Vital Vox Festival ~ 2012/13 (A Review)

Performing excerpts from Erosion: A Fable on the festival’s 1st night, The Loom Trio are (L to R): Sasha Bogdanowitsch. Kate Hamilton and Raphael Sacks
(Photos courtesy of Neva Cockrell)

loom trio

The 4th Annual Vital Vox Vocal Festival (2012/13)
featuring Pamela Z, Sasha Bogdanowitsch and The Loom Ensemble and Trio, Unearthish (Sarah Bernstein and Satoshi Takeishi), Philip Hamilton, and Lisa Karrer with David Simons
Roulette, Brooklyn, NY
Monday, March 25th, and Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

After its postponement from the planned October dates last year due to Hurricane Sandy, The 4th annual Vital Vox Festival at Roulette finally commenced a year and a half after its last appearance in November 2011, and this year’s show was focused on the use of vocals with electronics. Displaying, as always, a variety of styles, abilities, and combinations of instruments, I can say with great certainty that all of these acts proved that they have immense creativity with a technology that continues to astound, titillate and baffle me.

First Night–Monday, 3/25
The show began ever so radiantly with Philip Hamilton, and the beginning of his set was without effects, displaying only the depth of his dynamic vocal in a stark but rich atmosphere. He then progressed to using delay effects and looping for the rest of his sequence titled Vocalscapes: Solitude. His use of electronics, which later on during the Q&A he revealed was being used for the first time ever, was astonishingly rhythmic in its musicality, and his sharp and muscular voice provided a crisp, bright, worldly and invigorating breath of fresh air that set the pace for the rest of the evening’s program. Continue reading

Vital Vox Fest 2012/13 ~ A Preview

vital-vox---marzo---FRENTE2013

The 4th annual VITAL VOX: A VOCAL FESTIVAL–an event that explores the myriad power of the human voice in its solo and ensemble forms across a multitude of genres–will take place at 8pm on Monday, March 25th and Tuesday the 26th at Roulette, located at 509 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. Tickets are $15 ($10 Students/Seniors/Members) and can be purchased at roulette.org. More information on the festival and the performers can be found at vitalvoxfest.com.

Having been postponed from last October due to Hurricane Sandy, the Vital Vox Festival is now finally returning to the stage.

Over the course of two diverse evenings, Vital Vox will explore the theme of ‘vox electronics,’ featuring artists who expand their sonic vocabulary with electronics of all kinds. Performances will draw from wide-ranging international influences and genres including jazz, experimental, contemporary, free improvisation, world music, interactive electro-acoustic and audio sampling.

Having seen the 2011 festival at Roulette with the likes of Iva Bittova, Gelsey Bell and Judith Berkson, I can say it was a really fascinating couple of nights, and it looks to be just as exciting this year!

Festival founders and curators Sabrina Lastman and Sasha Bogdanowitsch had just a little time to stop and discuss this year’s show. Continue reading

Vital Vox Fest 2012 ~ A Preview

The 4th annual VITAL VOX: A VOCAL FESTIVAL–an event that explores the myriad power of the human voice in its solo and ensemble forms across a multitude of genres–will take place at 8pm on October 29 and 30 at Roulette, located at 509 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. Tickets are $15 ($10 Students/Seniors/Members) and can be purchased at roulette.org. More information on the festival and the performers can be found at vitalfoxfest.com.

Over the course of two diverse evenings, VITAL VOX will explore the theme of ‘vox electronics,’ featuring artists who expand their sonic vocabulary with electronics of all kinds. Performances will draw from wide-ranging international influences and genres including jazz, experimental, contemporary, free improvisation, world music, interactive electro-acoustic and audio sampling.

Having seen this festival last year with the likes of Iva Bittova, Gelsey Bell and Judith Berkson, I can say it was a really fascinating couple of nights, and it looks to be just as exciting this year!

Festival founders and curators Sabrina Lastman and Sasha Bogdanowitsch had just a little time to stop and discuss this year’s show.

CM: Can you talk about the festival this year and how it is different this time?

S&S: The festival is in its 4th year and this year it focuses on a new selection of artists to us who are composer performers, just like in years past. The main different aspect in this year’s festival is the two day theme of new vocal music with electronics of any kind, shape and size. For some artists this means processing & live looping, others it means interactive video and computer programs. The world of electronic music is an ever growing field and has brought a huge new palette to vocal music.

CM: Are there any specific people we should look out for at these shows?

