Winter Spotlight: Flat Foot Flatbush

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The last in a series of posts highlighting new and re-imagined parades for the 2014 Make Music Winter festival, coming up on Sunday December 21. 

Spotlight on: Flat Foot Flatbush

In June, Nick Horner & co. gathered the Old Time / Americana / Bluegrass community for an epic performance that became Porch Stomp. This winter, he’s calling upon this community once again. We sat down with Nick and his co-producer, Katie Cohen to talk about their Winter plans for Flat Foot Flatbush.

When did you first come across flat footing, and what drew you to this genre? Who are your favorite people / biggest influences in the scene?

Katie Cohen:  Growing up in West Virginia, I was always aware of flatfooting.  Old-time string band music was played informally at people’s houses, and there was a weekly jam at the local brewing company. I started playing fiddle when I was six years old, but I didn’t know anyone who called themselves a flatfooter. I’d see folks do a couple steps here and there, and performers gave demonstrations in elementary school assemblies. I even remember in high school, during an AP Government class, watching a video of Jesco White dancing (aka The Dancing Outlaw). What that had to do with the US Senate is anyone’s guess…

This past summer, I had the opportunity to spend time with some great dancers, including Charlie Burton and Ira Bernstein, at Clifftop String Band Festival, an old-time music festival held in West Virginia. We’d spend 6-7 hours a day dancing. All the while, older dancers would be telling stories–about great dancers they learned from, how their daddy did this or that step, about performing with Bascom Lamar Lunsford. These stories are just as much a part of the tradition as the steps; they tell us not only about the dance, but about how people used to live, work and play, where our traditions come from and how they’ve been passed down. Whether it’s steps or stories, this sense of sharing is intrinsic to flatfooting, and one of the reasons I love it.
 

Charlie Burton is a big influence for me. I’ve learned a lot from him while dancing and assisting him with workshops at festivals similar to Clifftop. Not only is he a good dancer, but he also has an incredibly deep knowledge of mountain dance.The geography of Appalachia makes it difficult for people to move around much — there’s a big difference in the distance as the crow flies and driving time through the hills. Each of these isolated areas developed their own flavor. Say there’s a really good dancer from Boone County, WV, like D.Ray White, then a lot of the dancers from around that area will share a similar style. Someone like Charlie, who has travelled around and visited a lot of these people at their homes, can tell you what step he learned from whom, and you can trace certain characteristics to where people came from before they immigrated to Appalachia, whether that’s the Deep South or Ireland. 

Nick Horner: I actually first experienced flatfooting at the Brooklyn Folk Festival while watching Anna Roberts-Gevalt performing in duo with Anna Laprelle. I remember being taken aback by both the physicality of the dance and the richness of the sound. Unlike traditional tap dancing, flatfooting just seemed a little more natural to me, and I thought it merited further exploration.  However, it wasn’t until I was watching some videos of jazz drummers tap dancing in duo each other that I got the idea to seek out a stepper to work into a project as a permanent addition.

What inspired you to create a parade around this concept?

NH: I approached Katie about the idea after our first or second session making music together in Brooklyn. It was obvious we had a great musical chemistry as well as a mutual desire to bring people together through music (which is at the heart of the Old Time music tradition) and I wanted to take it a step further. Katie and I met at Clifftop while shapenote singing out in the woods.  Clifftop is such an inspiring experience; a whirl of violins buzzing through the woods from 10 in the morning until 4 the next morning for a week straight. Music everywhere you turn, and always a jam to join or a new person to meet.  It’s a reminder that community is at the heart of this tradition, and something that would extend naturally into the Make Music world.  Why not bring a little of that community to the streets of downtown Brooklyn?

What can participants expect on December 21? Why does flatfooting lend itself to the parade format?

KC: Anyone can flatfoot! If you can walk, you can dance. There’s no age limit and no experience necessary. As long as you can walk, you can dance. Once you have a few basic steps, you can create something fun and interesting. For people who come from a dance background, it’s interesting to see how you can incorporate different genres within this style- from step dancing to rhythm tap to flamenco.

NH: Flatfooting is great for this setting because it’s almost as much percussion as it is dance. In the traditional setting, the leather on wood defines the rhythmic element of the music, giving the acoustic output equal importance to the aesthetic of the dance itself. Flatfooting also makes for great parading because it’s so rooted in improvisation. Once a person has the basic steps, they’re capable of doing a lot with them just by utilizing their own creativity.  Historically, flatfooting has drawn from a number of musical traditions and continues to do so today.

KC: Yeah, at its root, flatfooting is just about the different sounds you can make and how you fit them together.

