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Archive for the ‘Presented Fringe’ Category

Alone Together at Close Music for Bodies

Posted September 20th, 2017

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about sonic resonance lately, due in no small part to some recent visits to La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s installation Dream House. Various incarnations of this sound and light environment have been mounted by Young—a revered minimalist composer, some say the first—and Zazeela—a light and visual artist and musician— around the world since 1969. The MELA (Music Eternal Light Art) Foundation Dream House at 275 Church Street in New York City has remained in that space for the last 25 years, the couple’s longest installation to date. It is a room of infinitely repeating cycles of sound and light frequencies, one that transcends its overwhelming, lower Manhattan surroundings.

During my first visit, initially the sounds contained therein were not as pleasant as I expected, grating even. It took a few minutes to acclimate, but once my eyes adjusted to the dreamy, pink and purple hued lights and my body to the drone reverberating through it, the experience was unlike much else. Speakers are directed such that where you position yourself in the room determines what you hear. You can even opt to just sit down on the lush carpeted floors and loll your head to witness the difference, exhibiting just how spatially specific the installation is.

I couldn’t help but recall this experience when observing a rehearsal of Close Music for Bodies on a rainy afternoon some weeks back. The piece from sound artist Michael Kiley premieres September 20th and runs until the 24th, part of the 21st annual Fringe Festival, and much like Dream House it calls attention to the infinite amount of unique experiences that structured sound can offer in a live setting. That’s about where the similarities end. Whereas the experience of Dream House is a solitary one, Close Music for Bodies is a communal, deeply humane work that wrings beauty out of the limitations of perspective.

Central to Close Music is Kiley’s voice practice, Personal Resonance. “My primary goal with teaching is to have the student understand that the real beauty and benefit of voice has nothing to do with how you sound, and everything to do with how your voice can make you feel physically—and therefore mentally,” he recently told the FringeArts Blog. “Once someone understands how to control that physical sensation, their voice becomes as accessible as breathing.” This democratization of singing is integral to the performance and bolstered by the democratization of the space itself.

Once the piece kicks into motion, the shuffling about of cast and audience rarely ceases. At various intervals throughout the duration the performers guide audience members into various formations and in turn have to constantly navigate around them. These are all very conscious, choreographed movements, shaped with the help of choreographer Sean Donovan, director Rebecca Wright, and the performers themselves. Explaining the team’s close attention to movement, Kiley told us in that same interview, “I’ve been thinking of the movement as sound design—like speaker placement, only my speakers happen to be performers.”

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John Szwed: Notes on John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme

Posted September 19th, 2017

This is a guest post written by anthropologist, writer, and jazz scholar John Szwed. He has taught Anthropology, African American Studies, and Film Studies at Yale University as well as Music and Jazz Studies at Columbia University where he served as Director of the Center for Jazz Studies. He has published many books on jazz and American music, including studies of Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Jelly Roll Morton, Alan Lomax and Billie Holiday. On Sept 23, he will interview Salva Sanchis, co-choreographer of A Love Supreme, at the FringeArts Bookstore.


On December 9, 1964, the members of the John Coltrane Quartet crossed the river from New York to Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. It was night, because producer Bob Thiele preferred to work after the ABC-Paramount executives had left for the day; he could then avoid having to explain what he was doing. The quartet arrived at 7 o’clock and left before midnight, completing the entire recording of A Love Supreme with few retakes or edits, something quite extraordinary for a piece that long and complex, and without rehearsal.

Manuscript of A Love Supreme, by John Coltrane, 1964. Photo by The National Museum of American History.

More remarkably, there was no written music prepared for the session, only a chart that Coltrane had made to remind him of the structure. The musicians followed his directions, most of which were not spoken, but came from what they heard him playing. They were collectively composing by improvising together, creating a 33-minute art work, risking everything as the tape continued to roll. Musicians have improvised collectively since the beginning of jazz, but never for such a sustained period with no given harmonic structure and no agreed-upon melodies or rhythm. Bob Thiele was there, but unlike other producers he sat back and listened. His trust in Coltrane was such that he gave John control over what he recorded and when, an arrangement that no one in the music business short of a Frank Sinatra might have had. Thiele did not always understand John’s music, because it changed so rapidly and radically. Still, his belief was so strong that he defended anything Coltrane recorded to the company, both financially and musically. But A Love Supreme would not need defending.

While he was still living in Philadelphia and becoming a member of the Miles Davis Quintet, John Coltrane was controversial. To some his playing was meandering, boring, and harsh, even described as anti-jazz. Once, when French CBS received the master tapes for a Miles Davis Quintet recording, they complained to Columbia Records in the US that there was electronic distortion during Coltrane’s solos. But to others, he was a revolutionary—an intense, yet disciplined master, whose music carried the message of struggle and resistance, and was theme music to the Civil Rights Movement. But Coltrane saw a spiritual dimension to what he was doing, a means to peace. When Impulse Records placed ads in Rolling Stone calling it “fire music,” grouping him with the protests of some other black free jazz musicians, he distanced himself from such claims.

In 1957 Coltrane experienced a spiritual awakening of such force that he ended his addictions, reset his life, and with this recording he sought to signal his conversion musically, to testify to his encounters with God. When A Love Supreme appeared in February of 1965 his harshest critics were silenced, and for the first time he received virtually universal praise (though a few were put off by the confessional spirituality of his poem included in the album’s notes; it was too much for high modernists and hipsters). The album cover was black and white, a stark departure from all other Impulse records that were trimmed in orange and black.

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A Period of Animate Existence Reading List

Posted September 15th, 2017

Next weekend the beloved Philadelphia institution Pig Iron Theatre Company returns to the Fringe Festival with their first major work in two years, and it’s clear they put that time to good use. A Period of Animate Existence may be their most ambitious work to date, an awe inspiring large-scale piece of symphonic theater that examines the most universal, urgent issue of our time: climate change.