S&S: As curators of the festival we are happy to bring artists that come from different musical backgrounds and vocal approaches. In the festival, we are interested in intermingling different generations of artists. For instance, those that have had long careers in the field mixed with younger musicians who are still developing their careers. We would like people to experience the festival in its entirety:

The October 29 program includes vocalist Philip Hamilton performing “Vocalscapes: Solitude”, vocalist/composer Sabrina Lastman performing her original piece “An Encounter with ‘El Duende’”, and Unearthish—a duo comprised of violinist/composer/vocalist Sarah Bernstein and percussionist/electronic musician Satoshi Takeishi—performing Bernstein’s compositions.

[Pictured right Pamela Z courtesy of Ars Electronica]
The October 30 program includes composer/vocalist/video and performance artist Lisa Karrer in collaboration with composer/multi-instrumentalist David Simons performing “Collision Theory: Works & Premieres for Voice & Multi-Media”, composer/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Sasha Bogdanowitsch performing his new song cycle “Mirror Upon Mirror”, and composer/performer Pamela Z performing works for voice, live processing and video.

CM: Will there still be a Q&A segment at the end of the concerts? Those are always wonderful and informative.

S&S: We will have a talk back with artists and audience each night, so people will have the opportunity to interact with artists to get to know a little bit more about their work and creation process, etc.

UPDATE: The 2012 Vital Vox Vocal Festival, which was scheduled to take place October 29 and 30 at Brooklyn’s Roulette, has been postponed due to Hurricane Sandy.

New dates will be announced soon. Apologies for the inconvenience.

For more information, contact Jill Strominger: jstrominger@gmail.com (617) 270-8853

Learn more about the Vital Vox festival at vitalvoxfest.com

Gelsey Bell

Photo courtesy of Reuben Radding

New York-based artist Gelsey Bell had just performed her song cycle Scaling a few weeks ago at the Vital Vox Festival in Brooklyn (Read a review of it here), and it seemed that this one work told me so much about an artist that I knew very little about. It seemed to be like a Rosetta Stone of everything that her creative output encompasses–self-written pop songs, classical piano, new music, theatre and performance art. What was most memorable about this performance was her playing the piano from different positions (from underneath, from the top of the piano belly down, from behind her back, with her knees, her arms and knuckles) and how much it was the antithesis of a singer/songwriter set, which she has also done. Continue reading

Vital Vox 2011 ~ A Review

Judith Berkson performing “Vor an Sicht” (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Reddin)

Originally posted on Sequenza 21

Vital Vox: A Vocal Festival (Vital Vox 2011)
Roulette
Brooklyn, NY
Sat, Nov 5 & Sun, Nov 6, 2011

I guess there was no better way to kick off the Vital Vox Festival than with a primal scream. Gelsey Bell and her partner for this performance, composer/performer Paul Pinto, actually gave us several of them separate and together at the start of the song cycle Scaling, and they seemed to be the sound that signified both the power of vocal performance and the experimental nature of the festival as well.
In general, the festival is a huge emphasis on artists that recognize the human voice as an instrument, an instrument that has just as much range and capability as any great violin, piano or guitar, and works wonderfully as a duet with other instruments or other voices. These artists are all equally gifted as vocalists as they are composers or musicians of other instruments, and they all put on compelling performances. Continue reading

Composers: Toby Twining

Composer Toby Twining and his ensemble Toby Twining Music have graced the stage of festivals such as Bang On a Can Marathon and River To River, and his music for chamber ensemble along with their spacious choral-style vocals have enthralled audiences worldwide, and sometimes he even performs with them.
The following is an extended version of the interview I had with Toby Twining, who by the way is appearing with TTM at the 2011 Vital Vox Festival (He’ll be performing on Sunday, Night 2: Vocals + Strings; A portion of this interview appeared in a preview of the Vital Vox Festival I posted on Sequenza 21)

CM: How did you go from roots in country-swing to rock to the other-worldly music you’ve been making for various instruments, including voices and chamber ensemble?

TT: This is a long story—I’ll attempt a Reader’s Digest version. Continue reading

Composers: Judith Berkson

Singer/songwriter/composer/pianist Judith Berkson has a very obvious blend of influences that run from classical to jazz to liturgical music. The following is the extended interview I had with Berkson, who will be appearing at the Vital Vox Festival this Saturday at Roulette in Brooklyn (She’ll be appearing on Night One: Vocals + Keys; A portion of this interview was first featured on my Sequenza 21 posting to preview the 2011 Vital Vox Festival). Here she talks about her beginnings, and the preview of selections from her upcoming opera. Continue reading