All posts filed under: Sound + Music

Brotha El spinning at the Smart Museum in front of Charles Gaines' Numbers and Trees, Central Park, Series I, Tree #9, 2016. Photo by Cecil McDonald.

Sandbox Symphony: Interview with Brother El

As fellow South Side residents and former college classmates, I was happy to sit down with Brother El, or Lional Freeman, to talk about his growing annual event Sandbox Symphony IV on Chicago’s Oakwood Beach, held on Saturday, August 10. When we were both at Loyola University Chicago, we met and collaborated to create WLUW 88.7FM’s first and only hip hop radio show in the college station’s format—“The Hip Hop Project.” We often discuss the creative process in music and writing, but for this interview we wanted to talk about how this festival came about and the influence of his late mentor, the sculptor Milton Mizenburg.  Mizenburg may be familiar if you’ve seen a few YouTube clips like this Chicago Tribune piece from 2013 or seen a couple of stories in The Chicago Reader. Others may know his work from Mizenburg’s outdoor gallery cameo in Sam Trump’s 2016 video for “Brother” with Add-2. His legacy is manifest in the Oakland Museum of Contemporary Art on Chicago’s South Side featuring epic heads that nod to an …

Black Monument Ensemble: Looking Back From Now

“Please join me in welcoming the Black Monument Ensemble.” The crowd roars with claps, whistles, loud whoops, and yelps. Applause melts behind wind chimes and bells as the band, singers, and dancers make their way to the stage. The audience quiets in anticipation. The voice of Damon Locks resounds in the room before his body appears. “Knowing what we know now, the mind searches for reconciliation…”  Stationed behind the singers, dancers, and drummers, he stands near his keyboard speaking into a telephone receiver attached to a soundboard. His voice reverberates throughout the space, bouncing against the drum sounds and vibrations as he recites his “Statement of Intent.” The drum intensifies and reaches a crescendo. “Some things never change–Black monuments!”, Locks yells. Angel Bat Dawid begins playing her clarinet. The choir begins.  I become transfixed by the electric synergy that emits from the band to the dancers, from the dancers to the singers, from the collective to the audience. The voices of Ruby Dee, Angela Davis, and Lena Horne coil around and reverberate within our ears. Suddenly …

Arranging, Abstracting, and Transforming at Experimental Sound Studio

Entering Without Within at Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) in Ravenswood, you encounter a variety of sculptural objects comprised of glazed ceramic, cuts of wood, and metal panels made by multidisciplinary artist Mie Kongo. The pieces, an amalgamation of these natural materials, are combined so carefully and intentionally as they emanate a calm confidence. One piece features an amoeba-like, white structure that exists on top of a tree log that’s been cleanly chopped on top and bottom. Two rectangle tiles grow out of the amoeba and a small metal panel cleanly sits atop all of this chaos.  Surrounding this visual experience is the subtle influx of sound that oscillates between somewhat recognizable and minimal industrial sounds to more complex abstractions, created by sound artist Norman Long. This sort of arranging, abstracting, and transforming lies at the heart of the exhibition, curated by Ruth Hodgkins, the current Bentson Archivist and Assistant Curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Throughout the exhibition, both artists take inspiration from the world around them but choose to adjust, amend, and …

Composition and Improv: Interview with William Pearson

This is an excerpt from Sight Specific’s interview with sound artist William Pearson. Presented through Sixty Regional. In partnership with pt.fwd, a new series of contemporary music and sonic arts performances featuring new work by local and regional artists in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, Sight Specific will be publishing conversations between the featured artists and pt.fwd director Eddie Breitweiser. William Pearson (Champaign-Urbana, IL) will be performing on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at 8pm at the McLean County Arts Center. All pt.fwd performances are free and open to the public. Follow pt.fwd on Facebook and Instagram for more information, including upcoming performance dates. Eddie: Part of the charge of pt.fwd is to find a diverse group of local and regional artists and musicians and to challenge them to bring something new to an open-minded audience. Would you mind speaking a bit about your background, your practice, and historically what we’re going to be hearing? What have you prepared for us and how does it both relate to your practice as a whole and indicate where you’re going next? Will:  Yeah. …