Family Close UPWhat have been the most challenging and interesting elements about working on this project?

KCOne challenge has been explaining to potential participants what exactly flatfooting is. Flatfooting, like mountain dance, mountain tap, clogging, and buck dancing, is pretty foreign to most people. People are shy to try it — but once they realize it’s just listening to music and stomping in time, we have fun!  I’m excited by the opportunity to share Appalachia’s incredible history of immigration, community organizing, and living close to the land through this project. Moreover, I’m excited to dance with my recently adopted Brooklyn community and hopefully, build new visions and stories for the future.

NH: I’ve loved thinking through the logistics of this project. Obvious issues that have come up have included how to accompany the band (for instance, how to mobilize an acoustic bass let alone make it audible out next to a busy road) and the different ways of making sure anyone can get involved, regardless of experience. But we’re figuring it out! And it’s been great to have such wonderful support for this project. Anna Roberts-Gevalt is an astounding musician and the Jalopy Theater and School of Music has been so wonderful in offering us their space to use for our after party.

Any advice for participants joining us on December 21?

NH: Dress in layers, don’t be afraid to come and have fun even if you have no clue what Flatfooting is.

KC: During the workshop, we’ll have supplies to make your own tap shoes, so bring an old pair of sneakers!

 

 

 

 

Winter Spotlight: Village in Volume Celebrates “In C”

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The fifth in a series of posts highlighting new and re-imagined parades for the 2014 Make Music Winter festival, coming up on Sunday December 21. 

Spotlight on: Village in Volume Celebrates In C

Amy Garapic has been making music in Greenwich Village for Make Music Winter for three years. And folks have been performing Terry Riley’s now-iconic piece In Call over the world, for fifty. This year Amy’s back on December 21 — with an In C twist. Read on for details about a worldwide celebration of the piece with New York at the helm!

In C is one of the most iconic pieces of our musical generation. When / how did you first experience this piece?

I first experienced the piece through Eric Beach at the So Percussion Summer Institute in 2010.  There were multiple small groups that we could choose from and after learning a small amount about Terry Riley and listening to some of his drone music I was intrigued and curious to jump in and spend some time with In C.  We ended up performing the piece several times throughout the week in many different instrument combinations and time lengths and I was continuously fascinated with its ability to remain In C but become a completely different musical experience each time we played it.  It has since been one of my favorite pieces to put together!!

 

Be honest: how many times have you performed in a version yourself? What are the highlights?

As mentioned, we played it at least 10 times at SoSI, and I’ve probably played it another 20 times combining both performances and rehearsals/workshops in the last 4 years!

One of my most memorable performances was in Amman, Jordan where I workshopped the piece for a concert while there as a guest artist.  Most of the players in the ensemble had never heard of or seen a piece of music like this and it was a huge eye-opening and learning experience for everyone.  The group was made up of musicians from seven different countries and included Western and Middle Eastern instruments.  It was pure joy to share the stage with them. They will actually be one of the cities joining us in the Worldwide In C Celebration at www.worldwideinc.org, streaming live on December 21st, with over 30 other cities around the world!

Amy in Ammam, Jordan

Amy in Ammam, Jordan

What about In C makes you come back to it again and again? 

I actually did my Eastman School Masters Degree Oral Presentation/Examination on the history of In C, focusing on its educational application in teaching chamber music and improvisational skills. It is an amazing learning tool; a constant juxtaposition of musical ideas that create an ongoing conversation.  Some of these qualities include:

Western vs. Non western
Classical vs. Jazz
Improvised vs. Notated
Constrained vs. Free
Ordered vs. Open
Personal vs. Communal
and the list goes on and on!!

These dichotomies allow the piece to be reborn each time it is played, and also provide for a tremendous learning and listening experience no matter what kind of a musician you are.   Whether it is a slightly different instrumentation, tempo, or pace, each of the these factors allow the piece to feel new, fresh, and relative for both performers and listeners.

What makes this year’s version in NYC different from other versions?

This version of In C will be performed outdoors as we walk around Washington Square park.  I’m not sure that a mobile version has been done in the past, so that is a big one!  In addition, I am inviting any non-instrumentatlists or percussionists who are interested in playing to join in as pulse keepers playing 8th notes on c-tuned metal chimes normally designated to be played on piano (a distinctive characteristic of the work).

As 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the premiere of the piece, this event will also will also coincide with a day-long celebration of In C which can be viewed all day on the 21st at www.worldwideinc.org.  Here, musicians from around the world, in over 30 cities, will each live stream their own versions of the piece. From Thailand to LA, Russian to Argentina and many stops in between, In C lovers will join together to show their appreciation for this iconic global composition.

