Archive | VERONIKA KRAUSAS RSS feed for this section

Misfits and Hooligans Interview: Veronika Krausas

26 Apr

The third in our series of interviews with artists leading up to the Misfits and Hooligans concert at Beyond Baroque on April 28, we talk to composer, producer, and Catalysis Projects Core Artist Veronika Krausas.

Can you tell us a bit about your work that’s being presented on the concert?

I’ve got two pieces on the program – one a little older and one a little newer.  Let’s say the older one is the hooligan work.  It’s my double bass trio called Gardens of Stone.    This piece was inspired by a poem by the Canadian writer André Alexis:

 out of silence, to another silence

 from sun and water, dry white salt.

time moves like that, crest to crest,

and our selves, yours and mine,

are what is left from sea …

 I had a series of works that used texts around stones by Alexis.  Some of them had the text read, some sung, and in this piece it’s simply the inspiration seed.  I wrote it after hearing the marvelous bassist Stefano Scodanibbio perform at Darmstadt.  I was enthralled with the range of sounds that he was able to achieve.   My work can be amplified but for Saturday’s concert it’ll be acoustic since it’s such a small space, the real estate is at a premium!

The second work – my misfit piece – is Jonas for solo harmonica.   The supreme master of the harmonica, Bill Barrett, asked me to write a solo work for him a few years ago.  It’s finally getting its première this weekend.  The structure of the piece is 8 phrases, each ending in exactly the same, definitive way.  Along with the piece is a great text and film by Quintan Ana Wikswo called The Anguillidae Eater.

The text is about the migration of eels to the Coronian Spit in Lithuania (which is one of my favorite places in the world) with a surreal twist.

Curonian spit - Lithuania

Here’s what Quintan says of the work:

The Anguilladae Eaters inhabits an obscure spot upon the earth – a tiny spit of land in the Baltic Sea where ancient and ferocious female deities are still known to roam. Over the centuries, their alchemical, cryptic seaside has been invaded by Vikings, Russians, Catholics, Nazis – each wanting to plunder, subdue and control this disconcertingly female ensorcelled slice of earth. Yet there are pilgrims, too – the Anguilladae eels journey ten long years from the Sargasso Sea in the Caribbean, just to mate in these icy, enchanted waters. And they’re not alone. All manner of travelers are drawn here, even today, where these deities remain with powers far stronger and more fierce with age. Travelers today find themselves unsettled: are the local women truly women? Or are they themselves the cryptic eel goddesses – immortals in mundane disguise? Were the eggs at breakfast enchanted? Taken not from chickens, but from the plundered nest of an eel queen, stalking high along the dunes?

The images in her film are of eggs and the sea and the sand and an eel rake!

eel rake

It goes perfectly with the harmonica music.  The piece is named after my grandfather Jonas, who loved harmonica and smoked eel and was Lithuanian.  He was probably more of a friendly hooligan that a misfit.  I still have his harmonica in my studio.

Do you consider yourself a hooligan or a misfit? Or both? Or neither?

 

I’m a misfit but really my goal is to be a hooligan … it’s one of those things that I’m working on.  The definition of hooligan really depends on which country you hail from because in the lands that enjoy soccer (aka as non-American football), a hooligan might have a slightly less savory connotation than a hooligan in my less aggressive-less violent-more mischievous-Edward Gorey-esque usage of the term.

 

Edward Gorey

Tell us about the most memorable oddball instrument you’ve ever encountered.

 

I’ve always been perplexed with the ondes martenot.  The effects of the instrument are fantastic in Messiaen’s music and in the hands of a great performer, like Cynthnia Millar, it’s exquisite, but the method of performing on it has always messed with my brain.

I remember once hearing a bagpipe in a closed room – that was memorable.

I remember once seeing and hearing someone play on an amplified toothbrush – that was oddball.

And of course, there are those moments where all of a sudden you forget how to spell was or for a split second something that is habitual becomes an unknown action.  Sometimes, very rarely actually, I’ll be sitting at the piano and I’ll see myself from the outside, as if an alien watching who has no idea what a piano is, and think, this is strange – sitting at a table and hitting it with my fingers!  I guess that’s more just oddball rather than an instrument really.

 

REVIEW: 50 Fingers & 88 Keys

28 Jul

REVIEW by CP composer Veronika Krausas

50 Fingers & 88 Keys (…actually 60 fingers and 176 keys)

I just attended one of the most delightful events of the year. Yes, I did just use the word ‘delightful’. I was at a lovely Sunday afternoon garden party organized by Jacaranda Music that included a delicious lunch and a wonderful piano recital, hence the title with lots of fingers and keys! It was at the Music & Art Atelier: David Anderson Pianos and Tanya Ragir Studios.

