Tonight! Come one and all to Mor York Gallery at 8 for the next installment of Dog Star 12, Autoduplicity, a project of flutist Rachel Beetz and cellist Jennifer Bewerse. Amid their preparations (and moving New Classic LA headquarters to a new house – hence the down to the wire interview), Jennifer and Rachel had time to talk about their project.
How did this band get started? Was it a mutual interest in the works you explore, or did one of you invite the other?
Jennifer: Rachel and I had had the chance to play Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Crumb’s Vox Balaenae together, and I felt like we had great performance chemistry and similar working habits.
Rachel: Jen was interested in exploring performance without the cello and she invited me to join her.
Jennifer: We were both really interested in what would happen in that context. As an instrumentalist, you often identify yourself so strongly with your instrument. What would happen when we didn’t have that?
Rachel: Together, we negotiated a program for this exploration that was neither fully myself (long, dark, tiring) or Jen (bright, light, short). Working on the program together was so rewarding for both of us that the project stuck.
Jennifer: Right, we actually started very much as NOT a band – the title of the duo was the title of our first concert. But the collaboration makes a lot of sense for both of our artistic interests and has grown to include other concert projects.
The first time I saw you you put on a phenomenal performance with almost no playing of your instruments in the traditional sense. As “musicians,” how does your performance training translate into these works for your bodies/you as humans. Seems like acting and stagecraft would be big for you.
Rachel: A lot of people brought up terminology relating to theater when we were presenting our first concert. It was interesting, because we weren’t thinking about the program in those terms at all. A lot of people thought that because we no longer had instruments in our hands, it meant that we were using other types of tools of the stage, mostly involving theater, acting, and such. However, this was not the case AT ALL.
Jennifer: Our mode of working so far has been to look at very targeted questions or materials then explore them in our concerts. So, this concert was very specifically about our interest in a negative space – music without our instruments. The rest really emerged from that spot – issues of feminism, identity, physical relationships…
Rachel: All of the musical decisions for that first performance were made as if our bodies replaced the external instrument. In a way, we translated the practice of performing on an instrument to our bodies, employing the same modes of questioning and thought as an instrumentalist would.
Jennifer: Honestly, these terms were really tricky for us. When does a score (music) become a script (theater)? In some ways the differences between our performing Samuel Beckett’s Footfalls and Vinko Globokar’s ?Corporel are a matter of the composer/author’s preferred notation. But we’re also not interested in “tearing down the boundaries between the arts” or anything like that. This concert was very much in a grey area and that’s an interesting space to inhabit.
Does this week’s concert follow that exploration (body/music), or is it a new direction for you?
Rachel: This concert was one I was really interested in – combining Peter Ablinger’s Instrumente und Rauschen with music by Machaut. In a way, it’s a very simple juxtaposition, but as we dug into the music – moving from single tones, the “everything always” of white noise – we found beautiful paradoxes between the ideas of “simple” or “complex.” At its core, the concert is really about audibility.
Jennifer: So in relation to body/music, the answer is no and yes. No, because this is a very sonic concert – we play our instruments and all of the pieces explore sound. But also yes, because we’ve constructed the concert in a way that ended up shaping sound into a very tangible, physical, object. The sonic extremes – soft/loud, high/low, simple/complex – create a field of listening that situates the body in space.
What excites you about this material?
Rachel: The sound as object in connection to the body’s reaction to it as such is what excites me in this program.
Jennifer: I’m also really excited about the focus of the concert. We’ve worked really hard to construct a continuous listening experience where the pieces can come together and make a larger narrative. It feels like the performer’s version of composing, and it’s very satisfying.
What are your favorite ensembles/series/composers/whatever else in town to go see and hear?
Jennifer: Dog Star Orchestra! This concert is part of the Dog Star Orchestra Volume 12 Festival that’s happening between June 4th – 18th.
Rachel: The concerts are excellent and it’s a great way to see what’s happening in the experimental community around Los Angeles. You can see all of the concerts at www.dogstarorchestra.com.