Elder Ones quartet - Vocals, Harmonium, Compositions
Elder Ones is the quartet performing the compositions of vocalist Amirtha Kidambi (Seaven Teares/Elizabeth-Caroline Unit) lies nestled in a venn diagram of musical spheres and communities in New York City. Her and her collaborators saxophonist Matt Nelson (Battle Trance/Tune-Yards), bassist Brandon Lopez (Tongues, The Undermine Trio) and drummer Max Jaffe (JOBS, Unnatural Ways) have crossed paths in the DIY underbelly, in incestuous circles of free improvisers, and uncomfortable chairs in concert halls of angular new music. The instrumentalists chosen for this project draw from a wide variety of vocabularies from hip-hop to free improv, each bringing their own highly individual sound to the group. The quartet uses composed material and loose structures as a template for improvisation. Oscillating between worlds of modal Sufi-like circular grooves and free improvisation to jagged rhythmic precision and meditative drones, Thyagaraja, Coltrane or Stockhausen could be equally suspected as illegitimate fathers of their sound.
Amirtha’s background in Hindu devotional singing or Bhajan, led her to use the Indian harmonium as accompaniment and compositional tool. Amirtha has been singing with the harmonium since a young age and has a deep connection to its timbre, intonation and mystical qualities. She was also inspired in part by her work with Darius Jones and the Carnatic tradition, to use abstract syllables to liberate the voice from specific literal ideas to facilitate unhindered improvisation, and to allow the listener a greater range of interpretation. Her music has developed through years of dedicated collaboration with bands, composers and other improvisers, finally leading to her own individual sound. She owes her developing sound to her cultural traditions, 90s R&B, John and Alice Coltrane, Edgard Varèse and many other musical languages and influences. The four-part suite Mother Tongues partly refers diversity of what she feels are equally native musical languages that have found their expression in these compositions. The band formed to realize Amirtha's composition Mother Tongues. The piece was premiered at Roulette in June 2015 for the Emerging Artist Commission. Commissioning funds will be used in part to make a debut recording this year.
Mary Halvorson's Code Girl - vocals
Mary Halvorson's newest quintet features vocalist Amirtha Kidambi, trumpet phenom Ambrose Akinmusire, and the dynamic rhythm section of Tomas Fujiwara (drums) and Michael Formanek (bass). Halvorson was commissioned in 2016 by the Jazz Gallery to write music for the group, and she is currently working on an entirely new set. Code Girl will record a double album at Firehouse 12 in late 2016, with a 2017 release.
Seaven Teares – Vocals, Harmonium, Synth, Contributing Vox Arrangements
Seaven Teares is a quartet making dark, romantic music rooted in post-industrial folk, early music, chamber music and pop. The songs, which can be at once tender and forbidding, accessible and damaged, are centered on the vocal pairing of songwriter Charlie Looker (Extra Life, Sculptress) and vocalist Amirtha Kidambi (Sequins and Skeletons). Seaven Teares was formed in 2010 featuring Robbie Lee (Howling Hex) on woodwinds, guitars and synth, and percussionist Russell Greenberg (Yarn/Wire). The bands’ mostly acoustic sound brings together a number of disparate influences: dark post-Industrial folk (Death In June, Current 93), 1960’s co-ed pop folk groups (Mamas and the Papas, Ian & Sylvia), the drones and textures of modern composition and experimental improvisation, and the cold alien vocal harmonies of Gothic era liturgical music. The seven slow-burning songs shift between abstract raga-like meditations and straight melodic hooks, set against acoustic guitars, dark synth ambience, vibraphone, bells, and occasional harsh electronics, as well as authentic Medieval pump organ and recorders.
Seaven Teares’ released their debut record Power Ballads on Northern Spy in 2013 and is currently working on new material.
The Elizabeth-Caroline Unit is comprised of four singers (Amirtha Kidambi, Jean-Carla Rodea, Sarah Dyson, Kristin Slipp) of varied vocal backgrounds. Influences of the group range from En Vogue, to Sun Ra, to Stockhausen, from the compositional mind of Darius Jones. The group represents the four guardian women of the Man’ish Boy from the planet Or’gen in the epic mythology by Darius Jones and Randal Wilcox, adapted for graphic novel.
The Oversoul Manual is a collection of etudes written for the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit. The etudes are vehicles to teach each vocalist the linguistic and sonic vocabulary of an alien birthing ritual. In this alien culture, having a child is done with the spiritual agreement of three or more humanoids. Each female alien gives birth to some aspect of the genetic makeup that forms the child. The Elizabeth-Caroline Unit are the proud mothers of a son called Man'ish Boy. Their son was taken away from them when he was born, so now they travel the universe searching for him. The birthing ritual can take years for some units. The creation of Man'ish Boy took seven. He is very important to the cultural and spiritual development on his planet, Or'gen.
Compositionally and lyrically, the etudes in The Oversoul Manual are built using familiar musical elements—elements that the composer felt were commonplace even among individuals who weren't educated in music. As humans we hear sound constantly. Many of these sounds are communicating information to us whether they be musical or environmental. With each quartet, trio, duo, and solo etude, the composer wanted to mimic the idea of communication. The solo etudes are a depiction of an individual trying to communicate something to themselves, similar to when we talk to ourselves. These etudes are based in an alien world so the syntax and speech patterns are different from ours. Listening to these etudes should trigger a similar feeling of listening to a dog bark, a bird sing, or listening to someone speaking a foreign language. True communication goes beyond words.
The Oversoul Manual record is available on Aum Fidelity Records.
Robert Ashley’s CRASH Band
Robert Ashley’s CRASH band comprises of vocalist/composer Gelsey Bell, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Aliza Simons, vocalist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Paul Pinto, vocalist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Brian McCorkle and vocalist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Ruder. The group was lovingly referred to by Robert Ashley as “The New Band”. The group formed to premiere and perform Bob Ashley’s final opera Crash under the guidance of Mimi Johnson, Tom Hamilton, Dave Moodey and Alex Waterman for the Whitney Biennial in 2014. The band will continue to perform Crash from now until they can no longer speak. The passing of Robert Ashley from the earthly realm into the ether occurred during rehearsals for the piece in March of 2014. The band misses him terribly and owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude for all of his creative energy and passion.
TONGUES: Indian Traditional and Experimental Music
TONGUES brings Indian traditional music outside of cultural enclaves, providing access to a broader audience and musical community. In the series, Indian music provides a unique context for listening to experimental music, some of which draws influence from the traditions both musically and philosophically. A diverse group of experimental performers and traditional Indian musicians are presented side-by-side to inform listening and create harmonious understanding, crossing over both practices. Tongues is interested in drawing deep connections between these disparate forms of expression, rather than presenting superficial fusion. It is an effort to promote dialogue between communities to foster artistic growth and provide basis for future endeavors in curation and potentially a new way forward into collaboration. TONGUES has been presented at The Silent Barn DIY art and performance space in Bushwick, chosen specifically for its dedication to community building and diverse adventurous programming, and Issue Project Room. TONGUES has featured performers Mat Maneri (viola), Ashvin Bhogendra (Carnatic vocalist), Brian Chase (percussionist/drummer), Robbie Lee (reeds), Rajna (mridangam) and Anjna Swaminathan (violin), Dada Tapan Kanti Baidhya (Dhrupad vocalist), Shubhangi Sakhalkar (Hindustani vocalist), Che Chen (guitarist), Nivedita Shivraj (Carnatic vocalist) Matana Roberts (saxophonist/composer) and Peter Evans (trumpet/improviser).