Jonathan Lisenby: MusiCircus is a John Cage piece. Arguably, the most well-known John Cage composition is 4’33”, the performance piece where a pianist is instructed to, essentially, not play music for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Is MusiCircus similar?
Colleen Phelps: It’s really the opposite. The other end of the spectrum from no noise at all, being everything all at once. There is much less structure. Four minutes and 33 seconds has movements and sheet music, 'music circus' is more of a concept. There is no sheet music, though it is listed in the John Cage works archive.
JL: How did you choose the musicians and artists, etc. to collaborate with you on MusiCircus? Is this different from how you normally approach collaboration?
CP: We had an open submission process for several months. I would say it’s different from how I generally choose collaborators, but I’m certainly no stranger to open submission. My chamber music group Sound Riot held an open call for scores two summers ago.
Once we compiled all the submissions and felt like we had enough to fill the event I started plotting out a timeline. I had planned to use the entire 5 acres of the OZ Arts venue. But predictions of thunderstorms made us a rework it and only use three areas.
JL: How much control do you exert as the ‘conductor’ of the MusiCircus ‘orchestra’? is it actually a free-for-all, like the advertising implies?
CP: It kind-of is a free-for-all. Control would be exerted when an artist goes over time and someone needs to come in to that space. But the control itself is coming from the other artists, not from me. While I haven’t asked for specifics from artists, I have asked that the content stay appropriate for families, and that they be mindful of noise level. It can overlap, but we don’t want it to become grating. I hadn’t thought of it as an orchestra before now but I certainly see the metaphor. It’s definitely something where you have to attain control by letting go. You cannot micromanage it. Every time you do you step away from the concept. Plus part of the fun is trusting each individual artist or group to do their thing the way they know how to do it best.
JL: Do you think your background as a percussionist influenced you in any way in developing your personal vision for this performance of MusiCircus?
CP: Absolutely. It left me with a strong background performing the music of John Cage, as did my dance background. Two things that definitely go hand in hand. Plus, as a percussionist, you certainly learn to stretch your definition of what a musical instrument is and how to experiment with sound. Some of the things we combined in terms of placement may not have been intuitive, but I think they’ll work. And if they don’t, we all enjoy the conflict for a few minutes and then move on.
JL: Who is the intended audience for this piece? Who do you think would get the most out of it?
CP: The person who is interested in contemporary arts, and wants to see a favorite group plus others from Nashville, is a great audience for something like this. Or even the person who doesn’t know if they’re interested in following contemporary arts, because this gives a good sampler of the kind of art people are making in town. The person who has only followed classical music and only knows it from the symphony will see at least one symphony musician they’re familiar with, but she’ll be hanging upside down while she plays the violin. That’s a good metaphor for the whole thing, traditional arts turned upside down.
Ben Andrews | Laura Bouffard | Box O’Theater | Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville | Alexis Colbert | Joshua Dent | Ted Drozdowski | Deidre Emerson | Alicia Engstrom | Epiphany Dance Partners | Frame Drum Wisdom | Xandra LeeLord Goldie aka Karizma | Kyle Numann | Graci Phillips | Poetry On Demand | Lorne Quarles | Taylor Raboin | Beth Reitmeyer | Bayard Saunders | Jane Saunders | Secret Friends | Strings of Saturn | Suspended Gravity Circus | Tank615 | The Gray Area | The Porch Writers’ Collective | The Weird Sisters | This Holding (Jana Harper) | Emily Tyndall | David Weinel | Whites Creek High School Percussion Ensemble
Visit www.ozartsnashville.org/musicircus/ to purchase tickets. Oz is located at 6172 Cockrill Bend Circle, Nashville, TN 37209. Performance runs May 17th, 6pm to 8pm
John Warren is a filmmaker and educator based in Nashville, TN. He earned his BFA from Emerson College and his MFA from California Institute of the Arts and currently teaches video and film courses at Vanderbilt University. He often utilizes a Bolex 16mm film camera as a method of letting the technical boundaries of the medium create, what he calls, "an organizing structure" and flow for his film-making process. See more of John's work with Wildwood productions at www.johnwarrenfilms.com
Jonathan Lisenby: Which 5 films/videos should everyone see before they die? Which 5 films/videos do you think your students need to see before they graduate?
