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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Fringe Festival 2016 Spotlight: Shows Exploring LGBTQ+ Identity

Posted August 23rd, 2016

Check out this eclectic mix of independent Fringe shows from the artists of the LGBTQ+ community!

an obviously foggot

(Image by Geoffrey Douglas)

An Obviously Foggot @ iCandy

Poison Apple Initiative

“So you’ve got a group of people who fetishize masculinity, who’re emasculated their whole lives, and you stick them in this place with all this booze and drugs and hierarchy. What’d you think was gonna happen?” A collision of found text, broken pop, and dance parties confronting internalized homophobia in gay bars. More info and tickets here.

 

 

Photo by Monique Baron

(Photo by Monique Baron)

BIG CRUNCH @ Vox Populi

TOLVA/Sam Congdon

The world has gone rigid. Gender roles are strictly enforced by a ruthless government. There is a queer rage bubbling up through one cyborg’s circuitry, but can a single robot bring it all down? A queer sci-fi odyssey of self-discovery and rebellion blending solo performance, experimental electronic music, and video. More info and tickets here.

 

 

Photo by Steve Belkowitz

(Photo by Steve Belkowitz)

Carried Away @ JUNK Studio

Brian Sanders’ JUNK

I end up here, shame under pride, head on locker, denim near denim, skin against satin, disco within punk, leather around wrists, fist off canvas, lips about nape, hand for hand, looking back in time. I was carried away. More info and tickets here.

 

 

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Fringe at 20 Profile Rundown, Pt. 1

Posted August 19th, 2016

If you haven’t been keeping up with us here at the indispensable FringeArts blog, shame on you. Where’s our bookmark? Just kidding, we love you dear reader, please don’t X us out. We get it, there’s a lot of great content out there to scroll. There’s even more not so great content, but it’s flashy and has some excellent gifs and sometimes that’s what really counts.

So in case you haven’t checked in lately we thought we’d let you know we’ve been posting some truly wonderful profiles of repeat Festival participants—veterans and newcomers alike—that you’re not going to want to miss. Learn about all the triumphs and travails of your favorite local artists, get acquainted with some new ones, and discover what goes into making the Fringe Festival the flurry of fearless creativity that it is.

Below you’ll find all the profiles that have been published thus far, but be sure to stay tuned because there’s plenty more where that came from. We’ll be posting even more of these fantastic reminiscences as we count down the days to the 20th Fringe Festival.

 

Shadow House Invites You to Its Kick-Off Party

Posted August 12th, 2016
tamworth cocktail

The evening’s signature cocktail: Tamworth Flora Gin + tonic + squeeze of lime (courtesy of Tamworth Distilling)

On Sunday, August 14th, the Philadelphia Opera Collective and PhilaLandmarks are throwing a kick-off party and fundraiser at the historic Powel House for their fourth original opera, Shadow House. Meet the show’s artistic team, enjoy live music from members of the Philadelphia Opera Collective, and take in the elegance of Powel House and its garden, all while sipping signature cocktails provided by Tamworth Distilling.

Shadow House is part-opera, part-immersive theatrical event staged in Powel House, the result of a partnership between POC and PhilaLandmarks. Conceived by PhilaLandmarks artist-in-residence and POC lead conceptual creator Brenna Geffers, Shadow House weaves together folk pieces, dance rhythms, accordion music, and opera to tell 11 stories spanning 200 years of time. Foregrounded in this work is the rich history of Powel House. “The stories that are humming around a place like the Powel House cry out to be told. So many people pass through the house, living their lives, and leaving little echoes of their existence behind,” says Geffers.  

Shadow House premieres in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival on September 9th. For more upcoming events, check out PhilaLandmarks’ event page.

Shadow House Kick-Off Party
Powel House Garden
244 S 3rd St
6pm-8pm
$20

Fringe at 20 Profile: Jess Conda

Posted August 10th, 2016
Above Photo: Conda with Red 40 and the Last Groovement (photo by Chris K Photography)

 

Media Fine Imaging Eternal Glamnation

Conda in BRAT’s Eternal Glamnation (photo by Media Fine Imaging)

Name: Jess Conda

Type of Artist: actor, cabaret singer

Company: freelance, free love art maker; I get down a little bit with everyone

List of Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
The Lazy Activist, BRAT Productions, 2003 – ensemble performer/creator
Pay Up, Pig Iron, 2005/2013 – ensemble performer/creator
Eye 95 Re-Tarred, BRAT Productions, 2006 – ensemble performer/creator
Armageddon at the Mushroom Village, Tribe of Fools, 2009 – ensemble performer/creator
Water Bears in Space, Transmissions Theatre, 2011 – ensemble performer/creator
Heavy Metal Dance Fag, Tribe of Fools, 2011 – ensemble performer/creator
Festival Bar, RUBA Club, 2011 – programming director
Eternal Glamnation, BRAT Productions, 2012 – ensemble performer/creator
99 Breakups, Pig Iron, 2014 – ensemble performer/creator
Purgatory, Gunnar Montana, 2015 – performer
The Lid, BRAT Productions, 2015 – ensemble performer/creator

Fringe show I’m participating in for 2016: Performing back vox and raps with Red 40 and the Last Groovement opening night of the Festival

First Fringe I attended: 2003. Highlight was was walking to rehearsal and seeing all of this ACTION, in the box office, postcards flying around everywhere, Greg Giovanni performing Noh theater in the street in a kimono, artists all a flutter with this Olde City Fringe hub bub that made me giddy to be a part of this weird and amazing new art life.

