plague Vendor

Plague Vendor. Photo courtesy the artists

  • This LA-area punk quartet just released their sophomore album, BLOODSWEAT, a little over a week ago. It was recorded with engineer Stuart Sikes, who also manned the board for another raucous, gritty garage knockout: the White Stripes’s White Blood Cells.
  • While the group’s name invokes images of pestilence and death, lead singer Brandon Blaine actually attributes it to misreading a Mexican folk tale entitled “Plaque Vendor.” Of course, many can attest that dental plaque can sometimes be just as bad as biblical wrath.
  • When asked what genre the band would classify themselves as, they choose the label “Graveyard Groove.”

BUY TICKETS

Tickets are on sale to Walker and Current members starting today, Tuesday, April 5 at 10 am. Any remaining tickets go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, April 6, at 10 am.

Mark your calendar and make sure that your Walker membership is up to date. Walker/MPR membership ID numbers will be required for all pre-sale purchases.

Walker membership: 612.375.7655 or membership.walkerart.org.

MPR membership: 1.800.228.7123 or mpr.org/support.

Sound Advice: Laurie Anderson

Artist and innovator Laurie Anderson’s upcoming show at the Fitzgerald—a copresentation of the Walker, the SPCO’s Liquid Music Series, and MPR Live Events—is called The Language of the Future, a name initially employed by a track on her 1984 album United States Live. Thirty years on, as the track’s ominous forecast of the digital age rings true, Anderson has continued to […]

Anderson_Laurie_2015-16_04 (1024x681)

Artist and innovator Laurie Anderson’s upcoming show at the Fitzgerald—a copresentation of the Walker, the SPCO’s Liquid Music Series, and MPR Live Events—is called The Language of the Future, a name initially employed by a track on her 1984 album United States Live. Thirty years on, as the track’s ominous forecast of the digital age rings true, Anderson has continued to share the same incisive, oft-surreal narrative that aptly earned her the Gish Prize for “outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.”

Regarding a philosophy of life, Anderson insists, “I don’t have one, and if I did, I wouldn’t make it into a film and make you watch it.” On having a message, she has said, “If I had [one], I would write it down and e-mail it to everybody.” Still, the artist has imparted her fair share of aphorisms over the years; collecting these could easily result in Anderson’s own edition of Oblique Strategies. In anticipation of her performance this Saturday, I’ve begun such a collection below.


1. “If you’re a young artist, wondering what to call yourself, consider ‘multimedia artist.’ It’s so vague. Then, no one can say, ‘Hey, how come you’re a jazz person, and you’re making a pop opera?’ Genres are for bins. ‘What bin should we put you in, so we that we can sell what you do?’ Ignore the bins.”

2. “Be as playful as possible. It’s the thing that is, in a way, the easiest to forget when you start doing things that have ‘big themes’ and you have to work in certain ways. Most of the things that I’ve made, I’ve made in the spirit of goofing around with stuff. Goofing around. So goof around with stuff. Be playful. Have a really good time and you’ll find some interesting things.”

3. “You can make a movie now with almost nothing and it will look pretty good. It’s the same with a record.” In response, Brian Eno added, “And if it doesn’t look good in a conventional way, you take advantage of the way it does look.”

4. “Sometimes, […] try to make your very, very worst work. You will learn a lot about what it is that you’re trying to do.”

5. “I think I do my work for some sadder version of myself, a woman who would be sitting in Row K. I am trying to make her laugh.”

6. “No one will ever ask you to do the thing you really want to do. […] Do not wait for this to happen. It will never happen. Things will happen to you, but this will never happen. Just think of what you’d like to do, what you dream of doing, and then just start doing it.”

7. “I’m just going to mention these three rules that Lou [Reed, her longtime partner] and I had. […] So the first one is don’t be afraid of anyone. Imagine your life if you’re not afraid of anyone. Two, get a really good BS detector and learn how to use it. Who’s faking it and who is not? Three, be really tender. And with those three, you’re set.”

8. (In response to the question, “What is the most important lesson life has taught you?”) “Love is everything.”

9. “[I]t’s always good to end with a question.”

10. “What is consciousness?”

