Wednesday, March 30th, 2022
Today American Composers Forum (ACF) announces the first collection of recording projects selected through a panel process for its in-house record label, innova Recordings. A national call issued in December 2021 launched innova’s new business model aimed at making the process of visioning, producing, and releasing recordings more inclusive and accessible to artists. Multi-year lead support from the Elizabeth & Michel Sorel Charitable Organization enables the artists who identify as women and nonbinary individuals to be supported on the label and provides additional funding to facilitate work with recording venues and producers from underrepresented genders*.
Applicants were invited to submit projects at any stage of recording, and were offered the opportunity to seek guidance on the application process and their project. Eight recording projects were selected from a pool of 156 applications. The cohort is made up of 62% individuals identifying as an underrepresented gender and 70% as Black, Indigenous, Person of Color (BIPOC). The artist leads are (see details below): Alexa Dexa, Anil Çamci, Ayanna Woods, J.E. Hernández, a group consisting of Melanie Dyer/Todd Capp/Anna Gruman/Kurt Ralske, Music Research Strategies LLC, Shara Lunon, and thingNY (Rick Burkhardt, Gelsey Bell, Andrew Livingston, Paul Pinto, Erin Rogers, Dave Ruder, Jeffrey Young). The panel of curators were Olivia Shortt, Nina Shekhar, Darian Donovan Thomas, and Sarah Hennies. On April 25, 2022 innova will invite another round of applications (previous applicants not selected may apply again).
“We are delighted to be working with these incredible new artists. I’m pleased that every step of the process remains open to thought partners, curators, and sound makers of all kinds. The selected artists have a wide range of experiences and approaches to sound, and we are ready to share our network of affiliates and to leverage our expertise as an established label. We’re looking forward to impactful partnerships and the development of these great projects,” shares ACF’s Director of Recordings Chris Campbell.
“Artists need recordings of their work for it to exist and be shared,” says Wende Persons, Managing Director of the Sorel Organization. “This is important for the visibility of many whose voices are not being heard and recognized for their creativity. With the Sorel Organization’s mission to advance gender and racial equity to expand the contemporary classical canon, and by partnering with American Composers Forum and innova Recordings, we want to help open the doors to more women composers and artists through this important project to record – and champion – new, inspiring works.”
WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT INNOVA’S NEW MODEL?
- There is no fee to apply or be on the label.
- Artists receive distribution, licensing, promotion, and maintain ownership of their music plus 100% of sales profits.
- Artists receive support from innova for both the production and promotion of their music at no cost at every step of the process.
- Artists are onboarded as a cohort with facilitated guidance from innova and connection to ACF’s large artist community.
- ACF/innova provides introductions and referrals to a broad affiliate network interested in supporting diverse artists, including mixing/mastering, design, videographers, public relations and marketing, recording studio time, and physical manufacturing.
- Naxos distributes recordings and works with multiple streaming platforms and media partners to ensure visibility.
ACF Executive Director, Vanessa Rose, says “ACF and innova are proud to facilitate this opportunity for aspiring recording artists. Thanks to the partnership of the Sorel Organization, we can highlight the gender disparity that exists on recordings and within the recording industry while supporting a myriad of diverse musical approaches and identities.” In addition to the support from ACF’s annual fund, innova Recordings receives endowed support from The McKnight Foundation.
*Examples of Underrepresented genders: People who identify as cis women, trans women, trans men, two-spirit, non-binary, gender fluid, gender non-conforming, and genderqueer among other gender identities.
ARTISTS AND PROJECT DESCRIPTIONS
Alexa Dexa (they/them) is a xXgrandmacoreXx, queer, femme non-binary, and Disabled composer-performer creating rituals that honor Disabled briliance and belonging. Alexa is a crafter and caster of songspells, which they define as intentions holding space for dream possibilities that manifest transformation as we listen. Using music as a tool of transformative care, they cast songspells with their voice, a toychestra to rival a playpen, and electronics.
Project description: Made by and for Disabled folx in bed, Dreaming Our Futures & Embodying Our Dreams: A Crip Ritual is an accessibility centered dream ritual for immersing ourselves in dream space, recording the messages that meet us, and mapping the waking possibilities of our dreams and our power to embody them. This project is supported by the Sorel Organization.
Anil Çamci (he/him) is a composer, multimedia artist, and professor of Performing Arts Technology at the University of Michigan. His work explores the concept of worldmaking across a range of media from electronic music to Virtual Reality, and has been featured around the world in leading symposia. His book “The Cognitive Continuum of Electronic Music” has been released by Bloomsbury in 2022.
Project description: Ten works of electronic music from a ten-year period: an ode to synthesis. Dekagon is a journey into sonic worldmaking with each piece leveraging a different synthesis tool or technique from custom designs to timeless classics. As spectrum, dynamics, space, and time become continuous dimensions of musical articulation, Dekagon moves the listener back and forth between the physical reality of their listening environment and an implied universe grounded in sound.
AYANNA WOODS/YADDA YADDA
Ayanna Woods/Yadda Yadda (she/they) is a Grammy-nominated performer, composer and bandleader from Chicago. Her music explores the spaces between acoustic and electronic, traditional and esoteric, wildly improvisational and mathematically rigorous.
Project description: Yadda Yadda is the songwriting project of Ayanna Woods. Emerging from a creative process that is equal parts journal, playground, and laboratory, the Yadda Yadda EP is a rush of funky, far-reaching R&B that may make you shed a tear or twerk in the mirror (or both). Featuring contributions from hometown collaborators like Macie Stewart (OHMME) and Eddie Burns (Clairo) alongside New Music powerhouses like Andy Akiho, this debut promises to be as expansive as it is personal. This project is supported by the Sorel Organization.
J.E. Hernández (he/him) is a Mexican-born composer and cinematographer focusing on elevating personal and cultural narrative through his work. J.E.’s music has been featured by distinguished ensembles and organizations such as the Kennedy Center for the Arts, Houston Grand Opera, American Opera Project, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, American Composers Forum, the Brazil National Orchestra, and in a wide variety of films, both in the United States and abroad.
Project description: Featuring music, dance, and film, my multi-disciplinary program, Voces Fantasmas is a haunting and visceral tribute to immigrants detained by ICE. The program is inspired by Hernandez’s experiences in the Houston ICE detention facility – where he spent 60 days detained from August 4th to October 3rd, 2013 – and honors those who have since become no more than phantom voices in his memory.
MELANIE DYER/TODD CAPP/ANNA GRUMAN/KURT RALSKE
Melanie Dyer (she/her)/Todd Capp (he/him)/Anna Gruman (she/her)/Kurt Ralske (all pronouns) is a collective that plays improvised music, rooted in free jazz, art music, and international traditional styles. Their work is built around a single principle: true collective improvisation is a form of democracy-in-action. Their thoughtful sounds reflect the wide diversity of the members’ backgrounds: Todd Capp’s ‘60s-era collaborations with members of the free jazz collective the AACM; Melanie Dyer’s work with Sun Ra Arkestra and William Parker; Anna Gruman’s immersion in the folk styles of Reggio Emilia; and Kurt Ralske’s ‘90s dream-pop outfit Ultra Vivid Scene.
Project Description: Todd Capp / Melanie Dyer / Anna Gruman / Kurt Ralske’s “Unlikelihood”, their forthcoming recording of collectively improvised music, ranges from contemplative trance-inducing drones to fiery free-jazz “energy music.” This project is supported by the Sorel Organization.
MUSIC RESEARCH STRATEGIES, LLC
Music Research Strategies, LLC an independent, US-based Arts platform created by Marshall Trammell (he/him) and devoted to interculturally-situated interventions in the status quo, Creative Music and folkloric performance and community archives formations. Interventions include a Black Amnesia and Indigenous Justice, Indexical Moment/um, Ebonics Native Land Acknowledgement, Warrior Ethos/Warrior Ecologies and collaborations with like-minded artists in collective band projects such as In Defense of Memory, White People Killed Them. This work is supported by Eastside Arts Alliance, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Borealis Festival, Bergen Kjott. SIGE Records, SF Exploratorium, SF Contemporary Jewish Museum, ProArts Gallery and COMMONS, Prelinger Library, Amant Foundation, Intercultural Leadership Institute, John Brennan, West Front Society, Yucca Valley Material Lab, Ofd Lomas, Rauschenberg Foundation, Charlotte Street Foundation, MAKA Dance Theatre and other fine and exciting people and institutions.
Project description: Ebonics Native Land Acknowledgement (ENLA): Deep Phonology is a four-part performing political education pedagogy and sonic intervention from Music Research Strategies’ series on Black Amnesia and Indigenous Justice investigations. This iteration takes place at East Side Arts Alliance, located at 2277-E14 in Oakland, CA incorporating an in-person, collective reading of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) by African/Black-identified people living, breathing, organizing and consuming resources on this land, this North American continent, for digital documentation. The sonic artifact will be transformed by the artist and audio engineer through a multi-tracked, electro-acoustic, site-tuning process activating the resonant frequencies of the internal architecture of this activist performance space by reintroducing digital iterations of the reading back into the room repeatedly over a period of time. Creative Music percussionist Marshall Trammell will, then, apply his Warrior Ethos/Warrior Ecologies performance technique for bass drum, snare drum, hi-hat and cowbell resulting in a new audio artifact. Finally, mastering and distribution through the gracious support of the American Composers Forum/Innova Recordings National Network and beyond.
Shara Lunon (she/they) is the product of the evolution of Black American musical traditions. As a poet, vocalist, composer, and improviser, her art finds the ethereal in the chaotic. With voice as the foundation, Shara’s music is an exploration of text and sound that seamlessly weaves through the ceaseless relationship of struggle, resilience, and resolution. Her goal is to challenge lassitude, and in its place, instill hope.
Project description: ALIEN explores otherness through an interactive visual and audio narrative of an extraterrestrial’s journey to Earth. Studying Black American history depicted through media, the alien reflects on the Black American experience and investigates ideas of nourishment, purity, and resilience in relation to the contemporary social context of race. This project is supported by the Sorel Organization.
thingNY is a collective of composer-performers who fuse electronic and acoustic chamber music with new opera, improvisation, theater, text, song and installation. Founded in 2006, thingNY performs experimental works created by the core ensemble – alejandro t. acierto, Gelsey Bell (she/her), Isabel Castellvi, Andrew Livingston (he/him), Paul Pinto (he/him), Erin Rogers (she/her), Dave Ruder (he/him), and Jeffrey Young (he/him) – and by adventurous composers such as Jennifer Walshe, Robert Ashley, Rick Burkhardt, Pauline Oliveros, Julius Eastman, and Jessie Marino. thingNY has put out two previous albums on Gold Bolus Recordings and collaboratively created works such as subtracTTTTTTTTT, This Takes Place Close By, Dear Nancine, and ADDDDDDDDD.
Project description: “He has been given the assignment to write down, on a pile of one hundred notecards, moments of joy he has experienced over the course of his life.” So begins the first story about “our friend” in Rick Burkhardt’s PASSOVER, a performance-ritual for a sextet of speaking-and-singing instrumentalists. Written specifically for thingNY’s unique blend of chamber music, theatre, and improvisation, this tabletop work relates stories of escape (from a bad marriage, from an unfair situation at work, from a run-in with a traffic cop) while instruments are traded and passed around a surreally-set table. The result is a meticulously pieced-together mosaic of ritual, storytelling, and sound.
ABOUT AMERICAN COMPOSERS FORUM
ACF supports and advocates for individuals and groups creating music today by demonstrating the vitality and relevance of their art. We connect artists with collaborators, organizations, audiences, and resources. Through storytelling, publications, recordings, hosted gatherings, and industry leadership, we activate equitable opportunities for artists. We provide direct funding and mentorship to a broad and diverse field of music creators, highlighting those who have been historically excluded from participation.
Founded in 1973 by composers Libby Larsen and Stephen Paulus as the Minnesota Composers Forum, the organization continues to invest in its Minnesota home while connecting artists and advocates across the United States, including its territories and the sovereign Native nations. ACF frames our work with a focus on racial equity and includes within that scope, but does not limit it to: diverse gender identities, musical approaches and perspectives, religions, ages, (dis)abilities, cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and broad definitions of being “American.” Visit www.composersforum.org for more information.
ABOUT INNOVA RECORDINGS
innova Recordings serves the needs of original, visionary, creative musicians by offering artistic and technical guidance throughout the recording and publication process; amplifying the reach of new musical ideas through access to our marketing and distribution networks; and actively working together to maximize professional impact. Together, we champion a curated body of diverse and compelling American musical voices to the listening public.
ABOUT THE SOREL ORGANIZATION
The Elizabeth & Michel Sorel Charitable Organization Inc., a 501©(3) private foundation, was established in 1996 by pianist Claudette Sorel and named for her parents. The Sorel Organization (www.SorelMusic.org) is committed to expanding opportunities for women in music, amplifying the voices of underrepresented composers, advancing gender and racial equity, and broadening the classical music canon for future generations.