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Upcoming Opportunities for Choreographers

Momentum: New Dance Works 2017 Proposals are now being accepted for Momentum: New Dance Works 2017. This long-standing annual dance series provides innovative emerging choreographers support for artistic development and a professional presentation of a new evening-length work. Since 2001, Momentum has highlighted Minnesota’s groundbreaking contemporary dance artists–many of whom are now nationally and internationally recognized–and […]

Momentum 2015. Photo: Alice Gebura

Broken by Luke Olson-Elm, Momentum 2015. Photo: Alice Gebura

Momentum: New Dance Works 2017

Proposals are now being accepted for Momentum: New Dance Works 2017. This long-standing annual dance series provides innovative emerging choreographers support for artistic development and a professional presentation of a new evening-length work. Since 2001, Momentum has highlighted Minnesota’s groundbreaking contemporary dance artists–many of whom are now nationally and internationally recognized–and marks artists in the Twin Cities as some of the nation’s most vibrant cultural producers. Momentum seeks applications from choreographers working in all styles, aesthetics, and approaches who represent contemporary dance in the world today. Performances are July 13-15 & July 20-22, 2017.

Proposals are due Monday, May 2, 2016 by 5:00 pm. There is a Public Information Session on Monday, April 25 at 3:30 pm (during the Monday Night Grant Circle meeting) in the Cowles Center’s Target Education Studio, 2nd floor. Click here for more information and eligibility requirements.

Momentum: New Dance Works is presented by the Cowles Center for Dance & The Performing Arts in partnership with the Walker Art Center and the Southern Theater, with support from the Jerome Foundation.

pa2015ce_Fire Drill Performing Arts; Performances; Dance. Choreographers Evening, November 28, 2015, McGuire Theater. Curated by Justin Jones, local dancer/choreographer/sound designer/teacher and all-around innovator. Featured choreographers are DaNCEBUMS, Vie Boheme, Ea Eckwall, Fire Drill, Kathie Goodale, jestural, Pedro Pablo Lander, Angelique Lele & Cary Bittinger, Tom Lloyd & Craig VanTrees, Dolo McComb, and Jeffrey Wells. From established dancemakers forging new ideas to the scene’s youngest and brightest, Choreographers’ Evening has, over the course of 40-plus years, become an honored rite of passage in Minnesota dance circles. Photo by Alice Gebura for Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Novelty Shots: A Political Fantasy (excerpt) by Fire Drill, Choreographer’s Evening 2015. Photo: Alice Gebura

Choreographers’ Evening 2016

The revered conglomeration of Minnesota dance artists will be back this year for its 44th installment. Choreographers’ Evening 2016 will be presented at the Walker Art Center on Saturday, November 26. The call for submissions is extended to all Minnesota-based choreographers and choreographic collaborations. Curated each year by a leader in the local dance scene, Choreographers’ Evening exposes the unique yet vast approaches to dance and performance by a plethora of artists. Be on the lookout for the announcement of this year’s curator and audition dates!

Transcending Language: Chris Strouth on Kid Koala’s Nufonia Must Fall

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, composer, producer, writer, and filmmaker Chris Strouth shares his perspective on Kid Koala’s […]

Kid Koala and the Cecelia String Quartet performing Nufonia Must Fall in the McGuire Theater, April 2, 2016. Photo: Jayme Halbritter Photography

Kid Koala and the Cecelia String Quartet performing Nufonia Must Fall in the McGuire Theater on April 2, 2016. Photo: Jayme Halbritter Photography

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, composer, producer, writer, and filmmaker Chris Strouth shares his perspective on Kid Koala’s Nufonia Must Fall at the Walker Art Center last weekend, a performance copresented by the SPCO’s Liquid Music series. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

There are things that can’t really be described, in part because we don’t have a language that can accurately explain what it is that we have witnessed. Nufonia Must Fall is one of those things.  The simple explanation is to say it is “a motion comic animated in real time with a live soundtrack.” I fear that is about as descriptive as calling War and Peace an adventure story.

It might be easy to pigeonhole Kid Koala (Eric San). Musically he was an architect of the new alternative hip-hop/turntablist movement of the late ’90s, with a discography that is chock full of some of the high water marks of the cove where pop, rock, art, and hip-hop meet. He’s worked with Gorillaz, Peeping Tom, and Handsome Boy Modeling School and has his own bands like Deltron 3030 and Loveage. But then there is Kid Koala the author/illustrator of two graphic novels; this show, Nufonia Must Fall, is based on his 2003 book of the same name.