John Warren: A few touchstones that have been inspirational to me—the psycho-trance cinema of Maya Deren, the hand-painted abstractions of Stan Brakhage, the flicker films of Paul Sharits, the optical wizardry of Pat O’Neill, and the psychedelic ethnographies of Ben Russell (who happens to have a film in Far Out).
JL: Is there a festival or institution that you feel FAR OUT takes inspiration from?
JW: In the beginning, we looked to Milwaukee Psych Fest and Austin’s Levitation for inspiration. This year, FAR OUT NASHVILLE has expanded beyond music and art to include a podcast and a film festival. Cinematically, we show work in the same underground spirit as Experiments in Cinema, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Other Cinema, or the defunct PDX Film Fest, just to name a few.
JL: What are you looking for the most when watching video and film submissions to FAR OUT FILM FEST?
JW: We are excited about films that present physical voyages, psychedelic journeys, or a phenomenological experience of the world. We look for films that offer new ways of paying attention, new ways of understand, and new ways of thinking and feeling.
JL: Does the idea of Nashville specifically interact with FAR OUT? Could FAR OUT happen in any city, similarly?
JW: Nashville will always be Music City, but it is also home to a thriving alternative art scene and a burgeoning film community. The cultural atmosphere of Nashville is unique enough for a psychedelic music and film festival to take root in a way that would not be possible in other cities. Third Man Records is a testament to the city’s creative evolution, and has previously presented marginalized cinema in the intimate Blue Room, which is also the venue for the FAR OUT FILM FEST.
JL: How do you approach collaboration with an artist of another media, like musicians, actors, or choreographers, for example? How do you approach limits of control?
JW: Collaboration is about finding the places where you overlap, then moving deeper into that territory. Film/video, music, acting, and choreography all have their own language. When collaborating, it’s like working together to invent a new language. Film/video is a time-based medium, so pacing is very important. Sometimes there are beautiful accidents, other times there are minor train-wrecks. Giving up complete creative control can be stressful, but sometimes much more rewarding than just moving around inside my own comfort zone.
FAR OUT FILM FEST happens at The Blue Room at Third Man in Nashville, 623 7th Ave. S., Thursday, May 10th 8-10pm. FAR OUT NASHVILLE music and art fest continues on Friday and Saturday, May 11-12, at Mercy Lounge and The High Watt. Visit https://www.faroutnashville.com for more info on admission and to purchase tickets.
Duncan McDaniel's Standing Wave is up at Red Arrow in East Nashville from April 14th May 6th. The majority of the exhibit is a series of paintings on paper that stack and repeat thin lines to form wave-like patterns. From Red Arrow's press release on Standing Wave:
"In this series Duncan McDaniel incorporates art and design into an intrinsic experience of finding harmony and simplicity in the creative process. The organic quality of the work is not as much of a decision of subject matter, but more of a process based evolution that highlights the binding connection between man and nature. Using elements of artificial light, found industrial materials and inks the artist creates work that reflect shapes and patterns that are nestled harmoniously in between the natural, manufactured, and the spiritual. The soul of the work reflects an approachable lighthearted quality indicative of hearing a pleasing note or the sound of om."
by Jonathan Lisenby
Impermanent is a one-night-only "Underground Art Exhibition" happening this Saturday, April 28th in an unmarked warehouse in The Nations area of west Nashville. One of the event-planners and curators, Sterling Goller-Brown, noted that the custom art will not be outright destroyed immediately following the show, like in his past Demographics series. Watch the short video below to get a sense of the dark and colorful tone of this one-night show:
Click here to check out the Facebook Event page for more information on Impermanent. More photos, artist links, and reviews for Impermanent are coming soon, here at Omnifold.