Textura Artist Spotlight


Who: I was born outside of Indianapolis, IN in 1979. I began piano at age four, singing in a choir at six, and cello at ten. When I was a child my mother taught private piano lessons from our home, and my father, an avid music listener and lover, had a vast music collection spanning many genres; I grew hearing the gamut blasting from the stereo, from Iron Butterfly to classical symphonies. My family lived in the midwest until I was eleven (IN, OH, MO), and then we moved to Raleigh, NC for my middle and high school years. I attended the Cleveland Institute of Music for two years of my undergraduate education, and then transferred to the University of California Berkeley for my last two years of college. At Berkeley I studied cello performance with Bonnie Hampton and Irene Sharp, and composition with Jorge Liderman, Olly Willson, John Thow, and Edwin Dugger. After two years of freelancing in the San Francisco area, I made the big leap to NYC and did a Masters degree in cello performance at the Manhattan School of Music. Although I intended to move back to CA after my degree was completed, I got bit by the creative music bug in NYC and have been in the area ever since. I lived in Manhattan for my first two years in New York, then moved to Brooklyn for the following six years. My husband, trombonist/composer Alan Ferber, and I moved to South Orange, NJ in March 2010, which is where we live now. We have a 150-year-old Red Oak in the yard, live a ten-minute run from the 2,000 acre South Mountain Reservation, a wilderness park with nineteen miles of hiking trails, and the real key: eighteen minutes from Newark International Airport (an essential component considering the amount of travel in our lives).

What: There are three main projects I pursue. The first is my commissioning project, where I've been compiling solo works for my voice, cello, and electronics from talented, emerging composers since 2005. I'm interested in the myriad directions composers will take the simple combination of my voice and cello; in short, my curiosity is peaked by what diversity of creative expression can be culled from a very limited palate. So far I have compiled about twenty-five pieces from different composers, spanning a wide range of genres. Some include electronics, ranging from tape parts to effects pedals, and some are acoustic. My new album, Of Minutiae and Memory , is a collection of eight electro-acoustic works that have become mainstays of my performing repertoire.

Another project I do is also solo—exploring modern poetry through song—and features my own acoustic and electro-acoustic compositions for voice and cello. I collaborate with libraries, high schools, universities, festivals, and other literary groups that focus on poetry. Each time I do the music and poetry residency/performance, I partner with two local poets in that area and use two of their poems as lyrics for new compositions that I premiere during the performance. Another feature of the residency/performance includes workshops with area literary and music students. We collaborate to create new musical works using their words, which are also featured in the culminating public performance for the community. The project encourages community-building between artistic entities in each locality ; for instance, it sparks dialogue and collaboration between English and Music majors at universities, or between professional poets and local music groups. The idea is to encourage the artists and students to further develop connections between words and music in their own communities.

The main outlet for my own compositions, however, is the band I lead. It's called The Buoyant Inner Imaginarium, and the genre-mixing music requires multi-skilled personnel equally experienced in the precision and sensitivity of chamber music, as with widely developed improvisation skills. We play regularly in NYC and are releasing our first album as a group in summer 2012. The project features some fabulous musicians I've worked with in other touring bands: Sara Caswell (violin), Laila Biali (piano and voice), Leala Cyr (voice and trumpet), and myself on voice & cello. I also released an album called Ancient Star in 2009 with the previous incarnation of my band, called Fire in July, which featured voice, cello, clarinet, trombone, vibes, piano, and percussion.

When: The CD release for Of Minutiae and Memory was a great event in Manhattan on Monday, Sept. 12 at the Lower East Side club Drom. My band, The Buoyant Inner Imaginarium, plays live in NYC on Oct. 24 and Nov. 20 (both in Brooklyn). In late September and most of October I'll be on the road with Esperanza Spalding's Chamber Music Society, with whom I've been touring internationally for over a year. We're going to Brazil in September, and then on to another month-long US tour, covering the country from West to East Coast. Other fall highlights in NYC include performances with Gino Sitson's VoCello project at Farafina in Harlem on Oct. 20, Nov. 17, and Dec. 15, featuring Gino Sitson (voice, percussion, compositions), Charenee Wade (voice, percussion), and myself on voice and cello. And another notable show is the Steve Hudson Chamber Ensemble at An Die Musik in Baltimore on Nov. 18 (Zach Brock, violin, Martin Urbach, percussion, Steve Hudson, piano & compositions, and me on voice and cello). I try to keep everything updated on my website's calendar page so hopefully folks can check out addresses and details there.

Currently: New Amsterdam Records just released my new solo album, Of Minutiae and Memory, featuring eight electro-acoustic compositions for my voice, cello, and electronics that have become mainstays of my performing repertoire. The disc's works are by LA-based composer Joshua Penman, Chicago-based composer Anna Clyne, Wesleyan University professor Paula Matthusen, and NYC-based composers Missy Mazzoli, Wil Smith, Ryan Brown, Stefan Weisman, and Derek Muro. My goal in crafting this album was to form a cohesive statement, with a relatively seamless texture and an overall emotional balance of anxiety and hope. It was like connecting the dots among the pieces that I've commissioned to cultivate a multi-composer album that had a sense of continuity. It's available on iTunes and Amazon, and you can visit the New Amsterdam site to learn more about the label's diverse releases.

Musical philosophy: Bjork is my favorite, period. I can listen to her recordings over and over and continually hear new things. I especially love her albums Vespertine and Homogenic, with the big string sections arranged by Vince Mendoza. She has seamlessly integrated sophisticated composition with the innate attraction people have to beat-driven music. I also really admire Czech composer, vocalist, and singer Iva Bittova. The freedom of spirit and concept she infuses into her works is truly inspiring, and her music defies classification and comes across as simultaneously timeless and modern. As a classical cellist growing up, I fell in love with Ravel's compositions and orchestrations. To my ears, he seemed to prize sound itself as supreme, and this has always been my compass as well: I'm most interested in the combinations of sounds and textures. One of my favorite phenomena when listening to music is hearing something and thinking, “What is that?! I don't recognize what's making that sound!" I get excited when common instruments are combined to create unusual sounds. I also find the transformative potential of sound/vibration itself most engaging; i.e, the ways in which sounds and vibrations can influence and transform our bodies or consciousness. I feel lucky to participate in an art form whose medium, sound, exists in space and time, and therefore in each unfurling moment. Music transfers energy from moment to moment, and the intent behind that transference seems of utmost importance. I think we musicians are most effective when we are clear about the intent behind our music. Our level of consciousness affects the scope and effect our music has. As far as my next goals are concerned, I'm inspired by the expanding electro-acoustic realm. I hope to encourage younger players of tradional classical, acoustic instruments to become involved with electro-acoustic performance. It's a great and practical way to play a solo program full of varied textures, and in my experience, it's more fulfilling to be on the creative end of the compositional spectrum, rather than just the re-creative.


October 2011