It is coming to a close.
The past few months have been full of amazing opportunities to push the boundaries of my art in different realms, thanks to some inspiring and generous individuals:
<fidget> Residency / Spread Art Summer Showcase at Bushwick Open Studios 2015
Back in March, Philadelphia based movement artist Megan Bridge came up to Detroit — along with movement artists Beau Hancock, Christina Geualdi, Gregory Holt, and Michele Tantoco — to develop her choreography of Robert Ashley’s 1998 opera Dust. Her venture to Detroit was part of a new residency exchange program between Thomas Bell and Christina deRoos’ Detroit based non-profit Spread Art, and <fidget> – a Philadelphia art space run by Bridge and her partner sound artist Peter Price.
To initiate the other stream of that residency exchange, Spread Art sent myself and movement artist Rachael Ahn Harbert down to the <fidget> space in Philadelphia the first week of June. In addition to being fortunate enough to be recipients of Megan and Peter’s hospitality, sharing a couple of meals with them and their wonderful children, checking out a couple of performances, and sneaking in some city exploration, Rachael and I were able to make use of their beautiful rehearsal space to explore and develop a new percussion/movement work.
“Propriosonic” is a performance piece that explores causal relationships between sound and movement, the body being used as the point of departure for manifestations in each dimension, and as a vessel through which kinetic and sonic energy can be interchanged. It combines composed and choreographed phrases with structured improvisations – all drawing on a vocabulary of phrases that Rachael and I developed together with the intention of directly transforming locomotive gestures into sonic gestures and vice versa.
Our 5 day residency at <fidget> took us right up to the day before Bushwick Open Studios in Brooklyn – where we headed next to join forces with Detroit and Brooklyn artists for Spread Art’s Summer Showcase. The two day showcase featured artists exploring patterns and effects of individual and group migration through site-specific movement, sonic and performance art in the street.
On Saturday, Rachael and I performed “Propriosonic” as a part of Spread Art and Thing NY‘s Grattan Street Performance Block Party in front of Pine Box Rock Shop. Huge thanks to Zerina Phillip for capturing video of this performance.
Other Saturday Bushwick Open Studios performances included a set with Thomas Bell’s Oxygen Ensemble with James Cornish and Michael Monford:
And a large scale multimedia group improv to cap the night off:
Sometimes the tasteful thing to do is lay out…
On Sunday Rachael Ahn Harbert and I were joined by Billy Mark for a theatrical improvisation as part of Spread Art’s “Transplant – Own Your Own Dirt” showcase, which transformed an empty lot in the heart of Bushwick into a site-specific consideration of physical and psychological placement and replacement.
Inside that shed in the background = a hi-hat, snare drum, 9 tennis and racquet balls, a tennis racket, and myself at battle with all of them.
Other featured artists in Spread Art’s summer group show: Thomas Bell (Detroit), Megan Bridge/fidget (Philadelphia), James Cornish (Detroit), Alexander D’Agostino (Baltimore), Andrea Daniel (Detroit), Reshounn Foster (Detroit), Rachael Ahn Harbert (Detroit), Billy Mark (Detroit), Michael Monford (Detroit), Claribel Jolie Pichardo (Bklyn), Kalan Sherrard (Bklyn), Shua Group (NJ)
Huge thanks to Spread Art and <fidget> for all of the time and space that I was allotted to explore and express for that (crazy-ass) week.
Serial Live Processor
On July 11th I ran the sixth edition of Wet Dry Mix at Spread Art @detroitcontemporary. It was a lovely edition, especially the final set by harpist/vocalist Rachel McIntosh and Josef Deas on electronics.
The full lineup was as follows:
Eric Schweizer (Saxophones)
Thomas Bell (Electronics)
Patrick Behnke (Viola)
Matthew Daher (Electronics)
Molly Jones (Saxophones)
Zach Hill (Electronics)
Rachel McIntosh (Harp/Vocals)
Josef Deas (Electronics)
I was especially grateful to have another opportunity to perform with Patrick Behnke – Patrick is a violist/composer who is currently working on his Master’s at Cal Arts in Valencia, CA. Last summer Patrick and I started to experiment in the improvised-ambient realm.
We kicked around the moniker “Hakra” for our duo… which I quite enjoyed, but for whatever reason didn’t stick.
Anyways, this summer we picked up where we left off with a handful of performances together – all three of them with Patrick on viola and myself on live effects/looping/processing. After an extremely intensive summer and fall of studio mixing last year leading up to the release of Dwelling Lightheartedly in the Futility Of Everything, I’ve been craving the immediacy of live performance situations, which for some time kept me mostly on the drum kit and off of electronics. These performances with Patrick gave me an opportunity to jump back into that world and reengage with my inner cyborg, while being spared the staleness and rabbit hole of infinite choices that can at times be studio production’s downfall.
The first of these was at Wet Dry Mix VI. The following weekend was SANCTUM – an evening of installations, projections, and ambient music performances organized by Botanical Fortress at the Lincoln Art Park.