First Fringe I participated in: Ranch-O Trivio show was a game show about George W Bush that BRAT played in the street. It was memorable to see how little regular folks knew about their politicians. Some things never change…

Babydoll

Conda as Babydoll in Eye 95 Re-Tarred (photo by JJ Tiziou)

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: I was pretty proud of programming the Festival Bar in 2011, even though every day was 16 hours of hard, down and dirty work: rehearsing other shows, booking everyone for the bar, and working with the technicians to get the Festival Bar space physically ready. On Opening Night of the Festival I was sweaty, covered in saw dust, wearing electrical tape around my wrists and my phone was in my bra ringing and glowing away. I had brought this whole gown and heels ensemble to wear to host that night but I was so tired I was like, “Fuck it, this is how I’m going on stage.” I riffed about how this is what Art Warriors REALLY look like and it was one of the most connected times on stage I’ve ever experienced.

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A glitch in the festival: BIG CRUNCH Comes to Fringe

Posted August 8th, 2016
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Congdon as TOLVA (photo by Monique Baron)

Sam Congdon’s new solo piece, BIG CRUNCH, envisions a future world where a ruthless government strictly enforces gender roles. In this dystopian fantasy, one cyborg with a queer glitch rebels against the state enforced gender binary. “I’m inspired by the radical power of science fiction,” says Congdon. “I think especially right now we need stories of queers fighting back against the system. Science fiction allows us to both examine what things might look like in the worst case scenario future, but also how we might be able to change the world for the better.”

Congdon is a Philly based curator and multimedia artist. His work combines live performance, experimental electronic music, video, and new media. Two years ago, Congdon created the alter-ego TOLVA, “a space princess who travels the universe in an orb of vibrating color in search of the weird, the queer, and the magical.” Since TOLVA’s inception, she has evolved from an alias for Congdon’s musical work to “her own character with a developing back story and very separate personality,” says Congdon. He explains that this development has happened through performance: “It’s a process of trying things out, understanding what works and doesn’t, and building on that. I don’t think her evolution will ever really be complete.”

In BIG CRUNCH,  TOLVA performs as cyborg BC108. The robotic protagonist packages products at a make-up factory, where it obeys strict rules of gender expression. That is until one day when a “queer glitch” occurs in its programming. For Congdon, the piece explores the power of queer possibility in the face of government control. “Instead of thinking of glitches as problems that occur in a computer,” says Congdon, “I like to think of them in the same way mutations contribute to evolution in living organisms: they change and develop an entity in new and exciting ways. The ‘big crunch’ refers to the moment this glitch occurs in our cyborg protagonist.”

Audience members can look forward to spacey electronic music and a glitter-filled post apocalyptic landscape. For a peek at Congdon’s earlier work, check out this music video “faavric” by TOLVA.

Besides his independent work, Congdon is a founding member of the curatorial collective SuperObject. The collective celebrates queer experimental theatre and performance art by emerging Philadelphia artists. Two SuperObject co-founders, dramaturg JD Stokely and costume designer Najee Haynes-Follins, are collaborators for BIG CRUNCH. Congdon is also joined by musician Stephen Piccarella, and cinematographer Max Gideon Basch.

BIG CRUNCH premieres in the 2016 Fringe Festival this September at the 319 Performance Space at Vox Populi. A limited number of zines featuring local artwork can be purchased to accompany the performance.

BIG CRUNCH
Vox Populi’s 319 Performance Space
N 11th and Wood Streets
Sept. 15 and 22 at 8pm
Sept. 16 and 23 at 9pm

—Hannah Salzer

Seeing Philly through Rockstar Eyes

Posted July 25th, 2016

catgif“Hi, I’m Ryan, and I am a human being,” Sonia Petruse says as she begins any performance of Sonia as Ryan, Ryan as Drag. Ryan is Ryan Adams, the prolific singer-songwriter and 90s heartthrob, or as Sonia affectionately refers to him, DRA (his full initials, David Ryan Adams). For the past year Sonia has been singing, blogging, taking photos and surrounding herself with domestic objects posing as Adams—inspired by a Halloween costume she created seven years ago. This fall she brings Adams to the Digital Fringe in a video created with Laura Storck. She fondly recalls specific teenage memories associated with every DRA record, “before listening to Ryan and his other bands like Whiskeytown and Sad Dracula, I could never turn to one artist for so many different emotions,” Sonia recalls.

“I look back to times I was sheltered by his albums: Love is Hell through college, Jacksonville City Nights through the loss of my childhood home, Cardinology when I was lost in LA, III/IV after a breakup and Cold Roses forever.”

Sonia confesses that she finds most forms of fandom horrifying. Why? “We are in a strange part of human history, where celebrities are treated like gods,” she muses. While Sonia is undoubtedly a fan of Ryan Adams and performs drag as admiration, she wants to honor him as a human and an artist rather than a deity, saying “I’m a big supporter of Ryan, just like I’m a big supporter of my friends and peers within art.”

Ryan in front of 7-11

Sonia as Ryan in front of 7-11, his favorite store

Sonia reconstructs elements of Adams’ life masterfully, with impeccable attention to detail. She performs with what she refers to as “Ryan props”: stuffed cats, a peace flag, a crocheted blanket and boxes of Cheez-Its. Sonia isn’t just emulating Ryan, she says “[it’s] one of my missions with this performance, to mesh dialogue of my own with Ryan’s, because I find similarities in our personal memoirs.” In conversation, Sonia affectionately uses the plural “we” to describe herself and Adams, almost as old friends. 