Listening Mix: Noura Mint Seymali

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview of artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance. Get acquainted with the music of Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali, who is bringing her unique brand of desert blues to the Cedar Cultural Center […]

Photo: courtesy of artist

Photo: courtesy of artist

LISTENING MIX provides a musical preview of artists visiting the Walker. Combining their work with sounds from a variety of contextual sources, LISTENING MIX can be experienced before or after a performance.

Get acquainted with the music of Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali, who is bringing her unique brand of desert blues to the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday, February 19. The show, copresented by the Walker, begins at 8pm.

Noura has been releasing music back home for a decade and performing since her teenage years, but even then, music extends beyond her birth for generations. Descended from traveling griot poets and storytellers, a father who devised the Moorish system of musical notation, a local pop star for a step-mother, and a grandmother who taught her the nine string ardine (which has become her signature instrument), Noura seems destined to carry on this sonic legacy. In collaboration with her husband, guitarist Jeiche Ould Chighaly, her international debut record Tzenni is the culmination of the sounds, classical and contemporary, that have shaped her path. This listening mix highlights some of her West African predecessors and fellow ardine and ngoni virtuosos, as well as Jeiche’s desert guitar contemporaries (Tinariwen, Bombino) and the unexpected westerners who inspired their sounds.

Noura Mint Seymali performs at the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday, February 19, at 8pm, with opening act Gospel Machine.

Listening Mix: Mary Halvorson

Last year, Mary Halvorson was credited as an instrumentalist on eight releases. Two years prior, she was on eleven; the year before that, eighteen. Ever the versatile guitarist, each collaboration sees her slipping into any number of roles stylistically. Her 2015 solo release Meltframe, however, finds her unaccompanied for the first time, and channeling the sounds of an entire band through a […]

Photo: Peter Gannushkin

Photo: Peter Gannushkin

Last year, Mary Halvorson was credited as an instrumentalist on eight releases. Two years prior, she was on eleven; the year before that, eighteen. Ever the versatile guitarist, each collaboration sees her slipping into any number of roles stylistically. Her 2015 solo release Meltframe, however, finds her unaccompanied for the first time, and channeling the sounds of an entire band through a singular guitar. In anticipation of her solo performances on February 11, as the inaugural artist for this year’s Sound Horizon series, it seemed appropriate to make a listening mix to showcase the many aspects of Halvorson’s craft.

1. Mary Halvorson Quintet – “Hemorrhaging Smiles” (2012)
Halvorson’s ensembles began with her 2008 trio of bassist John Herbert and drummer Ches Smith. As she’s expanded to a quintet and, more recently, a septet, the precision of this talented rhythm section continues to drive her compositions, taking center stage near this piece’s 17 minute mark in respite from the easygoing brass harmonies at its start.

2. Anthony Braxton – “Composition No 350 – Part 5” (2007)
Studies at Wesleyan with prolific composer Anthony Braxton lead Halvorson to become a valued member of Braxton’s ensembles, including the 12+1tet whose 2006 performance at the Iridium club he referred to as “the point of definition in my work thus far.” Halvorson’s arpeggiated duet with vibraphone that begins this excerpt is just one highlight in the sprawling, nine-hour performance.

3. Nels Cline, Mary Halvorson, and Ches Smith – Live at Medienkulturhaus (Wels, Austria) (2005)
While the trio has never recorded together, one can’t help but wish for more from Halvorson, her Trio/Quintet drummer Smith, and Wilco guitarist/Walker favorite Cline. The group has an amazing energy that adds a strength and tension to this inconspicuously ambient, Dirty Three-esque improvisation.

4. Kristo Rodzevski – “Kadife” (2015)
New York-based composer Kristo Rodzevski enlisted the help of several free improvisers in creating Batania, his melancholic yet breezy jazz-pop debut. Halvorson’s electric guitar takes a backseat to bouncy strings and brushed cymbals, which allows her solo (beginning at 2:45) to aptly punctuate Rodzevski’s Macedonian-sung verses and a trumpet solo by frequent collaborator Kirk Knuffke.