In an era called the “Sixth Extinction,” when up to 50 percent of all living species might die off, rather than grappling with the issue in a lecturing, damning manner, the creative team hopes to achieve something more nuanced and universally relatable. “We’ve tried hard to avoid an activist voice with this piece—we want to avoid haranguing or scolding as we investigate the landscape of emotions around climate change,” director Dan Rothenberg told the FringeArts Blog. “As we contemplate extinctions, I keep talking about emotions that I don’t have a name for. I know what grief is, having experienced the deaths of people close to me. And I know what terror is. I think finding ourselves in the middle of extinction creates feelings like grief and terror, but it’s some other emotion that doesn’t have a name.” In taking this lofty approach to the issue, the artists have most certainly done their homework, and then some.

The company has been gracious enough to share with us a list of texts that helped inform the piece. These works may help deepen audiences’ understanding of the show, but, perhaps more importantly, they will help deepen their understanding of the serious crisis we are currently living with. If confronting this harrowing information sounds daunting or terrifying or a surefire way to send yourself into fear-induced catatonia, believe me, I understand. Yet, in reading from these works, I’ve found being informed in my dread has been far more comforting than being ignorant in it. And thankfully, despite the dire nature of the situation, many of these writers chart concrete courses of action for how we might curb the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Taking in this full picture, perhaps you’ll find yourself not quite feeling grief, not quite feeling terror, but feeling that liminal emotion A Period of Animate Existence strives to articulate.

Vibrant Matter
Jane Bennett

Renowned political theorist Jane Bennet—known for her focus on nature, ethics, and affect— examines the active participation of nonhuman forces in natural events. Exploring just how political analyses of public events might change were we to acknowledge that agency is not strictly human, she suggests that such a change in perspective might provide impetus for more responsible, ecologically sound politics.

 

Key Writings
Henri Bergson

French philosopher Henri Bergson was an influential thinker of the early 20th century, one who recognized his time as a distinctly new and modern age, and in turn helped shape its intellectual discourse. At the core of his philosophy is his concept of Duration, a theory of time and consciousness, but most pertinent to the show is his concept of élan vital, his explanation for evolution (a relatively new concept at the time) and the development of organisms which essentializes life into “mobility itself.” This collection assembles Bergson’s most essential writings, including excerpts from Creative Evolution.

 

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable
Amitav Ghosh

Acclaimed Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh takes to task our inability to grasp the scale and violence of climate change, particularly in terms of what he sees as an imaginative failure of literary writers. Arguing that the extreme nature of climate events make them resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining, he sees this as connected to the fact that politics and literature have become matters of personal moral reckoning rather than a platform for collective action. They are therefore, at the moment, unequipped to deal with what is truly the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Ghosh sees the climate crisis as an opportunity for us to imagine other forms of human existence. He sees no better realm to address this task than in the world of fiction.

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A Guide to Megapolis Audio Festival, Pt. 4: Installations and Digital Works

Posted September 14th, 2017

From September 16-17 the fifth Megapolis Audio Festival will descend upon Philadelphia, drawing world class musicians, sound artists, radio producers, and all around audio adepts to join the artistic frenzy that is the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Much like the 2017 Festival’s program, Megapolis’ schedule of events might appear a little daunting at first glance, so to help you navigate it we at the FringeArts Blog are going to break it all down for you into some easily digestible categories. Follow these links to Parts 1 (sound tours), 2 (performances), and 3 (workshops).

For our final installment, we’re looking at installations and digital works from artists who approach sound through a multitude of different avenues. Many of these artists use sound as a medium explore everything from the overlooked sounds of our daily lives, to Misophonia, to the Jewish Viennese exile during the Holocaust. Some, on the other hand, have created glorious, thought-provoking, and purely multi-sensory works.

 

Installations

The Philadelphia Embassy of the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland (KREV)
Mike Bullock & Linda Gale Aubry
Sept 16-17 @ A surprise location
The Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland (KREV) were founded in 1992 by Swedish artists Carl Michael von Hausswolff (King Michael I) and Leif Elggren (King Leif I) and occupies all border territories as well as liminal states and virtual territories. Excited for Megapolis to begin, the Philadelphia Embassy of this great nation would like to celebrate the festival’s arrival. Ambassador Mike Bullock (who is also a composer, writer and intermedia artist) and Minister of Ornamentation Linda Gale Aubry (also a musician and a multimedia artist) will appear at some point during the festival, with appropriate pageantry, to give renditions of the multifarious KREV National Anthem.

 

Filtered Ears
Scott Allison
Sept 16 & 17, 10am-5pm @ PhillyCAM
A mic’d window becomes a filter for everyday, oft-ignored sounds. Channeled through tiny speakers powered by handmade, 1-watt amplifiers encourage guests to listen closely for these delicate, overlooked sounds. An installation created by graphic designer and sound explorer Scott Allison, who also makes music solo with electronics and in free rock outfits Sunburned Hand of the Man and Kohoutek.

 

Fascists, Lovers, and Other Lonely Ghosts
Brian House
Sept 16 & 17 @ PhillyCAM
Brian House is a Providence-based artist whose performances, installations, and interventions address our relationship to technology through rhythm. This particular installation deals with notions of synchronicity, conflict, and transmission. On a screen small entities beep and flash like fireflies “listening” to each other. Based on proximity, they will fall in and out of unison. Viewers can disrupt their relationships by moving them around to create a cascade of rhythms.

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Embracing the Chaos with Jeffrey Cousar

Posted September 13th, 2017

This year storied and beloved Philadelphia theater company New Paradise Laboratories have returned to the Fringe Festival with one of the most enigmatic and exhilarating shows you’re likely to see this month.

Hello Blackout! picks up well before the events of NPL’s previous Fringe-presented work O Monsters. That show followed the seemingly human, but exceedingly alien Kissimmee triplets and their mother in the present day. This time around we are with them at the beginning of, well, everything. Taking place before, during, and after the Big Bang, Hello Blackout! unfolds like a compellingly surreal take on the creation myth, where all conventions are thrown aside in favor of inviting unlimited possibility with open arms. It is at times deeply unsettling, at others riotously funny.