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What Was Said

Posted June 19th, 2016

This Monday, June 20, FringeArts and the Ars Nova Workshop present a rare North American performance—and the first in Philadelphia—from esteemed Norwegian jazz musician and composer Tord Gustavsen, accompanied by his long-standing drummer Jarle Vespestad and vocalist Simin Tander. The trio recently released their debut, What Was Said, on the venerable ECM Records to much acclaim, with one critic from The Guardian noting, “The mixture of the instrumentalists’ distilled reflections with Tander’s palette of hummed tones, sighing note-bends and pristine inflections represents a beguiling new Gustavsen collaboration “

While Gustavsen and Vespestad’s well established musical rapport has been widely lauded, perhaps the greatest revelations to be found on What Was Said are in the spellbinding vocal stylings of Simin Tander. Regarded as one of European jazz’s brightest young voices, the German-Afghan singer previously released two albums with her quartet—2011’s Wagma and 2014’s Where Water Travels Home—that established her as a polyglot whose tireless creativity is matched only by her stunning voice. While her debut found her singing in English, Spanish, and her own improvised language, she expanded her repertoire to include Pashto on her follow up, describing the album as “a journey – to myself, through the world of my emotions and thoughts and to my Afghan roots.” Doing so not only expanded her vocal palette, but helped to spark the collaboration that would eventually become What Was Said.

Around the time of Where Water Travels Home’s release, Gustavsen was exploring Sufi poetry for a project with Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat. When Tander’s album came to his attention he was instantly drawn to her singular voice and Pashto singing, and a collaboration was soon arranged. Though there was initially no defined direction for the project, it wasn’t long before the two began drawing from the poetry of Sufi mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi and Norwegian hymns of Gustavsen’s childhood as source material for the album’s lyrics. The hymns were translated to English, reinterpreted and amended to better fit Tander’s personal aesthetics, and then translated to Pashto by Afghan poet B. Hamsaaya. “We wanted someone not only who can translate the lyrics but who also has a sensitivity for poetry, especially Pashto, which is a different universe when you translate,” Tander told All About Jazz, adding, “You cannot just translate word for word—you have to get the context.”

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Fringe at 20: Aaron Cromie

Posted June 8th, 2016

Name: Aaron Cromie

Type of Artist: Multidisciplinary theater artist

Lautrec in Window

The Body Lautrec. Photo by JJ Tiziou.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
First Festival Volunteer Coordinator, 1997
Son of Fantoccini, Mum Puppettheatre, 1998
I Was A Teenage Fantoccini, Mum Puppettheatre, 1999
Across, Big House Plays & Spectacles, 2000
The Story of Your Life, Threadbare Theatricals (self-produced), 2000
Hotel Obligado, Hotel Obligado, 2001
Contagion, Hotel Obligado, 2002
Contagion 2.0, Hotel Obligado, 2003
Two Hats, Two Heads, with Dave Jadico, 2003
The Foocy, workshop reading with Ugly Stepsister, 2004
Punchadelphia, Self-Produced Punch & Judy Show, 2005
Eye-95, Re-tarred, with Brat Productions, 2006
Afoot!, The Brothers Cromie, 2007
The European Lesson, Jo Strømgren Company, 2008
Afoot!, The Brothers Cromie, 2009
Afoot!, The Brothers Cromie, 2010
A Paper Garden, Mary Tuomanen/Aaron Cromie, 2011
Saint Joan, Betrayed, Mary Tuomanen/Aaron Cromie, 2013
The Body Lautrec, Mary Tuomanen/Aaron Cromie, 2014
The Swamp is On, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2015
The Light Princess, workshop presentation with Ugly Stepsister, 2015
There might have been a couple more collaborations in there—I feel like we are all helping each other find/make/give feedback on each others’ developmental work each year—so I might have left out some things.

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Exile 2588 with Almanac Dance Circus Theatre. I am writing and performing the original score to Almanac’s new piece with my acoustic music duo Chickabiddy (with Emily Schuman).

Chickabiddy

Chickabiddy. Photo by Hannan Van Sciver.

First Fringe I attended: The very first one. Probably the highlight was seeing Dan Froot play sax naked. A good start to the first 20 years. Lines were out the door at Christ Church Meeting House. And I ran around a lot finding volunteers to cover shifts—we learned a lot that first year.

First Fringe I participated in: I was volunteer coordinator for the first festival, but the next year I got to perform with Mum Puppettheatre. The memorable moment was making people laugh by standing still in a stupid hat.

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: The first show I did myself was a teeny puppet show in the box office of the National Building—remember that place?—called The Story of Your Life in a shared space with a woman who knitted herself naked from a single length of yarn which made up the dress she was wearing/making.

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Mood Music and Mind Control at SoLow Fest

Posted June 8th, 2016

musictolaugh1Music accompanies modern life, whether it’s a new band your friends like, the on-hold music of doctor’s office or half your office going to see Beyoncé last Sunday. But what happens when music takes control?

“In the digital age, we are inundated with the subliminal effects of music and media. Being affected by these stimuli is a part of our modern life that we take for granted,” says physical theater artist Lesley Berkowitz, co-creator of Music to Laugh To, a clown show set to premiere at The Whole Shebang June 16th as part of SoLow Fest.

Hank Curry was reading the dramaturgy notes for a Fringe show last year, and he read that Muzak was designed to stimulate productivity in the work place. The notion that music was “scientifically” designed to have manipulative effects fascinated him, inspiring him to approach Lesley with the idea of a clown show. Hank and Lesley researched early Muzak and watched silent film era clowns, exploring people’s desire to control others through music. The music for Music to Laugh To was composed with the intention of imitating the Muzak style. (The composer, Andy Thierauf, is also performing a solo concert called The Post-Modern Percussionist in SoLow Fest.) As for the show’s title, Berkowitz and Curry were searching for something that could evoke the essence of mood music albums of the 1950s. “This one made us laugh,” they explain.