5. People – “The Lyrics Are Simultaneously About How The Song Starts And What The Lyrics Are About” (2014)
People, which Halvorson formed as a duo with drummer Kevin Shea in 2005, gives jazz prowess a backseat to plainly chaotic Melt-Banana style noise rock; but their third record saw the addition of both Crystal Stilts bassist Kyle Forester and a sense of humor. This particular track is the peak of its self-referential irreverence, both lyrically and in the time signature arithmetic lesson at its center.

6. Mary Halvorson – “Ida Lupino” (2015)
Meltframe is Halvorson’s first truly solo outing, with ten reinterpretations of tunes by both icons and contemporaries. As Marvin Lin observes, “Halvorson’s guitar-voice opens the conversation, gesturing toward the mirror while displacing itself historically”. This reverent solitude, new for both piece and performer, reshapes styles as disparate as Oliver Nelson’s frenzied hard bop and Annette Peacock’s synthesized soul. A rare sense of tenderness, too, is revealed in her rendition of Carla Bley’s “Ida Lupino“, only further confirming the multitudes embodied by one woman and her guitar. 

Mary Halvorson will perform as part of Sound Horizon 2016, the Walker’s series of free in-gallery music performances, on February 11, 2016, at 6, 7, and 8 pm.

Read more:
An Eruption of Communal Voice: Marvin Lin on Guitarist Mary Halvorson

Starting from Scratch: Germinal’s Recipe for the Universe

Astrophysicist Carl Sagan once stated, “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” French artists Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort seem to have taken this to heart in making Germinal, a show that completely reconstructs existence itself (on an 8x10m scale).  The show begins its three performance run at […]

Photo: Alain Rico

Photo: Alain Rico

Astrophysicist Carl Sagan once stated, “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” French artists Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort seem to have taken this to heart in making Germinal, a show that completely reconstructs existence itself (on an 8x10m scale).  The show begins its three performance run at the McGuire Theater this Thursday as the final piece of Out There 2016. The duo’s webpage for Germinal contains a section titled, “WHAT CAN BE MORE INFORMATIVE THAN AN EXCERPT OF OUR INTERNET RESEARCH HISTORY”, and the subsequent hyperlinks would provide a unique glimpse into the foundational elements of this performance, were they not half-defunct and primarily in French. With a little detective work, however, I was able to reconstruct the search results that helped bring this piece to fruition.

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In any form of construction, tools are required, and the directors note their perusal of French industrial equipment supplier Manutan in acquiring a “single pouch leather tool belt” (now unavailable) and “baseball diamond hardhat” (an updated iteration of which, pictured above, is now for sale). Research was also put into the acquisition of laminate flooring from French DIY and home improvement store Brico Dépôt. This was presumably used to build the two-ton stage setting in which Germinal’s world begins; Kate Bresedon’s preview piece notes that the performance “follows the discoveries of stage layers and objects, all of which are considered, then used or rejected in this construction of something from nothing.”

c3c_middleages

The performance also gives a nod to Civilization V, the latest installment of Sid Meier’s 1991 strategy computer game series. The game’s goal of guiding an ancient civilization into the future is strongly at the center of Germinal. Another link references the “Abre des technologies” (or “technology tree“), the visual representation of hierarchical resource upgrades present in games such as this. The abre des technologies originated, ironically, in a 1980 board game named Civilization, bearing no direct relation to Sid Meier’s. It’s no wonder that Civilization was one of Germinal‘s working titles.

Perhaps one of the best illustrations of the range of material from which Goerger and Defoort drew is the list’s inclusion of both the French wiki page for solipsism and the professional services section of French Craigslist-counterpart Le Bon Coin. Building a society demands both abstract thought and practical skill, and Germinal has these in spades, using them to create a truly inventive performance. The final defunct link, to the lyrics of the Lou Reed ballad “Perfect Day” (on which David Bowie contributed keyboards), may be best left to christen the final product: a world in which joy can be found in the simplest experiences, provided one is willing to create them.

Germinal by Halory Goerger and Antoine Defoort will be performed in the Walker’s McGuire Theater Thursday – Saturday, January 28-30, 2016 at 8pm. Join director Halory Goerger for a discussion about his past and present projects at Inside Out There, January 30 at 11am.