In dipping into the past, NPL has resurrected the family’s previously absent patriarch to reveal just what became of him. Taking on this demanding role of the father/king and joining the cast on their ride through the beginning of all things is performer Jeffrey Cousar. 

A Philly native, Cousar began his performance training very young, first attending Philadanco as a child and later, at 13, moving on to Freedom Theatre. After graduating from the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, he started working professionally as an actor.

He first became involved with NPL earlier this year, performing in their immersive detective adventure Gumshoe. The interactive mystery took audiences throughout the Free Library as they were trained to be agents of the “Bureau of Mysteries” by various agents. Cousar played the role of Saiph, an agent who specialized in secrets and conspiracies. “I had to take into account the fact that there was no buffer between me and the audience,” Cousar explained, describing the considerations required for executing the site-specific piece. “I could improv working as a colonial merchant in Old City, but Saiph also had specific text to relate to the audience. Doing that in a space where someone could interrupt you mid-dialogue keeps you alert.” While that piece required quick thinking and a strong awareness of his surroundings, Hello Blackout! presents a wildly different set of challenges.

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A Guide to Megapolis Audio Festival, Pt. 3: Molding Sounds

Posted September 13th, 2017

From September 16-17 the fifth Megapolis Audio Festival will descend upon Philadelphia, drawing world class musicians, sound artists, radio producers, and all around audio adepts to join the artistic frenzy that is the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Much like the 2017 Festival’s program, Megapolis’ schedule of events might appear a little daunting at first glance, so to help you navigate it we at the FringeArts Blog are going to break it all down for you into some easily digestible categories. Follow these links to Parts 1 (sound tours), 2 (performances), and 4 (installations and digital works).

For Part 3 we’ll be taking a look at workshops where pass holders can get hands on experience with some complex hardware, learn more about the art of radio storytelling, and more.

 

Voltage is Sound, Voltage is Drawing
Tim Nohe
Sept 16, 11am @ PhillyCAM
This hands on, all ages workshop encourages participants to experiment with live technological art to create mathematically derived music and drawings. Led by artist, composer, and educator Tim Nohe, the workshop is rooted in expressive drawing, fascinating mathematical discoveries of the 19th century, and the “switched-on” synth music of the 1960s. Participants will experiment with a range of electronic tools from various eras. Compose electronic drawings on an ‘80s era Vectrex game box by controlling a modular synthesizer. Utilize wireless infrared controllers, iPad apps, and touch sensors to shape sounds and draft kinetic drawings.

 

Blinks, Bleeps, and Bits in the Wild: Breaking the boundaries of littleBits
Ed Bear and Monty Kim
Sept 16, 1pm @ Community College of Philadelphia
littleBits makes technology kits composed of electronic building blocks that empower everyone to create inventions, large and small. To go really large, however, requires some experience, which this workshop will provide. Led by littleBits designers Ed Bear and Monty Kim, participants will be introduced to basic programming, soldering, and design skills. They will learn how to unlock the powerful control, audio synthesis, programming, and connectivity of littleBits to build large multi-channel sound systems, interactive LED sculptures, Bluetooth controlled motors or generators, and whatever else they can invent. No experience necessary.

 

Makin’ Radio Ravioli
Olivia Bradley-Skill
Sept 16, 1pm @ PhillyCAM
New York based radio producer and sound artist Olivia Bradley-Skill breaks down the nuts and bolts of cut-ups and sound collage and discusses how different sounds marinate together to tickle the ears and echo the extremes of our subconscious. Utilizing sound effects, cut-up speech, and music, nonsense will turn from goofy to maniacal, organic to robotic, and the other way around. At the end participants will build their own collages that create new meanings and flavors.

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A Good Balance of Comfort and Discomfort: An Interview with Steven Dufala

Posted September 12th, 2017

This week, two Philly Fringe favorites are returning to the Festival with two very different shows. Absurdist theater artist Geoff Sobelle will mount HOME on September 13, an ambitious new piece that ruminates on the transitory nature of dwelling, the impossible structural demands of a house, and the absurdity of making a home. Meanwhile, on September 14, theater maker and performer Thaddeus Phillips will premiere his latest work, A Billion Nights on Earth, a fantastical show for all ages that dives into the realms of parent–child relationships, as pair stumble through alternate realities in search of a beloved stuff whale. Though both of these shows are starkly different, they do have one thing in common. That would be artist Steven Dufala.

Dufala has been creating work in a variety of media for decades now. He has regularly collaborated with his brother Billy, under the name The Dufala Brothers, and together their work—often humorous, hyperbolic reimaginings of everyday or iconic items—has been exhibited widely. They’ve also organized absurdist artistic happenings, including a toilet-trike race through Old City during the 2005 Fringe Festival.

Recently, Steven Dufala has lent his exceptional talents to some ambitious works of theater, designing sets and making some larger than life visions a reality. Perhaps most notable among these collaborations was his work on Geoff Sobelle’s widely lauded show The Object Lesson, which had its premiere during the 2013 Fringe Festival and has since been taken all over the world. Turning theaters into storage spaces with boxes stacked high to the ceiling and filled with the usual household wares, the kind of miscellanea that does little but collect dust but somehow stays with you for years, as well as some more surreal keepsakes—”moss to mystic” designated actual moss with a strong whiff of incense, “acorn collection” ought to be self explanatory—his design and installation work on the show was critical to achieving its uncanny yet strikingly down to earth vibe.

We recently caught up with Dufala to learn more about his artistic practice and what it’s been like splitting his time between these two aesthetically divergent shows.


FringeArtsTell us a bit about your background. 

Winslow Fegley in A Billion Nights on Earth

Steven Dufala: I grew up in south Jersey, the middle of five boys in a creative household. Our parents were pianists and teachers, and all the brothers make things. So I’ve always been making things.

FringeArtsWhat was the Philadelphia arts community (or communities) like when you first arrived at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts? 

Steven Dufala: I used to like to say the scene was mostly living rooms and basements, and I guess that’s still kind of true, but everything was really DIY. Pig Iron was making shows in basements, the best music was at peoples houses, the best parties, the best art shows didn’t really look like shows, but were kind of one or two night show/parties. Old City was kind of too fancy, and no one really went north of Spring Garden. 