Kranky Celebrates 25 Years of Ambient Music in a Chapel

I was three years old when Kranky, the ambient music label, was founded in Chicago. In my late teens and early twenties, Kranky was vital to my auditory taste. The label, primarily focusing on ambient, electronic, or psychedelic music, introduced me to Deerhunter, Stars of Lid, Justin Walter, and The Dead Texan. My youth was spent through a spiral of gazing up towards my ceiling, or driving down dark North Carolina roads while listening to Labradford’s album, Prazision. So it’s only natural that Kranky would celebrate their 25th Anniversary at the Rockefeller Chapel in Hyde Park with a line up that brings you closer to god, or stillness, or clarity, or whatever brings you solace in a stained-glass building on wooden benches. Ambient Church is a nomadic event that traveled to Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago and New York, with various different performers in each location. In Chicago, we were welcomed by Matt Jencik, Justin Walter, Pan•American, and Steve Hauschildt. It’s a 25 minute walk from my apartment to the Rockefeller Chapel, a hub for me …

Featured image: Maggie Robinson and Allison Sokolowski performing in “I Am” at the Chicago Danztheatre Auditorium, as part of the Body Passages culminating event. Maggie balances with one foot, knee, and hand on the floor, as Allison stands on Maggie’s lower back. The performers hold each other’s left hands and look at each other. Both are barefoot and wear white t-shirts and jeans. Behind them is a well-lit stage, with a string of colorful paper suspended across it. Still from a video by John Borowski.

Body Passages: Culminating Collaborations

This is the fourth and final article in a series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first, second, and third pieces can be found here). These articles provide brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. Launched in 2017, Body Passages is an artist residency and performance series curated and produced by Sara Maslanka (Artistic Director of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble) and Natasha Mijares (Reading Series Curator of The Chicago Poetry Center; Natasha also writes for Sixty). Trigger warning: The performance “Blood Memory,” discussed below, contains references to sexual assault, including in childhood. During a culminating event featuring groups’ final performances, the Body Passages artists offered the audience sugar cereal, sparkling cider, and glowsticks; invited us to dance with them and record ourselves reading their poetic curations; and asked us to travel back in time with them to New Year’s Eve 1998. Especially appropriate given Body Passages’ collaborative focus and …

Interview with Musician Bailey Minzenberger

Bailey Minzenberger is a Chicago singer songwriter whose music focuses on themes of love, loss, and intense emotion. Their debut EP, “Queen Anne’s Lace,” combines acoustic guitar with hauntingly beautiful lyrics to evoke an intimate listening experience, currently available on Bandcamp. Writer Cecilia Kearney had the chance to talk to Bailey and discuss their relationship with music and identity. Cecilia Kearney: Lets start with some background; tell me a little bit about yourself. Bailey Minzenberger: I was born and raised in Evanston and Rogers Park. I haven’t really left the area for an extended period of time, which I would like to change—I am changing, which is exciting. I feel really grateful to have grown up there; Evanston is a really cool place. I’m currently writing my own music. I would like to [have a] full band, but since it’s just me right now, it’s usually just acoustic guitar and vocals. Usually when I write music, I can hear the entire band in my head as I’m writing, so it’s really cool when I can get a …

Riding Interstellar Waves: A Performance Essay on Afro-Futurism and Time Travel from D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

This essay exists as a record, a performance document and collaged concept map linking threads in an interstellar web charting the content of my lectures and presentations culled from over 25 years of study, teaching, sculpting, and performing, each coded element an entry point like portals to the vast arkestry of Afrofuturist future visioning. Highlights include references to performance ritual as the High Priestess of the Intergalactic Federation, Special Envoy to Mars, for the September 27, 2018 Decolonizing Mars/Becoming Interplanetary symposium convened by NASA/Blumberg Chair of Astrobiology Lucianne Walkowicz at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, and content from performance-lecture-poetics for “Afro-Futurism and Time Travel” at the University of Chicago’s Gray Center for Art and Inquiry and from The Ramm Riff featuring Black Light Primal Nun ‘A’ at Red Bull Arts NY for No Guts, No Galaxy slide show series as part of programming for the exhibition Rammellzee: Racing for Thunder. This is an experimental collage, ideas and poetics intertwined, a performance-lecture-poetic in multiple stanzas, a Time Travel Riff from the outposts of Afro-Futurist vision …