Literary Karaoke: Daniel Fish’s Intimate Interpretation of David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace has a reputation as being hyperarticulate; the author’s friendships with dictionary-authors and dictionary-siring prose only further warrant this truth. Who better to try their hand at its interpretation than a director whose last piece was given a 53-word title? A (radically condensed and expanded) Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again After David […]

Photo: Paula Court

Photo: Paula Court

David Foster Wallace has a reputation as being hyperarticulate; the author’s friendships with dictionary-authors and dictionary-siring prose only further warrant this truth. Who better to try their hand at its interpretation than a director whose last piece was given a 53-word title? A (radically condensed and expanded) Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again After David Foster Wallace is Daniel Fish’s ode to the late icon and will begin its three performance run at the McGuire Theater this Thursday as part of Out There 2016.

Unlike recent cinematic adaptations, Fish isn’t dramatizing the page or impersonating the author. His source, instead, is a breadth of audio recordings in which Wallace converses, is interviewed, and reads from his own works. The piece asks four actors to interpret this speech as it is sent to their headphones from a console under Fish’s control. Each performance varies in timing, execution, and excerpt selection, with the effect being best described by the Village Voice as “part séance, part theatrical eulogy, and part eerie karaoke show.”

In using his own speech over a script, the audience is beholden to Wallace’s raw verbal idiosyncrasy. As Fish told the New York Times, it is through this that he wishes to achieve “a kind of intimacy” and a “pure engagement with his words”. This intimacy was a major factor in Fish’s curation of sources. In lieu of his political commentary or the offbeat affairs of his novels, Fish mined from short stories and essays that celebrate and critique many broad but omnipresent themes of modern life.

Many of these are addressed head-on in one source, an unedited 84 minute interview with Wallace for German public television channel ZDF from late 2003. A high definition video of this interview has just been made available online, giving you a glimpse inside the performers’ headphones as they channel the honesty of expression present throughout his body of work. At one point, Wallace expresses his author’s desire to “jump over the wall of self and inhabit someone else,” and Daniel Fish’s creation has certainly given him a chance to do just that.

A (radically condensed and expanded) Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again After David Foster Wallace by Daniel Fish will be performed in the Walker’s McGuire Theater Thursday – Saturday, January 14-16, 2016 at 8pm.

The Walker will also present a free film screening of Daniel Fish’s Eternal on Saturday, January 16 at 1pm in the Walker Cinema.

The Walker + Yoshimi: Degrees of Separation

Tonight, the Walker will play host to gamelan-infused experimental rock outfit OOIOO. The group is lead by the iconic Yoshimi P-We, who has accrued quite the resume since her career began in 1988. In anticipation of this evening’s performance, we’ve traced her career back to see how it intersects with Walker collaborators of seasons prior.

Tonight, the Walker will play host to gamelan-infused experimental rock outfit OOIOO. The group is lead by the iconic Yoshimi P-We, who has accrued quite the resume since her career began in 1988. In anticipation of this evening’s performance, we’ve traced her career back to see how it intersects with Walker collaborators of seasons prior.

yoshimiFINAL

Object Permanence: An Interview with Geoff Sobelle

At five years old, Geoff Sobelle was “obsessed with becoming a magician” but devoted himself to theater upon adolescence. Fast forward a few years, however, and his work still contains magical elements; the artist now describes himself as a “dedicated absurdist […] chiefly interested in moments of ‘the sublime ridiculous.’” His most recent work, The Object Lesson, is an […]

Geoff Sobelle's The Object Lesson at Kirk Douglas Theater, Los Angeles, in 2015, presented by Center Theatre Group. Photo: Craig Schwartz

Geoff Sobelle’s The Object Lesson at Kirk Douglas Theater, Los Angeles, in 2015, presented by Center Theatre Group. Photo: Craig Schwartz

At five years old, Geoff Sobelle was “obsessed with becoming a magician” but devoted himself to theater upon adolescence. Fast forward a few years, however, and his work still contains magical elements; the artist now describes himself as a “dedicated absurdist […] chiefly interested in moments of ‘the sublime ridiculous.'” His most recent work, The Object Lesson, is an enchanting and immersive experience about our relationship to clutter.