When I got to Philly, I didn’t go straight to the academy, I was at UArts for two years in film and animation. That basically cracked open a whole world of creativity I’d never really explored and that’s why I went to PAFA—to try and get a better foundation for making things in general.

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Created by People of Color, Pt. 2

Posted September 12th, 2017

Disrupting the pervasive whiteness of Fringe, these artists are breathing fresh air in to the new works scene in Philadelphia with these exciting Festival offerings!

We Shall Not Be Moved @ Wilma Theater
Opera Philadelphia

What’s at stake here is America and its future. Who’s invited to participate?

On the run after a series of tragic incidents, five North Philly teens find refuge in an abandoned house in West Philadelphia at the exact location that served as headquarters of the MOVE organization, where a 1985 standoff with police infamously ended with a neighborhood destroyed and eleven people dead, including five children. This self-defined family is inspired by the ghosts who inhabit this home and begin to see their squatting as a matter of destiny and resistance. The group, named the Family Stand, is headed by self-appointed leader Un/Sung, and crosses paths with Glenda, a Philadelphia police officer, whose encounters with the family leads to a standoff that could threaten to repeat history. A co-presentation with Opera Philadelphia. More info and tickets here.

 

Andean Mountains (Montañas Andinas)
Carl(os) Roa, José Avilés, Elyas Harris

Andean Mountains is a digital journey through the mountains. Above all, it is a piece about personal geography: the way we relate to our place of origin versus where we’ve relocated. Featuring a performance by a juicy Colombian bear, the piece is both a Google Street View tour as well as an exploration of culture loss. More info and tickets here.

 

Urgent Care: A Social Experience @ The Colored Girls Museum
The Colored Girls Museum

The Colored Girls Museum takes community matters into her own hands converting the three-story Victorian memoir museum into a Social Care Experience. Her new exhibits redefine the concept and practice of “urgent care” from triage to aftercare. Curators, artists, and ordinaries construct Colored Girlhood as an imaginative and powerful space. More info and tickets here.

 

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A House is Merely a Container

Posted September 11th, 2017

This is a guest post written by writer, editor, critic, and professor Stefanie Sobelle. She is also the dramaturg of HOME, the latest work from Geoff Sobelle. Her book The Architectural Novel is forthcoming from Oxford University Press, and her criticism has been published in Bookforum, the Financial Times, BOMB, Words Without Borders, Jacket2, and the Review of Contemporary Fiction.


What do we mean when we call a place “home”? Home might be the place where we live. It might also be, in game terms, the place we are trying to reach—the goal. We often associate with “home” concepts of comfort, safety, family. When we add an article, home can become more dire: they took her to “a home.” Home is not a house per se; a house is merely a container. It holds residents and furnishings, performances and privations. A house has identifiable limits—walls, doorways, staircases. A house can be discomfiting, sinister, cold, hostile, welcoming, familiar, secure. A house can be empty or full, dead or alive. A house can even be a dream.

We clean these houses to ward off chaos from the outside world; we remodel them and decorate them to bring them closer to our idea of who we want to be; we move into them and out of them; we buy them and we sell them; we take them and we lose them; we raise them and we raze them; we rent them and are rent from them. More often than not, these days at least, a house is often constructed by unknown contractors before we arrive, and destroyed by unpredictable forces after we leave, as if by magic. Its builders and demolishers are faceless and nameless. Its systems are complex and often mysterious.

We live in these houses alone and with others. Geoff and I each rent small Brooklyn apartments minutes from one another, small enclaves in larger houses populated by owners we call friends. But we grew up sharing spaces—bathrooms, backyards, garages, bunk bed hideaways, hillside forts, paper castles, bookstore attics, witchy ponds, and station wagon waybacks. We share so many memories of these childhood spaces—they tell us who we are and who we’ve been—and so we always feel a bit unsettled when we discover where those memories diverge.

I suppose we are all haunted by our memories of previous houses we have inhabited and of the traces left behind by those that came before us. In turn, we haunt those that come next, and this can be true whether the house takes the form of a single family dwelling, an apartment complex, a hotel, a bivouac, a congress, a prison, a theater. But home is less a material thing and more an idea, an experience, a feeling, an illusion. James Baldwin writes in his beautiful brief novel Giovanni’s Room that home can also be a person, or at least how we feel when we see or think of that person. “Perhaps home is not a place,” he writes, “but simply an irrevocable condition.”

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Making Art in 2017: Michael Kiley on Close Music for Bodies

Posted September 10th, 2017

Name: Michael Kiley

Show in 2017 Festival: Close Music for Bodies

Past Festival shows: Sound design and original music for Nichole Canuso Dance Company’s Wandering Alice (also performer, 2008), Takes (2010), and The Garden (2013), as well as Animina, A Race Street Pier Soundwalk (Digital Fringe, 2015)

Fun fact: My first job in Philadelphia was house managing Christ Church for the 1999 Fringe Festival.

FringeArtsTell us a bit about your show. 

Michael KileyClose Music for Bodies is an immersive voice work. It evolved from collaborations on several choreographic processes (with luciana achugar, Faye Driscoll, Chelsea and Magda), where I was invited to collaborate as a composer/designer, and brought my skills as a voice teacher into the fold. I began to get excited about how the moving body affects vocal production, and vice versa. This led to breakthroughs with my voice practice, moving it into a more fully embodied experience, which I now call Personal Resonance. The deep connections I’ve made with people through teaching Personal Resonance made me wonder if I could create that level of intimacy and community in a performance setting. Vocal education will be a facet of this performance.

It is a social and cultural norm to judge people by the sound of their voice. We do it without realizing it. This judgement is magnified when it comes to the sound of someone’s singing voice. As a result, the act of singing has become an elitist form. Early on in life, people are told that they can either sing or they can’t, in relation to their natural ability to duplicate pitches in a pleasing tone. But singing is one of the most mentally and physically beneficial acts possible in the human form. That benefit has absolutely nothing to do with how you sound, and everything to do with how it feels, physically in your body. I’m interested in discovering what happens when a community of voices is unbridled by the expectation of sounding perfect, and only seeks that which is physically pleasurable.