The live version of Nufonia Must Fall is hard to put neatly into one category: is it a film, a concert, a play, a dance? Or is it secretly a Charlie Chaplin silent film reimagined for the post-nuclear age? The story is as deceptively simple as it is ancient, though with a decidedly modern twist: robot meets girl, robot gets girl, robot loses girl, robot goes on vacation with girl. But it’s done in a way that if it doesn’t pull on your heart strings a little, you might be the one who is the robot.

The stage is set with Kid Koala upstage right with enough musical hardware to make Kraftwerk feel a little insecure. He is joined upstage left by the Cecilia String Quartet. The rest of the stage is filled with a number of small sets, four cameras, and a small army of puppeteers, cameramen, and the like, with the results of their action shown on a large screen at the back of the stage. But this basic description doesn’t come close to describing the joy of seeing magic as it’s performed and the magician’s perspective at the same time. It’s a process that serves as a metaphor for the piece itself: extraordinarily complicated but made to seem easy, almost effortless. That is one of Kid Koala’s gifts.

Puppeteers in Kid Koala's Nufonia Must Fall in the McGuire Theater, April 2, 2016. Photo: Jayme Halbritter Photography

Nufonia Must Fall puppeteers during the performance. Photo: Jayme Halbritter Photography

What makes Nufonia Must Fall really connect is that it never feels precious or dainty. It’s accessible but not cloying, smart but not pretentious. It’s the craftsmanship of an old master handled with the informality of a neighborhood shopkeeper.  It’s an attitude that takes the big invisible wall that lives between the first row of the audience and the stage and tears it down, Berlin-style.

One could argue Kid Koala is a postmodern Charlie Chaplin. More than just a performer, he becomes the architect of the experience, an auteur in the truest sense of the word. Only his version of Chaplin’s Little Tramp is a tape machine robot, always recording but not always experiencing: a piece of out of date technology we can all identify with deep down inside, a robot that is the most human.

This might be kindled from one man’s imagination, but it feels like the full group collaboration that it is. The direction by K. K. Barrett is imaginative and fun and gives real fulfillment to the idea of the motion comic. It’s handled with such subtlety and skill that it makes the whole production feel as though it’s unfolding for the first time.

Like Chaplin’s best work, Nufonia is a story that transcends language. Simple and direct, the work does not have to be seen as a metaphor, despite working as one. And that is one of its points of genius: it can be savored just as an experience, or as something more profound. The viewer simply takes from it what they would like.

In spite of Kid Koala being a musician, this isn’t a piece about the music, per se. The work is more of a digital foley: musical sounds make the soundtrack for his city, the melodic heavy lifting provided by the Cecilia String Quartet.  Never are more notes used then needed; this simplicity reinforces the sheer overall charm of the piece.

It would be so easy for this story to fall into the trap of being filled with an overblown sense of self-importance or preciousness, given the puppets and animation. Instead, the honesty of Nufonia washes away any and all pretense, and connects to our inner kid. It allows us something so rare in art today: to have a sense of wonder and delight, while at the same time pushing boundaries of stagecraft and form, all in an environment that encourages the audience to let go of intellectualism and just enjoy it. I for one had started to forget that art could be delightful… Thank you for the reminder.

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.

Treble—Bright—Daylight Savings: Michael Gallope on Tristan Perich and Vicky Chow

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, musician and assistant professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the […]

Photo: Jayme Halbritter Photography

Photo: Jayme Halbritter Photography

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, musician and assistant professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota Michael Gallope shares his perspective on the performance by Vicky Chow and Tristan Perich at the Walker Art Center last Thursday, in a concert copresented by the SPCO’s Liquid Music series. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

Daylight Savings Time boosts consumerism in the spring and summer months. It provides an extra hour of activity—shopping, eating out, driving, and the like—as opposed to an hour spent sitting at home, where one is economically less productive. This, of course, is the critical view; one can avail oneself of nostalgias and affirmations of all sorts that celebrate the metaphysics of backyards, the grand passage of the seasons, the poetry of long walks and dinner with sunlight, the slowed appreciation of a great cosmic rhythm.

