Sunday, July 20th, 2014
By Will Wlizlo
Nona Marie Invie getting some good vibes from members of Anonymous Choir.
Some music is born on a hard bench in a piano lesson studio. Other sounds are teased out of the ether in a geodesic dome in Costa Rica. Nona Marie Invie’s latest project comes from both places—and it has both the rigor and ephemeral qualities of both modes of composition.
But FUGITIVE, Invie’s MECA-funded electronic composition project, is more than just an assemblage of celestial synthesizer tones and resonating vocals. It’s an opportunity for Invie to push her musical boundaries; shake up a stale and often ignored genre; and continue exploring place, setting, and situation as spurs for composition.
“I just wanted to explore synthesizer music and see what kinds of different things I could try out,” said Invie, who only started composing for electronics in the past three years. “I like all of the different tones that can come out of one instrument. It’s so different than playing an acoustic piano, which has built-in limitations. It’s fun to be able to play around with that after having a classical piano upbringing.”
That incremental play has led to FUGITIVE’s uniquely human-yet-electronic sound: one part Fennesz and one part Lhasa de Sela, one part monastery at vespers and one part early-morning yoga retreat.
Appropriately, a large component of the project is creating new sounds meant for the yoga studio. “I took some yoga at the YMCA,” she says, “and I felt that the music they were playing there was really weird. It sort of baffled me, the music choices that the instructor made. Was it intentional, or was it just a Pandora station?” While interested in and inspired by traditional Indian ragas, one of Invie’s goals with FUGITIVE is to mix up yoga culture on the auditory level.
“I know that when I try to do yoga or meditation,” she said, “my brain is buzzing with all these other things that I have to do, and so it’s nice if something can fill that space. It helps me to be able to focus more on connecting my body to the earth. FUGITIVE is a tool to deepen people’s yoga experience.”
In addition to changing the soundscape, she’s testing out the new material at nontraditional venues and events like Saint Paul’s Yoga Rocks the Park. “I get sick of playing music in bars all the time,” she said.
No surprise, as Invie has been spending her nights in rock bands since high school—Fallopian Jungle was an early punk experiment—and still holds major roles in groups like Dark Dark Dark, Anonymous Choir, and RONiiA. Which is to say, while currently focused on composing work for a meditative environment, she’s not blind to the demands of a beer-swilling crowd at 1 a.m.—and is working with co-Fugitive Fletcher Barnhill to craft vocals for the project with a more accessible edge.
As suggested above, FUGITIVE’s genesis came during a trip to Costa Rica with Barnhill. And part of the MECA grant will send the two to a modest yoga retreat in Tulum, Mexico. There, FUGITIVE will continue developing their sound and splice together recordings for a full-length release, slated to be distributed to yoga centers and studios across the country.
Balancing the kinetic impulses of dance music and soundscapes more typically heard in yoga studios and massage centers is no easy task. But both genres have this in common: they engage listeners no matter where they’re performed, whether it’s at a Lowertown park, a grimy rock bar, or an idyllic retreat in Latin America.