Felix Obelix

the musical brainchild of Wendy Spitzer
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    March 3rd, 2014adminUncategorized

    Deep Dish Theater Company in Chapel Hill, NC presents the Tom Stoppard play Arcadia, playing now through March 22, 2014. I was approached to do the score to the play, which is all piano-based, and wrote and recorded it within the span of just a week. The play is fascinating in that it switches between 1809 and the present, and I was tasked with writing music for both periods, and at the end, when the two time periods collide onstage, with music that fit in both. The play is loosely about time, memory, history, science, big data, patterns, chaos theory, love, and waltzing (a lot of waltzing), and was therefore right up my alley. I have not seen the production yet, but I will do so, and participate in a panel discussion (the designer’s talkback session) after the show on Thursday, March 13. Tickets for the performances that are not yet sold out, are available for purchase online.

    I had to write 1) music for a girl “playing piano badly” which is surprisingly difficult for someone who actually plays piano; 2) a modern improvisation that would suggest motifs from the early 19th century waltz; 3) an early 19th century waltz; 3) an almost-waltz; and 4) a time-traveling waltz that closes out the show. I read the entire play (and many parts of it twice) because it is very heady, though still a comedic piece. There were many ways in which the music can provide a bit of foreshadowing, and I used that almost like motifs are used in opera. I cannot wait to hear this live and I hope to see you there, at any of the performances or the talkback session on March 13. Deep Dish Theatre Company is located inside University Mall. Thanks to Douglas Vuncannon for passing my name along to Marc Maximov (sound designer for the production), and to Sara Zaleta, for letting me practice on her Yamaha grand.

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    November 13th, 2013adminUncategorized

    The Ringtone Album is officially out (and currently charting at the #4 spot on WXDU!) and you can get a physical CD or digital copy at the Felix Obelix bandcamp page. The solo exhibit of visual art is up at The Carrack Modern Art until Nov. 16 and an artist reception is scheduled for November 15 from 7-10pm. The three release shows on Nov. 8, 9 and 10 were amazing and well-attended! Thanks to the small army of volunteers it took to put on such a large-scale project. Here’s a bit of the artwork up at the space!

     

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    September 19th, 2013adminUncategorized

    Yes, finally! A project almost three years in the making is finally coming to fruition. Felix Obelix’s album of ringtones, cleverly titled The Ringtone Album, will be premiered live, in its entirety in three consecutive shows in November 2013, in conjunction with an exhibit of my visual art. The performances and exhibit all happen at the Carrack Modern Art space in downtown Durham.  What are these pertinent dates? I’m glad you asked. They are:

    November 5-16: art exhibit entitled, The Sound That Means Someone Wants You of my mixed media works

    Friday, Nov. 8: Doors at 8pm, show at 9pm. The first of the live premiere performances, featuring me on bass/vocals; Missy Thangs on keyboard; Ardyn Flynt on mallet percussion; and Josh Starmer on cello. Beer/wine available on a donation basis.

    Saturday, Nov. 9: Doors at 7pm, artist talk (in which I explain and answer questions about the art on the walls) at 7:30pm; show at 9pm

    Sunday, Nov. 10: Doors at 2pm, show at 3pm. A family-friendly performance for babies, toddlers, older kids, their parents, and anyone else who prefers mid-day shows to late rock-n-roll nights.

    Limited seating, and no advance tickets will be sold, so come early! $7 per person, which includes a copy of the CD. Kids 12 and under come for FREE.

    Here’s the facebook show invite.

    The album, put out by the Potluck Foundation, will be available for purchase at the shows, and in local record stores starting in November. More details coming soon.