Featured image: Ryan Keesling leans over the shoulder of Walter, a Free Write Sound and Vision technician, as they both look at audio mixer that sits on a table in front of them. They are outside, under a blue tent, where Sound and Vision is mixing sound for the FEAST festival that took place September 8. Photo by Chelsea Ross

Just Narratives: A Conversation with Ryan Keesling of Free Write Arts and Literacy

“The ‘envisioning justice’ conversation is like – I don’t know, I think people try too hard to think about what it will look like.” Ryan Keesling had just pulled out his phone and was pointing at a photo on Free Write Art and Literacy’s Instagram page as he spoke. It was a flyer for YAS! Fest, the youth art showcase that took place in Millennium Park in September. On the flyer was an image of two DJs who had performed at the festival, Walter and Cortez, a.k.a. DJ 1Solo and DJ Tez. Keesling continued, “That’s not to say that people shouldn’t imagine. But, for me, I have to – I can imagine it, but also when I imagine it I don’t necessarily feel it. But when I see their faces and when I work with our students, both inside and outside, and I see them growing and I see them becoming aware of their abilities, and I see them being able to take control of their lives and I see them being happy and getting …

Broadcasting Art From Inside Cook County Jail

On the night of the screening of Radioactive: Stories from Beyond the Wall, the newest intervention in Maria Gaspar’s 96 Acres Project, the area around Cook County Jail was vibrantly alive. Cars zoomed by with teenage girls poking out of sunroofs, Mexican flags draped around their shoulders, and passengers shouting “Viva México!” in honor of Mexican Independence Day that weekend. Facing the north wall of the massive compound—the largest jail in the country—a parking lot was converted into a viewing space, with folded chairs orbiting around large speakers tuned into Lumpen Radio. William Onyeabor songs played as about fifty people settled in for Radioactive’s second screening. A group gathered around what looked like a food cart, but was actually William Estrada’s Mobile Street Art Cart project, making screen prints that read “Families Belong Together/Abolish ICE/Abolish Prisons” and pinning them up to dry on clotheslines. As the sun set the lot filled out, buzzing. Behind the wall, the light from a single room spilled out through a barred window. With the Radioactive screenings and other aspects of the 96 …

The Thrival Geographies of Shani Crowe, Andres L. Hernandez, and Amanda Williams

Of the 2,240 licensed Black architects working in the United States, only 440 of them identify as Black women. While this number might increase slightly by adding those who have a degree in architecture and aren’t licensed, or who work primarily in teaching, this number becomes even more sobering when you consider the fact that there are about 109,748+ licensed architects in the entire country. My mention of these numbers isn’t simply a commentary on representation. Since architecture is a major influence on how we live and move through our daily lives, be it the spaces of home, work, school, play or otherwise, it’s unsettling to think that an overwhelming amount of spaces are likely conceived of and designed without someone like me in the room, on the team, or even in mind as the possible end user. After learning those numbers, it’s hard for me not to feel the significance of any time spent in conversation with two people who operate within that rare group. Andres L. Hernandez and Amanda Williams are architects and …

Lakshmi Ramgopal’s “A Half-Light Chorus”

As I’m nestled between the drapes of lush green fronds in the Fern Room at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, I become aware of the ambient sounds. I hear the steady trickle of nearby water and the bird calls that fill the space. As I wait for the afternoon performance to start, the bird calls begin to demand a bit more of my attention. I hear what sounds like a whistle and then what sounds like a human call. Then, clicking, brief pauses, more clicking, and suddenly a layer of bird calls that begin to sound more and more human as the moments pass, all followed by what I’m sure is a human sound. Click. Pause. Bird call? Chirp. No, definitely a human call. Wail. Human call. Pause. As I become more aware of the presence of the piece, Lakshmi Ramgopal and her ensemble, clad in all white, take their places for the final performance for this installation. This environmental soundscape, which feels simultaneously personal and celestial, is Lakshmi Ramgopal’s installation “A Half Light Chorus” at the Lincoln Park Conservatory as part of …