Tristan Perich’s music made this extra hour resonate. In 1953, philosopher Susanne Langer wrote: “music spreads out time for our direct and complete apprehension, by letting our hearing monopolize it—organize, fill, and shape it, all alone.” On March 24, 2016, at 7 p.m. in the Cargill Lounge at the Walker, Perich’s Surface Image filled—spread out—the extra hour of the eleventh day of Daylight Savings Time with a downpour of hypnotic patterns. The composition is scored for pianist Vicky Chow who performed a duet with 40 channels of synthesizer playback. Chow’s piano and Perich’s synths projected a bright, high beam of minimal counterpoint in boundless arrays and combinations. It was big and affirmative, immersive; most of it is at the highest register—treble to the maximum. After twenty minutes or so, it accustomed the ear to highness, saturating one’s body with a hallucinatory flux of metallic, impersonal forms.

Perich will live only at the apex. His sounds seem to resist us like the sun resists us, as it beams in with all its power. Plato’s Socrates saw the sun as a metaphor for the truth of being qua being, though communion with its absolute heights was painful and disorienting. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra came down from a mountain and wondered: What would the sun do without us? As we heard an extra hour of sunlight as music between 7:00 p.m. and 8:10 p.m., the blazing longevity of the sun’s flames were both for us, and not for us. And like the sun, Perich’s Surface Image is not music that can be consumed and apprehended as an object. It was a vast column of patterns cast down all around us—a solar torrent, where one’s stamina becomes central to the aesthetic experience.

Photo: Michael Gallope

Do we matter amidst the towering architecture of Surface Image? Can we keep up? The actual sunset occurred halfway through the piece, at 7:31 p.m. The light through the massive gallery windows shifted to blue. Twilight set in at its conclusion. An encompassing solar cycle, made vivid by an extra hour of idle surplus, drew music toward us, even as its bright substance remained inhuman and mechanical. Surface Image was a twisted and dialectical event, a fabric of sound that connected an extra hour of economically productive consumption and pleasure to the enduring rhythmic beams of the sun. But there was no hidden significance or secret to its operations; it was empty, open, ecstatic.

Technical details and the metaphysics of numbers are recurrent themes in Perich’s ideas about music. Though instead of the age-old harmonics of Pythagoras, Perich prefers modern research by Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel in the field of theoretical computation. He is an accomplished practitioner of “1-bit” music that is exemplified by polished, homemade circuitry. Notwithstanding what may appear to be an art clothed largely in technical detail, listeners to Perich’s music discover in short order that his formalism is first and foremost exuberant. It sounds something like a child’s toy Casio with its tempo knob dialed to the maximum. It has a big impact, but in the long arc of its form, it conveys what appear to be expressive gestures, woven harmonies, counterpoint.

In the 1960s, the early minimalism pioneered by Philip Glass and his ensemble created an immersive spectacle, its audience occasionally splayed out on the floor. A gallery performance of Perich’s hypnotic Farfisa-like downpour of laser sound has a similar vibe (I sat on a cushion on the floor). Toward the center of the space, the lone live performer of Surface Image—pianist Vicky Chow—expertly performed his score to a DIY-custom-fabricated digital clock that read out passing measure numbers. In synchronicity with the electronics, Chow played minimalist modal patterns—quite stunning in their harmonic palette—with a rhythm that was incessant, remarkably synchronized, variously fluttering and hammering.

In a gallery upstairs, piano destruction was the subject of a video installation by German artist, Andrea Büttner (a brilliant mash-up of Fluxus destructions of pianos into four channels of video) that comments upon a larger shift in cultural tastes away from this once-ubiquitous musical machine of the nineteenth century. Yet Surface Image revalues the piano for a post-Fluxus age. Chow played the Walker’s polished Steinway with a painterly sensitivity. In fact, elements of the composition could feel at home in the nineteenth century. At 7:25 p.m., six minutes before sundown, Chow broke into an etude-like solo, an athletic chain of notes that required olympic stoicism. The circulating melodies, woven between two-hands, sounded both childlike and expressive, and contained shaded detail. Every line was made to sing, even if the sounds were more like rectangles and dots, not voices. At its core, it was a virtuoso’s shred session, a reconstruction and a sampling of the tradition of Liszt, Alkan, and Sorabji, and earned her an old-fashioned standing ovation. But its meaning was post-human and architectural in the soundscape of 1-bit polyphony. She was the heroic messenger of the ceremony, and gave the torrents a sense of ethical focus.