The pianists were a line-up of excellence: Aron Kallay, Danny Holt, Steven Vanhauwaert, Yana Reznik and the duo Joanne Pearce Martin and Gavin Martin. All will be featured in Jacaranda’s upcoming season.  The repertoire ranged from Mozart, Granados, Rachmoninoff, and Ravel to 21st Century composers David Lang and Nico Muhly.

pianists: Steven Vanhaueaert & Danny Holt

During a sublime performance of the quiet and delicate Etudes by Muhly, sirens and ambulances started up down the street and then disappeared. Not missing a beat or a finger (one of the 60) pianist Aron Kallay smiled slightly and kept on serenely playing.

pianist: Aron Kallay

It was a magical afternoon:  as the music wafted through the garden, the shadows of the rustling leaves in the trees danced on the white table cloths.

If this event is a prelude to their next season we can all be very excited!  Jacaranda 

Patrick Scott - Artistic Director Jacaranda Music

Exploring in Novels and Music

8 Jul
 NOTES FROM THE STUDIO:  Catalysis Projects’ Core Composer Veronika Krausas muses about the similarities of traveling and exploring in novels, on land, and in musical composition.

Space… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before…

The reason I bring up Star Trek, not because I’m a trekkie, although I loved the new movie with the cameo by Leonard Nimoy (always a hero – logical and mathematical) and did watch the series as a kid (Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scottie and the gang always kicked ass, just like Batman and Robin except in space), it’s the quote from the beginning of the show/film etc. that pertains to my blog this month.  …to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations…

Right now I’m in the middle of two things:  I’m reading Embassytown, the newest work by one of my favorite authors, China Miéville and I’m writing a new piece.  Interestingly they both have something  in common – the process of acclimatization.

Miéville’s novel is set in the future and humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Diving into this novel is like arriving in a new city or starting a new piece.  There is little or no familiarity with things:  understanding the syntax of new words and ideas, the new streets and buildings, or the harmonic language of a new composition.  Your legs feel wobbly; your brain is in overtime to make connections and link concepts, ideas, notes, street names!

As the story progresses with these unknown words and concepts—that are slowly revealed or you have to work out for yourself—there’s a level of comfort reached when the comparisons turn to understanding. It’s like learning a new language – constantly translating words to English until they attain the status of becoming their own entity without being a comparison or needing a definition anymore.

I think about explorers first encountering a new culture and new language and new everything!   There was movie called the 13th Warrior a few years back and what I remember about this movie is one brilliant scene when the hero (I think Antonio Banderas) was thrown into a group of Vikings (or some bearded types) and didn’t speak their language.  It showed his progression of recognizing and understanding individual words and over time grouping them into sentences, and then into meaning.  I loved the way that the writers didn’t just assume everyone spoke English in Medieval Europe.  So it’s a process of acclimatization.

With writing novels (I’m assuming) or music (which I know) it’s the creation of a new universe and even in that creation there’s the period of acclimatization for your own internal understanding.  This is a tough period and often very elusive – nothing makes sense in your brain and very unrelated and strange things achieve great importance (such as the sudden need to clean behind the fridge).

Getting over that hump is a great relief and then links are made more easily and naturally (and who cares what’s behind the fridge … you can’t see it anyway!)

REVIEW: Microtextual at the Microfest 2011 concert series

5 Jun

MicroTextual

Catalysis Projects

April 16, 2011

MiMoDa Studio, Los Angeles

Review by CP composer Veronika Krausas

One of my favorite things is bilingual poetry books – English on the right side and the original on the left.  Sometimes it’s a foreign language I understand but often not. Still, it makes me feel a little bit like a traveler to an exotic place – comparing the alternate versions.  It feels like a magical and secret world that is private and I’m opening up a little cabinet of wonders to enjoy and watch sparkle. 

CP’s MicroTextual, curated by Aron Kallay, for me was just like that – a land of wonder, from the moment you walked into MiMoDa.  The space was transformed to an art exhibit with soft lighting and mysterious scrolls hanging from the ceiling and paper-origami-poof lamps  (my term) and a super cool vibe.  This concert featured many of the Catalysis Projects artists and what a collection of creativity and performances it was.