Collector’s Corner: Rob Sevier of Numero Group

“Collector’s Corner” looks at the artistic, curatorial, and cultural forces behind the act of collecting. We visit the homes, businesses, garages, desks, and closets of artists and cultural producers who thrive from this occasionally unruly practice. For this installment, we talk to Rob Sevier about his record collection at the offices of the Chicago-based record reissue label he helped found in Little Village, Numero Group. In Little Village you can spend lots of time walking to the pace of the neighborhood – the loud clog of people and cars beneath its famous archway, the food stands posted up on residential corners attended by entrepreneurial parents and their indifferent toddlers, the intricate murals that invite passersby to stop and stare for a while.  The homes, businesses, even alleyways all have a role in what has made this area so distinct from others in the city. Part of what makes Little Village distinct is Numero Group: an archival record label founded in Chicago in 2003 by Rob Sevier and Ken Shipley. Numero Group started as a soul …

Dwell in Other Futures

I had a basic sense of the urban history of St. Louis: deindustrialization, redlining, and white flight, all reflected in a downward sloping population chart and an interactive online map whose shaded regions shuffle along radial axes further and further apart over time. Nonetheless, I was surprised as I walked downtown. Tallish, newish buildings lined a wide boulevard dotted by tap rooms and cafes dealing overpriced salads to the only other pedestrians out and about: a small cluster of people in color-coordinated tee shirts (a school group, perhaps) and an occasional professional-looking person in a suit. I had arrived that afternoon via the Amtrak Lincoln Service Train No. 301 from Chicago, sleepy and hungry, and after taking care of both concerns with overpriced salad and bottomless coffee, and while waiting for a friend to come pick me up after work, I sought the one place in the area recommended to me by people in Chicago, the City Museum. Sensory overload was sudden and overwhelming. I now understood the meaning of the tip to “bring knee …

Snapshot: Gather Series at Comfort Station

Snapshot is a Sixty column that takes a quick look at art history as it happens in Chicago. We send artists and organizers short and sweet questions to tell us about what they are doing right at this moment. We sent questions to Allen Moore, Nick Meryhew, and Rebecca Himelstein, the curatorial team behind the Gather series at Comfort Station. Gather is an experimental music series bringing musicians and performers from different scenes, backgrounds, practices, disciplines, and communities together for connection and artistic exchange. For information on their upcoming events, as well as past performances, visit them here.  Sixty Inches From Center: To start broadly, what were you envisioning when you started Gather? Can you give us some context for the title? GATHER: We wanted to represent Chicago’s highly active experimental music and performance community by creating a series that highlighted some different approaches to the artists’ chosen medium. For each bill we attempt to bring together artists who might not otherwise be presented side-by-side. We see this as a way of facilitating new audience and artist interactions …

Reflections of the ECLIPSING Festival

I’ll begin at the end. Arms raised, knees levering, booties popping, we danced to the beats served by DJ Hijo Pródigo in the Currency Exchange Café, which had turned into a bar for the night, serving up cocktails loaded with activated charcoal. We had an hour before been perched next door on stools and benches for a reading at the BING art books store, and an hour before that stood chatting with cheese cubes on napkins in the Arts Incubator gallery. Nearly a festival in itself, it was the closing night of the monumental ECLIPSING festival: three months that included a performance series, a group and a solo exhibition, workshops, a vegan market, and a “performative lecture” in four arts venues around Chicago. The festival, whose full title is ECLIPSING: the politics of night, the politics of light, was organized by Amina Ross and took place between January and March. The word Ross used to describe the robust programming is “holistic.” An eclipse is a drama, a shifting in the relationships between the looker, the looked-at, and the …

