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Music Herstory 101

A couple of weeks ago, an idea came to me one rainy, sleepless night.  Staring restlessly at the ceiling, I was haunted by a familiar circle of thoughts.  Dissatisfaction and frustration was on my mind.  I was thinking of music history – the kind that is taught in the classroom.  I was, and am bothered by one glaring omission in the courses I have taken and most of the books I have read on the subject.  I was even more keenly aware of this omission in Jazz History.  If you are a woman and you play an instrument, you know what I am talking about.  And on the night that I lay awake trying to decide what to do with my feelings of unease, it occurred to me to start a new blog.  Enter the Music Herstory Project.  I must really like the word ‘project.’  This word keeps cropping up in my titles.

As you probably have already guessed, this blog is to feature the herstory of women musicians.  The idea to re-educate myself came during my last semester at Cornish when I was considering doing my research project for Jazz History on the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.  In response I was told that I should research Eric Dolphy instead because I am a flute player.  While this advice made sense, I was puzzled by the fact that this person did not see how an all female jazz big band was just as relevant to me as a fellow flute player.  But I did my project on Eric Dolphy anyway.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I enjoyed learning even more about Dolphy.  But now I think it’s time for some serious girl power.

My intent is to update this blog once a week, featuring a new musician.  I will do as much research as is reasonable in one week’s time and I will post any resources, videos and photos I find useful as an invitation to you, dear reader, to pick out what interests you and dig deeper.  Who I research will obviously be subject to my own personal tastes, but I will seek to present as much diversity of style as I can and will be open to any recommendations. I will be taking this project to New York as well and, though no guarantees on posting every week while in school, I will strive to present here a steady stream of music made by women.

I am starting this project with – big surprise! – the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.  Originally formed in 1937 in Mississippi at Piney Woods Country Life School, the group went professional in 1941.  Throughout the 40’s they toured the country, performing in places such as Apollo Theatre in New York City, Regal Theatre in Chicago, Howard Theatre in Washington D.C. and the Cotton Club in Cincinnati.  Aside from being an all female big band in the forties I.S.R. was racially mixed, including African-American, Latina, Asian and Native American in its ranks.  They were named “America’s No.1 All-Girl Orchestra in 1944 by Downbeat magazine (wikiwand.com). They performed in Battle-of-the-Bands concerts against bands led by Fletcher Henderson and Earl Hines.  They enjoyed an enormous following among African-Americans and often broke records set by “the big name man-bands” (NPR). Unfortunately, few recordings survive.  However, there are some available on youtube, which I have listed below.  There is also a book by  D. Antoinette Handy called The International Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Ladies Jazz Band from Piney Woods Country Life School.

Some videos:

Extended Horizons Project at Cafe Racer

Hello everyone –

It has been a long time since I have updated my blog, so I guess it’s about time.  I would like to announce, first of all, that I will be performing at Cafe Racer on Sunday, May 24th at 7:30pm.  I will be appearing with Extended Horizons Project, which is made of these fabulous musicians: Ebony Miranda on cello, Griffin Boyd on electronics, Julio Lopez on guitar.  Flute by guess who…

The show will consist of compositions by members of the ensemble as well as improvisations.  I will be performing my flute solo posted on youtube, Spectrum.  It’s free, so please stop by, bring your instrument for the open improv session afterward and enjoy yourself!  Below are some samples to give you an idea what kind of musical mischief we have been up to:

Flute and Electronics Improvisation with Griffin Boyd

New Piece, Updates and Extended Horizons Project Volume II

Hello all – It’s well into January now, and that means it’s time for Extended Horizons Project Volume II!  To start the season off, I have posted two of the videos that I used for grad school applications. Take a listen and keep your fingers crossed for me…

The first video is of an improvisation with Katie Levine on piano and Julio Lopez on violin.  Thanks so much Julio and Katie for lending me your fantastic musicianship!