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Emmanuelle Delpeche Talks Immigrant Life and Spinning Records

Posted June 6th, 2016

“There is a poetry of the exiled that I want to share.” Emmanuelle Delpech

Emmanuelle Delpech is a native of France who has been a longtime performer, teacher, director and deviser of theater in the Philadelphia area. For her newest theatrical creation, Spinning Immigrant, Delpech brings audiences into the lives of immigrants in Philadelphia. Through audio interviews, and set up as DJ Babtoue, she reveals the secrets, regrets, and joys of those who are from somewhere else. We caught up with Delpech to find out more about Spinning Immigrant and her love of deejaying.DSC_1477-1

FringeArts: Why the title Spinning Immigrant?

Emmanuelle Delpeche: Well, I am an immigrant and when I thought about it, I was just starting to get interested in deejaying, aka spinning. Also spinning is a sensation, like my head is spinning, and I definitely have felt like a spinning immigrant in many situations. And I know others have too. So it’s a play on word. It’s kind of the essence of the show. I think as immigrants we always navigate different waters, worlds and it’s complicated. It’s like nausea, you actually might not throw up so will never get the relief. You just don’t feel good. You’re spinning on an endless dilemma.

FringeArts: Tell us about some of the steps from initial inspiration to production?

Emmanuelle Delpeche: I have always been an immigrant, and my identity is rooted in the fact that I am French but more specifically that I am a French woman in the United States and in Philadelphia. I meet easily with other immigrants, and I get along with them often quite quickly. We share an instant intimacy, even if we just met. That’s rarer with Americans. Somehow we are united by the fact that we are foreign, and we therefore feel similar things and have a similar eye on American society. We observe people and their habits. We notice differences because we are different. While I am interesting to Americans, I am French, an actor but other immigrants are invisible. They are unknown, and sometimes people don’t even know where one’s country is on the map. I am tired of that. I want people to have a voice, to be seen and to be understood. There is a poetry of the exiled that I want to share with the American audience. It might tap into their own feelings of exile.DSC_1502

FringeArts: How did you start deejaying?

Emmanuelle Delpeche: Deejaying is a thing I went to because I am an immigrant. I don’t think I would have gone there if I was in France. I am not sure why, but being here gives me the audacity to try new things and deejaying is part of one of these things. It’s also ok for a woman who is 42 to do that, nobody questions me, nobody is judging me, people are rather seduced and encouraging, which isn’t always the case in France.

I want to take a trip into people’s hearts and minds and joys and questions. I want to share that with the audience so they might become visible. I am a body for these voices. I want to be more and more intimate with my own struggle and by interviewing people and spending time with their story, I might understand mine better. I also want to make visible intimacy and how that is actually what matters. And when you are not “home,” it is quite hard to find. You seek it, you look for the familiar, the known. I have been here for a long time but it took me very very long to feel safe and at ease. To feel at home again.

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A Crash Course in the Works of Chatham, Shea, and Dahl

Posted May 19th, 2016

Next Tuesday FringeArts, in collaboration with the Ars Nova Workshop, hosts one of the most important figures in contemporary music accompanied by two of the most wildly accomplished and versatile musicians working today. The powerhouse trio led by Rhys Chatham, featuring drummer Kevin Shea and bassist Tim Dahl, will delve into the murky sonic depths of post-punk and return with something that will no doubt rock you in your seat (tickets/info). Minds will be blown. Maybe a few ear drums too.

Each of the performers have tirelessly explored so many varied sounds throughout their prolific careers it’s difficult to grasp the breadth of their achievements. Below you’ll find a brief introduction to just some of the boundary-pushing work these three have created over the years.

Rhys Chatham

In 1971 Chatham premiered Two Gongs, one of the best examples of his early work. Featuring Chatham and Fluxus affiliated sound artist/composer Yoshi Wada on a pair of large Chinese gongs, the piece showcases the duo’s incredibly precise and controlled drumming, as well as Chatham’s mastery as a composer. What may seem like an improvisation is actually a carefully calibrated piece, each strike composed and working to achieve the piece’s rapturous effect. It’s hypnotic, it warps your sense of time, it’s really damn loud, and in it one can hear early strains of all noise music to come. Like the ebbs and flows of a raging sea or the chaotic abandon of a blustery storm, the piece tosses about its listeners and leaves them in a state of awe.

By 1976 Chatham’s work began to be shaped by the burgeoning punk rock scene. Chatham began exploring intersections of minimalist composition and punk rock instrumentation which in turn led to his most influential work, Guitar Trio. Consisting of three guitarists, a bassist, and drummer, the piece’s deceptively simple structure belies its unprecedented brilliance. “In this century (the 21st), it has never taken more than an hour to teach G3 to everyone’s satisfaction and comfort level,” Chatham wrote to performers in his 2007 tour of the piece. The framework he lays out for performers provides enough room for each to incorporate touches of their personal style, which has in turn led to more enthralling variations of the piece than would seem possible. It still stands as a perfect entry point to minimalism, punk, and no wave, a genre which Chatham helped kick start.

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Rapid Oscillations Between the Sacred and the Profane: an interview with Bhob Rainey

Posted April 25th, 2016
Rainey at a rehearsal of O Monsters First Draft (courtesy of New Paradise Laboratories).

Rainey at a rehearsal of O Monsters First Draft (photo by Kate Raines, plate3.com).

This week sees the premiere of New Paradise Laboratories’ O Monsters First Draft (tickets/info), marking the company’s second collaboration with award-winning composer, saxophonist, sound designer Bhob Rainey.