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Living a Billion Nights: An Interview with Michael and Winslow Fegley

Posted September 10th, 2017

This week sees the premiere of A Billion Nights on Earth, the latest work from acclaimed theater maker and performer Thaddeus Phillips in collaboration with artist Steven Dufala. The show—appropriate and ideal for audiences of all ages—follows a father and son as they venture into their fridge in search of a beloved stuffed whale and find themselves on a spectacular quest through space and time. With stunning scenic work by Dufala and Phillips, taking inspiration from the shapeshifting nature of Kabuki theater design, the piece is a dazzling, ever-evolving work of visual art and a touching, imaginative dive into the realms of parent–child relationships, exploring their varying perspectives on reality.

If you find the relationship between the father and son characters deeply palpable, it might be because stars Michael and Winslow Fegley are father and son. And also exceptionally talented performers. Michael Fegley has been working in theater and film for decades now, as has his wife Mercedes, and now all three of their children are following in their footsteps.

I caught up with Michael and Winslow to learn a little more about their experiences performing, how this collaboration with Phillips came about, and what it’s like living in the fantastical world of A Billion Nights on Earth.


FringeArtsTell us a little about your performance backgrounds.

Michael: I’m a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA and have been working professionally for over twenty years. I’ve performed extensively in New York and Philadelphia in works ranging from classical to the avant-garde, including the Off-Broadway production of Small Potatoes.

Winslow: I’ve been doing plays and movies for a while now. Plus my whole family acts, and I watch them working all the time. I’ve learned a lot, and I like working with my dad.

FringeArtsIs there a strong theater or performance community in Allentown?

Michael: Allentown has the wonderful, talented people of the Civic Theatre of Allentown, where our family has been a part of productions for years. Winslow, like his sister August and brother Oakes, have all taken many turns on that stage. However, it is a non-equity house, so I have to find work in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Last year I was in the world premiere of The Ballad of Trayvon Martin at Freedom Theatre here in Philadelphia.

Winslow: I like working in Allentown, but it’s cool when we get to go to new places and work in different theaters.

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A Guide to Megapolis Audio Festival, Pt. 2: Performing Sounds

Posted September 8th, 2017

From September 16-17 the fifth Megapolis Audio Festival will descend upon Philadelphia, drawing world class musicians, sound artists, radio producers, and all around audio adepts to join the artistic frenzy that is the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Much like the 2017 Festival’s program, Megapolis’ schedule of events might appear a little daunting at first glance, so to help you navigate it we at the FringeArts Blog are going to break it all down for you into some easily digestible categories. Follow these links to Parts 1 (sound tours), 3 (workshops), and 4 (installations and digital works).

This time around we’re taking a look at a wide variety of performances happening all weekend. Though some of them have interactive elements, for the most part all they ask of you is that you soak in the sublime sonics.

 

Playing the Victim
Phoenix Lio(n)
Sept 16, 10:30am @ United by Blue, Old City
Sept 17, 3pm @ United by Blue, Old City
Two live demo performances of an installation available to the public all weekend, Playing the Victim centers on a mask that plays audio narratives about rape culture and queerness. Using augmented reality and physical computing, the mask can be used to trigger audio and visuals on various speakers and monitors. As a live demo performance, Phoenix invites audience to watch as they manipulate their memories themselves. By engaging their experiences and identity as tools for art they rework the heaviest, hardest parts of themself like pigments dragged across canvas.

 

Radio Atlas
Radio Atlas
Sept 16, 5pm @ WHYY
Radio Atlas is the English-language home for subtitled audio from around the world. For this event for Megapolis, the podcast presents a screening of some of the best foreign language radio works in the world. Among other sonic surprises, this event will premiere a Belgian radio story about a residential home for the senile where music is an important form of occupational therapy; patients who can’t remember their children can remember songs of their youth in perfect detail, a frivolous way of conjuring a merciless deterioration.
Tickets for this performance are sold separate from Megapolis weekend and day passes.

 

Blevin Blectum / Radio Wonderland
Blevin Blectum & Radio Wonderland
Sept 16, 8pm @ WHYY
An evening of performances from two esteemed artists with unparalleled creative visions.
Blevin Blectum is a Providence-based interdisciplinary artist who combines sound, imagery, and costume to create eccentric and mesmerizing performances that explore everything from science fiction to ornithology. She has been performing and touring extensively since 1998, and when she’s not working on her own music she’s creating sounds for Hasbro Toys.
Joshua Fried, aka Radio Wonderland, turns live radio into recombinant funk, with a boombox, Buick steering wheel and four old shoes. Robert Barry, a writer for the esteemed music publication The Wire, described his works as, “Rather like Negativland remixed for a house party…undeniably fun.”
Tickets for this performance are sold separate from Megapolis weekend and day passes.

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Recollections of Home from Geoff and Stefanie Sobelle

Posted September 7th, 2017

Next week sees the premiere of HOME, the latest work from acclaimed theater artist Geoff Sobelle. As a house comes together on stage and its residents—present, past, and future—begin to crowd in, audience members are confronted with the transient nature of dwelling, the constraints of time and money, the impossible structural demands of a house, and the absurdity—and at times the impossibility—of turning a house into a home. It’s a startlingly down to earth and moving meditation contained within a dazzling theatrical spectacle that asks us “What makes a house a home? What’s the difference? How do we confuse the two?”

The piece’s dramaturge—writer, editor, professor, and sister of Geoff, Stefanie Sobelle—has a pretty concise way of summing up this house vs home dichotomy. As Geoff told the FringeArts Blog in a recent interview, “[My sister] likes to poke fun at the old adage from The Wizard of Oz, ‘There’s no place like home,’ because she says, and rightly so, that home is not a place. It’s something else… so indeed, there IS no PLACE like home!” What that something else may be is the question HOME seeks to awaken in its audiences.

