Collaborative curation and eclectic electronics
I’m at a concert. On stage is the unlikely combination of a violinist, beatboxer, and a guy who looks like he stepped off a Tim Burton set, wielding a harmonica and a loudhailer, who raps at the top of his lungs, “I LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY!!!” Moments before, I witnessed a glass harmonica player accompanying a trio of guys rolling heavy marbles in giant bowls. Sure, I’m up two martinis and a couple of Advil I took for a cold I’ve been trying to beat (with martinis and Advil), but I suspect that even if I was as ascetic as a monk I’d come to the same conclusion: this is genius.
The mad-scientist/composer behind this spectacle is Sxip Shirey, and this, on May 1st, is his birthday concert. To help him celebrate, he has acquired a group of incredibly talented musicians who, like him, are fringe-dwelling paragons of eclecticism. Two of these multifariously gifted performers are ACF members Todd Reynolds and Val Jeanty (who perform under the pseudonym Val-Inc). Although ostensibly quite different – American-born Reynolds is a violinist, whilst Jeanty is a percussionist/turntablist from Haiti – both are musical chameleons who skillfully utilize electronics in their work. Reynolds and Jeanty, along with a number of other unique performers, worked with Shirey to produce a concert that is less about straight composition and more about collaborative curation.
“More and more these days artists are using curation as a form of expression,” Reynolds says, himself no stranger to collaborative curation as a means to create unique concerts, having invited Shirey to work with him on a concert in August last year in which they opened for Laurie Anderson. As Reynolds says, this approach creates shows that “bring together artists of apparently disparate styles to make something together that is greater than the sum of its parts”.
For Jeanty, this approach goes beyond the obvious interaction on stage between musicians. She suggests that a collaborative, curatorial approach to concert programming will result in connection between the performers that “is more spiritual than physical.” She goes on to say “I learn more when I’m collaborating with other creative beings. The collaborative process I undertook with Sxip was an extremely spiritual experience”.
Photo: Val Jeanty and Todd Reynolds. Credit: Timothy Hansen.
It is little wonder that Reynolds and Jeanty were invited by Shirey to collaborate with him on his birthday concert. Both artists are skilled manipulators of electronic sounds, and both agree that electronics offer a solo musician options that just aren’t available with purely acoustic instruments. “Incorporating electronics allows me to stretch and grow,” says Jeanty. “They are only the physical aspects of my music but they are such useful tools.” Reynolds, a self-proclaimed “geek since my early days”, was “attracted to the seemingly infinite possibilities of creating sound and music” with electronic elements.
The results of this collaborative electronic effort are pretty darn amazing. It’s part music, part living acoustic environment. When Jeanty, Reynolds and Shirey share the stage one feels like something is being created before your ears – something that no one, not even the performers, has heard before.
Photo (top): Sxip Shirey and Todd Reynolds. Credit: Timothy Hansen.
Contributed by Timothy Hansen >>