Rainey’s career is marked by a tireless push against preconceived notions of what music is and how it can affect listeners, and he has over 30 record releases to show for it. After earning a master’s degree in music composition from New England Conservatory (where he studied with musical luminaries Joe Maneri, Paul Bley, Ran Blake, and Pozzi Escot) he founded Nmperign with trumpeter Greg Kelley in 1998. The highly influential non-idiomatic improvisation duo have been integral to the development of the lowercase and electroacoustic improvisation genres and have to date collaborated with a veritable who’s-who of twenty-first century music innovators. In 2000 he founded The BSC, an octet of acoustic and electronic improvisers, as a means of exploring the dynamics of large group improvisation. Throughout his career he has sought interdisciplinary collaborations.

Though it is often the case that a composer’s work is done merely in service of a production, Rainey’s work on O Monsters First Draft has played an integral role in crafting this new work. “We’re treating Bhob’s music like spontaneous expressions of something in-the-world that can be used to craft out-of-this-world stage action,” Whit MacLaughlin, NPL’s artistic director, told FringeArts back in February. “Ultimately, we are exploring something we haven’t quite found a name for yet. Symphonic theater might be a good name for it.”

We caught up with Rainey to learn more about his background and his work on O Monsters First Draft.

FringeArts: Were you raised in a musical household?

Bhob Rainey: Not really. My dad is something of an aficionado of certain music, mostly blues and jazz, but I don’t recall him sharing a lot of that when I was young. My mom would often play one side of a Barbara Streisand record followed by a side of Barry Manilow. No one in the family really knew what it was like to be a musician. It is very much to their credit that they didn’t disown me when I decided to go the music route. I got to know a lot of music through endangered species like radio, record stores, and libraries. I was usually attracted to things that seemed to push boundaries, though it took a while for my idea of boundaries to grow large enough to be interesting. In truth, so much of the richness of my musical experience as a kid came from going to a public school with a good music program. It’s unforgivable how much of that has been taken away.

bhob-non-event

Rainey at work.

FringeArts: Growing up in Philadelphia, were you involved with any of the city’s music scenes?

Bhob Rainey: I didn’t get involved with any significant music scene in Philadelphia until the mid-90s. This was the jazz scene in ’94–’95. The scene was generationally and racially diverse, so there was a lot of sacred knowledge being passed around. I grew a lot from the experience and am deeply appreciative of the musicians I played with. You had a few downtown clubs like Zanzibar Blue and the Blue Moon, plus the old Ortlieb’s and some more neighborhood-y clubs like Natalie’s in West Philly. I played with Orrin Evans, Edgar Bateman, Mike Boone, Byron Landham, Duane Eubanks, Mickey Roker, and some other scene heavyweights like Bootsy Barnes and Larry McKenna. Byard Lancaster was helpful to me early on, introducing me to other players like Lucky Thompson and being generally—and somewhat aggressively—supportive. I don’t think I ever thanked him to the degree I would have liked, and I regret that now. I was playing out most nights of the week, and I loved it. But it ultimately wasn’t my voice. It was a voice I had learned and enjoyed using. It was a tradition for which I had and still have a deep respect. But I had something else that I needed to do, and that’s when I left for Boston.

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World Premieres and World-Class Music: Spring at FringeArts Pt.2

Posted March 31st, 2016

Last week we previewed some of the exciting things that are happening here at FringeArts in the next two months—the first half of our spring season—but believe it or not there’s more to look forward to. Believe it!

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Rhys Chatham (Photo by Paula Court)

Late May sees two separate performances from near-mythical figures of modern music, both presented in partnership with Philadelphia’s Ars Nova Workshop. First up is the Rhys Chatham-Tim Dahl-Kevin Shea Trio. Chatham is a composer and performer from New York City who cut his teeth in the music world as a piano tuner for minimalist icon La Monte Young before performing in various groups. His work has always been indebted to his avant-garde forebears, but he was also heavily influenced by the emerging punk rock scene in the late ’70s. He in turn influenced musicians whose work would soon be pegged as No Wave through seminal works like Guitar Trio and his time as the first music director of the legendary lower Manhattan art space The Kitchen. Since the early 2000s he’s settled in Paris and has been composing works for three to 400 guitars, as well as a host of other instruments.

Tim Dahl is an accomplished electric and double bass player, vocalist, keyboardist, and composer best known as the bass player and co-composer of the noise-rock band Child Abuse and Lydia Lunch’s Retrovirus. He’s performed with a legion of legendary of musicians, including Yusef Lateef, Archie Shepp, Eugene Chadbourne, Tatsuya Yoshida, John Zorn, and Marc Ribot. Kevin Shea, who has been dubbed “the best drummer in New York” by The Village Voice, is a member of the acclaimed avant-garde jazz quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing. He’s been in numerous other groups and collaborates frequently, compiling a resume that, much like Dahl, reads as a who’s who of forward-thinking music greats. Catch these three powerhouse musicians on May 24 as they delve into and distort the post-punk instrumental. (info/tickets)

pbhll

Brötzmann and Leigh

You would be wise to return the following night for a performance from two musicians with a masterful talent for improvisation, taking the stage with their seldom-paired instruments of choice. Peter Brötzmann and Heather Leigh are bringing their tenor saxophone and pedal steel guitar, respectively, May 25. The two have been touring together  to much acclaim, with one reviewer for London Jazz News commenting, “Their 90 minute set at Café Oto was remarkable for the flux of the structures that defined the emerging musical forms and for the intuitive daring with which both musicians imprinted their presence on the dialogue.”