How did you come up with this idea? 

In 2012 I launched a similar initiative for Make Music New York “A Worldwide Day of Vexations” celebrating Erik Satie’s monumental work.  I gathered a community of vibraphone players from all over the globe who live streamed their 18-hour performances of the piece on June 21st.  The outpouring of support and excitement throughout organizing that event was so tremendous that I knew it would just be the beginning of many more worldwide events to come.  My deep love for In C made it a no brainer to include on the list of future global projects and the 50th anniversary seemed an especially perfect time to go for it!  It also makes for a great parade piece as you are only playing and repeating one cell at a time and our poster cells will help move the group both through the piece as well as along their path around the park.  My Make Music Winter parade Village in Volume has traditionally used tuned metal pipes in years past and these were a perfect addition for our pulses since a parading piano would not be possible.

You’re no stranger to performing music in unusual spaces. What’s interesting or challenging about this particular space?

One challenge about these outdoor parade events are intersections and street crossings!  Luckily, our path around the park is devoid of both which will help us keep our band safe and together.  Additionally, it can be tough to hear and enjoy the collective whole of a parading ensemble as members tend to spread out single file or two-by-two behind each other.  Because In C is really all about the collective sound of many cells in time, we will be processing more than parading, moving very slowly around the sidewalk allowing the musicians to really live in each cell that they are playing.

Any advice for participants joining us on December 21?

I would advise anyone who is interested in participating to take a listen to a variety of recordings and performances (like this awesome, interactive video with the Tate Modern and Africa Express!) that are available on the web and elsewhere.  Time and pulse are the most important thing to consider in keeping the band together and playing along with a recording is incredibly useful!

How to participate:

To sign up and receive more information for the performance please visit NYC Worldwide In C Sign Up.

Anyone wishing to mount their own performance in another city as a part of the worldwide stream should email Amy at amy@makemusicny.org

 

 

Winter Spotlight: Lightmotif

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The fourth in a series of posts highlighting new and re-imagined parades for the 2014 Make Music Winter festival, coming up on Sunday December 21. 

Spotlight on: Lightmotif

This year, Make Music Winter is heading to Queens to make music with the sun, inspired by the Long Island City sundial. Below, composer Hiroya Miura, whose previous Make Music Winter parades included projects with carillons, takes us through his 2014 idea – Lightmotif.

I love the introduction you give to winter – fuyu – and solstice traditions in Japan. What are your own earliest memories of these traditions?

The earliest memory that I have with solstice traditions actually has to do with food. Pumpkins (kabocha) are cooked and eaten on the solstice day in Japan.  Pumpkins are associated with fall traditions like Halloween and Thanksgiving in North America; but in the pre-modern times in Japan, there were not very many vegetables that could be harvested during the winter, so the people stored pumpkins for winter.  The other solstice tradition I remember is taking bath in water scented with Yuzu.  Yuzu is a fragrant citrus fruit primarily used for cooking in Japan, but its strong scent was believed to cleanse your spirit –as well as your body– in the beginning of the new solstice cycle.

What inspired you to write a piece based on the sun? 

As a composer, I think a lot about how I can go about organizing time in music.  The natural cycle of the sun is one of the most fundamental ways for humans to be aware of the passage of time, and learning about the Long Island City Sundial inspired me to create a musical structure based on the solar movement.

What is it about brass instruments that works for this piece? Do you often write for brass?

One quick answer is a practical one: brass instruments can cut through the street noises of New York.  Considering the history of brass instruments, I am intrigued by their associations with technology.  The history of brass instruments is perhaps shorter than other types of modern instruments, because the technology of casting brass is more complex than working with wood, strings, or skin.  It is no surprise that brass instruments were also used in battlefields, not only because they can be heard across the field, but also as a sign of technological prowess against the enemy.  As the ability to measure time was a sign of civilization, I think brass instruments –being the high-tech instruments– were naturally used to mark time in many cultures and traditions.

What is it like composing music for an outdoor parade — performed in the cold? Challenges? Opportunities? 

When I worked on Recordare, the piece I created for Make Music Winter in 2012, I initially thought that the noise level was an obstacle.  However, Lightmotif is a meditation on the environment – not only with regards to the changing of light and shadows – but also to the changing of the of sonic environment.  The two groups of musicians will be required to listen attentively while maintaining the distance over which they can hear each other.  Using this idea of maintaining the threshold of listening / physical distance in tandem with noise level, I am hoping to encourage participants to be aware of their surroundings.  About the cold weather, I am currently working on the route plan which would keep the musicians moving so that they can keep warm.  I will also bring portable heating pads for participants!