Photo: Michael Gallope

Photo: Michael Gallope

The last third of the piece plunged in register a few times, in rhythm with the setting sun. Around 7:48 p.m., a low drone emerged like a laser. It sounded like a bassoon played on an electric organ, with bright overtones. The sky turned a deep electric blue and the golden gallery lights along the walls delicately lit up. The piano became increasingly expressive. By 8:00 p.m., at twilight, Chow played a nocturne from the piano—impressionistic sonorities—while the synthesizers whirled quiet alarm clock patterns. The expressivity of Perich’s formalism has surprised some critics. Is all this formalism for the sake of returning to, what Glass once called “another look at harmony?” Of being able to lull oneself in a gorgeous sequence of chords? Millennials don’t understand the death of tonality in the same way. Perhaps there are just forgotten or latent potentials beneath the minimal experiments of the 1960s and 70s. Surface Image is a minimalism revisited, perfected, or put on hyper-drive in a way that aims to supersede its forbears.

There were over a hundred people packed into the Cargill Lounge. Some, predictably, trickle out as exhaustion sets in and the loose gallery space lets everyone meander. During gaps of loud volume in Surface Image, the crowd noise of the galleries would rush in unexpectedly from behind the seated audience. We realized, by point of contrast, the immense din that these towers of sound set in motion—these patterns were everywhere. Surface Image placed a cloak over our ears, and for a moment the humans came back in an echo, as an impersonal crowd with a dull roar. Perich and Chow de-familiarized the space of the gallery.

Sound Horizon 2016 continues with three in-gallery performances by C. Spencer Yeh on Thursday, April 28.

Eerie and Sinister Worlds: RONiiA on Their New, Walker-Inspired EP

The Minneapolis-based trio RONiiA—Fletcher Barnhill (Joint Custody, FUGITIVE), Nona Marie Invie (Dark Dark Dark, Fugitive), and Mark McGee (Father You See Queen, Marijuana Deathsquads)—will release a new EP, Sisters, this Friday, March 25. Filled with richly atmospheric music, it derives its hypnotic power through its intricate dance between subtle intimation and emotional verve. On tracks […]

RONiiA

The Minneapolis-based trio RONiiA—Fletcher Barnhill (Joint Custody, FUGITIVE), Nona Marie Invie (Dark Dark Dark, Fugitive), and Mark McGee (Father You See Queen, Marijuana Deathsquads)—will release a new EP, Sisters, this Friday, March 25. Filled with richly atmospheric music, it derives its hypnotic power through its intricate dance between subtle intimation and emotional verve. On tracks like “Hell,” lead singer Invie’s hazy vocals seem to float, disembodied, over the noirish synthscapes created by her bandmates. In a word, this music is cinematic, which should come as no surprise to anyone who witnessed the members of RONiiA perform their Walker-commissioned original score to the silent film classic The Adventures of Prince Achmed last summer.

The band’s experience with that project has informed their latest music in ways both direct and indirect. I asked the members of RONiiA about their new EP and its relationship to their 2015 Summer Music and Movies score.

Mark Mahoney: Mark, the last time I spoke with you, you were preparing to debut your film score to the silent film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, a project also featuring Nona and Fletcher Barnhill of RONiiA. What kind of impact has that project had on your work together since then?

Mark McGee: Most of the songs were heavily influenced by the score I wrote for the Walker. The song “Hell” developed purely from the score, adding lyrics to it later. “Sisters” was another song that I used most of the drum sounds and synths from the score, and we developed a more structured song out of it. Working on soundtracks is something we are all super interested in, and this project allowed us a break from the heavy tour schedule we had earlier that year. There’s no doubt the project helped us to explore new sounds and textures that we probably never would have used if we had just written an album without that experience.

Mahoney: Your band name was inspired by another fantasy film: Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter. There seems to be an element of (sometimes dark) fantasy running through your music. Do you see parallels between these films and your music?

Fletcher Barnhill: No doubt. We based our project off the character from the Astrid Lindgren novel. In the book, Ronia embodies a wild spirit who makes her own way through the world and we try to celebrate that theme in the music.

Mahoney: The three of you each come from different corners of the Twin Cities creative music scene. How do you reconcile the wide array of influences you all bring to the table? Is the strategy to find common ground, constructive difference, or to go somewhere else entirely?

Barnhill: As lovers of all types of musics, it is really a blessing to be able to work with artists who aren’t exactly on the same trip as you. Our styles balance each other out, and we each bring different strengths to the table. That being said, we found out from the start that we have a real chemistry together when it comes to writing. The outcome is really a blend of our experience and our excitement about crafting songs.

Mahoney: When you’re writing and working out the music, do you tend to start with smaller ideas and build on them, or do you start from a more formal conception of the piece?

