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

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!


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)


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)

Chels and Magda-300

Chelsea & Magda

From June 8 to June 12, Philadelphia performance duo Chelsea & Magda premiere their latest work The Shame Symposium. Born of a collaboration with multimedia artist and photographer Jaime Alvarez (facilitated by a Swim Pony Cross Pollination residency), and built from the pair’s research into the notion of shame, the show finds the performance duo embracing what brings them shame in order to present whole, complex, unapologetic versions of themselves. “We do dances about our friendship and we have improvisational scores that create shame/pleasure situations right in front of the audience,” Chelsea recently told FringeArts. “We dance around with our child bodies because we want to get back to the purity of movement and pleasure. We make rants about things that we are angry about and that hurt us. We think of things that we have never seen women do on stage and we try to do them.”

But don’t go assuming this will be an evening of wallowing. The show mines the concept of shame to find the pleasure at its core, revealing what happens when people stop avoiding what they see as the less-than-ideal versions of themselves and embrace their personality in all its perfectly imperfect glory. Prepare yourselves for costumes, dancing, yelling, nudity, shame portraits, and special guests. “Part of it will be ‘formal’ research presentation,” Chelsea explains. “Improvisational experiments in front of the audience with immediate reflection of experience. The Shame Symposium is definitely female.” (info/tickets)

Emmanuelle Delpech

The following week sees yet another premiere take the FringeArts stage. From performer and artist Emmanuelle Delpech, Spinning Immigrant runs June 15–18. An exploration into the lives of immigrants here in Philadelphia, Delpech—herself an immigrant—takes the stage as DJ Babtoue, mixing real audio interviews capturing the secrets, regrets, and joys of those far from their homeland within our city’s border with her own views as an outsider. As the recorded voices share their stories, Delpech uses her presence to suggest theirs. “I am a body that allows the audience to hear and see but mostly to imagine, feel, enter a different world through an intimate confession from someone they don’t know. I become them, but subtly. I am not acting, I am transformed by the voice, I am at the service of the voice.”

Delpech has been living, working, teaching, and studying here in Philadelphia for over a decade and in that time has garnered a Barrymore Award, the title of 2011’s Best Theater Artist from Philadelphia Magazine, and an MFA in directing from Temple University. Despite that she is well established here in her adoptive home, her identity remains rooted in her French nationality and immigrant status, lending her insight into and a rapport with people from Philadelphia’s diverse immigrant communities. Speaking to FringeArts on the show’s title and structure, Delpech compared an immigrant’s experience to that of a slab of vinyl in the hands of a DJ: “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 [you] will never get the relief. You just don’t feel good. You’re spinning on an endless dilemma.” (info/tickets)


(From Left) Vespestad, Tander, and Gustavsen

The final show of our spring season is another co-presentation with the Ars Nova Workshop. Tord Gustavsen with Simin Tander and Jarle Vespestad will have their Philadelphia debut on June 20. This latest trio led by the acclaimed Norwegian pianist and composer deepens his ongoing association with drummer Jarle Vespestad and introduces the transcendent vocals of German-Afghan singer Simin Tander to create a hushed and mesmerizing sonic palette. The trio’s debut album, What was said, was released earlier this year on the indomitable ECM label and stands as a quietly captivating work of cross cultural collaboration.

In crafting the album, Gustavsen and Tander explored each other’s unique heritages and, through translation, drew connections across borders and time. They worked with an Afghan poet to translate Norwegian hymns from Gustavsen’s childhood into Pashto, set English translations of 13th-century Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Rumi to music, and even drew from the Rumi-influenced writings of American poet Kenneth Rexroth. If these elements seem somewhat disparate on paper, rest assured that whether singing in English, Pashto, or wordless improvisational vocalizations, Tander’s haunting delivery makes it all feel as one. What better way to close out the season than with what one All About Jazz reviewer called, “a quietly surprising vision of a new kind of musical fusion.” (info/tickets)

There you have it, spring at FringeArts. Hot damn, it’s going to be a good one. Why not come join us at the beer garden and stay for a show?

—Hugh Wilikofsky