Any advice for participants joining us on December 21?

The music will be played from a set of simple prompts – it can be played by musicians at any skill level.  The only requirement is the open mind, and willingness to listen and react!

Winter Spotlight: Prelude

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The third in a series of posts highlighting new and re-imagined parades for the 2014 Make Music Winter festival, coming up on Sunday December 21. 

Spotlight on: Prelude

Composer James Holt has been a fixture on the Make Music Winter scene since the festival’s debut in 2011. In its first three years, he hosted Thru Line — a tag-team performance of the famous Prelude from J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G major…on the G train. This year, Bach is back — but in a new form. Read on for the backstory on James’ new parade for 2014, Prelude

What will Prelude participants experience on December 21?

When you participate in “Prelude” your experience will be like performing inside a harmonic wash of sound. The pitches and harmonies are drawn from the prelude movement of Bach’s first Cello Suite in G-major, but you don’t need to know that to be part of this performance – in fact, there’s no need to practice or even know how to read music! All you need is an instrument that can be played outside, a mobile device, and headphones. You’ll be told which pitch to play and when to play it, just follow the instructions from the app.

How did you come up with the format of this parade?

When I was asked to think of a new version of  Thru-Line (which was performed on the NYC subway system), I loved the chance to evolve it into something that was much more participatory and accessible to anyone who wanted to be involved. I’ve been a fan of pieces which have been stretched out to super-long lengths of time while still retaining their pitch, like Brian Eno’s Music for Airports stretched to 6-hours, and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony stretched to 24(!) hours. I thought it would be interesting to take the Bach prelude movement, which normally only lasts about two or three minutes in performance, and stretch it out to thirty minutes, and invite any group of voices or instruments to perform it live. The result isn’t something purely digital, this is live and physical, and different every time depending on who shows up to play.

You’ve been working with Bach’s Prelude for a long time now — what keeps you coming back? 

When I originally started working on this project in 2011, it was important to me that the music be immediately recognizable to people even if they had no idea that it was Bach. This piece is so well known it was even used in a credit card commercial a few years ago. Since “Prelude” is really an evolution of that project it only made sense to continue using it as the “thru-line” even if the piece is no longer called that.

You’re no stranger to composing music for unusual spaces. What’s interesting or challenging about this particular space?

Actually I feel like composing in this way is still new and challenging to me. Working with musicians on actual subway platforms and trains was a certain kind of challenge but, in previous years, the musicians were personally invited to participate and they mostly got to perform in a single location (and they had to practice the music!). This year, I’m asking people to walk and play at the same time, as well as opening it up to anyone with an instrument or a voice. I have a terrible voice, but I’ll be there playing along this year on my Melodica!

Is there anyway we can hear what this might sound like?

We did a kind of test-run earlier this year, here’s a short 2-minute excerpt that might give you an idea (but imagine there being many more people!).

Winter Spotlight: Kalimbascope

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The second in a series of posts highlighting new and re-imagined parades for the 2014 Make Music Winter festival, coming up on Sunday December 21. 

Spotlight on: Kalimbascope

This year, a brand new type of instrument is coming out for Make Music Winter: kalimbas! Composer JC King has created a magical, psychedelic parade in ode to the thumb piano, and you’re invited to join. Read on for details about one of this year’s proposal winners, Kalimbascope.

Kalimbas are something of a peripheral instrument in the United States. What’s your first memory of one? And what inspired you to write music for this of all instruments?

My first memory of a Kalimba is lost in childhood, I only remember thinking it was a magical sounding voice, like something of nature. Like most of my experiences with folk instruments, I was immediately fascinated.

I’m inspired by folk instruments generally and what they represent of the artistic ingenuity of the working poor. I think there is something valuable to the experience of working with an instrument that feels born more of necessity than privilege.

Often these instruments in their more primitive forms, utilizing found, discarded and re-appropriated materials, represent a process of improvisation in the build of the instrument itself. It’s this relationship with improvisation, the pragmatic, practical ingenuity born of necessity that relates to that same element in the lives of the working poor. I was attracted to facilitating a public work with that focus.

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Be honest — how many Kalimbas do you have in your possession right now? 

Until recently I only had one, assembled of very slender means ( Plywood, hammered nails, soda can, staples ). Then I started to build the six for the Kalimbascope ensemble. However I have had the pleasure of playing many, one of my recent favorites is made mostly of spoons.

What came first – the instruments or the piece? What’s the composition process like?

