Making Art in 2017: Michael Kiley on Close Music for Bodies
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.
FringeArts: Tell us a bit about your show.
Michael Kiley: Close 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.
This piece is a departure from technology. I’ve been making music in a computer for years. With Close Music, I wanted limit myself to the sounds of the human voice and body. The last pieces I conceived of were soundwalks that use GPS to control what you hear according to your location (The Empty Air, Animina). Close Music couldn’t be more different. It is also a return to performance for me.
I’m at a point in my life and career where I feel a need to connect to people in the immediate way that only performance can provide. So much of my work is experienced apart from me…music as part of a show, or a recording someone downloads, or a soundwalk. I want to be more involved with the moment the audience experiences what I have made. This process has also been very collaborative. The ensemble has been contributing lyrical, melodic and choreographic information, which is something I’ve never done before. I’ve really enjoyed moving my work into more of a social practice.
FringeArts: Tell us about an instance from 2017 where your interaction with art provided some much needed solace or refuge from outside troubles.
Michael Kiley: Teaching is my refuge. Helping people to access their voice is a beautiful distraction, and is endlessly rewarding. I think a lot of us feel helpless in these days of endless petition signings, phone calls to representatives, and marches. Teaching voice helps me relax the part of me that needs to get something positive done. It also forges a relationship unlike any other. When I encounter students in the real world, it feels so different from bumping into people I have met in other ways. There’s an unnameable connection that happens when you are vocally present and vulnerable with people. Accessing that connection is my intent behind including vocal education as part of this performance.
Remounting The Garden of Forking Paths with my wife Nichole Canuso at BOK Building was a spiritual gift for many reasons, but mostly because we worked with children from the neighborhood. Watching them access the form of dance, and really blossom into it was so special. Okwui Okpokwasili’s Poor People’s TV Room at NYLA, Perfume Genius at Union Transfer and Doug Wheeler at The Guggenheim Museum were all healing moments for me this year.
Close Music for Bodies
Christ Church Neighborhood House
20 North American Street
$15 (student + 25-and-under)