April 13th, 2015Uncategorized
I’ve been working with Ethan Chessin and the good young people of Camas High School in Camas, Washington, long-distance from Prague via Skype. Two of Camas High School’s choirs will be premiering two commissioned pieces I wrote specifically for them, this Saturday at the First Congregational Church in downtown Portland, Oregon (USA). If you’d like to attend, the address is 1126 SW Park Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97205 and the concert starts at 7pm. The concert is part of a project called Joined Forces, in which composers were commissioned to write unusual pieces for high school choir. I wrote one piece about teenage female aggression called “Braid Your Hair Tight” specifically for the Treble Ensemble (women’s choir), and another SATB piece about the Sedlec Ossuary outside of Kutna Hora, Czech Republic called “Church of Bones”. Listen to an NPR story about the project here:
December 8th, 2014Uncategorized
So awhile back, Felix Obelix was commissioned to write some music for high school choir. I am lucky to be working with Camas High School (Camas, Oregon), and their great director, Ethan Chessin. I Skyped from Prague with the choirs there in November and had a blast talking with them. I’m currently working on a piece for mixed choir and another for women’s choir and first readings are slated to happen in January 2015. This is another new adventure for Felix Obelix, but the process of writing songs for these voices and these ages is proving to be really exciting and challenging. I can’t wait to hear what it sounds like! Lots of work for me this December, but absolutely worth it. What will Felix Obelix lyrics sound like coming out of the mouths of talented Oregonian teenagers? Stay tuned – if all goes according to plan, the pieces will be premiered in April of next year!
Felix Obelix debuts “The Cameraman’s Revenge” – live, original silent film score, in June 2014 (plus relocation news!)0May 24th, 2014Uncategorized
Diehard Felix Obelix enthusiasts may remember that I traveled to northern Michigan in January 2013 to write a score to the 1911 stop-motion animated classic, The Cameraman’s Revenge. Polish-Russian animator Ladislas Starewicz created this genius piece of short film in 1911, in which insects (real insects) find themselves involved in extramarital affairs. It stands the test of time for its craftsmanship and humor, and I thank the Institute for Sustainable Living and Natural Design (ISLAND)’s Hill House residency program for the opportunity to write this score in the splendor of the Michigan wilds.
Now, after a few revisions, it is finally time to debut the score live. I’ll be playing the piano, and will be joined by Felix Obelix stalwarts Josh Starmer (cello) and Missy Thangs (organ). The two performances are:
- at the Strange Beauty Film Festival, on the afternoon matinee block, 2pm on Saturday, June 14, 2014. This festival sells out every year, and is beautifully curated by Jim Haverkamp and Joyce Ventimiglia. This is not the first time Felix Obelix has presented a film/music offering at Strange Beauty, and I’m delighted to be part of it again. Buy tickets here.
- at the farewell Billy Sugarfix/Wendy show at the Cat’s Cradle Backroom, 8pm on Saturday, June 21, 2014. This really will start early, so get there early! Billy will be telling stories and playing songs with his new band, along with some other storytelling-songwriters of local repute. Going to be fun! And yes, this is a farewell show, as Billy and I are moving to the Czech Republic at the end of June.
That’s right: Felix Obelix is relocating to the Czech Republic until at least June 2015. I fully plan to continue writing music, and even have a commission to write a piece for high school chorus (!) later this year. But as far as local-to-North-Carolina performances, those will end on the 21rst of June.
March 3rd, 2014Uncategorized
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.
November 13th, 2013Uncategorized
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!
Also, listen to one of the interviews done in preparation for the album’s release, on WKNC 88.1′s Carolina Grown show, Oct. 25, 2014. Thanks for listening!
September 19th, 2013Uncategorized
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.
March 10th, 2013Uncategorized
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.
February 26th, 2013Uncategorized
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.
October 26th, 2012Uncategorized
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!
Here are some of the smaller proto-versions that I put up earlier this year at the Open Eye Cafe:
Wilson County Court House
Jesus Warns the Time Travelers
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?
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:
and here I am at the Allen Electric Harpsichord, a wicked little instrument that almost sounds like a harpsichord if you really pretend:
I look tired here because we did 10 hour days and I hate being photographed when I’m concentrating!
Stay tuned for more!
January 30th, 2012Uncategorized
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, NC – Felix 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!