In Conversation with Terttu Uibopuu

“This is what making work should be like. You should be nervous and you should be a little bit scared. And you should feel kind of apprehensive and you should feel like you’re doing something kind of wrong. That’s the state I want to be in when I make my work. I don’t want to be comfortable. I don’t want to know what the hell I’m doing. I want to feel like I’m trying something new and scary and weird. Something not so polite and not comfortable for anybody.” – Terttu Uibopuu Estonian-American photographer Terttu Uibopuu moved to the United States in 2002. Born in 1984, in Soviet-occupied Estonia, Uibopuu lived much of her formative years during the fall of the Soviet Union. After receiving a photography award from the cigarette company Phillip Morris in 2001, she booked a one-way ticket to the United States. At the age of 17, Uibopuu found herself in a small city in northern Illinois where she began documenting her experiences and forging herself a career in photography. In this …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Interview with Roell Schmidt

This interview took place as part of an initiative occasioned by the first Chicago Archives + Artists Festival, held at the Chicago Cultural Center in May 2017. The festival kicked off a series of in-depth artist interviews, including this one with Roell Schmidt of Links Hall, which will be contributed to the Chicago Artist Files at Harold Washington Library. This series of interviews was conducted with a group of artists, curators, instigators, and organizers who we believe are essential to the history of Chicago art. The interview with Roell was conducted by Annie Morse, a curator and Senior Lecturer in Museum Education at the Art Institute of Chicago, and is excerpted below. In addition to this smaller group of Sixty-interviewed artists, a call was put out to ALL the city’s artists: #GetArchived! The core of the free festival was a pop-up archive processing center staffed by Sixty Inches From Center and volunteers. Many partners lent their time, resources, and high-res scanners(!) to this endeavor, including LATITUDE, the Visualist, and Read/Write Library. Sixty Inches From Center is excited to be continuing …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Full Interview with Roell Schmidt

This interview took place as part of an initiative of the Chicago Archives + Artists Project . CA+AP serves as a laboratory and pipeline for the community preservation of artists’ archives. We want to find creative ways to care for an ever more accessible, playful, and diverse compendium of artists voices, process and ephemera. We believe in the power of stories in many voices, on many platforms, past, present and future. This interview of Roell Schmidt, conducted by Annie Morse, a curator and Senior Lecturer in Museum Education at the Art Institute of Chicago, will be contributed to Links Hall’s file at the Chicago Artist Files at Harold Washington Library. Annie Morse: Roell, will you please introduce yourself and talk about how you came to the archives project. Roell Schmidt: I currently am the director of Links Hall, an experimental dance group and performance space that’s been in Chicago for 38 years. And how I came to be part of this archive was: Tempestt invited me to be one of the interviewed people, and, although I am not super comfortable being the person …

Writing at The Club: A Look at The State of The Dance Circle

On October 11, 2016, artist, writer, performer, and DJ, Juliana Huxtable, gave a lecture at the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the Visiting Artists series at SAIC. The lecture was a look into her practice and she mentioned everything from her love of Geocities, liberation theologies, and the Mesozoic era. It’s been over a year since this lecture took place and one of the echoes that has remained in my mind from that evening is Huxtable’s view on the “dance circle.” We can see forms of dance circles in nature enacted through many processes. On the cellular level, “cooperative binding” is used to construct well-defined assemblies of cells and is used to transfer information. Possibly the greatest dancers of all, bees, take part in what is called “the waggle dance” which appears to be a method by which the direction and distance of a food source is communicated among individuals. A scientific drawing of cooperative binding. Courtesy of the National Academy of Sciences.  Images of sound recordings of a bee’s waggle dance. Courtesy of The …