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    March 10th, 2013adminUncategorized

    Just a quick heads up that I’m playing a solo Felix Obelix show on Friday, March 15* at the Flanders Art Gallery in downtown Raleigh, celebrating Rachel Herrick‘s amazing two-book set “A Guide to the North American Obeast” (published by Publication Studio). This project is right in line with high-concept, altered history-making of which I’m so fond, and I’m excited to be a part of the launching of this book.  From the Flanders Art Gallery website:

    “The Museum for Obeast Conservation Studies is exhibiting in Flanders Gallery in March 2013. The Museum for Obeast Conservation Studies (MOCS) project satirizes the stigma and anxiety around obesity, using the tropes of natural history and nature conservation. The project is primarily conducted as a scientific organization that coordinates obeast field research and educates the public about the North American Obeast through museum exhibitions, videos, public events, membership, publications, and an informative website (www.obeasts.org). Peripheral components include a radical activist conservation group, as well as an anti-obeast coalition, which add controversy and depth to the narrative.”

     

    I’ll be playing songs from the old album and will be previewing some of the new ringtones from the new album (out later this year).  The book launch is at 6pm and I play from 7-8pm.  I hope to see you there!

    *Friday, March 15 is the Ides of March.  It’s also my birthday.

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    February 26th, 2013adminUncategorized

    Hello again!
    It’s taken me almost a month to process the experience, but I/Felix Obelix was selected to attend the Hill House emerging musician residency in beautiful Bellaire, Michigan for two weeks in January 2013, a wonderful opportunity brought to you by ISLAND – institute for sustainable living, art and natural design. I applied for this program last year, specifically to have time to score another silent film, which will be, along with the ringtone album release, performed later in 2013. In snowy northern Michigan without a car, in a cabin alone for two weeks, I was able to write all the music AND score it for bass/piano/organ AND generate all the sheet music as well. I also made some art, and wrote some piano songs and recorded all the vocal takes to the upcoming ringtone album. Every day, I would bundle up and trudge through the beautiful snowy wilderness, startling in its white/brown/black/ochre color scheme. For those who have never been in residency before: residencies like this can vary, with some being social art colonies and some more isolated, and this was definitely on the extreme end of isolation, due mostly for the winter period I chose to attend. ISLAND stocked the fridge for me and gave me firewood, and the enormous cabin filled with piano and books — it was near-heaven for an artistic introvert. I highly recommend it, and their wonderful organization, both. It’s only February now, but I know this will be a highlight for 2013 for me. A brief account of the experience, with photos, can also be found here.

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    October 26th, 2012adminUncategorized

    Hi everyone,

    First off, pop some popcorn and go watch the Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend live soundtrack performance Felix Obelix did back in February at the Strange Beauty film festival!  Rumor has it, there may be more such shenanigans in 2013.  For now though, you can watch the entire performance on youtube.

    ************

    Also, in August/September, my proposal was selected by CAM Raleigh (Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh), and I got to show three enormous vinyl banner murals of altered NC postcards.  This was piggybacking on a similar exhibit I had at the Open Eye cafe in early 2012. Here it is on the day it went up.  These were huge!

    for size reference, I'm five feet tall. These were 9 x 14 feet!

    for size reference, I'm five feet tall. These were 9 x 14 feet!

    Here are some of the smaller proto-versions that I put up earlier this year at the Open Eye Cafe:

    Wilson county courthouse Wilson County Court House

    Jesus warns the time travelers

    Jesus Warns the Time Travelers

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    I’ve been hard at work on the upcoming Felix Obelix album -composing and arranging (down to every last note, notated in sheet music) 30 one-minute-long ringtones.  The idea for this project was sparked when my elderly Nokia cellphone died last spring. A few days into its absence I realized that its ringtone was the one piece of music I had listened to literally the most often in the preceding three years. It dawned on me that on a subconscious level, that humble little ringtone was the music that meant someone wanted me.  I had also become conditioned to reaching for my phone when I heard it, and I could think of no other music that could compel me to perform an action in physical space.  This begged the obvious question: if a ringtone is the most often-heard music in one’s life, is the sound of humans desiring each other, and has the capacity to compel us to action, then why isn’t it a better piece of music?