Before Sobelle’s performance in The Object Lesson begins, the audience is ensconced in a disorderly fortress of boxes, free to rummage through the piles. Sharpie scrawlings designate their contents, such as “acorn collection,” “red things,” or “tetanus.” In due time, Sobelle takes command of this journey, inviting participants to contemplate the surreal and charming qualities surrounding possessions, nostalgia, and—in the most literal sense—stuff.

In anticipation of a series of six performances in the Walker’s McGuire Theater this week, Mr. Sobelle was kind enough to provide some background on the creation, assembly, and interactive nature of the project.

What was the spark behind this project? What sort of research did you then do to fully construct the piece?

The development of The Object Lesson has been organic. I have long been fascinated by our need for “stuff,” and I knew I wanted to create a work that gives the audience an immersive experience.

The Object Lesson actually originated in a drastically different form. The original workshop exploration in 2012 existed on an enormous pile of dirt, from which objects emerged. I collaborated with Steven Dufala, an artist who specializes in sculpture and installation art. We had previously worked together on rainpan43’s Machines, machines, machines, machines, machines, machines, machines.

Following that workshop, I was commissioned to create a live theater work for LCT3 at Lincoln Center. I was still fascinated by the “object” concept, but LCT3 wouldn’t let me put an enormous pile of dirt onstage, so Steven and I started exploring other ways to create an immersive experience within a more conventional performance space. Additional collaborators joined the creative team: director David Neumann, sound designer Nick Kourtides, and lighting designer Chris Kuhl. After LCT3, the first installation version of The Object Lesson was performed at the Philadelphia Fringe Arts Festival in 2013.

You’ve sourced objects for this performance from Recycled Artist In Residency in Philadelphia. How did that relationship come about? 

We’ve been so lucky to get to pull materials for this show from Recycled Artist in Residency (RAIR). From the start, a core principle of The Object Lesson was to not have “new” objects in the space. Early on, almost all the objects came from my basement, then my parent’s basement, but as the project grew in scale, we needed more than just my stuff. RAIR was co-founded by Billy Blaise Dufala, Steven’s brother, and he offered to help us out—and be on the lookout for some of our most desired objects. RAIR is a really incredible organization, and they really helped us to create the scale of installation we wanted.

With so many boxes, have you ever been surprised by the objects brought out during a performance? Are there any particular objects you’re still waiting for someone to interact with?

I’m pretty aware of every object in the space. We have about 200 “curated” boxes that are labeled and contain a selection of objects based on a theme or idea. Since we’re inviting audiences to explore the space, items are constantly getting moved about as people take something they’ve discovered across the room to show their spouse or friend. And we’ve had more than a few objects go missing, only to have them turn up days later. I love seeing how people interact with the items in the space—and the ways they do are constantly surprising me.

Does having the audience onstage and in close proximity change anything for you as a performer? How have you constructed or changed the piece to accommodate that? What is exciting about that encounter for you?

I’ve been interested in the line between theater and performance art for a while. This work, which invites the audience to open boxes, pull out objects, and create their own seating (from cardboard boxes, naturally), brings a life, breath, and spontaneity that is harder to find in traditional theater work. Each and every performance of The Object Lesson will be different because it is changed by the audience in the room that night. For me, sometimes it becomes slightly harder to navigate the space, but I’m also drawing energy from having everyone so close. It makes the work more personal.

What do you think would be different about this piece if you had staged it at a different time in your life? Has the performance allowed you to reconsider the values of the objects in your own life?

As the installation was being created, I realized that because so many of the objects came from my life, my childhood, there was a specific experience that someone around my age would have (kinship with specific toys from a specific moment in the ’80s, for instance). But the installation was created to feel personal and relatable to everyone, and I’ve worked to pull items from different eras so it becomes a universal experience.

There are so many different moments in one’s life when they must deal with “stuff.” The accumulation of toys as a kid, the collecting of mementos, moving, moving again, returning to clean out your childhood home. Creating this work has definitely made me more aware of what I choose to keep, or give value to in my life. And who knows, when this is all done, maybe I will become a life-long minimalist!

Geoff Sobelle’s  The Object Lesson runs November 4–8 at the Walker Art Center’s McGuire Theater, as part of the Walker’s Immerse Yourself, an onstage performance installation series.

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