Back in April of 2016 the Sobelle siblings took part in an ongoing reading series for New York arts non-profit apexart. Entitled Double Take, the series is organized by writer and Bookforum co-editor Albert Mobilio and asks award winning and emerging poets, novelists, editors, and artists to trade takes on shared experiences. For their Double Take—video shared below—Geoff and Stefanie turned to their childhood home, sharing personal recollections of spaces within and around it, in which real and imagined details commingled.

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2017 Festival Spotlight: FringeArts ~After Dark~

Posted September 7th, 2017

This ain’t your grandma’s Fringe. Join us for some of the raunchiest, rowdiest, wildest shows at this year’s Fringe Festival. Hire a babysitter and leave your kids at home because these shows are decidedly NOT family friendly. Viewer discretion advised. 

Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret @ FringeArts
Martha Graham Cracker

The hairy-chested, fake eyelash-laden alter-ego of thespian Dito Van Reigersberg performs a balls-to-the-wall drag cabaret. Backed by her stellar band and with her killer voice, Martha Graham Cracker takes you on a raucous, joyous, uninhibited ride around her world.
“The Drag Queen King of Philadelphia.” The Philadelphia Inquirer
More info and tickets here.

 

 

Bye Bye Liver: The Philadelphia Drinking Play @ Evil Genius Beer Company
Happy Hour Live, LLC

Two parts sketch comedy, One part drinking games: Mixed and served! Come party with us for a night you might remember with interactive drinking games between comedic romps about the drinking experience. Ticket includes your first beer from Evil Genius! More info and tickets here.

 

The Groom’s a Fag; The Bride’s a Cunt; The Best Man’s a Whore; and the Maiden of Honor (Just) Hung Herself in the Closet @ The Beard Cave at St. Mary’s Church
On The Rocks

Daniel is pretty gay, but he’s marrying Nora. Nora is a virgin that wants her wedding night to be a sexual awakening. Shit gets fucked up. A song, a dance, an image, a poem all wrapped in a sloppy burrito of a play about glamping, hookers, the Easter Bunny, cocaine, Emma Stone, hauntings, and the horrors of commitment. More info and tickets here.

 

KINK HAÜS @ The Latvian Society
Gunnar Montana

Gunnar Montana transports us once again, this time to a brutal underground nightclub where no fucks are given, and fierceness is always welcome. Fantasy, fetish, and carnal desire are all in fashion so leave your inhibitions at home because inside KINK HAÜS, anything goes. That is, if you can get past the doorman. More info and tickets here.

 

 

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A Guide to Megapolis Audio Festival, Pt. 1: Great World of Sound

Posted September 6th, 2017

From September 16-17 the fifth Megapolis Audio Festival will descend upon Philadelphia, drawing world class musicians, sound artists, radio producers, and all around audio adepts to join the artistic frenzy that is the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Much like the 2017 Festival’s program, Megapolis’ schedule of events might appear a little daunting at first glance, so to help you navigate it we at the FringeArts Blog are going to break it all down for you into some easily digestible categories. Follow these links to Parts 2 (performances), 3 (workshops), and 4 (installations and digital works).

First up we have a set of interactive and experiential pieces that take participants out of the studio and around the city. All of the events below are free with a Megapolis Festival pass and begin at PhillyCAM (699 Ranstead St) before spreading out from there.

 

An Urban Mushroom Forage
Katya Gorker & Elana Gordon
90 minutes / Sept 16, 10:30am
This sound walk presents a conceptual and sonic spin on a mushroom forage, integrating prompts and creative sound design to guide listeners through Philly’s urban forest. Gorker, a Moscow-born filmmaker based in Philadelphia who has spent years exploring the connection between mushroom foraging and identity and meaning among the Russian Diaspora, narrates the walk. She’ll introduce participants to fellow immigrants, foraging for mushrooms and their own sense of place in this new world. Participants will also here from John Cage and other cultural luminaries on the art, philosophy and science of foraging.

 

Stalking Wild Sounds
Lexie Stoia & Toby Kaufmann-Buhler
120 minutes / Sept 16, 12:00pm
90 minutes / Sept 17, 11:30am
Imagining a future where nature has reclaimed our environment, Columbus-based artists Lexie Stoia and Toby Kaufmann-Buhler send participants out into an entirely alien environ. Using a provided audio player and field guide, participants will start at PhillyCAM, travel through the formal landscaping of Washington Square Park, and make their way back to the station. A real-time science fiction journey with the sounds of “alien” flora and fauna, participants will find themselves immersed in this sound work that maps onto their surroundings.

 

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Ambivalent Cosmic Matter: An Interview with Bhob Rainey

Posted September 6th, 2017

Bhob Rainey is an artist that should need no introduction, and yet, here we are. Over the course of the last two decades he has tirelessly pushed against established musical idioms—with consistently revelatory, mind-melting results—like few contemporaries. In the process he has collaborated with some of the most innovative composers and musicians working today, and even helped define the lowercase movement in non-idiomatic music with Nmperign, his seminal duo with Greg Kelley.

Though he has sought interdisciplinary collaborations throughout his career, his commitment to such projects has deepened as of late, particularly in his ongoing partnership with New Paradise Laboratories. This week sees the world premiere of NPL’s latest show Hello Blackout! and—as he did with the show’s predecessor O MonstersRainey has been composing original music essential to the development and execution of the piece. However, unlike last time around when the sublimely unsettling score was prerecorded and blasted through the theater, Rainey has drafted an ensemble of distinguished and versatile musicians—as comfortable in the world of classical music as they are in the deepest ends of the avant-garde—to help shape and execute his idiosyncratic vision. “We had this idea that it’d be fun to find musicians who could stimulate Bhob to even greater heights of sonic experimentation, so he has assembled a unique ensemble, a quintet,” NPL artistic director Whit MacLaughlin recently told the FringeArts Blog. “They’re some of the finest instrumentalists of alternative timbres in the world. I’ve been to the sessions and am always having my mind blown as this music comes together.”

