All posts tagged: Music

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 …

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. …

Sonic Space: Interview with Michael Junokas

This is an excerpt from Sight Specific’s interview with sound artist Michael Junokas. 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. Michael Junokas will be performing on Saturday, February 9, 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: For the pt.fwd performance in February, we wanted to have a conversation with you so that we could get more familiar with your work. Today we wanted to talk about three different areas: history, region, and fun. So first, historically speaking, can you place the work you’re going to be performing for us? We ask that because part of the charge that we put on our pt.fwd performers is for them to bring something new that they haven’t …

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 …

Featured image: Udita Upadhyaya at the book release for “nevernotmusic,” at TriTriangle. The artist leans over a table, looking down as she writes in gold pen inside a copy of her book. Next to her is another copy, open to its centerfold, where gold thread is visible. The artist wears a light-colored, textured sweater. Photo by Caleb Neubauer.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the book)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the third of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (the first and second interviews are online). After the book’s release in September, I met with Udita to reflect on the book, the process of creating it (and personalizing each copy), and the connection between music and grief in her work. Get a copy of the limited edition book by contacting Udita. Find @uditau on Twitter and Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: How are you feeling about Saturday’s book release event? Udita Upadhyaya: I’m still processing, but I am feeling good. It was great to see the book in its final form. The book is really beautiful! I have not spent enough time with it yet, but …

Aprils Fools and Their Universe: Damon Williams, Jr. and #LetUsBreathe Collective

Damon Williams, Jr. (he/him) is a poet, organizer, one half of brother-sister duo April Fools, co-director of the #LetUsBreatheCollective, and overall unique being. I first heard of his work through mutual comrades, through his and Daniel Kisslinger’s podcast Airgo, and through his rhymes, which embrace self-healing and accountability, and expel self-love and love of your neighbors. MG: Can you introduce yourself for me tell me a little about yourself? DW: I am Damon Williams, Jr. I am 25 years old, and I am a facilitator, teaching artist, organizer, and media and culture maker on the SouthSide of Chicago. MG: What does Chicago mean to you and how do you feel it’s energy affects people? DW: Chicago is home and Chicagoans are hometown people. It is a city that is landlocked, where we live upon this land taken from indigenous native people. It being in the “middle” of the country; being the “Second City,” named after it was rebuilt and thrived once again after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871; it is not second to New …

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 …

This image depicts part of a performance score, bound into a thin book. On the top page, toward its bottom-right corner, it reads “Dear Corey: Unfold (into you)” in black ink on grey paper. Across the binding, on the bottom page—the majority of the image—text, lines, arrows, and shapes appear in black ink against a whitish vellum background. Solid black abstract shapes connect and overlap, creating white space where they overlap. Lines swoop, loop, and change direction, and some end in arrowheads. Text appears in different sizes and spatial orientations (e.g., right-side up, upside-down, diagonal, vertical, and organic shapes), with some words/phrases expanded in space, condensed, or intersecting with other text.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the book in progress)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the second of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (read the first interview here and the third here). In late May, I met with Udita to discuss the book’s first mock-up, her aesthetic choices and decision-making process, and the role of intimacy, the body, and language in her work. Follow @uditau on Twitter and Instagram and check out her book launch at TriTriangle on September 8, 2018, 7 pm. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: So, you made a book! Udita Upadhyaya: Yeah. This is not what it’s going to look like but this is the first mock-up with real pages of the scores and some of the color and stuff being decided. MSL: Wow. Can I look …

In the Realm of Senses and the Pleasure of Eating with Music

Before Jeff Yang takes the stage, someone behind me says to a friend, “What you’re about to experience is like nothing else … it’s remarkable.” I don’t really know what I’m about to expect. I came to the event alone, my partner had to work, and I have an irrational fear of interactive events. I’m going into the night without many expectations. I received an email about a week or so in advance inviting me to In The Realm of Senses: Pictures at an Exhibition Fundraiser, and of course, I read the pamphlet — food, drinks, sense, scent, taste, music, sound — but I wasn’t sure how it would be exhibited, how the audience would be involved, and how I would react. All of the senses are familiar as simple words but existing together, and depending on one another, was something I had not experienced. I was nervous. Behind Yang hangs the work of Maja Bosen, an installation artist, whose pieces hang delicately from the ceiling on the back and left hand side of the stage. Yang …