The reason I bring up bilingual poetry books is that the work of Quintan Wikswo is a 3-D version but so much more.   Her ‘cabinet of wonders’ included two wonderful works combining her texts with sublimely beautiful video footage.  They’re from her Floriography collection:  Floriography I (Coimbra 1541) and Floriography II (Bavaria 1543).  Her term is a “diptych of text-integrated video installation.”  

Wikswo "Floriography"

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the back wall, in amongst the mostly red images floated text, in English, while Rafael Liebich read, as an echo, the same text in Portuguese, with trombonist Matt Barbier playing a microtonal composition by David Rosenboom.  In the second work, the texts were read in Hebrew to a soundscape of flies and frogs.  These pieces were a visual realization of bilingual poetry books.

Wikswo: FLORIOGRAPHY II: COIMBRA 1453

Starting the program was the amazing Honey, Milk and Blood, a collaboration by composer Isaac Schankler and visual artist Kim Ye, inspired by the ideas of Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla.  The scrolls were explained – they were functional art!  It was the score for the dozen singers, dressed in off-white flowing clothes.  The soprano soloist Andrea Zomorodian was herself a sculpture, a kinetic sculptures by Ye, a mermaid plant with a long root carried out by her attendants.  LOVED the music, LOVED the kinetic sculptures – it was the first sparkle opening up the cabinet of wonders.

Schankler/Ye: HONEY, MILK AND BLOOD

And what microtonal concert would be complete without some quintessential Harry Partch, the grandfather of American microtonal music?  The Barstow:  Eight Hitchhikers’ Inscriptions by Partch was brilliantly performed by baritone and guitarist John Schneider, one of the co-directors of the Microfest series this year and Aron Kallay on chromelodeon.  

The second half of the concert started with a minimal and very serene work by Cat Lamb, The Field (for Agnes)There was a world premiere by Jeffrey Holmes, Fragments for soprano and piano.  The vocal line is more of a chant or what Holmes calls “a spell” in a series of images that use text from a variety of anonymous Latin sources. It was a Teutonic saga full of rich harmonies and virtuoso piano writing.  The virtuoso piano part was expertly performed by CP member and organizer of the whole evening pianist Aron Kallay

Holmes: Fragments

The most amazing thing about this piece was visual and completely accidental. I just happened to be lucky enough to be sitting in the exact spot to notice – Katherine Giaquinto, the singer was standing in a spot that when I looked in the mirror on the opposite wall, her body was replaced by the reflection of one of those paper-origami-poof lamps.  This alternate body was like another sculpture by Kim Ye and added to the chant-like Latin text’s magical and removed quality.

The concert concluded with Luminenscence, a gorgeous work by this year’s other co-director of Microfest, Bill Alves.  In his program notes Alves writes:

… an oton [is] a ritual that is performed 210 days after the birth of a child when the baby’s feet touch the earth for the first time. Before that time she is considered still too close to the realm of the gods to be allowed to touch the ground. The only music at this ceremony came from the chanting of the officiating priest and the small bell whose sounds he wafted to the fascinated baby’s ears.  Those chants, or mantra, are … a way of tuning oneself to the vibrations of the universe. These are in a very real sense the sounds of the transition from the celestial to the terrestrial world.

The singers now changed from white to black – from light to dark – balancing the visual and aural in the concert, touching the audience’s feet to the ground.  The whole evening was a wonderfully surreal and dreamlike experience.

PS

If you, like me, love bilingual poetry books – definitely check out The Madness of Amadis by Jean Cassou, translated by Timothy Adès  (Agenda Editions).  Cassou (1897-1986), was a war-time Resistance leader, created France’s National Museum of Modern Art, and a poet!  It’s wonderful poetry and a brilliant and sensitive translation.

PS #2

The concert was part of the Microfest Concert series that started in LA in by the fabulous John Schneider in 1997.  www.microfest.org

Eco Amazons by DORKA KEEHN

2 Jun

Recommended Reading by

CP composer Veronika Krausas

I have just received a new book – it’s an absolutely beautiful hardcover by the San Francisco writer, documentary film maker and activist Dorka Keehn, who is definitely her own force of nature.  I highly recommend it!