Barnhill: We have different approaches on a song-to-song basis, but one that works well for us is writing a song and then testing it out a bunch on tour before recording the final version. The song “run” came together that way and we have some new new material right now that is going through the same process. Be on the lookout for RONiiA Mixtape Vol. III.

RONiiA (Fletcher Barnhill, Nona Marie Invie, and Mark McGee). Photo: Serene Supreme

RONiiA (Fletcher Barnhill, Nona Marie Invie, and Mark McGee). Photo: Serene Supreme

Mahoney: What can we expect from the new album? How do you see it in relation to your previous (self-titled debut) album?

McGee: This album has a more direct and raw sound. The vocals are not affected as much and the rhythms are up front and bigger, but the sound of RONiiA is still there. The songs are shorter and more to the point than the previous album.

Mahoney: Were there extra-musical influences or sources of inspiration for the new album? More generally, who outside the world of music has influenced or inspired the band the most?

McGee: I was living in Venice Beach when we made the album. Venice Beach and the canals was a definite influence, at least for me, when writing it. The poverty and super rich all existing together provided an eerie and sinister world for the album to breathe. Nona and Fletcher were dealing with the harsh reality of the Minnesota winter, but really, our environments typically seep through during the writing process.

RONiiA’s Sisters will be released Friday, March 25, following a March 24 release show at Icehouse (Minneapolis). Listen to the full EP here

 

Laurie Anderson at the Fitzgerald Theater: Danny Sigelman on The Language of the Future

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, artist, DJ, musician, and writer Danny Sigelman shares his perspective on Laurie […]

© Laurie Anderson

Photo: © Laurie Anderson

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, artist, DJ, musician, and writer Danny Sigelman shares his perspective on Laurie Anderson’s The Language of the Future. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

Laurie Anderson has had a long history of performing in the Twin Cities, dating back to 1978 when she first performed at the Walker Art Center.

Having seen her last two performances, Happiness in 2002, and Dirtday! in 2012, it was a welcome chance to hop across the river for Anderson’s always warm and calm ways of storytelling. Her ever-evolving The Language of the Future at the Fitzgerald Theater on Saturday night was another grand opportunity to witness her enlightened masterstrokes of firsthand narrative. Amidst a pulsating resonance of sound that envelops the atmosphere, Anderson places you within a womb of sorts. Allowing your mind to settle, it’s always emotionally moving, simultaneously thought-provoking and humorous.

The audience was welcomed into the Fitz by the faint sounds of birds. Unassuming electronic chirps emanated about, priming the canvas for her stories to unfold for the evening.

In dim light, Anderson approached her station of electronic devices. Pulling out her violin, she conjured up a wash of low, sweeping phrases, further developing space and mood. Subtle fog seemed to fill the air, complementing the visuals of a cityscape behind her.

Anderson eased into what would become a recurring theme of The Language of the Future: her experience as a teenager writing letters to John F. Kennedy about his presidential campaign. Looking for advice from the then-Senator for her campaign for class president, she would begin a correspondence with him that resulted in Kennedy sending Anderson a dozen roses upon her own victory.

Commenting on elections and the process, Anderson pulled the curtain away, concluding with how we inevitably vote for whomever’s story we like best. It was a fitting introduction for the audience who were immediately brought to a personal place from the artist.

Transitioning, Anderson mixed together more synth keyboards and effect washes creating loops of sound. With a heavy echoing violin she plucked staccato patterns, rounding out more electronic blips.

She stayed with her childhood for another story about a failed attempt at flipping into a pool and landing on her back on the concrete and consequently into a children’s hospital. Allowing for reflections on death among her descriptions of the other patients she remembered, she effectively dug into the emotional core of the performance. She eventually reached a comforting resolution for the audience to “always hold onto your story.”

A winter scene of slowly falling snow was soundtracked by desolate sounds with Anderson accompanying her own playing on the violin, creating sparse and deliberate harmonics. Next began a fluctuating series of strummed atmosphere that greeted images of the moon landing and Anderson’s impressions on the ideas of competition in society, the Cuban missile crisis, and and past societal obsessions with the possibility of World War 3.

A story about meeting the Prince of Bali and watching his father’s cremation ceremony on video fed further incantations about death and the afterlife. Woven beautifully together with images of trees and flight, Anderson provided comfort for the listeners, viewing from the position of a bird as she connected the theme of reincarnation.

Advancing to the present, she seemed to be improvising a piece about modern advancements in communication. Describing Google Glass and some software she created to turn her words into other words, the audience was taken on a brain-melting ride as seemingly random words danced across the screen. Observations on the complex day-to-day multitasking of smartphones and ordering basic items on the internet, Anderson brought laughs on how adults and children’s communication devolves into that “like cavemen”.