    The idea for this project was sparked when my elderly Nokia cellphone died last spring. A few days into its absence I realized that its ringtone was the one piece of music I had listened to literally the most often in the preceding three years. It dawned on me that on a subconscious level, that humble little ringtone was the music that meant someone wanted me.  I had also become conditioned to reaching for my phone when I heard it, and I could think of no other music that could compel me to perform an action in physical space.  This begged the obvious question: if a ringtone is the most often-heard music in one’s life, is the sound of humans desiring each other, and has the capacity to compel us to action, then why isn’t it a better piece of music?
    Moreover, the micro-composition of the ringtone is somewhat unexplored territory for contemporary composers. The pieces I’m writing are each 50-70 seconds in length, which challenge me to consider issues of truncation, elaboration, complexity, and restraint. How sophisticated could I make each ringtone be?  How emotional? How would your life change if when your phone rang, you were audience to a complete musical thought?

    I’ve been working on this for about a year, inputing MIDI into Protools, exporting the MIDI into sheet music notation software, editing that down, and then practicing all the parts for six weeks to get ready for the recording. I  did basic tracking at the Fidelitorium in Kernersville, NC in late August and got to play their amazing instruments: electric harpischord, Rhodes, Hammond B3, grand piano, marimba, and even celesta (!).  Nick Peterson manned the boards and I knocked out 3 parts per song, 3 different instruments, 3-5 takes per instrument, in 3 days.  I’m in the middle of comping the takes together now, and doing cello overdubs with Josh Starmer (of Birds and Arrows)…I hope to have the recording done by the end of the year!

    Here I am standing on cinderblocks at the Fidelitorium to be tall enough to play their marimba:

    IMG_1767

    and here I am at the Allen Electric Harpsichord, a wicked little instrument that almost sounds like a harpsichord if you really pretend:IMG_1766

    I look tired here because we did 10 hour days and I hate being photographed when I’m concentrating!

    Stay tuned for more!

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    January 30th, 2012adminUncategorized

    Felix Obelix is playing two special shows in February, back to back in Durham, NC and you’re invited to both:

    Friday, February 17, 8:15pm, Manbites Dog Theatre (703 Foster Street, Durham, NC) A repeat performance of Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: The Pet, an animated short from the early 1920s by Winsor McCay, in which a man eats a rarebit, falls asleep, dreams that a pet comes to stay, horrible things ensue, explosions, destruction, etc. Billy Sugarfix and I will be performing the live, original score, timed to line up with the short, on organ/xylophone/glockenspiel/auxiliary percussion.  This is part of the Strange Beauty Film Festival, and will be included in the Friday night block of films. Tickets to this performance/film showing can be purchased at the Manbites Dog website. This festival sold out last year, so buy tickets early!

    Saturday, February 18, 8:00pm, 108 Morris St., Durham, NCFelix Obelix will open for a large-scale sound/art installation by Greensboro geniuses Invisible. Entitled, The New Obsolete, Invisible will be set up for the month of February, doing weekend performances on a variety of handmade analog/digital instruments.  One of these will be the Selectric Piano – a typewriter rigged to “allow a typist to become an experimental pianist. Each letter typed equals one note played.”  I curated the Liminal Festival in 2009 and had Invisible do their analog drum machine performance, and it was a highlight of that.  This is that times 100.  I am honored to be included in a great list of openers for this ongoing performance, and in the spirit of Invisible, I am going to try, in addition to the Felix Obelix songs you already know, to do some live oboe+loop pedal business. This is only $7 – a bargain for this type of performance!

    Lastly, Wendy will be showing a solo collage/mixed media art exhibit at the Open Eye Cafe in downtown Carrboro, NC for the month of March, 2012.  More on that later!

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    November 16th, 2011adminUncategorized

    Hi again,

    The month of November 2011 brings you two interesting Felix Obelix updates!