The concept was the impetus for this piece. I wanted to build these instruments and have the potential of that process made manifest in an authentic and unique character of music, and then have that same intention grow to facilitate an experience for the public.

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How are you making the custom Kalimbas? What materials are you using, and where are you finding these materials? How do you tune them to the key you want? 

I’m making the instruments at my home in Bushwick, with some pretty common household tools. They are two versions of three designs I’ve assembled somewhat through trial and error as well as the wealth of information Kalimba enthusiasts Worldwide have contributed to the internet.

These instruments are made from pine, sourced from a lumber shop here in Bushwick and some from the street. The bridges are made from some of the same aluminum tubes that were used to make the xylophone from Bells/Door, a similar public participatory piece that took place for Make Music New York 2014. Most of the hardware is pretty common and came from neighborhood hardware stores and the tines are made of spring steel. Parts for the electronics are sourced from online retailers and a neighborhood shop.

These Kalimbas have adjustable bridges which allow for easy movement of the tines, the tine is lengthened or shortened across the bridge to tune the pitch.

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You’re no stranger to composing music for unusual spaces. What’s interesting or challenging about this particular space?

I’m interested in movement, public art, and the transient transformation of public space. I believe the abstract potential of enriching public space with the unexpected, celebrating inclusive expression with apparently accessible means, can be empowering for everyone.

Any advice for participants joining us on December 21?

Stay Radical. Build a Kalimba or bring your own and tune it to (TBA). If you can clap on beat you will find the music easily, if you can’t and you’re inspired, come anyway. You might want to bring some fitting leather gloves if you have sensitive hands. Hand chimes and bells in (TBA) are welcome as well. Costumes are also welcome for those who enjoy them.

 

Winter Spotlight: Wheels

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The first in a series of posts highlighting new and re-imagined parades for the 2014 Make Music Winter festival, coming up on Sunday December 21. 

Spotlight on: Wheels

In 2013, Merche Blasco introduced a new instrument into the Make Music Winter line up: bicycle bells! With her piece, Blink, she joined a long line of composers creating pieces for this unusual instrument. This year, composer Nissim Schaul adds himself to the list with his piece, Wheels.

What inspired you to write music for bicycle bells?

I heard about Merche’s parade last year, and I said to myself, this is almost everything I love all in one package: bicycles, music, bells in New York City (I have a long-standing fascination with the Salvation Army Santas), an unusual setting, and things that are inherently impossible to predict. It’s the perfect project for me.

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What came first – the instruments or the piece? And what’s it like composing for unusual “instruments”? What’s the composition process like?

Definitely the instruments came first—the whole idea comes from Merche’s piece last year. After that, it’s been figuring out what I can add to the form. My main innovation is to split the bikers up into two (or more, if there are a lot of participants) groups. That way, the whole park will be full of bell music. Ideally, the faster group will catch the slower group somewhere along the way, too, and all of the music will be together for a while. (The two parts are complementary: they work on their own, but also together.)

I’m kind of used to composing for “unusual” instruments—accordion, hurdy gurdy, harpsichord—and bells aren’t, in and of themselves, such odd instruments. Percussionists have to play them all the time. What’s unusual for me is the context, that we’ll all be moving around at, what, 10 miles per hour, while we perform the piece. And the performers aren’t going to be musicians trained since childhood to make their instruments extensions of themselves, and to play precisely. It’ll be regular people trying to pay attention to a blinking light ahead of them, and also not run into their neighbor or the oblivious kid on the side of the road, or that idiot squirrel, all while remembering to actually play the bell they have when the right light goes on. If they can remember which light is theirs. Forget playing the bell at the same time the other guy who has the same color is playing!

(Which is also why we’ll all be riding slowly! Safety is paramount!)

It’s a completely unpredictable situation, which is something I like to create in my music. I’ve been working out ways to play up the unpredictability. Some sections will be calm and more precise. Others will be deliberately too complex to get right, and I think the chaos will be beautiful!

What has been the most challenging part about working on this project?

Finding the bells. What I’ve discovered is that, in France, where I live, bikes are required to have bells, so they arrive from the factory already equipped. With mystery bells. No one knows where the bells are from or who made them or how to order more. It’s Kafkaesque. If I hadn’t had a trip to North Carolina planned in November, I would never have been able to work out how to order the bells I wanted.

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I’ve also struggled with who the “audience” of Wheels is, and in the end, I think it has to be the participant cyclists themselves. I have to think about what will make them happy, what will keep their interest, because they will be experiencing the piece the most consistently, for the longest time. But that doesn’t mean that average park-goers aren’t a part of the piece. From the very beginning, what I’ve wanted more than anything is to turn Prospect Park into a magical place, full of fairy bells. I hope that Wheels makes the park an even more special place than it already is, that the sound of (quasi-)coordinated bells EVERYWHERE transports people outside of their ordinary lives, even for just a moment as the slow-motion peloton rides up and passes. That’s why I also hope people will come wearing lots of light–visual magic will add to the musical magic.

What has been the most interesting?

Trying to figure out how to make Arduino microcontrollers work. (The Arduinos are what will turn the lights on and off.) This is at least partially “interesting” because I’ve had relatively good luck with them so far. Hoping that remains the case as I build the signaling helmets. This technical work could still easily become the most challenging bit.

We’ll assume you’re a pretty serious cyclist if you’re interested in biking around in the snow. What’s your favorite thing about bicycles? 

Well, actually… I didn’t learn to ride a bike until about ten years ago, when I was in my mid-20’s.

And I’m really hoping it doesn’t snow!

I think I have a convert’s zeal when it comes to biking. I didn’t ride a bike regularly until the middle of 2011. But ever since I got up the courage to ride through the Parisian streets before 10pm, Vélib’ (the rental bike program here) has been my primary means of transportation.

I’m so new to cycling that, whenever I get on a bike, it still feels like I’m flying. That’s my favorite thing about them! I hope that feeling never goes away.

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How long have you been composing music? What’s the strangest composition experience you’ve had (other than this one!)?

I started composing, depending on how you define composing, sometime in my early teens (when I should have been riding my bike, right?), on the toy guitar that I’m not really sure why we had in our den. I played viola, too, but writing music at that point was more like making up rock songs. I got interested in classical forms in high school, when I managed to get out of a year-long typing course by switching into a music theory class. And I guess it became a primary life-goal, something I took very seriously, sometime in college.

I’m not sure that Wheels is going to beat out my strangest compositional experience, actually. I’ve had to go to lots of shops and talk to lots of interesting bike enthusiasts in preparing Wheels, but to write Something Else (Music for Sleeping through Winter) (http://nissimmusic.org/music/somethingelse.shtml) for violin and prepared piano, I had to go to gun shops, because I muted the piano with socks filled with BBs. (This is a technique invented by Stephen Hartke, by the way, and these mutes sound *spectacular*.) I’m really not a gun person. And gun people in France, I think, have to be especially devoted, since gun ownership is quite rare here. Especially in Paris, because why on earth would you have a gun in Paris? There aren’t any deer to hunt in this city…

That’s what I was thinking as I prepared myself to go out to look for BBs. I finally gathered up my courage and made the rounds. But then, at the first shop I went to, I was standing behind a little old lady. I was a little confused, as she didn’t seem like the type to be buying a gun. And in fact: It turns out, she had come to the gun (and knife) store to have her scissors sharpened. The shopkeeper kindly took her scissors, and asked her to come back that afternoon, and I thought to myself that I had completely misunderstood what Parisian gun stores are about! They’re actually about little old ladies getting their scissors sharpened. They’re actually friendly little community centers!

The lady leaves, I ask the shopkeeper about the BBs, I’m looking at his selection, when out of the other corner of the store, I’m startled by a loud buzz, followed by a sickly burning smell. Because the other customer in the store is testing out his new Taser©.

And so I was disabused of my new notions of Parisian gun stores, and I went right back to being terrified.

I ended up buying my BBs online…

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Any advice for participants joining us on December 21?

1) Don’t worry about the cold. Biking’ll warm you up!

2) Bring a screwdriver to attach your bell with! We’ll have a few, but it’ll go even faster if you have your own.

3) Be festive: Wear bright lights, anything you can think of.

Make Music Winter is Back for a Fourth Season

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Make Music Winter is back for a fourth year, with a baker’s dozen of participatory musical parades on Sunday, December 21st in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

If you are a singer or musician — and even if you aren’t — we invite you to take part!

New this year:  Kalimbascope, by composer J.C. King, leads participants on a psychedelic thumb piano excursion through Williamsburg; fiddlers and flat footers are invited to join a new parade celebrating the music and dance of Appalachia along Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn; and brass musicians and bagpipers make music in concert with the sun in Lightmotif in Long Island City.

Nine parades are returning favorites from Make Music Winters past. Bring your instrument, your voice or your hands and join projects for BachBellsBicyclesBuildings, Spanish Carols (in the Bronx and in Williamsburg!), RadiosSingers, and Smartphones, or make music history and join a worldwide celebration of In C in the fiftieth anniversary year of Terry Riley’s iconic piece.

The full list of events is now online.