Returning to the idea of correspondence with a presidential candidate, her low, modulated voice spoke to current affairs: “Dear Donald Trump, this time of misunderstanding and for profit government […]” She continued with parallels to her past advice from Kennedy and attached his concept of “figuring out what they want and promising it” to sobering effect.

Throughout the performance I couldn’t help but marvel at the flowing of words and the way Anderson creates a stew of sounds with the various devices she employs. Though mostly obscured, her fingers gleefully dance about her keyboard, tablet computer, and laptop all the while reaching for more organic sounds from her electric violin.

Dotting the sonic palette with so many words and stories in various auditorial styles, it’s the time with Laurie Anderson that always strengthens the personal bond you feel with her work after listening to her, entranced in a dream-like state. She creates the deep connection with all these machines and her own mind, taking you for a ride within your own heart and mind.

And then before you know it, the lights and her machines go dark and she’s gone.

State Changes: Marvin Lin on Vicky Chow and Tristan Perich’s 1-Bit World

For Sound Horizon, our series of free in-gallery music performances, we’ve invited critic and Tiny Mix Tapes editor Marvin Lin to share his perspective on each installment of this three-part program. Following his February piece on Mary Halvorson, he turns to Vicky Chow and Tristan Perich, whose works Surface Image and Observations will be performed March 24 in an evening copresented with […]

Sound_Horizon_2015-16_04For Sound Horizon, our series of free in-gallery music performances, we’ve invited critic and Tiny Mix Tapes editor Marvin Lin to share his perspective on each installment of this three-part program. Following his February piece on Mary Halvorson, he turns to Vicky Chow and Tristan Perich, whose works Surface Image and Observations will be performed March 24 in an evening copresented with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series. Sound Horizon 2016 concludes April 28 with C. Spencer Yeh.

I’m thinking about electronic music. I’m thinking about how it’s dependent on the harnessing of electrons, on the manipulation of their currents in order to turn information into something musical, like a rhythm or a tone. I’m also thinking about my body—my heart, specifically—how a pharmaceutical drug has helped decrease its demand for oxygen by lowering blood volume and relaxing blood vessels. And I’m thinking about how the results of this chemical process is literally expressed through electrical currents.So when I hear music like Surface Image, a work composed by Tristan Perich and performed by a duo of pianist Vicky Chow and programmed 1-bit electronics, I’m also thinking about electricity, chemistry, particle physics. I’m thinking about the composition of music and the composition of molecules. I’m thinking about the way electrons are knocked off their valence shells to produce electric flow, about the geometry of sound waves, about the fragility of human emotions and their chemical, electrical implications.

I’m also thinking about state changes.

* * *

I first encountered Tristan Perich’s music in 2010. That year, Perich released 1-Bit Symphony, a bold collection of compositions all programmed to play a symphonic creation out of 1-bit sounds from an electronic circuit. And I mean that literally: inside the jewel case is not a CD, but a full circuit, which routes the symphony from a small microchip to the case’s right-side opening, where there’s a 1/8″ headphone jack.

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1-Bit Symphony is an incredible artistic achievement, not only for how it expands the possibilities of 1-bit sound—the rawest, most “basic” sound of electronics (think the chirp sound when an oven finishes preheating)—but also for how the medium is intimately tied to the music’s presentation, the symphony’s transition from its code state to its musical state expressed through wires and positive charge and amplification. In this context, electronic information becomes material information, with each of their conceptual regimes dissolving swiftly into each other—and into our bodies, too.

Perich has a history of blurring what it means to be “electric.” One of his more studied experiments is called Observations. In this shorter piece, Perich channels his 1-bit music across six speakers, complemented by two sets of crotales (a percussion instrument featuring a set of small, tuned cymbals). The performance of Observations is a mesmerizing technical achievement. Here, the crotales and 1-bit data unify not only through cascades of sound, but through mathematics, through physics, through an uncanny leveraging of both human and electronic precision.

Surface Image investigates on a much grander scale. While Perich continues his daring explorations into the discrete musicality of 1-bit sound, he’s joined on this minimalist composition by Vicky Chow—a virtuoso pianist for projects as diverse as Bang On A Can All-Stars, Wordless Music Orchestra, and New Music Detroit—who had commissioned Perich to form this unique, symbiotic collaboration. Witnessing the performance setup is quite the spectacle itself, with 40 individual speakers surrounding her piano like electrons around a nucleus. But it’s Chow’s marathon performance that’s especially captivating. For nearly the entirety of its hour-long runtime, Chow sustains an unimaginable amount of energy, fingers tickling the piano at breakneck speeds, arms bending and jutting out in awkward positions, her head occasionally bobbing up to glance at the notation as if coming up for air.