Brötzmann, a painter by trade, is a giant of European free jazz, and avant-garde jazz and free improvisation in general. His legendary second album, Machine Gun, remains a ferocious and imposing work and stands as a document of the formation of the European free improvisation scene. He’s led numerous influential recordings and served as a member of such blistering groups as Last Exit and Die Like a Dog. Leigh is a Houston-bred coal miner’s daughter based in Glasgow who wields the pedal steel guitar like no one else. With echoes of American folk traditions, avant-garde jazz, and the furthest extremes of noise experimentation present, she renders her instrument’s voice into expressive wails and lilts that belie its oft-typecast laid back country image. Her latest album, 2015’s I Abused Animal, received universal acclaim and landed on many critics’ and artists’ year-end best lists. This rare live collaboration is not to be missed by any adventurous music listener. (info/tickets)

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The Riot of Spring

Posted March 29th, 2016

Everyone loves a good scandal and the riotous 1913 premiere of The Rite of Spring was easily one of the biggest in the history of twentieth century art. The orchestral-choreographic work—­a collaboration between composer Igor Stravinsky, choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky, and Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes—portrays rituals of pagan Russia. Though its structure is episodic, the work as a whole is unified around, as Stravinsky put it, “the mystery and great surge of the creative power of Spring.” Perhaps spurred by the avant-garde nature of the music—with its dissonance and pulsing rhythm—or the shocking choreography—eschewing ballet’s expected gracefulness for sharp, jerky movements—the audience quickly began laughing, shouting, scuffling among each other, and hurling objects at the orchestra. The performance forged on despite it all and the furor eventually died down. Initial reviews were mixed.
Below, check out a 1989 recording of a performance from the Joffrey Ballet with Nijinsky’s choreography left fully intact.

This Friday April 1, Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret returns to FringeArts for a performance dubbed Rite of Spring. Will there be a riot down here at the waterfront?

I Went to FringeArts and All I Got Was Pegged

Posted February 18th, 2016

What are your plans for this Friday?
If you answered anything other than getting pegged, you’re wrong.

Oh wait, sorry, I meant Get Pegged Cabaret. Though, by all means, feel free to get pegged too. Just make sure you do it after FringeArts’ newest, naughtiest addition to its late night programming.

Hosted and co-curated by John Jarboe, an accomplished Philadelphia actor and founder/artistic director of The Bearded Ladies Cabaret, Get Pegged is poised to make the La Peg stage Philadelphia’s home for raunchy, taboo-busting, transgressive performance. And don’t expect to simply sit back and passively enjoy the ride, by the way. Jarboe cites cabaret’s prioritization of the artist/audience relationship as his biggest impetus for exploring the form’s possibilities. “Cabaret, good cabaret that really forces the whole audience to be there with each other and the performer is radical nowadays,” he recently told FringeArts. While that absence of engaging cabaret is a real shame, like a hole in the landscape of contemporary performance, expect Get Pegged to plug that hole. If you need further evidence, let’s get acquainted with the performers of the series’ inaugural bash.

A keyboardist and the in house music director/composer for the Bearded Ladies, Heath Allen has made a name for himself as one of the city’s most versatile composers and bandleaders. He remains one of area’s best kept musical secrets, with even Fresh Air host Terry Gross asserting, “Most cities have composers and musicians who are extremely talented yet are unknown outside that city. One of those composers in my city, Philadelphia, is Heath Allen.” Recently, he helped compose the music for Andy: A Popera, and collaboration between The Bearded Ladies and Opera Philadelphia.

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Great World of Sound: Unpacking Roomful of Teeth’s Vocal Repertoire

Posted February 12th, 2016

“How do you capture the tragic loneliness of existence and the complete, ecstatic joy of existence?” Roomful of Teeth ensemble member Caroline Shaw mused in a recent profile. It’s a question that sits at the core of so much, if not all, works of art, whether conceived in those terms or not. How does one go about tackling the impossibly daunting notion of “existence” and the inconceivable wealth of influences and experiences that embody it in a way that is accessible to any audience? Shaw’s answer is simple, personal, and broad: for her, it’s music. “It’s such a powerful way of touching this part of ourselves that is impossible to describe but as humans we’re trying to describe it all the time.”

While it’s no secret that the ensemble’s music draws on vocal styles and traditions from all corners of the globe—everything from Tuvan throat singing to Persian classical singing, Korean p’ansori to Saridinian cantu a tenore, Georgian singing to yodeling, and much more—knowing this is not imperative to embracing the group’s brilliant, Grammy Award-winning work. It stands confidently even when removed from its various contexts, buoyed by a strong undercurrent of palpable, infectious joy. What Roomful of Teeth have achieved with their first two albums—and will surely continue to as their profile and influence keeps rising—is something very rare in music. Theirs is a sound without borders, one that places itself at an intersection of the musical histories of so many cultures, but still manages to be accessible, and undeniable, to all.

In anticipation of Roomful of Teeth’s performance at FringeArts this Sunday, February 14, below you will find brief introductions to and examples of just a few of the many vocal traditions that go into creating Roomful of Teeth’s sound: Tuvan throat singing, Sardinian cantu a tenore, and yodeling. To hear these and more techniques coalesce into what The Thoroughfare has called “both beautiful and groovy as hell,” you will simply have to come on down to the waterfront for a one of a kind Valentine’s date.