I spoke with Rainey last year ahead of the premiere of O Monsters, but seeing as his compositional approach has changed, I had to touch base to learn about the unprecedented sounds that engulf the Kissimmee family before, during, and after the Big Bang.


FringeArts: You crafted the music for O Monsters by harvesting data from various phenomena and translating those numbers into long, very compelling, very alien musical events. How has your compositional approach changed since then in order to fit the world of Hello Blackout?

Bhob Rainey: The data sonification from O Monsters was largely used to find “shapes” of events that, while they might have beneficial or catastrophic effects, exist in spite of us. A lot of that music was meant to be a confrontation with a world that is utterly ambivalent towards the people in it and that only happens to be hospitable by chance. Why not follow this thought a little further and say that this ambivalent cosmic matter is also us—our bodies, our consciousness? Part of the human experience, I think, is a struggle between what we strongly feel is our “self” and this ancestral, non-human dust that’s already operating by the time we get names and ideas and desires, etc.

The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas had a pretty succinct, everyday take on this nameless companion. Speaking of insomnia, he said, “I do not stay awake: It stays awake.” He’s not merely talking about “the unconscious.” He’s trying to capture an anonymous life that persists even in the basic matter that composes us. And while the “it” is not an ethical being, I think that any kind of large-scale, inter-being “goodness” involves an engagement with this non-personal part of our existence. The problem is, not only is it difficult to think clearly about what an engagement of this kind entails (without falling into some kind of dogmatism), it is also easy to get devastatingly lost in the process. So, if the music for O Monsters was largely oriented towards an ambivalent, sometimes sublime cosmos, my thoughts for Hello Blackout are directed towards how this cosmic matter plays out within us.

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Rosas dances Coltrane: Interview with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker + Salva Sanchis

Posted September 3rd, 2017

“For dancers, improvising should be the norm rather than the exception.”

Choreographers Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Salva Sanchis bring their full evening dance work A Love Supreme to the 2017 Fringe Festival. Four dancers surrender themselves to John Coltrane’s spiritual ode to divine love, his 1965 jazz masterpiece A Love Supreme. The album was revolutionary for its carefully balanced interplay between improvisation and structure. Likewise the choreographers create improvised and composed materials, interweaving and absorbing them into one another, for the performances.

In addition to jazz music, the practice of improvisation has always occupied a distinct space within the choreographic oeuvre of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Rosas. Salva Sanchis—who studied at PARTS (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) from 1995 to 1998—was himself a privileged witness to that very evolution: he performed as a dancer in the 2003 Rosas creation set to Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, and in 2005 as dancer and co-choreographer in Desh, a piece based on Indian music and John Coltrane’s “India“. More than ten years after the presentation of the piece in a diptych with Raga for the Rainy Season, De Keersmaeker and Sanchis have undertaken a reworking of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, turning it into an evening performance now danced by a wholly new cast of dancers.

Interview by Michaël Bellon.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: Taking on A Love Supreme fits with the idea of revisiting, and rewriting, Rosas’s repertoire for a new generation of dancers. We did the same thing with Rain (the piece from 2001 that we picked up again in 2016 with an entirely new cast). In 2005, Salva and I conjointly choreographed A Love Supreme and since then he has frequently used material from the piece in his classes as a teacher at PARTS. What is interesting about the piece, in addition to its intrinsic connection with this milestone of 20th-century music, is the way it combines improvised and written choreography.

Salva Sanchis: When we were working on Bitches Brew, we used to listen to Miles Davis a lot. We therefore inevitably developed a fascination with the role that Coltrane played as a musician in the Miles Davis Quintet. Davis and Coltrane admired each other very much, yet they were at the same time very different. Miles is about simplicity, Coltrane about expressive excess and energy. On the whole, A Love Supreme is more suitable for a dance performance than a simple collection of songs. The music possesses a structure with a beginning and an end, thus offering a kind of dramaturgical accessibility.

Michaël Bellon: Were you already a “jazzman” when you got involved with Rosas’s jazz-based projects?

Sanchis: I was a fervent jazz-adept before we started on the piece, definitely. I have always been interested in different kinds of music, but in the period before and during Bitches Brew, I happened to be sharing a flat with two jazz students. I learned a lot from them. Within their discipline, they were wrestling with the same things I was in my dance training. Take improvisation for instance. Dance shares a relationship with every musical genre since the two media show a strong mutual compatibility. Yet what is so interesting about jazz is how the practice of improvisation has always been at the very core of the genre. That has always fascinated me, mainly because my experience with improvisational practices in dance was only in an infant stage at the time. As a choreographer, I found it difficult to justify the use of improvisation, whereas for jazz musicians this has always been the norm.

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Music Engenders a Feeling: the Musical Inspirations of Ghost Rings

Posted September 1st, 2017

Next week theater maker Tina Satter and her New York-based ensemble Half Straddle will return to Philadelphia with Ghost Rings, part of the 2017 Fringe Festival. The show explores exceptionally close friendship, non-heteronormative romance, female families, and so much more. Oh yeah, and it’s a pop concert.

Half Straddle are no strangers to integrating original music into their shows, but with Ghost Rings, they decided to up the ante. “[Half Straddle composer] Chris Giarmo, and I had been discussing doing a project that really focused on singing,” Satter recently told the FringeArts Blog. “Chris had expressed that he wanted to experiment with making music out of our collaboration that was more challenging and really required very, very good singers to do it and I loved that challenge.” To help realize this goal, Satter looked to a variety of musical sources for inspiration. Whenever it struck, she’d pass the song to Giarmo, explaining what it was about the particular track that caught her attention, and he’d take that influence into consideration as he composed.

Satter was gracious enough to provide us with this short playlist with some of those inspirations. Though the sounds on the list may be varied, they are all bold in their vision, defiant in their aesthetic, and unapologetically female. The music of the show reflects the sonic diversity to some degree, and yet it’s all remarkably cohesive, unified by its absurdly talented band/performers—featuring Satter and Giarmo, and fronted by Erin Markey and, for this iteration, Amber Gray—and the hilarious and heart-wrenching narrative at its core, one that could only have been conveyed through such a theatrical song cycle. As Satter put it in an earlier interview, “Music engenders a feeling you can’t even name in your body, heart, and brain. Watching these people onstage not just creating narratives and drama but all this live melody really paired with the content of the show and our holistic approach to it from the earliest stages.”