Eco Amazons brings together for the first time the women leading the charge to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth. Through intimate interviews conducted by journalist and activist Dorka Keehn and arresting images by award winning photographer Colin Finlay, Eco Amazons calls attention to this century’s critical environmental challenges by focusing on the remarkable women developing solutions and guiding us towards a sustainable future. Their efforts demonstrate how individual concern gives rise to passion, how passion leads to action, and how action effects meaningful change—efforts that can be emulated by each and every one of us.
If you’d like to order one, they’re  on Amazon OR at a 30% discount is available on http://www.ecoamazons.com if purchased by June 5, World Environment Day (WED).
If you are in the Bay Area and would like to meet Dorka, please join us at Gump’s, 135 Post St, SF CA on June 16 5:30-7:30 PM. Rsvp: specialevents@gumps.com
Through decades of WED celebrations, hundreds of thousands of people from countries all over the world have been galvanized for individual and organized environmental action. For more information and activities, please visit www.unep.org/wed

Dorka Keehn

Dorka’s been a guest blogger for CP and here’s more information:
Dorka Keehn is a journalist and social entrepreneur. She is currently working on ECO AMAZONS, the first book on American women environmental leaders to be released on Earth Day, 2011, with images by Colin Finlay, one of the foremost documentary photographers in the world. She completed in November 2008,Language of the Birds, a large-scale solar powered permanent site specific sculpture for a new plaza in Northbeach, commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission, that was voted one of the best public artworks in the United States by Americans for the Arts. As a filmmaker, she has produced several films for television including the two-time Emmy award winning documentary, OF CIVIL WRONGS & RIGHTS: The Fred Korematsu Story (PBS POV 2001.) She is a founder of EMERGE AMERICA, the premier training program for Democratic women who plan to run for political office, and has been a leader in the women’s movement for over fifteen years. Mayor Willie Brown appointed her twice and Mayor Gavin Newsom re-appointed her to the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. Dorka was also the West Coast Director of Gloria Steinem’s Voters For Choice, the largest non-partisan, independent pro-choice political action committee in the U.S. And she has served on innumerable Boards of Directors of women’s, environmental, media and educational organizations.

a little late but still sort of funny …

31 May

Calgary Canada

photo by Veronika Krausas (May 21, 2011)

I’m up in Canada for a few weeks and Doomsday came and went …  roll on!

THE INDUSTRY launches in Los Angeles: Veronika Krausas’ Event Review

18 Mar

By VERONIKA KRAUSAS –

On Wednesday night (March 16, 2011)  THE INDUSTRY held a launch event at the fabulous Royal/T Café in Culver City.  Over 300 people came out to celebrate!  Excerpts from Anne LeBaron’s opera Crescent City were highlighted amidst wine and chocolates and a very electrifying vibe.

THE INDUSTRY aims to be a bridge between the visual arts and musical worlds here in LA.  They’ll present new and experimental productions that merge music, visual arts, and performance in order to expand the traditional definition of opera and create a new paradigm for interdisciplinary collaboration.  It’s an exciting time to be in LA and the artistic director and founder Yuval Sharon said in his opening remarks:

I’m excited about the audience in Los Angeles, as well as building the audience here for boundary-breaking work… LA’s rich cultural heritage of innovative music is the foundational inspiration for The Industry.

We’re all really invigorated by the reception for this new venture in our wonderfully creative city.  Their inaugural production of Crescent City will be in the Spring of 2012.  Stay tuned for more news.

http://www.theindustryla.org/

ps  definitely check out the Royal/T  Café – it’s a wonderful place for art and music and tea and their turkey burgers ROCK! www.royal-t.org

ROYAL/T Cafe in Culver City

Kitchen Time

20 Feb

NOTES FROM THE STUDIO
This week your friends at Catalysis Projects introduce the second in our series of new columns – brief notes  from the “lost and found” desks of our Core and Resident Artists. In these posts, our artists offer a glimpse into one of their interdisciplinary, collaborative projects, including artifacts from the flotsam and jetsum that litter their creative spaces. This week features our Core Artist composer Veronika Krausas’s musing about TIME.

Composers are constantly trying to evade the unstoppable regularity of time. We think about how to make time seem to slow or to go backwards or speed up, how to regroup time into different beats and meters or avoid those entirely. It’s interesting that on a personal level this has infiltrated my daily life.

No two clocks or time-keeping mechanisms that I own are ever set to the same time. My digital radio-alarm clock was purchased when I was a teenager – it’s brown and huge and has followed me from house to house over the years because, although it’s quite ugly, it always works. I set it 5 minutes faster so that I can accommodate the early morning snooze button ritual. The back-up, battery-powered little Radio Shack travel clock, that long ago lost its cover, is also not set at the precise time – usually 6 minutes faster so that the radio alarm clock can slowly let me wake up before the really annoying beeping starts.