And yet, despite her intensely physical and wholly embodied performance, the music we hear sounds characteristically “electronic,” as if Chow’s performance was the result of thousands of quick, distinct events unfolding in a computational process.

Tristan Perich and Vicky Chow

Tristan Perich and Vicky Chow

* * *

What, then, does it mean to be electronic? If most music these days is amplified or transmitted, then is all music we hear outside the orchestra hall or bonfire considered electronic music, as Brian Eno suggested? And, on the other hand, can electronic music also be considered physical music, since it necessarily relies on the mass of electrons? And what about the materiality of the speaker? What does it say about electronic music when, as Perich notes, it must ultimately route itself to a loudspeaker, through which the generated electricity is turned into physical sound through a cone, coil, and magnet? And does this so-called physical music turn back into electronic music after it reaches our cerebral cortex through the cochlear nerve as bursts of electrical energy?

Which gets me thinking about my body and its electric currents again. It gets me thinking about the physical continuity of state change, about how representational and symbolic exchange, while inextricably connected, become subservient to these material transformations. It gets me thinking about my electronic appendages—my cellphone, my fitness tracker, my heart monitor—and how they output my body’s electric data into electronic information. It gets me thinking about how the translation of electricity into sound via speakers finds an unlikely counterpart in the electrical currents that beat my heart, or in the endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin that lead to feelings of ecstasy and euphoria.

But ultimately, it gets me thinking about the irony of these abstract concepts and aesthetic theories, how they’re byproducts of music that’s most often designed to elicit state changes not based in thinking at all.

And this is when I stop thinking.

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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?”

From Impersonation to Celebration: Penelope Freeh on The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today,dance artist Penelope Freeh shares her perspective on The Ghost of Montpellier Meets […]

Photo: © Orpheas Emirzas

Photo: © Orpheas Emirzas

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today,dance artist Penelope Freeh shares her perspective on The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai, which had its US premiere at the Walker this weekend. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

For Trajal’s Harrell’s newest work, The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai, it is best to go along for the ride. You can trust it.

The piece gets off to a whimsical start, with lying, impersonations, and the retelling of made-up-in-the-first-place histories. It was a slow elaboration and yet we knew that: “It will take 22 minutes to get to a dance section.” Prior to then, we heard the apology, “I’m sorry for being just a dancer.” This was a deep commentary disguised as comedy. The statement had a ring of truth, or maybe I’m just reading into that.

Despite the many and varied influences upon this work and its slow, origami-like unfolding, it is, essentially, a dance-driven piece. In other words dance is essential, it is this work’s essence.

There was a quiet confidence. A little sly, a little teasing, we were led through a process of discovery. I felt as though the bones of construction were exposed, just covered enough to be mysterious, but pale in the crescent-moonlight to read as bones, i.e. building blocks, DNA, of this piece, a long form exploration of imaginatively intersecting (shoving together) the dance forms of Dominique Bagouet (’80s French Nouvelle Danse innovator) with Tatsumi Hijikata (the founding father of butoh).

What emerged from this playful notion was by turns charming, kick-ass, virtuosic, meditative, touching, smart, and joyful. There was a fashion show that escalated into a brilliant character revelation of an old lady, doubled over yet able and hip. Five low-lying platforms plus a table and stools were well used for this passage, creating depth and verticality. There was sassy, raucous air and actual heel walking.

The stakes became hotter as an accumulation of rapid-fire, guttural dancing occurred. The seven performers soloed until they were replaced, exhausted from gyrating, vibrating and throwing their limbs around, fast yet relaxed, always upright.

Perhaps my favorite passage was a male duet that turned into a trio. It was feminine, strong, luxurious and silky-fluid. Clad in deconstructed kimonos, feet and legs disappeared leaving the concentration on arms, hands, heads, faces, experiences…

The soundtrack (by Harrell) supported the work just so, never dominating despite the loudness. Volume supported what was already going on. It, and the several ‘80s popular music choices, never dictated the action.