Democracy at Work: travis and P.Michael of ONO

“It’s spooky, actually,” said P.Michael when I asked about his 37-year collaboration with fellow ONO member travis. “Sometimes, he’ll be working on something and I’ll be working on something, and we’ll show each other what we’ve been working on, and it’s the same thing, sort of. It’s like one person started it and one person finished it. It just fits perfectly.” We were sitting at travis’s kitchen table in his South Side Chicago home on a Sunday afternoon, drinking peppermint tea ladled out of a pot. ONO is the “Avant-gospel” noise band that P.Michael and travis formed in 1980. They started regularly performing again about seven years ago in all varieties of DIY basements, art museums, music festivals, and loft galleries, with an evolving cast of band members. They have released several recordings in recent years, but the full ONO experience lives in the live show, which is tightly orchestrated, with a narrative arc and several costume changes. travis spits out words that weave history with personal pain, moving in and out of the crowd as he adds or subtracts …

Without, Within the World: The Dojo

Call them DIY, alternative, radical, or safe, Chicago’s independent art spaces create a world without money and borders within a world defined by both. They function as community hubs and communal living spaces, providing free and affordable entertainment, hosting activism workshops and food drives, and building connections among young, emerging, and marginalized artists. “Without, Within the World” is a series of interviews that asks curators and administrators about building utopia while maintaining viable spaces.      The first to be profiled is the Dojo, an underground performance venue and gallery in Pilsen. Though the Dojo has its roots in the DIY music scene, their curation constantly skirts the boundaries between genres and communities. Established in 2015 by Alex Palma, Mykele Deville, and Daniel Kyri (DK), who all lived in Pilsen at the time, the Dojo is now run by Palma and Calie Ramone, who work with a variety of outside curators and “Dojo Homies,” who put together diverse music and art shows two or three times a week. When I meet Palma at his Pilsen apartment (he …

Erica Mei Gamble outside Harold Washington Library

Communal Sound Space

Erica Mei Gamble is a musician, storyteller, and children’s librarian at the Chicago Public Library. These roles converge in her ongoing project Communal Sound Space, an ever-expanding collection of video footage of DIY music and performance in Chicago. Since the launch of its online presence in August 2017, the archive makes public hundreds of videos documenting nearly a decade of performances in DIY spaces and small galleries around the city. The project amounts to a deeply personal history of Chicago music. Erica has filmed each performance herself, setting up shop at a good angle. Watching her record has become part of the fabric of going to a certain type of show: intimate, experimental, and for the most part, ephemeral. Thanks to Erica, that last bit is changing. Anyone curious about what goes on after hours in the darkened spaces of Chicago can now experience—or pause, rewind, and relive—a slice of it from anywhere in the world. I caught up with Erica about her project—creating safe spaces for expression, the impulse to document, maintaining an archive …

Front-woman: A Look at Fran

I first saw Maria Jacobson from Fran play over the summer at The Hideout. Her voice, which I had previously only heard on Bandcamp, was atmospheric. It was natural. Her lyrics, empathetic and encapsulated with raw emotion and narrative, were something I could cry to. In short, I’ve been trying to pencil as many Fran shows into my calendar ever since. I met Maria in Humboldt Park, where we chatted about where she is going and what she is doing since picking up music a year ago. S. Nicole Lane: You studied theater, right? Maria Jacobson: Yeah, so I went to school for acting—for theater—and was pretty set on being an actor when I moved back home [Chicago], and did it for a year. I did musical theater growing up, so I have a strong singing background, and also studied some music in college—sort of broadly. I was the singer in bands—in high school and college—but never had a personal songwriting practice. I was trying to be an actor for a year, and then two year ago I got an …

Intimate Justice: An Interview with Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we met with Jacquelyn Guerrero in the Pilsen neighborhood to discuss heritage, performance, and Chicago music. Nicole Lane: Where are you from? How did you end up Chicago? Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero (aka CQQCHIFRUIT): I’m from Miami. My mom is Cuban, my dad is Puerto Rican. I ended up in Chicago when I went to Northwestern. I studied theater and dance. I really wanted to go to school away from Miami. I didn’t appreciate the culture when I was growing up there. I came out as bisexual when I was eighteen and I wanted to have some room to figure out what that meant. SNL: Can you talk about the events that you’re a part of and the queer spaces that you’re creating with parties like TRQPITECA? JCG: After I graduated school, I really loved to go out dancing. I tried to go to …