The photograph shows the artist at center, standing in front of one of the gallery’s internal, white walls, with performers and guests sitting or standing on either side of her. Black vinyl letters are installed directly onto the walls, in the form of words and phrases in English and Hindi. Text appears in different sizes and spatial orientations (e.g., right-side up, upside-down, diagonal, vertical, and organic shapes), with some words/phrases expanded in space, condensed, or intersecting with other text. English words/phrases shown in this image include “a tender beginning,” “offer,” and “of this winter.” A gestural drawing—also made of black vinyl—is shown on the left-hand side of the image.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the show)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the first of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (read the second interview here and the third here). In early March, on the last day of her show “nevernotmusic” at Roman Susan, I met with Udita to discuss her processes of creating and “gifting” performance scores, transforming the scores into an installation, and learning from performers’ interpretations. Follow @uditau on Twitter and Instagram and check out her book launch at TriTriangle on September 8, 2018, at 7pm. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: Knowing a bit about your work, and specifically your work with language, I already wanted to talk to you for “Beyond the Page.” And then I was so excited to hear about “nevernotmusic” — the …

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 …

Featured image: This is a photograph of a group of people in a dance studio, sitting in a circle of chairs. Some people have their backs to the camera, and other people are shown straight-on or in profile. The two chairs nearest the camera are unoccupied, creating a window to the speaker, a man holding a microphone. Photograph by Hannah Siegfried.

Body Passages: Poets and Dancers Discuss Collaborative Processes In Progress

This is the first article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center. This series gives 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 the brainchild of co-founders Sara Maslanka (Artistic Director of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble) and Natasha Mijares (Reading Series Curator of The Chicago Poetry Center; Natasha also writes for Sixty). This innovative, interdisciplinary partnership brings together artists of various forms—poets and dancers, ostensibly, but many with practices extending beyond those bounds—over the course of 10 months to create original, collaborative work engaging language and movement. The 2018 cohort is comprised of 14 broadly diverse artists at different points in their artistic growth, who are together interrogating this year’s theme—“Activation”—and developing new work in response. Following December auditions, their process formally began in January when selected poets and dancers were assigned into groups and will officially conclude in October with final …

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 …

ColectivoMultipolar : Documenting Our Life

I first saw ColectivoMultipolar on the dance floor where they were photographing Rosebud, a queer party at Berlin in the Boystown neighborhood. The photographer came over to me and said, “Can I take your photo?” to which I smiled and held the hand of a close friend standing nearby. Later on, we would connect again through social media, where I started to follow their practice, follow their friendships, and admire their dedication to the Chicago queer nightlife scene. The photographer documents party’s all over the city: Daphne, TRQPITECA, Femmes Room, Ariel’s Party. Moreover, ColectivoMulitpolar brings their camera along into the city and on to the dance floor wherever they go, and agreed to meet for an interview. S. Nicole Lane: Where are you from and how did you end up in Chicago? ColectivoMultipolar: Soy Mexicana, and there are many stories about how I ended up in Chicago—let’s talk about the happy one. I am the youngest of my five siblings. My mother was very strict with my only sister (10 years my senior), so with me I guess she was …

Beyond the Page: Saleem Hue Penny

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. In February, I was excited to speak with “rural hip-hop blues” artist Saleem Hue Penny—whose work I have long admired—about his recent poetry chapbook and its audio companion, his process for creating within and across multiple media, and his work’s relationship to place, childhood, and the natural world. Follow @huedotart to hear about future readings, including the “Tammy Journal Takeover” at Pilsen Community Books this spring. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: You call yourself a “rural hip-hop blues” artist. How did you come to that framing for you and your work and what does it mean to you? Saleem Hue Penny: So I have traditionally used the acronym “h.u.e.”, for “hope uplifts everything.” It’s a double-play on my middle name, of Hue. My mother gave it to my little brother and me because we’re different shades in a bigger picture. And at some point I …

Build, Break, Repeat: An Interview with HOGG

To experience a live HOGG set is mesmerizing and terrifying. Over bass lines that pulsate, H and E* growl, howl, crawl, laugh, scream, and slam their bodies onto unsuspecting instruments. And then they stand still—so still, for so long. These movements are methodical and choreographed as they swap instruments that include bass, guitar, a floor tom, electronic samplers and drum machines. When I think of HOGG I think of my best friend. Around the time when we first saw HOGG play, we were also making music together, and we cared deeply about ecstatic, physical performances. It was moving then, and almost a relief, to see another pair of musicians dedicating their whole selves and bodies to that end. HOGG has three studio records to date (“Solar Phallic Lion,” Scrapes, 2016; “Carnal Lust & Carnivorous Eating,” Rotted Tooth Recordings, 2016; “Bury the Dog Deeper,” Nihilist Records, 2015), with a fourth album set to be released this spring. Like the live performances, their lyrics evoke embodiment, horror, sensuality, and psychology. HOGG occasionally collaborates with other artists, such as the dancer Eryka Dellenbach and …

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 …