I gotta say, this was one of my favorite events that I’ve attended all summer – it’s not often enough that DJs at late night gatherings are throwing on Evening Star and Jon Hassell. Anyways, this time around I was fortunate enough to be taking James Cornish (Trumpet), Molly Jones (Soprano Sax), and Patrick Behnke (Viola) into my system for live processing. It was a great opportunity to simplify, to let the motion and momentum of 3 instrumentalists carry and color the small changes in sonic texture I was initiating, and patiently watch the subtleties arise.
To cap it all off, on July 23rd I joined Patrick Behnke once more as part of a performance of Canyonlands – New Music by Patrick Behnke.
The performance featured an installation of Patrick’s field recordings, another performance by Patrick and myself (with Chris Sies joining us on gongs as well), and a chamber suite composed by Patrick inspired by the scenery of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Here is a recording of the evenings performance, our duo portion is first on the playlist:
Organized by local movement artist and all around badass Ryan Myers Johnson, Sidewalk Festival of the Performing Arts is an outdoor celebration of performance and installation art in the heart of Detroit’s Old Redford and Brightmoor neighborhood. Sidewalk presents radical, interactive works of performance art, dance, music, theater and sculpture in unique spaces, curating original work that uncovers the hidden potential of these places. Activated spaces include alleys, storefronts, sidewalks, community gardens,parking lots, and the street itself. We bring unique and independent performance to places unexpected, featuring local and national artists.
At the 3rd edition of the festival on August 1st, I performed as part of movement artist Marianne Brass’ STYMIE.
STYMIE is a study in obstructions and how the body and mind works to resolve it. Whether mental or physical, the path towards a resolution is not always finite, and at times may be unattainable. Through improvisational exploration, performers follow a structure that is obscured by various types of restriction. Props have been designed to inhibit, or hinder, the dancers movement, and musicians sound. The goal is to alter the experience of the performance through the manipulation of perspective.
The grin that was plastered on my face the moment that this chamber was first filled with balloons almost split the corners of my mouth wide open. There is a drumset underneath there somewhere, by the way:
The performance featured:
Marianne Brass – Movement
Rachael Ahn Harbert – Movement
Michael Malis – Keyboards
Costa Sirdenis – Keyboards
Thomas Bell – Bass/Electronics/Movement
Matthew Daher – Percussion
Later in the day I also joined Molly Jones (Flute) Derek Worthington (Trumpet), James Cornish (Trumpet), Jake Shaddik (Saxophone), and Eric Schweizer (Saxophone) for a mobile – avant-marching band style improvisation.
That about does it for summer 2015.
I’m grateful for all of the creation that I’ve been a part of this season.
But as an addendum, there is something else that I want to share – because frankly, sometimes writing these updates I feel like I am suffocating myself in the process of collapsing my being into one dimension – that of a self-aggrandizing creator that does SO MANY THINGS! Boy howdy, LOOK AT ALL OF THEM!
So on that note, I want to share that these months have also been full of some heavy emotional/existential challenges as well.
The kinds of inner states that give you no choice but to
I’ve had a lot of conversations lately wherein I’m catching up with people who I haven’t seen/spoken with in a long time. A couple of observations:
1. When I end up sharing what I’ve been up to creatively (which tends to be rather dense), the response the I get is something along the lines of: “Wow, sounds like you’re doing really great!”
2. When I tell people that I am laying low/catching my breath for a little while, often the response seems to have a sense of solidarity and relief – like in sharing that decision, I am validating the notion that — now brace yourself — it’s TOTALLY cool to give yourself a break sometimes.
There is something about this that’s troubling to me. First, that we equate a certain baseline level of activity/productivity with well being. Everyone’s needs and propensities are different – so these concerns may not resonate with all of you – but, as a bona-fide workaholic, I don’t think I’m the only person who this mentality is rather toxic to. Second, it really bums me out to get the sense that some of my fellow creators feel guilty/insecure about giving themselves space and rest when it is exactly what they need.
As creators we are, quite often, responsible for creating our own accountability in order to keep our creative practice moving forward, delving deeper. It is also often our deepest personal struggles that become the arena in which our creative energies are manifesting.
This is a blessing.
It is a goddamn blessing that builds character and self-awareness and (insert positive attribute here) and above all can be healing.
But when we aren’t in the habit of checking in with ourselves and our needs, it is also a recipe for a compulsion to create/build our lives as artists that creates more inner problems than it actually works through.
That’s all to say that next time you slow the fuck down, let’s make sure that it’s because you make a choice to do so and not because you run full speed into a proverbial brick wall. I’ll try and do the same.
PS: if you haven’t read this do yourself a favor and read it right now. Yes, right now, it will change your life:
PSS: Apologies if you aren’t an artist and these reflections feel irrelevant as all hell to you. Still probably holds true in whatever corner of our production-driven society you’re holding down.
Truth be told: