Here's what we've been up to...
Resonant Bodies Festival enjoyed a year of exponential growth and discovery in the 2017-18 season! We presented two festivals (one in a new city!), released 24 new podcast episodes featuring RBF artist interviews, and held one new artist residency (Watershed Lab at Mount Tremper Arts). Along the way, we've had some pretty exciting developments:
NEW YORK CITY
September 5th-7th, 2017, at Roulette Intermedium
With the generous support of New Music USA and the Impact Fund cohort, we gathered with audiences on September 5-7 at Roulette for our fifth-annual festival of contemporary vocal music. This milestone event featured nine extraordinary contemporary vocal artists presenting repertoire curated exclusively by them for the festival: on night one, audiences experienced avant-jazz legend Theo Bleckmann performing selections from his Songs of Color and Black and White, followed by Irish composer/performer Jennifer Walshe presenting The Church of Frequency & Protein with International Contemporary Ensemble. The night concluded with bass-baritone Davóne Tines’s long-form arrangement of various spirituals, Were You There. This opening night of the 2017 Festival was “an immersion in experimental vocal music...as artist-focused as a festival gets” (The New York Times).
The following night brought even more experimentation, both musical and scientific: the evening opened with Hai-Ting Chinn demonstrating various scientific phenomena in excerpts from Science Fair: An Opera with Experiments. New-music legend Joan La Barbara then offered a preview of her opera-in-progress, The River Also Changes. Finally, Odeya Nini “made the strongest case for the voice as a part of the entire body” (Seen and Heard International) in A Solo Voice. The second night of RBF 2017 certainly “test[ed] the range of human creativity” (Seen and Heard International).
Closing night began with soprano Mary Bonhag giving luminous performances of Kaija Saariaho’s Changing Light, Joseph Schwantner’s Two Poems of Agueda Pizarro, and Lembit Beecher’s Looking at Spring: Meditations on Aging. The stratospheric soprano/composer Kamala Sankaram premiered her piece for voice and electronics, Ololyga, followed by a collection of works by Gilda Lyons, Pat Muchmore, and even an appearance by her Yma Sumac cover band, Bombay Rickey. Closing out RBF 2017, Kayleigh Butcher offered a wide variety of new works, including the world premieres of Cara Haxo’s Apple Butter, Sivan Cohen Elias’s A Is Term In History Of in Form While, and Andrew Tham’s HOW TO BOOK.
April 6th-8th, 2018, at Constellation
A core tenet of Resonant Bodies Festival’s mission is to expand the audience for contemporary vocal music, as well as to bring together a global community of contemporary vocalists. RBF made a huge leap in the direction of fulfilling these goals in April 2018, with the inaugural production of Resonant Bodies Festival: Chicago. Partnering with Constellation Chicago—a venue already well-known for its adventurous programming—RBF drew on the vibrant new-music community in Chicago for an “exhilarating plunge into the wilder corners of experimental vocal music” (Chicago Classical Review).
The festival began with the world premiere of Jenna Lyle’s Louise, featuring a Sonic Fabric Garment invented by Alyce Santoro and designed by Scarlet Le.
Nina Dante—soprano, improviser, and cofounder of Fonema Consort—performed pieces by Stratis Minakakis and Pablo Chin, as well as the world premiere of her improvisatory piece El canto mio es un grito. Night one concluded with Alejandro T. Acierto performing the Chicago premiere of his Cavities I-IV and the world premiere of Transmit 4.x.
New-music champion Tony Arnold kicked off the second night of RBF Chicago, featuring the world premiere of Amy Williams’s Fünf Worte and a performance of Olivier Messiaen’s Chants de Terre et de Ciel, orchestrated by Cliff Colnot and performed alongside members of International Contemporary Ensemble and the University of Michigan’s Contemporary Directions Ensemble. Soprano Sophia Burgos presented the world premiere of Andrew Haig’s Canto X, bringing “rich, luminous color to Haig’s sonic exploration of various languages” (Chicago Classical Review). Concluding the evening was Amanda DeBoer Bartlett—soprano and director of Omaha Under the Radar—offering several songs for voice and guitar (performed with her Hasco Duo partner Jesse Langen), amidst performances of Pascal Dusapin’s Two Walking and Lori Reckling’s Petrichor.
The final RBF Chicago concert opened with legendary vocal experimentalist Pamela Z, featuring a collection of her cutting-edge works for voice and electronics. Flutronix and Eighth Blackbird member Nathalie Joachim followed with excerpts of her new piece (commissioned by St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series), Fanm d’Ayiti for voice, flute, string quartet, and electronics. Newly a Chicago local, Jessie Marino wrapped up the Chicago Festival with a wildly eclectic set of her works, including 2 Short Songs About Love and Death and People Who Steal Cats, Shirtology - Karaoke Version, and the world premiere of A Pause.
Between the 2017 NYC Festival and the 2018 Chicago Festival, RBF artists presented 73 works of contemporary vocal music, with 19 of these being world premieres. An unprecedented 49% of the total 73 works were written by female composers, conveying the growing enthusiasm with which contemporary vocal artists are programming works by this historically underrepresented demographic. In addition to the two festivals, RBF also produced 24 new episodes of Resonant Bodies Podcast—nearly triple the number of episodes produced in past seasons. Finally, the success of this past season has set the precedent for years of growth to come: more inaugural festivals are planned for Sydney (August 31-September 1, 2018) and Los Angeles (February 2019), with even more international festivals on the docket for future years. Resonant Bodies Festival is unendingly grateful to New Music USA and the Impact Fund for their support, without which all these new ventures would be impossible.