Tuvan throat singing

In throat singing the performer produces a fundamental pitch—a low drone—and proceeds to amplify one or more overtones. By changing the shape of the resonant cavities of their mouth, larynx, and pharynx, these overtones are perceived as additional pitches all while the low drone continues. The ancient example of overtone singing developed among the nomadic herdsmen of Central Asia and is traditionally performed outdoors. Singers aimed to use their voices to interact with the mellifluous sounds of the natural world, which, ethnomusicologists point out, links the practice to the animistic worldview of the region. Thus, throat singing is, traditionally, a kind of aural reflection of or prayer to the natural world. Here’s an example, from one of the great modern masters of the art form, Kongar-ol Ondar, funnily enough on the David Letterman Show in 1999:

Throat singing is not strictly a tool for traditional music though, and one of my favorite examples of this comes from a relatively obscure practitioner of the art. While biographical details on Oudupaa Vladimir Oiun are spotty at best, what is clear is that he spent some large portion of his life in Russian work camps where he recorded his first album Divine Music from a Jail. Over the course of an hour, Oiun exhibits the throat singing style of kargyraa—characterized by a deep, growling sound with connections to Tibetan Buddhist chant—accompanied only by his accordion. The recording is stark and mournful, but works well to showcase the versatility of throat singing. Though it is often heard as otherworldly and awe inspiring to western ears, throat singing is just as capable at mining the pain of existence as its beauty. A choice cut:

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Humane Digitization: Bolstering the Acoustic with the Electronic in Daniel Wohl’s HOLOGRAPHIC

Posted February 3rd, 2016

Much of the talk about Daniel Wohl’s latest album Holographic points to the artist’s proficiency in seamlessly melding the digital with the analog, employing his background in composition, and interest in electronic music to create something unconventional and adventurous. This, however, just feels like scratching the surface. Wohl has a remarkable talent for blending those elements, but such a concept is not exactly new to music. So why, despite this, does Holographic feel so contemporary? What I often find most striking on the album is those instances when he lets the veil slip: a momentary interjection of a vibraphone, a sudden crash of breaking glass, a mournful bowing of a violin. These moments of unmanipulated instrumentation help mark the listener’s path through Wohl’s labyrinthine compositions, and imbue the work as a whole with a sense of unpredictability. These moments can jar, they can bring relief, but regardless of the outcome they ground us in the work’s human reality while its immersive digitally altered atmospheres swell all around.

Final Cover

Daniel Wohl’s Holographic, out now via New Amsterdam Records. Cover: “The AK-47 vs The M16.” Design by DM Stith. Photo by Nathan Lee Bush.

While the initial recordings may be organic—such as the gentle drone that opens “Replicate, Pt. 1,” recorded by a microphone placed on a resonating snare drum—Wohl alters and layers these samples until their sources become indecipherable. “I’ll process it in different ways, and stack up the recorded versions against the live, acoustic performance to create a sort of augmented reality,” the composer revealed, speaking to The Boston Globe, adding, “When you listen to the album it’s kind of a mystery as to what’s being played live and what’s electronic.” This process yields innovative, slyly disorienting results, with each track possessing its own enchanting ambience, echoing the works of influential compositional and experimental music innovators, both forebears and contemporaries. “Formless” is marked by the ebbs and flows of a muffled beat, recalling the loop-based works of William Basinski and ambient techno explorations of Wolfgang Voigt. “Pixel” flies by in a gleeful rush, like a toy piano ensemble covering one (or maybe all) of Conlon Nancarrow’s Studies for Player Piano. The chopped and screwed, otherworldly vocals of “Source” nod to the sonic experimentation and voice manipulations of Katie Gately and Holly Herndon, but utilizes them to much different ends.

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Winter at FringeArts lights up the waterfront

Posted January 13th, 2016

Communications Intern Hugh Wilikofsky shares his comprehensive guide to the FringeArts Winter season.

 

As we gear up for our first show of 2016, we at FringeArts simply cannot contain our excitement over our entire upcoming winter season. Literally. It is tearing us all apart. We’ve been screaming about it at the top of our lungs for some time now and the neighbors hate us. This excitement needs an outlet. So, I am going to do my professional duty and alleviate at least a little bit of that need by clueing you all in to the future goings-on here by the waterfront.

IMG_5968

Photograph: Moon So Young

First up, showing January 21-23 is Toshiki Okada’s latest play God Bless Baseball. A collaboration between Japanese and South Korean actors, the play follows two girls as they attempt to comprehend their countries’ favorite pastime with the help of a man who understands the game but despises it, and another who thinks he’s Japanese baseball star Ichiro Suzuki. However, despite the men’s best efforts, the girls continually frustrate their explanations, slowly teasing out just how deeply rooted the game is in the everyday life of Japanese and South Korean people.

Though most contemporary Japanese theater rarely makes it outside of the country (as far as I know, though I’d be happy to be wrong on that one), since 2009 Okada’s work has received regular productions here in the US. His oeuvre is said to represent Japan’s “lost generation,” the group most affected by the Japanese recession of the 1990s and this is perhaps part of why he has found an audience here, in the wake of our own Great Recession. Characterized by the idiosyncratic vernacular of Japanese twentysomethings, his vérité writing style is in some ways akin to that of renowned American playwright Annie Baker, but his use of disjointed and abstract choreography based on exaggerations of everyday gestures imbues his works with a quirk all his own. On top of the Philadelphia premiere of God Bless Baseball, FringeArts will also be hosting a reading of Okada’s The Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise directed by Pig Iron Theater Company artistic director Dan Rothenberg on January 18.

Escuela, La Dirección y dramaturgia está a cargo de Miguel Calderón, se presentará en la sala N° 2 del teatro de la Universidad Católica a las 22 horas, en el marco del Festival Internacional Santiago a Mil. En Santiago; 20/01/2013 FOTÓGRAFO: * VALENTINO SALDIVAR*

Photograph:  Valentino Saldivar

Next up, showing January 28-30 is Chilean playwright/director Guillermo Calderón’s latest play Escuela. Set in Chile in the late 1980s, amid the tumultuous transition between the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and the dubiously regarded democracy that followed, a group of left-wing university students receive secret paramilitary training in the living room of a fellow dissident. Hiding their identities with hoods to ensure none of them can betray their revolutionary comrades, these intellectuals awkwardly learn skills essential to guerilla warfare, such as proper crawling and rifle cleaning methods, in the hopes of overturning a corrupt regime, all while grappling with the chilling realities of staging a violent insurgency.Calderón has made a name for himself with plays grounded in times of violent turmoil and political upheaval, using dangerous and unstable settings as a jumping off point for larger universal themes, and Escuela sits well within this established style while taking it somewhere new. Instead of the surrounding violence haunting the onstage proceedings, as it did in Calderón’s first play Neva, it is brought to the forefront in Escuela as we watch its characters preparing to engage with it. In an interview with FringeArts, regarding the political implications of his new work Calderón asserted, “Politics is a combination of emotions and rationality, and that is what Escuela tries to convey and push to its limit.”

Kicking off February is a multimedia performance from composer Daniel Wohl, who previously graced the FringeArts stage last year with a multi media performance of his album Corps Exquis. This time around the Paris-born composer will be presenting his latest full-length album, Holographic, accompanied by an excellent line up of musicians and video art projections from LA-based artist Daniel Schwarz.

Wohl has garnered acclaim for works in which the acoustic and electronic blend into each other: a resonating snare drum becomes a low unnerving drone, percussion and electronic noise crash into a joyous cacophony, and synthetic pulsations elevate the steady bowing of strings to a higher plane. The result is immersive, slyly disorienting music that seeks to close the gap between the chamber groups of concert halls and academia , and electronic experimentalists pushing sonic boundaries in basements and warehouses. This is a one night only event, so mark your calendar for February 5.

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Disabled like a titanium lollipop: Musician, Model, and Medical Experiment at the 2015 Fringe

Posted July 29th, 2015

1683-e37a8444bc2810407a1fd83fba3b1b8a“Anomie was born at age twenty on an operating table. Surgical experiments saved her life but left her disabled like a titanium lollipop.”

Anomie is a musician. Outside of creating music, she models for “Sick and Sexy,” her self-created group for alternative models with disabilities. Anomie has undergone several surgeries.  She is an artist who has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a genetic defect in connective tissue, which impacts joints, skin, and muscles. After a series of medical issues in 2008, she was forced to discard her life as a biochemistry college student in exchange for a new identity. The physical complications that occurred as a result of EDS have not only left her physically disabled, but have also stranded her on the outskirts of society. “My bones are titanium from the neck up, and I’ve been an electric wheelchair user for almost three years now.  I refer to it as ‘my mecha-body,’ although I would prefer a robotic exoskeleton because sitting still for long periods of time really sucks,” Anomie says.

Anomie is taking her music and story to the 2015 Fringe Festival in a show, called Musician, Model & Medical Experiement. During her performance, which takes place at Agno Grill on September 6, 10, and 16, Anomie shares her story and reclaims her identity through song and burlesque. “The songs are about all sorts of things, evil doctors, bad boyfriends, bad girlfriends, vampires, and living in public housing in the projects. I will be doing at least one burlesque act per show. Because of my restricted mobility I cannot dance for burlesque, so I sing and use props instead,” she says. Her songs consist of guitar and digital back tracks. Some of her pieces are collaborative works, while others are solo creations. While Anomie’s music captures her own story, she references the larger disabled community. “I’d like to tell a story more than just singing and performing. The story is my personal experience, but the show is as much about me as it is about all of those who go through these challenges.”

Greatnecklogo-257x300Anomie refers to her community as “the underworld.” She uses this term because disabled people are locked out of society, prevented from participating in mainstream culture, by those in power who fail to include people with chronic medical conditions. Her songs make visible a group of people society tends to ignore. “I refer to ‘crip’ society as ‘the underworld’ a lot because of the way we have to live with chronic medical conditions. I am unable to work a standard job, live an average full life, get married, have a family, and feel like a part of regular society. This is not because of I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome really. This is mostly because the system we live in does not allow disabled people to do that,” she says. Our city is inaccessible. The larger structure of our society allows disabled people to be disregarded. When the disabled community is not swept underneath the societal rug, they are noticed specifically for their difference through events that highlight their disability, like Special Olympics and non-profit fundraisers. Anomie is either erased from society or put underneath a microscope like a unrecognizable object. “I’ve had done experimental treatments for the neurological problems associated with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Arnold Chiari Malformation and Tethered Spinal Cord.  My cranio-cervical fusion surgery was recorded and used for teaching purposes at the Harvey Cushing Institute of Neuroscience.

When asked if she had a fetish, Anomie responded “No, but there are fetishes for people like me.”  She explained one called ‘devotee’ in which a person sexualizes care-taking of a disabled person. The other she explained was called ‘Agalmatophilia’ which is the fetishization of a statue, or in her case a person who is fixed solid with fusion implants.

1683-ab13436c70b238738d5e76d763fbad1c“Disability is the ultimate counterculture.” After struggling to participate in society, Anomie realized that she would always be excluded. Instead of trying to return to college for the third time, she is developing an identity that works for her. As she sings, she claims agency and strength, despite living in a world that denies her power. “I picked the name Anomie for myself, because that’s exactly what the word means: disconnected, rebel. But I’m not disconnected really, there’s a whole community of people living in this ‘underworld’ finding ways to make what we’re given with work.”

Musician, Model & Medical Experiment
Agno Grill
2104 Chestnut Street
Sept 6 at 3pm
Sept 10 at 9pm
Sept 16 at 9pm
Click for tickets

–Courtney Lau

Tonight! Maya Beiser’s “Uncovered” at the FringeArts Stage

Posted September 7th, 2014

You’ve probably gotten wind of how awesome our late night programming is, but in case you haven’t, check it out for yourself tonight at 9:00 pm. Cellist Maya Beiser covers iconic rock songs, from “Lithium” to “Kashmir.” Preview below:

Maya Beiser’s “Uncovered
Tonight, 9:00 pm
FringeArts Stage
140 N. Columbus Blvd.
Free!