The second video is of a piece I wrote called ‘Spectrum.’  This is my latest piece, composed for flute alone.  The piece uses primarily multiphonic tremolos and takes some of its inspiration from Seattle’s own Neil Welch.  The form of the piece is modeled after traditional jazz improvisation, minus the changes.  There is a ‘head’ at the beginning and a modified repetition of it at the end, with the middle section being an improvisation using the material in the head as a guide and point of departure.  There will be a better quality audio version on SoundCloud soon.  Hope you all are having a wonderful winter, and thanks for listening.

Dream Acoustics

350px-TrioSonata

In a massive cathedral with vaulted ceilings of gold and engraved wood, I am playing the flute with an ensemble that includes violin, cello and harpsichord.  The music is 21st Century Baroque.  Intricate melodies interweave with strange harmonies, percussive sounds and otherworldly harmonics, creating a rich tapestry of the threads of the ancient and the avant-garde.  The room is vast and open, without benches, dwarfing the audience in folding chairs listening intently as to a sermon.  Behind me is a grand fountain with curtains of water splashing delicately in the oversized pool below, which is filled with exotic goldfish.  The sound of the quartet threads itself through the rafters, creating a fourth dimension to the music that pours forth from our instruments.

I awoke with this dream about a week ago, and how sad was I that it had only been a dream!  But perhaps it is not impossible.  In the meantime, I would like to make a reappearance onto the digital stage with some updates:

1)  I have been relatively silent lately because I am in the process of getting applications ready for grad school.  In the coming weeks I will be making video recordings to send off to NYU, Mills College in Oakland, California and University of California at Irvine.  I might even post these videos to my website, so keep an eye out!

2)  Extended Horizons may seem to have come to a close – but only for now.  Keep an ear out for Extended Horizons Volume 2, new an improved with added features, to begin in early January after my applications have been mailed off.

3)  In the meantime, I thought I might share a soundcloud posted by Second Inversion which features members of the Seattle Symphony performing Ligeti String Quartet No.1, “Métamorphoses nocturnes”.  I can’t get enough of this recording, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Eric Barber & friends: Hush

Fall is officially here, and already it’s a busy one.  As you all know, I was lucky enough to have the chance to perform with Eric Barber at the Chapel last night.  It was a quiet gig; the theme of the evening was to explore the possibilities of the dynamic range from mf (medium-loud) and below.  Also, there were three people in the audience.  But it was a lot of fun, and man does it sound good in there.  I wish I could practice in the Chapel…

The performance was entirely free improvisation and included Carmen Rothwell on bass, Mike Gebhart on percussion, Christian Pincock, trombone and of course Eric Barber on saxophones. Please check these fabulous musicians out.

Thanks so much Maggie for coming out hear us play!

Upcoming Gig: the Chapel

Alright, here we are into September already.  Growing spiders lurk in trees next to solitary yellow leaves and, despite the lingering warm temperatures, there is a subtle bite in the air.  School has started (for those who are still stuck going!) and the Autumn Equinox is less than two weeks away.  And on September 27th, I will performing at The Chapel Performance Space with the wonderful Eric Barber.  Here is the text from the listing on http://www.waywardmusic.org/event/eric-barber/:

HUSH – music of the lower decibel persuasion

 

We’ll be creating some beautiful improvisations in the Chapel that will focus on the wide dynamic range from medium to quite quiet. Featuring Carmen Rothwell, bass; Mike Gebhart, percussion; Christian Pincock, trombone; Ammon Swinbank, flutes; and Eric Barber, saxophones.

Here is more about Eric Barber: http://www.ericbarbermusic.com/.  I will be very grateful to all those who are able to make it out to this event.  It will be the first time that I perform at The Chapel, and I look forward to it with eager anticipation.

Extended Horizons, 9.5.2014

For this weeks post, I have uploaded an improvisation based on some material for a flute solo I am currently working on.  The materials included are pitch bends, altered timbres and my latest obsession: multiphonic tremoli (you have probably heard these in my previous posts).  Most of the sounds in this piece are based on the fingering for low B with different keys either vented or trilled, or both.  I have managed to scrawl a rough draft of this piece finally, and perhaps soon there will be a post of the piece itself.  In the meantime this improvisation will hold its place.