My car clock I usually set about 5 minutes faster to make sure I’m on time for appointments. But it seems to slowly but progressively get one minute faster every few months. Maybe this is my car trying to help keep my brain agile so I have to continually calculate the proper time each time I’m driving. Venturing into the kitchen, on the wall is a 15-year-old-kitchen wall clock from Ikea. In the last few years it started to have its own mind. Towards the end of ‘its life’ it was mostly stopped, but sometimes it started clicking forward at a normal pace and once I even saw it click backwards. Basically, the time was never correct and the time on the clock became officially known as kitchen time. Venturing into the kitchen for many months, I always had the feeling I can only liken to jetlag. Unlike the car clock, where complicated mathematical calculations can be made based on the prior day to determine the actual time, such constants were never present in the kitchen. The kitchen clock had its own chaotic system. The last time I came back from Europe and was really physiologically jet-lagged, the added effect of kitchen time started to really screw with my mind and the perpetual time jet-lag that I was now continually experiencing was becoming a bit much.

So, I reset the car clock back to 5 minutes faster, the archaic radio-alarm clock is now set 3 minutes faster and the back-up travel, battery-powered travel alarm clock is 4 minutes faster (can’t give up my one minute snooze with the radio before the beeping), and I ordered a new kitchen clock on Amazon.com so now I don’t have that jet-lagged feeling when I go into the kitchen. The era of kitchen time has passed … for now.

PS:  Just noticed that since I’ve had the kitchen clock showing ‘kitchen time’ for so long, I still never quite trust the time I see on the new clock!

FREE REED CONSPIRACY: accordions, zippers and a ZOTE

14 Dec

A REVIEW by CP member Veronika Krausas

This evening I attended the concert of the Free Reed Conspiracy, an accordion quartet with Catalysis Projects Resident Artist and composer extraordinaire, Isaac Schankler, along with mastermind of music boxes and music Daniel Corral, with James Barry and Jimi Cabeza De Vaca. It was at the Pasadena Library and part of their Creative Music Concert Series.

For most people accordions bring to mind om-pah-pah music, polkas, beer steins, burly smelly men and lederhosen.  There was not a one of any of these in sight.  The four musicians sat as still and erect as a string quartet.  The music was mostly minimal-process oriented- slowly unfolding music.  It was really a treat.  The first piece was by Dr. Schankler’s charming Chocolate Phase that’s his minimalist take on YouTube senations Tay Zonday’s Chocolate Rain.  The other 3 works were by Daniel Corral:  I-V-I, Neotrope, and Mandala Fanfare.  This last one had guest percussionist Andrew Lessman who performed on a snare (with a lovely dirty blue t-shirt thrown on the skin to dampen the sound) with a pair of sticks/brushes that looked like they had been gnawed on but they made the best sound!

It was a lovely hour and a half of hypnotic accordion sounds which ended miraculously at the exact same time as the library’s announcement of “The library will be closing in 15 minutes ….”  came on.  The performers and the audience were absolutely stunned at the timing!

The accordion is just a rockin’ instrument.  At the concert I ran into a fellow composer who leaned over after the first piece and said “you realize we first met at an accordion concert, does that mean we both have accordion fetishes?”  My answer “Yep … but don’t tell anyone!”  I frequently run into this same composer at other concerts including the ‘respectable’ ones at the LA Philharmonic.  At one particular concert, probably one of the Green Umbrella variety, this same composer was wearing a really cool pair of pants and I commented “hey, great pants.”  To which he replied “they’re women’s pants” (by the way he’s a he) and I said “How can you tell they’re women’s?” and he enlightened me that the zipper on men’s pants is done up with the right hand and women’s ‘traditionally’ with the left. Fascinating!   I reminded him of this encounter this evening and we proceeded to discuss this and the side buttons are buttoned up on on men’s vs. women’s shirts – but that’s for another blog.

When I got home I decided to do a little scientific research.  I went into my closet and counted zippers on pants.  The first thing that was utterly shocking – Good Lord! I own 24 pairs of pants!    Thirteen zip on the right, nine zip on the left and 2 pairs zip on the side.  The left ones include most of my dress pants and suits (including those made in Thailand).  The majority of the others are jeans, cords and an old pair of orange suede jeans.  The right is winning!  Maybe women’s left-sided zippers are slowly being converted to right-sided ones.

Since zipper begins with a Z (I still pronounce this ‘zed’ being from Canada and all) …  I must quote one of my favorite writers from a book that is always on my desk:  Edward Gorey’s The Utter Zoo Alphabet.

(About the Zote what can be said? There was just one, and now it’s dead.)

Happy Thanksgiving

26 Nov

Renée Reynolds: Turkey Day Drawing