    1) Josh Kimbrough, Felix Obelix, Yandrew, Cassis Orange, and Prypyat will be playing some songs while you drink cider/hot chocolate, on November 16 at the Trekky House (113 Huse St., Chapel Hill, NC) Yandrew is a new collaboration between Yan Westerlund (Bowerbirds, Mount Moriah, Lost in the Trees) and Drew Anagnost (Lost in the Trees). This will be their DEBUT SHOW!!! Prypyat is a collaboration between Duncan Webster (Hammer No More The Fingers) and Leah Gibson (Lost in the Trees).  This show is brought to you by the Trekky House and Special Passenger Records (Missouri) to mark the release of the latter’s compilation album which celebrates music communities all across our country. Now that the compilation (featuring Daniel Hart, Midtown Dickens, Butterflies, and others) has been released, Special Passenger records is taking the album on tour to each band’s hometown to discover more about the communities, meet and talk to wonderful people, film interesting and beautiful things, and share it all on their website: http://feelslikecominghome.com/.  Show starts at 6:30pm; Felix Obelix second at 7pm.

    2) A song by Felix Obelix will be featured in the CD compilation of an issue of Southern Cultures, the magazine put out by the UNC Southern Folklife Collection, to be available in November. Word has it that also on this compilation will be the Avett Brothers, Archers of Loaf, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Last Year’s Men,  Doc and Merle Watson, and the Lumbee congregation, Union Chapel Community Baptist Church, led by Pastor Jimmy Strickland and Sister Flora.  I can’t tell you how psyched I am about this, as I’ve heard nothing but how hard the Union Chapel Community Baptist Church ROCKS OUT. When it’s out and available, I will let you know!

    Cheers! Wendy

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    October 11th, 2011adminUncategorized

    Hi there, members of the Felix Obelix all-star fan club, with your shiny mail-ordered decoder rings on your fingers, the kind that don’t exist. I want to invite you to a very special Felix Obelix performance of something I’ve never done before, which is similar to every other Felix Obelix performance, i.e. something that’s not been done before by me. On Saturday, October 22, at the Pinhook in Durham, NC, Felix Obelix will perform an original, live soundtrack to the 1921 animated short Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: The Pet by Winsor McCay. Winsor McCay “invented” cartoons, with his important work Gertie the Dinosaur and was also known for his newspaper comics strips, notably, Little Nemo in Slumberland. This cartoon is based on a series of comics where a character eats a Welsh rarebit (a kind of heavy, gooey, cheesy toast meal) and then proceeds to have a nightmare. In this creature feature, a wittle bitty cutey pet shows up and mischief ensues, and then the cartoon takes some very dark and funny turns. The animation is sophisticated and fluid as Winsor McCay drew every single frame, something like 4000 of them, by hand, because this was in the days before the traditional animation studio. The score is for organ, xylophone, auxiliary percussion and glockenspiel, and I’m pleased to say I roped Billy Sugarfix into performing it as a duet. While Billy may have performed on mallet percussion in his early music major percussion ensemble years, this represents my public xylophone debut. In addition to this soundtrack, I’ll also be performing some “regular” Felix Obelix songs. This entire show is a celebration of Le Weekend’s pre-release show, which is a wacky concept in which Le Weekend has planned to record an album on Sunday, Oct. 23 at the Pinhook itself, so to pump themselves up, they are having a pre-release show, playing the songs before the recording is even made, the night before the recording. Are you confused? By how much? I think, rather, you should just get excited and come. Show starts at 9:30pm.

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    June 29th, 2011adminUncategorized
    Friday, July 8 at Jessee’s in Carrboro – show starts EARLY at 8pm, and I go on at 9pm.  Also performing will be The Habit and Lost Trail.  This is part of Carrboro’s Second Friday Artwalk series, and will be al fresco, in the balmy North Carolinian summer.  It’s FREE!  If I push myself in the next two weeks, I may have some new songs and some oboe-playing through loop pedals (!).
     
     
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