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Commission from Hartford New Music Festival!

Thanks to Hartford percussionist/impresario Bill Solomon, I have received a commission from the Hartford New Music Festival to create a large embroidered graphic score for an ensemble of 8 improvisers.

As you may be aware, over the last few years I have composed a handful of graphic pieces that are embroidered on fabric. The first one, "In Stitches" (partially pictured above as cover art) was the result of my wanting to do some freehand embroidery -- for reason having nothing to do with music -- and finding myself unable to access any specific visual ideas. When I began to think of sounds instead, I came up with something I liked. Eventually, Carl and I decided to perform it as a duo, and it has since become a staple piece of repertoire for Broadcloth (a trio featuring Nathan Bontrager, cello; Adam Matlock, accordion; and myself). Last year I created another piece, a duo for two singers which I preimiered with Kyoko Kitamura, for which I knitted the background onto which I embroidered graphics with yarn. I recently completed "Broadcloth, Book I", and an embroidered trio piece in the form of a flour-sack cloth book, which includes some traditional notation in cross-stitch.

While the provenance of this idea didn't come from any sort of bright idea (and certainly not from the desire to "become" a composer) I find that, as an improviser who enjoys playing from graphic notation, the sounds I make are guided not only by the overall shapes in front of me, but by textures and minute variations in line as well.  Therefore I think that embroidery and textiles are a good way to add another dimension to improvisation by more deeply engaging the senses of the performers.

When Broadcloth premiered an excerpt of the unfinished "Book I" last year, Anthony Braxton was in attendance. It is typical for him to suggest to young musicians that we not hesitate to apply our current ideas to a larger scale. In this case, the suggestion was not just to write for larger forces, but to embroider much larger pieces. When Bill approached me about a commission for the Hartford New Music Festival, I saw it as a great opportunity to try embroidering a large piece.

The piece will be 8 feet long and 2 feet wide, and will be embroidered on a piece of sliver burlap stretched over an artist's canvas frame. The graphics themselves will be in the form of a flowchart, allowing the musicians to move through choose paths between cells of information. The lineup of musicians is as follows: Nathan Bontrager, cello; Ben Klein, tuba; Adam Matlock, accordion; Anne Rhodes, voice; Bill Solomon, percussion; Carl Testa, bass; Maura Valenti, harp; Libby Van Cleve, oboe. The performance will be on May 5 at Charter Oak in Hartford.


trillium e 4-CD box set now available!

It’s here! The 4-CD box set of Anthony Braxton’s opera Trillium E is now available from New Braxton House Records!

I appear on this recording in the soprano roll of Sundance, who, like all of Braxton's characters manifests in different guises: in this case, a wifey-wife, a Southern belle, and an adventurer/librarian (I know).  It was recorded in March of 2010 with a cast of 12 singers and a 40-piece orchestra. Most of us are improvisors, composers, and/or bandleaders as well as performers, so there's a really unique and powerful vibe to the group. Personnel includes Nicole Mitchell, Jessica Pavone, Cory Smyth, Tyshawn Sorey, Jen Shyu, Elizabeth Saunders, Nick Hallet, Chris DiMeglio, Kyoko Kitamura, Carl Testa, Fay Victor, Nate Wooley, Jay Rozen, Reut Regev, Anne Rhodes, Kamala Sankaram, and concert master Erica Dicker. We've been eagerly awaiting this release and hope you'll enjoy listening to this amazing work as much as we enjoyed recording it! 


somebody find me this t-shirt!


fall update: braxton festival, ilgenfritz opera, and more

Anthony Braxton Small Ensemble at Wesleyan's Crowell Concert Hall, April 2011

Lots of cool stuff in going on!

Last Friday I participated in the first rehearsal of a sextet consisting of Anthony Braxton, myself, Matt Bauder, Taylor Ho Bynum, and dancers Rachel Bernsen and Melanie Maar. We will perform Braxton's new Pine Top Aerial Music as the opening performance for the festival Energies, Ideas, and Intuitions: The Music of Anthony Braxton at Roulette in Brooklyn, October 5-8. Described as "the most comprehensive portrait of Anthony Braxton ever presented in the United States," the festival will feature nine sets in four nights representing the breadth of Braxton's work, performed by the versatile and dedicated members of his ensembles. In this festival, I will also sing in and co-conduct the first choir ever to perform Braxton's Syntactical Ghost Trance Music, as well as perform the role of Sundance in the concert premier of his opera Trillium J on the final evening. I am beyond psyched.