“The Weakness in Me” by Joan Armatrading

She is the best. Hands down. The storytelling and direct shot of recognizable emotion in this song in particular is very inspiring always. Her music is a constant overarching thing to look to in making music, work, and life in general—so even if not direct at all in a given project we make—looking for our version of the emotional unlocking, storytelling, and melody for a given piece always starts with looking to Joan.

 

“The Eye” by Brandi Carlile

Cannot remember how I first came to this music. But I heard a song somewhere in the summer of 2015 and then looked up the singer. I had never heard of Brandi Carlile. But I started to get so into some of her songs, and was sending them compulsively to Chris saying there was something about this sound that felt like it could work in parts in our approach to Ghost Rings. Then I learned she was this out lesbian in country music and married to a woman and had kids with her, and it felt even more right that she was embedded in some way in this piece we were making in part about queer family-making.  “The Eye” in particular did influence our final song “Not Here”—both in the lyrics I wrote and Chris’s music approach to it. I think Chris’s incredible drag alter-ego, Kimberly Clark, now also covers some Brandi Carlile when she performs.

 

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Making Art in 2017: Whit MacLaughlin on Hello Blackout

Posted August 30th, 2017

Whit MacLaughlin

Name: Whit MacLaughlin

Company: New Paradise Laboratories

Show in 2017 Festival: Hello Blackout! also screenings of O Monsters.

Past Festival shows: Curated shows: O Monsters, The Adults, 27, Freedom Club, Extremely Public Displays of Privacy, Fatebook, Batch: An American Bachelor/ette Party, Planetary Enzyme Blues, Rrose Selavy Takes a Lover in Philadelphia, The Fab 4 Reach the Pearly Gates, This Mansion is a Hole. Self-produced: Gold Russian Finger Love.

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Whit MacLaughlin: As a company, we have been drawn to big questions from the beginning: Why is there something instead of nothing? What is the big system we’re all a part of? What does Philadelphia, as a city, as a concept, really mean? Why do we die? Questions that don’t have answers. NPL takes delight in asking unanswerable questions. It’s an obsession. Now we ask: why do we have something called a “future” that is so hard to predict? Seems like a fundamental question, but one that’s almost pure nonsense. One might be tempted to say: “What a stupid question!” Of course we have a future, but we can’t tell what it’s going to be because it’s not here yet. There’s no answer. Yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Nevertheless, almost everything we do in daily life involves searching for a way to predict what’s going to happen. What’s going to come in the mail today? Should I take that job? Am I going to be diagnosed with something bad? Who am I going to marry? We say: the fun is in the finding out! But still, it’s perplexing and frustrating, this issue of the future. Almost all Greek drama is about trying to see the future. Tiresias, the blind oracle, is in many of the plays. A BLIND ORACLE. Drama, from the beginning, has always been about the problem of a future that’s unforeseeable. Like Hamlet trying to figure out what to do to remedy his father’s murder. We’re paying close attention to a newly developing school of thought, a philosophy, called Speculative Realism. It suggests that the only absolute in the world, the only thing that must exist, is “contingency.” The world weaves itself out of a chaotic state and the things that happen don’t necessarily have a reason. May seem obvious, but we think it’s worth considering a bit more deeply, especially now that technology seems to move faster than we can, that our political life seems off the rails, that we live in a “quantum universe.” What does any of that actually mean for us on a daily basis? NPL takes big questions and blends them into a big question cocktail, then gets everybody drunk on it.

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Making Art in 2017: Tina Satter on Ghost Rings

Posted August 29th, 2017

Name: Tina Satter

Company: Half Straddle

Show in 2017 Festival: Ghost Rings

Past Festival shows: In the Pony Palace/FOOTBALL

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Tina Satter: When I started Ghost Rings I had this very early writing of two girls discussing banal and existential questions. In this very early draft they each had an animal that operated as their “Private Inner Being”—one girl had a deer and the other had a seal—but I wanted to play with the idea that these weren’t actually cute, cuddly animals. They were kind of crass, and direct, and not necessarily mean, but didn’t always offer great advice. They sort of actually operated like “mean girls.” The deer in particular even wanted to talk about sex and stuff.

At the same time Half Straddle composer, Chris Giarmo, and I had been discussing doing a project that really focused on singing. We always have original music, scores, and often songs in our shows, and usually these are performed by a mix of untrained and trained singers. Chris had recently expressed that he wanted to experiment with making music out of our collaboration that was more challenging and really required very, very good singers to do it and I loved that challenge and idea. From the beginning, we were like, “Maybe it’s a fully sung-through piece?” but didn’t have any idea what that would mean for us. We also knew from the beginning we wanted to work on it with Erin Markey who has an incredible voice and stage presence, and we’d been collaborating with her for a while at that point. At the time I knew of the actor Kristen Sieh, who’s outstanding, but I didn’t know she was a singer. Then sometime in 2012 I saw her in a show where she sang and she suddenly seemed like the perfect person to play opposite Erin.

Meanwhile, I was honing and refining the writing between these two characters, then called Samantha and Kristen, and their Private Inner Beings (Seal-y and Deer). In the writing they had become these best friends who also have a deep romantic connection. As they grow one truly wants to have a baby with the other so she sets this intention that she is pregnant and it comes true. At the same I was going through all this stuff with my actual sister who I’d always been super close to, but there were pretty intense things she was going through and we were estranged. I couldn’t help putting really direct and personal writing about my sister in the show. It made sense in a way since I would be onstage drumming anyway.

So, I was working on how to make those two distinct aspects of text work together—and then I remembered that when we were really little my sister and I had a “band” with a friend—a fake band obviously, but for a moment in time we took it really seriously. That became this really perfect through-line for Ghost Rings—to re-create a band now as an adult and artist to frame these memories and new stories.

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