The end, with the audience clapping and the bows getting quite close to us, felt like a celebration. The generosity was real and sincere which strikes me as rare in work so heady. But then I remember that despite Harrell’s self imposed mandate to reference, expound upon, bring to light, and elaborate other people’s work, he ultimately ends up with a third thing. Exploratory, self-referential, and original, The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai becomes something worth celebrating for itself alone.

The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai continues in the Walker’s McGuire Theater tonight (Sunday, March 13 at 7 pm).

 

Talk Dance: Trajal Harrell on The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai

Talk Dance is a podcast series devoted to in-depth conversations with dance artists produced and hosted by local dancer, educator, and commentator Justin Jones. In this installment, Jones speaks with Trajal Harrell, whose work The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai will be performed in the Walker’s McGuire Theater March 11-13, 2016.  You can listen to […]

Photo: © Orpheas Emirzas

Photo: © Orpheas Emirzas

Talk Dance is a podcast series devoted to in-depth conversations with dance artists produced and hosted by local dancer, educator, and commentator Justin Jones. In this installment, Jones speaks with Trajal Harrell, whose work The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai will be performed in the Walker’s McGuire Theater March 11-13, 2016.  You can listen to the full podcast on the Walker Channel 

***

Justin Jones: “Where do you call home?”

Trajal Harrell: “… Home for me is in many places I guess would say. I certainly call home where my mother is, my mother is in Douglas, Georgia. One of my homes is New York, and that will probably always be because I spent so many years there. Because I’m touring so much … I do have a place here in Athens that I sublet. And I also spend quite a bit of time in Vienna. … But … when you’re on the road as many weeks as I am you kind of, the internet can be your home too because that’s where you … have your continuity of relationships and friendships. … I don’t have a answer but I know that its certainly not singular for me.”

… 

Jones: “…before we finish our interview. Would you mind just saying your name once.”

Harrell: “No, because, now I’m realizing it’s a funny question because people pronounce my name a lot of different ways you know and I answer to them all. … And you’re the first person to ask me that question … I’m reluctant to have one pronunciation.” 

Something about these two exchanges from my recent interview with Trajal Harrell speaks volumes about his mercurial choreography. Yes, he creates dances, and they are very much located in the body, but the work is as much theater and performance art and runway show and voguing ball as it is proscenium dance. The notion of identity plays strongly in his work. Who is who, Are they runway models or are they dancers? Are they characters from a Greek drama?  Are the performers themselves or are they “themselves”?

Trajal is well-known as the creator of the “Twenty Looks…” series, a collection of dances that imagine a fictional collision between the Harlem voguing balls (watch Paris is Burning now if you haven’t) and the Judson Church postmodern dance scene of the 1960s. As in a fashion collection, each piece was created with a different size (XS, S, M, L, M2M, XL). The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai  takes the idea of size and audience to another place. As he said, “the Twenty Looks… project had this important idea around the sizes of the pieces and how they were […] enlarging the audience through each size […] I really wanted to enlarge the audience even further with Ghost… I wanted to make this for a kind of mainstream audience. And I felt that none of the pieces before had gone that far. I mean mainstream is a strange word, but I’m gonna use it.”

Trajal and I also spoke about what feels new about this piece, which centers around the work of French choreographer Dominique Bagouet and Tatsumi HIjikata, two relatively un-famous artists who died young before their work was done. Trajal went on, “You know we have this fascination with people who died young somehow. But, because they were in very unknown fields, we didn’t have a kind of cultural mourning around them… I didn’t know how you take something that’s tragic or mournful in a way, and by the end get the audience to to sense, to have this great appreciation for life and the joy that we’re here together even though we mourn. And so that was very new for me.”

Though Trajal’s work is about history and springs forth from intense research, what I find fascinating is how that research influences the work. In no way does he attempt to recreate, rather, he uses his research to, as he said, “generate a language on the stage, and a movement practice… informed by operations that may be in those forms.” He went on, “Bagouet was very well-known for his very specific use of the hands and there’s a lot of that in ‘Ghost…’ We don’t try to make Bagouet movement, but there’s this sense of the hands being very important… It’s only a way to generate and get closer to what I want to make as myself.”

Though home for Trajal is not as he said, “singular,” he is an American, and I wanted to hear from him about what it meant to work so closely with the choreography and biography of two non-American artists, working outside of American culture. His response: “American culture has really exported itself into a lot of cultures… and certainly both [Bagouet and Hijikata] have been influenced by American culture and by American artistic creation. And, how do we draw those lines? How we write history and how we think about culture? I’m suspicious of that. In the best sense.”

I look forward to seeing how those suspicions manifest in The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai.

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