Soprano Zohra Rawling and I, together with the members of Dr. Caterwaul's Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps, will debut a new act, the Cygnet Sisters, at New Haven's Lyric Hall on October 21. The band plans to put on salon-style performances of cabaret, operetta, and other old-timey repertoire with unconventional instrumentation, performed in flamboyant victorian-influenced costumes and catering to a steam-punk audience in a dinner-theater setting.

On October 29 I will sing a role in the in the premier of The Ticket That Exploded, an opera by Issue Project Room Artist-in-Residence James Ilgenfritz, based on the novel of the same name by William S. Burroughs. Please consider donating to the Kickstarter Campaign for this fantastic project!

On December 4 Carl Testa and I will perform Spectra, his theater piece for voice, lights, and electronics, at the Take Your Time Interdisciplinary Performance Series at The Big Room in New Haven. We permiered this piece in Kitchener, Ontario last April and are looking forward to presenting a slightly re-worked version with the addition of percussionist Bill Solomon and cellist Nathan Bontrager.

More Broadcloth Trio performances are in the works for coming months, and we hope to plan a tour for January, so check my schedule page or the Broadcloth website for updates. We are also delighted to be returning to The Stone on February 18, almost two years after we first performed there as a newly-formed ensemble.

In other news, this month I began my tenure as Artist-in-Residence at Higganum Congragational Church in Higganum, CT, where I will appear monthly as a guest soloist for Sunday services, as well as on Christmas Eve. This isn't just any church gig, as it gives me the welcome opportunity to collaborate regularly with with HCC's music director and one of my most valued colleagues, keyboardist/composer Brian Parks, presenting some of our favorite classical and baroque sacred repertoire, including songs and arias by Handel, Mozart, and Barber.

I hope autumn brings you many good things...live, local music among them!


spring update

Broadcloth at The Big Room, April 8, 20100

It's been a busy Spring, starting with Broadcloth's mid-Atlantic tour at the end of March, which took us (Nathan Bontrager, cello, Adam Matlock, accordion and recorders and me, voice) to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Lancaster, PA, and Washington, DC. We had a great time performing experimental and improvised pieces, some old and some new. Each show was different, we met lots of great people, and all in all it felt a little too short. A few days after our return, we did a full-length show at The Big Room in New Haven, where we premiered an excerpt from Adam's new chamber opera, and my new work-in-progress, "Broadcloth, Book I", a long-form embroidered graphic score. We have some more shows coming up in Boston, Brooklyn, and New Haven and have just set the date to record our first album this month. You can learn more about Broadcloth at www.broadclothtrio.com.

Next, I had the pleasure of joining Dr. Caterwaul's Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps (Bontrager and Matlock, along with Brian Slattery, fiddle and banjo, and Michael Paolucci, percussion) for an afternoon of sacred music, spirituals, shape-note music, gospel, and folk tunes at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Milford, CT. That was a blast, and a great chance for me to show off something other than classical and extended techniques; I don't get to sing melodies in raw chest voice that much! It was also awesome to hear Nathan, Brian, and Adam do a lot of singing. The all have great voices and can harmonize like nobody’s business. More about Dr. Caterwaul’s at www.folkroutes.org/profiles/drcaterwauls/.

In mid-April, Carl and I, along with Brooklyn-based bassoonist/composer Katherine Young, headed up to Ontario for a couple of shows in Kitchener and Toronto. Carl and I performed as the duo Bruxism for the first time in a few years. At the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, we premiered Carl’s new theater piece, "Spectra", for soprano, electronics, and lights, and at Somewhere There in Toronto we did a fully improvised set with Carl on bass. That was a first for us, and it went really well. It’s amazing how improvisation can remain alive between musicians who have worked closely together, even after months or years of being apart or working on more structured music.

This past week was something of a Wesleyan marathon for me. On Monday, I made my conducting debut (and also sang) with the Anthony Braxton Large Ensemble. Wednesday, I got to take part in the Braxton Small Ensemble for the first time, performing Braxton’s Falling River and Ghost Trance music. Both concerts featured a really nice mix of undergrads, grad students, alumni, and non-Wesleyan musicians. On Thursday, I sang Tyshawn Sorey’s “This” for his graduate recital. “This” kicked my ass last Fall, and I welcomed the chance to do it again with more rehearsals!