Special thanks to our winter presenting partners, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Bronx Music Heritage Center, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Friends of the High Line, the Jalopy Theater and School of Music, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, Prospect Park Alliance, El Puente, and Southside Merchants.

And even more thanks to the artists who have created the thirteen participatory events, and to the musicians, singers, and members of the public who will bring them all to life in just one month!

Apply to be a 2015 MMNY Fellow!

Curious about what goes on behind the scenes of a large-scale public art event like MMNY? Want to work in the arts in NYC? Love music and interested in community organizing? Apply to be a MMNY Fellow!

Make Music Day In New York City

Fellows participate firsthand in all aspects of planning, producing, marketing and expanding the Make Music New York celebration, gaining valuable community organizing, production and administration experience on a large scale. Fellows develop relationships with community organizations, cultural institutions and city agencies, and are exposed to a wide range of players in the NYC arts scene. In addition, each Fellow produces one major special project, and has the opportunity to create original, multimedia content. At the end of the program, Fellows join an alumni network of MMNY supporters and volunteers, who can assist them through the next stages of their career.

MMNY 2015 Fellows will join our team February to June, and will be a vital part of making Make Music New York 2015 happen.

For more information about the program, and to apply, visit the Fellows page. Deadline is November 3. 

Call for Proposals for Make Music Winter Parades

Make Music New York announces

A Call for Proposals

for MAKE MUSIC WINTER 2014.

Deadline is Wednesday, October 1, 2014, with notification on or around October 15, 2014.

Unsilent-Night-600

 

Make Music Winter returns for a fourth year on December 21, 2014!

For the second year in a row, artists are invited to submit proposals for a new, sonic, public art work – “a musical parade” – that allows for a variable number of musicians and non-musicians alike to participate without prior rehearsal. The work should be suitable for participants moving outside through New York City streets in December. We are particularly interested in proposals that complement or depart from previous parades. (A complete list of 2013 parades is available here.)

One work will be chosen for inclusion in Make Music Winter, to be held on Sunday, December 21, 2014.

Make Music New York will work with the selected artist to finalize their concept, identify an appropriate parade route in NYC, secure permits as necessary, and promote the event along with other Make Music Winter events. Make Music New York is able to provide a budget of up to $500 for parade materials.

TO APPLY: 

Please submit the following via email to clara@makemusicny.org, with the subject line “MMW14 Parade Proposal_LastName” no later than October 1, 2014 at 5pm.

1. A proposal, no longer than two pages, outlining the concept and structure of the parade, the nature of the participation, estimated costs, and plans for execution on December 21. Please be specific.

2. CV or bio with contact information.

3. Up to three links to music/sound samples (optional).

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The 2013 Call for Proposals resulted in the premiere of Blinka parade for bicycle bells:

Blink

Blink 2013

 

 

If you pick it, they will strum: thoughts on the 2014 Porch Stomp

We asked our fabulous 2014 fellows to reflect on their experiences organizing special projects for MMNY 2014. Here is the third installment: Nicholas Horner’s reflection on organizing the first-ever Porch Stomp.

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While I frequently reflect on my childhood as a self-loathing hick in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania, it still doesn’t make sense why it took me so long to fall in love with bluegrass music. Perhaps it was one too many awkward elementary school square-dances, or maybe it was the fact that I just didn’t look good in overalls. Either way, I’m still in awe that it took me until November 2012 to return to the music that played such an important role in shaping who I am. I can still remember guitarist Luke Chohany gifting me “Sleep With One Eye Open” by Chris Thile and Michael Daves and saying, “Man, just listen to it. It’s good. Really.” I haven’t put it down since.

Porch Stomp logo by Nicholas Horner

Porch Stomp logo by Nicholas Horner

That one record signaled my return to my musical roots and foreshadowed what would be a six month exploration into the world of folk, old-time and bluegrass music that ultimately yielded the first annual MMNY Porch Stomp.

Having just purchased a banjo and just finished my tenure at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, I packed up and moved to New York City in late 2013 intent on making the most of the city that rarely sleeps less than four to a room. After a few months of pawing around, I landed myself a gig with Make Music New York and found myself frequenting traditional folk performances around town.

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer.

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer

Reader take note: New York has always been and continues to be a hub for folkies and folk revivalists. I remember reading Dave Van Ronk’s memoir reflecting on his time in the Village in the ’40s and ’50s and describing his cacophonous Sundays in Washington Square: blue-grassers here, old-timers there, sea chanters, folk songwriters and folk historians all sharing the same plot, all sharing the same lineage and respect for that which seemed to be the musical runoff of the melting pot of the American tradition.