Please check out the Schedule page for upcoming performances. As you’ll see, some details remain to be worked out for a couple of the Broadcloth shows. You’ll also notice two duo performances with other vocalists. One is with acclaimed jazz/experimental singer, Kyoko Kitamura, and the other is a straight-up classical recital with fellow coloratura soprano Zohra Rawling. In addition to the occasional opera chorus or church soloist gig, I try to do a classical recital every two or three years, partly to help maintain the technical and musical foundation that influences my improvisation and experimental music, and partly because, despite a conflicted relationship with classical singing, I have never fallen out of love with opera and art song repertoire.

Finally, I just want to mention that I’ve started a music criticism blog, www.SoundRat.net, which features reviews of live performances of experimental, improvised, and electronic music, primarily in the New Haven area. I noticed that new music outside of Yale isn’t getting much journalistic attention (and some would argue that the majority of what’s happening at Yale isn’t all that “new”), which is a shame because there’s a lot of good stuff happening around here, thanks in great part to Carl’s Uncertainty Music Series, which provides a platform for local experimental musicians as well as bringing in some great people from NYC and elsewhere, and the Hartford Sound Alliance, which provides a similar service to the Hartford area.

Happy Springtime, and don't forget to support live local music!


take your time series featured in new york times

Tiffany Hopkins/Solo-me Films

Check out this article in the New York Times!

Take your Time is an interdisciplinary peroformance series founded by dancer Rachel Bernsen, along with Carl Testa, founder and curator of New Haven's Uncertainty Music Series (not to mention composer, multi-instrumentalist, and devoted husband). For first installment of the series, and Carl and Rachel presented work along with cornetist/composer Taylor Ho Bynum and bagpiper/composer Matt Welch. I performed in some of the pieces, as did Broadcloth trio (Adam Matlock, Nathan Bontranger, and I). We will reprise some of these performaces on October 29, and Taylor will also present some new work with vocalist Kyoko Kitamura, and Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Pete Fitzpatrick will perform from his Falcatross songbook. On the 30th, Playwright and poet Aaron Jafferis will offer a first look at his new hip-hop theater and choreographers Emily Coates and Lacina Coulibaly will present a New Haven premiere of a new work-in-progress, Ici Ou Ailleurs/Here Or Anyplace Else.

Last springs performances was an incredibly special evening. This next installment promise to be even more varied and exciting!


time to start singing again

Carl and I have spent most of our time this summer in the process of buying and moving into our first house (in wich we have plenty of space to practice any hour of the day or night, and a very comfortable guest room for friends and colleagues passing through the area). We are finally settled in, and are both feeling a ready to get back down to business with our music.

This Monday I'll be plunging in with a solo set at The Local 269, on Fay Victor's Evolving Voice series. I'll be doing some improv -- solo improv is something I've sorely neglected in the past -- as well as one or two peices I commisioned a few years ago. Carl will be joining me on bass and bass clarinet for a couple pieces.  Since June, 2009, Fay has curated this weekly(!) series dedicated to experimental vocal music, providing NYC area singers and their colleagues a valuable opportunity to showcase their work in a supportive setting. I feel so fortunate to have met Fay this past spring, when we both sang on the recording of Anthony Braxton's opera Trillium E.

Other projects for the Fall: a classical recital with fellow coloratura soprano Zohra Rawling, to be performed in New Haven as well as, possibly, my home state of Maine; composer Barry Serroff is paying me the great honor of writing me a song cycle, to be performed with a chamber group of New Haven Improvisors Collective members; my beloved improv trio, Broadcloth, (with Nathan Bontrager and Adam Matlock) will be pursuing more performance opportunities, including a performance at the Kehler Liddell gallery as part of the Westville Open Studios on Oct. 2, and a possibly Pennsylvania mini-tour.

And more!



duo album with anthony braxton now available from leo records!

Anthony Braxton and I recorded this 2-CD set in 2007. It's voice, saxophones (soprano, contrabass, and a couple of the ones in between), and some beautiful Supercollider electronics that Anthony programed. The primary compositions, 330 and 340, are both Accelerator Ghost Trance pieces, from which we move into free improv and Language Improvisation, as well as secondary compositions including excerpts from (if memory serves) the opera Trillium R.

You can purchase the CDs or downloads at Leo Records. Enjoy!


braxton/rhodes duo album to be released

The first post on this blog is about a duo recording I did with Anthony three years ago. If all goes according to plan, the recording will be released on two CDs by the Leo lable in May. Imagine my delight when Anthony surprised me with this news at our first Trillium E rehearsal!



trillium e videos

Today we recorded Act IV. Here are 3 videos from today and 1 from yesterday. The the picture quality isn't great, but the content is totally worth checking out!

Michael Douglas Jones as the Genie Arthro in Act I. He encourages Harold and Effie to think beyond the scope of their experience when requesting the fullfilment of their 5.3 wishes.


Act IV. When they try to enter the pyramid, the explorers are chased by the giants who guard the entrance and Dr. Wallingford is trampled to death. Check out Anthony and Carl getting into character!


The explorers, mourning the loss of their leader, Dr. Wallingford, proceed into the Temple of Ghoras 4. As they forge ahead, they hear the ole' Collingswood alma mater.


At the end of the opera, the orchestra plays the Trillium Melody E several times before passing it off to the Master Centurion (Josh Sinton, bass clarinet), who carries it away.


trillium e recording: pictures from day 1

We recorded Act 1 today at Systems Two recording studio in Brooklyn. My most dreaded high note (a B on the word "catalooooooooooooooooooooooogs!", a really funny moment in the opera) is out of the way. I managed not screw it up completely on any of the three takes of that section.

Anthony seems delighted with how everything went. I've never heard a group this size play his music so well, and it feels like I'm discovering his orchestration for the first time. There are some sections of improvisation for the orchestra, and it's all I can do not to jump in and start improvising with them. The players for this project were selected not only for their chops and musicianship but also for their creativity and improvising skills. The result is astounding. Let nobody say that free improv is for slackers!

Anthony in the recording booth. Behind him in red is the recording engineer, Jon Rosenberg.

The orchestra, as seen from the isolation booth (that handsome young bass player in the green T-shirt is Carl Testa).

Up in the isolation booth, tenor Nick Hallet smiles for the camera, as baritone Chris DiMeglio and soprano Kyoko Kitamura look down at the orchestra.

Singer-songwriter Amy Crawford, a member of the production team, relaxes at the piano during a break.

Lunch break on the curb: Matt Welch (production team) Katie Young (contrabassoon), and Jessica Pavone (viola)

A horn fountain at Systems Two.


pictures from trillium e rehearsals

Rehearsals for the recording of Anthony Braxton's opera Trillium E are going great. It's been over a week of 8-hour rehearsal days, and each day has flown by. I'm having so much fun I don't even realize how hard we're working until the end of the day, when I fall asleep as soon as I sit down.

Each of the 12 characters in the opera is portrayed not only by a singer but also by an improvising solo instrumentalist. Here are some pictures from this weekend's rehearsals, when the instrumentalists first joined us. You can see a complete list of personel here.

Anthony and Taylor Ho Bynum conducting

Instrumental soloists: Nicole Mitchel, Leah Paul, Reut Regev, Nate Wooley, Jay Rozen, Salim Washington, Dave Kadden, Matt Bauder, Daniel Blake

Singers: Kamala Sankaram, Nick Hallet, Stan Scott, Richard Harper, Wesley Chinn

Matt Welch, Tomeka Reid

Taylor, Michael Douglas Jones




video of broadcloth live at the stone

Thanks to Kinan Faham for videotaping our show at The Stone this past Sunday. He's divided it into clips of the 5 separate pieces we played. There are also some short interlude pieces in between, and Kinen started clips 2-5 with each of those. Intruductus is below, and you can view the rest here. We had some killin' radiator accompaniment during In Stitches.

As you can see, the inside of The Stone is in black and white. I know! Weird, right?


maestro willie's bohème at new britain symphony orchestra (with ray!)

Those of you who, like me, are still mourning the loss Connecticut Opera won't want to miss La Bohème on March 27th with the New Britain Symphony Orchestra. This concert performance will be conducted by CT Opera's beloved longtime artistic director, Willie Anthony Waters.

I have the good fortune to be singing in the chorus (along with other former members of the CT Opera Chorus, as well as members of the Hartford Chorale), under the able direction of chorus master, and dear friend, Ray Calderon. Since appearing as a member of the CT Opera Chorus numerous times during his college days at the Hartt School, this talented young conductor/tenor has embarked on an extremely promising career in the NYC area, and we are delighted to have him back for this engagment!


trillium e

My big project for this month is rehearsing and recording as a principle singer in Anthony Braxton's opera Trillium E.

I know! AWESOME.

I couldn't be more honored or excited to be a part of this. Not only is working with Anthony one of the most rewarding experiences a musician can have, but this particular project seamlessly merges my own musical personalities -- new music singer, opera singer, improvisor, experimental vocalist -- in a meaningful way. It will also be a rare chance to work with other vocalists who are interested in experimental music and improvisation (and who aren't afraid of a few polyrythms!).

Braxton's operas have 12 stock characters who appear in different roles from act to act. Each character is shadowed by an improvising solo instrumentalist.  So, he has assembled a company of 24 performers dedicated to the performace of these works. The recording of Trillium E (with 40-piece orchestra) will most likely be the first of many projects for this amazing group.

I would venture to say that the coming together of this ensemble is a historic event that could have a profound impact on the music world.

More to come!


user (in absentia)

This past December, Rachel Bernsen, Carl Testa, and I performed Rachel's piece "User" at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn. The piece involves structured sound and movement improvisation (amidst spotlights) for dancer, bass, and voice. When Rachel got an opportunity to perform the piece again in February, this time for Movement Research at Judson Memorial Church in NYC, I was unable to make it. Rachel re-worked the piece for two dancers and bass, and I pre-recorded the voice piece in her living room, to be played along with the performance. I think it came out really well. Here's the video:


this just in: musician loves day job

Below are some NY Times articles about Oral History, American Music, where I am the new research archivist. The first article is from 1997, and there have been some changes since then, including a lovely new space and inclusion in Yale's library system (hence the creation of my current position):

The Masters' Voices

The Flip Side of American Music

Needless to say, I am in incredible company.


my day job just got way closer to my calling

Exciting news: I've just accepted a position as the Research Archivist for the Oral History of American Music (OHAM) collection at Yale.

For the past three years, I've worked full-time as a copy-cataloger at Yale while also working online towards a Master of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois (yes, that did get very hectic along with my music career). Why pursue an MLIS when I already have a Master's degree in music, as well as job in academia which provides numerous perks (including medical care for my husband and I)? Well, the main reason was so that I could be eligible for higher paying academic library jobs, which might in turn allow me to work part-time and devote more of my life to music.  Another reason was so that I could be eligible for MORE jobs, and thus increase my chances of working in a music library or collection, so that my day job might really be meaningful to me. I'm not quite done with my degree (four weeks to go), and imagine my delight at having already found a position that meets both criteria!

The position is part-time, and the collection features interviews and recorded memoirs of American composers, some of whom I have worked and studied with. As you may know, I wrote my Master's thesis on collaborating with composers. Needless to say, this collection is of great interest to me. In fact, I feel pretty silly for not having known about it when I was writing my thesis!

Logistics and interests aside, I have to admit that being offered a professional position -- this will pretty much be the first time my job title won't have the word "assistant" in it -- in the field of music librarianship (not to mention at an Ivy League institution) is very affirming. It makes me feel that my hopes and plans have been realistic, and that I have made some good choices about what to study and how to approach my career. It's also great to know that my "useless" music degrees carried as much weight as, if not more than, my library degree in making me qualified for this job.


dear anybody,

pls to be giving me a vocoder.



advice from miss manners

A friend just sent me the Miss Manners post below.  I'm not sure why some people feel like it's OK to ask questions about the money we make (or don't make) as artists and musicians; I feel sure the same people wouldn't say, "Oh, flipping burgers huh? Bet that doesn't pay much!" And I always cringe at the way their faces fall when I tell them I have a day job...as if this must mean I'm not very good at what I do. Sometimes I think the only sort of response that would give me any credibility would be something like, "I am employed at the National Music Corporation as Chief Executive Soprano in charge of Staccati and Cadenzas."

Dear Miss Manners:

I am a professional artist. I show my work frequently and sell many

pieces. However, like many independent artists, I don't make as much

money as others in regular, full-time employment. I am very lucky to

have a supportive spouse helping to cover expenses.

When I tell people I am a full-time artist, they often ask if I make

enough money to support myself. I usually answer truthfully, saying

no, or not yet, and adding that my spouse helps support me.

I am aware that how much money I earn is nobody's business and I am

not obliged to answer these questions at all. I would much appreciate

any suggestions for deflecting them -- politely, of course.

Miss Manners answers:

"Yes, it's a sure road to easy riches. You should try it."