I’d be lying if I said I had any clue about this scene when I first envisioned the Porch Stomp; in many ways, the process of creating this project was my way of getting to know the folk scene here in New York. Starting the first week of February, I was out four to five nights a week: frequenting jam sessions, concerts, and workshops (often until 2 or 3 in the morning) and absorbing this strange yet all too familiar sonic world. I’d meet the artists who’d introduce me to new friends and frequently point me toward another jam or gig that would ultimately fractal into a world of other artists, records, and tunes with countless variations that I simply had to check out.  To me, it was almost completely virgin territory.

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer.

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer

However, unlike the Washington Square of the 1950s, this folk scene was not the tight-knit web Van Ronk once described. Instead, threads were spread thin. While overlap exists within some tangential circles, there is a clear disconnect between many of New York’s American folkies. Certain hubs like The Jalopy Theater and School of Music do a great job at cultivating a scene of mutual respect for each of these traditions, but by and large these artists seemed to be performing on different stages in different parts of the city to an audience who (to my knowledge) had an appreciation for all sorts of folk music, most of which exist as dialects of the same musical language.

Upon seeing this in person, the opportunity became clear: create an event to bring together all of these talented musicians in hopes of celebrating our common heritage; a family reunion, if you will. First and foremost, Make Music New York is about community, and to me, there is no music more community-oriented than American folk music.

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer

The next five months were to become a blur, and while it’s tough to ascertain how these experiences will affect me down the road, there are a few highlights that I’d like to mention. First, my involvement with the NYC Sacred Harp Singers not only yielded a unique understanding into the history of written music in America (especially as it intersects with the folk tradition) but opened me up to an incredible body of committed individuals creating music solely for the love of the art itself. Second, I am grateful for my experience learning new pieces at various jam sessions, in particular the Mona’s Jam on Avenue B, whose tight-knit body of musicians allowed for the session to explore an widely diverse pallet of material, and the Lowlands Jam in Gowanus which served as my re-introduction to old-time music and allowed me to develop an appreciation for the subtleties of its rich aural history. Third, I am deeply indebted to the various folk communities that have allowed me to Jane Goodall my way into their ranks both as a viewer and often as a musician in hopes of bettering my musical self and understanding their traditions. Places like the Jalopy Theater, The Cowgirl Seahorse (a newcomer to the folk scene which hosts an incredible community of artists), and Sheriff Bob’s Jam allowed me to fixture myself into the scene, opening me up to new music and a world of new experiences.

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer

So, how did the Porch Stomp go? We ended up with 30 artists, a number of jam sessions and workshops, totaling 15 bluegrass, 5 old-time, and 10 folk performances on the green of Nolan Park. With beautiful weather to boot, it was a marvelous day of music-making. Furthermore, it was an true testament to the value of the folk community that so many came out to show support. We still have a long way to go before we reach ’50s Folk Revival status, but we can dream!

Our participating artists included:

The Alex Mallett Band
Ellery Marshall and Friends
The Bromley Mansionettes
Brooklyn Express
The Crusty Gentlemen
Curtis Becraft
Eva Salina
Fausto Bozza
Feral Foster
Fiddlin’ Damian Boucher
5 Mile String Band
Ibex
The Idiot Brigade
Jan Bell
Kings County Ramblers
The Lilted
The Locksmiths
The New Students
NorthEast Corners
NYC Sacred Harp Singers
The Pens
Phil Cohen
Red Hook Irregulars
Sara Bouchard & the SALT PARADE
Stephanie Jenkins
Stephen Bak
The Triple A String Band featuring Alan Friend, Amy Melson & Howard Weinberg
Union Street Preservation Society
Willy Gantrim
Wyndham Baird

I’d like to cordially thank a few people for their support: the MMNY crew (including volunteers Martie, Tricia and Stephanie), Lynda and Liz at Governors Island, Jack Klempay and WKCR for their help promoting and documenting the event, Larry Legend and Karen Brown for their insight, Michael Daves for his support (not only to the Porch Stomp but the NYC Folk Scene in general) as well as Feral Foster, Alex Kramer, Theo Boguszewski and Aldo Ceresa for curating stages and the rest of the musicians coming together for a wonderful day of music. Special thanks to Luke Chohany, Ryan Solomon, Robert and Krissy Bock, and Oriane Vittu de Kerraoul for their personal support. Thanks for an incredible journey!

Porch Stomp artists live in the WKCR Studios with Jack Klempay:

For more information about Porch Stomp during the year, and to listen to a field recording of the day, check out Porch Stomp on Facebook.

Until next summer!

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer