EDUCATIONAL BROADCASTING CORPORATION AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT REACH SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT ON GRANT ACCOUNTING
June 15, 2010, New York, NY –Educational Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) has reached an agreement with the US government to settle issues arising from an investigation into grant accounting encompassing grants applied for beginning in 2001. EBC — and its parent WNET.ORG — cooperated fully with the investigation, which was settled today. During the time period subject to the investigation, EBC was the licensee of THIRTEEN, the principal public television station in the New York tri-state area; the ownership of THIRTEEN was restructured for reasons unrelated to the investigation, and the station is now licensed to WNET.ORG.
EBC has agreed to repay the US government $950,000, to forgo approximately $1 million in reimbursement of certain expenditures incurred with respect to project grants that the organization has been awarded but has not yet received, and to adopt a compliance plan. Although EBC and the Government did not agree entirely on the nature and extent of errors alleged in accounting for expenditures incurred in connection with grants supplied to EBC by the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, EBC worked diligently with the three agencies to reach today’s conclusion of the investigation, which resulted in no findings of wrongdoing or liability.
In the last year, EBC and its parent WNET.ORG have upgraded their grant accounting practices, including hiring a compliance officer and establishing a committee to regularly review actions on audits and compliance issues.
“We cooperated fully with this civil investigation and have put procedures and policies in place to ensure that we won’t have the same or similar issues in the future,” said Neal Shapiro, President and CEO of WNET.ORG, current parent company of THIRTEEN. “We are fortunate to create and provide the kind of programming that merits funding support through a variety of grants from such sources as the NSF, the NEA and the NEH. We are also proud that these agencies have continued to award grants to us during the investigation. It’s our responsibility to ensure that our accounting for these generous grants is impeccable.”
Today’s conclusion of the investigation was effectuated by the filing of both a Complaint, a procedurally necessary step, and a Stipulation and Order of Settlement and Dismissal in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York. As noted in the Stipulation and Order, the settlement was entered into by all of the parties based on their desire to reach a full and final settlement and compromise of the claims alleged in the Complaint. WNET.ORG was not implicated in the civil investigation whatsoever, but is a party to the settlement as the sole member of EBC and has agreed to abide by the institution of the compliance plan prospectively.
This morning, Inside Thirteen spoke with Seth Kramer, one of the producers and directors of the upcoming documentary, THE NEW RECRUITS. The film takes a look at a group of business students with a radical plan: to put an end to global poverty by charging for goods and services.
THE NEW RECRUITS explores the social enterprise movement and raises a unique (and somewhat ironic) question: can capitalism, rather than charity, save the world?
Directed by Ironbound Films’ Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, and Jeremy Newberger, THE NEW RECRUITS premieres on THIRTEEN this Tuesday, June 15 at 10p.m.
Seth Kramer answered our questions via email.
Inside Thirteen: What inspired you to make The New Recruits?
Seth Kramer: When filming our 2008 Sundance and PBS documentary The Linguists, we—Ironbound Films’ Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, and Jeremy Newberger—visited some of the poorest people in the world, from remote tribal communities in Orissa State, India, to mountainside villages in Bolivia. The notion that someone could offer these folk critical goods and services, but make them pay for it, seemed radical to us. Exploring this approach we thought would make for a fascinating documentary.
IT: Was there anything that you were surprised to learn during the making of this film, either about the poor people featured or the way business is currently conducted in poorer countries?
SK: The most surprising thing we discovered is that when businesses sell to the poor, the biggest problem is not necessarily that the poor cannot afford the good or service. The problem is that the poor, like customers everywhere, become more demanding of the product. Their desires must constantly be addressed. When the good or service represents an aberration from their traditional lifestyle, than an even larger problem arises: that desire must be cultivated from scratch.
IT: How did the subjects in the film react to this project? Were they at all skeptical?
SK: We follow three apprentices at startup businesses that sell to the poor in Kenya, India, and Pakistan: Suraj Sudhakar, Heidi Krauel, and Joel Montgomery, respectively. All three were skeptical inasmuch as they are within the reality television demographic, so know that foibles, confrontation, and failure are pillars of the medium. We convinced them that documenting their struggle honestly and unflinchingly would not only make for a more informative film, but also a more effective recruiter for those interested in joining the fight.
IT: Is social entrepreneurship a viable alternative to charity? On what scale do you think it could affect global poverty?
SK: To quote Robert Katz, a social enterprise recruiter who appears in the film, “Aid and charity on its own will never solve the problems of poverty.” The millennia have proven this true. Aid and charity can never cease to exist, especially in the direst circumstances, but their limitations demand sustainable alternatives. Social entrepreneurship—employing business principles to solve social problems—is just beginning to see tangible results, but will take many years before its effects on global poverty are assessed as a whole. Its most significant accomplishment so far might be changing the way the world views the poor, and the poor view themselves.
Yesterday, Inside Thirteen had the opportunity to interview Mark Samels, Executive Producer of STONEWALL UPRISING, a film documenting the 1969 police raid of a Greenwich Village gay bar, The Stonewall Inn. When bar patrons refused to be led away in paddy wagons, a three-day riot ensued, providing a pivotal spark to the gay rights movement.
STONEWALL UPRISING takes a closer look at the oppression faced by gays and lesbians in the late ’60s, and brings viewers behind the scenes of the riot through interviews with Stonewall patrons, reporters, and the police officer who led the raid.
The film will premiere in New York at Film Forum from June 16-29; it will air on THIRTEEN later this year. Mark Samels answered our questions via email.
Inside Thirteen: How much of an impact did the Stonewall riots have on the Gay Rights Movement? Was the reaction immediate, or gradual over time?
Mark Samels: The Stonewall Riots were not the beginning of the gay rights movement in the US, but they were an important catalyst. Not unlike early events in the civil rights movement, such as the arrest of Rosa Parks or the march on Selma, the events in June 1969 in Greenwich Village would come to be seen as pivotal, and momentous. For the first time, gays and lesbians felt that their own personal struggles were being mirrored in a larger movement—a movement that would increasingly become politically significant. For many, there was no going back to what life had been like before Stonewall. Over time, that sense of a new chapter in the the story of gay Americans became symbolized in annual Gay Pride parades, another product of Stonewall.
IT: What message do you hope viewers will take from this film?
MS: We hope viewers will come to see that the gay rights movement actually has a history, and that Stonewall played a critical role in that history. We also hope that the film presents a picture of what life was like in the US for gays and lesbians during the 1950s and 1960s, the role New York and Greenwich Village played in gay life, and how the media presented homosexuals during this time. If nothing else, this history shows what has changed, and what has not changed, for gays in America over the past fifty years.
IT: How consistent are the accounts you received from the patrons, reporters, and police you spoke to for the film? How open were they in speaking about the incident?
MS: STONEWALL UPRISING is a historical film without narration and a story told largely through witnesses. A few scholars and experts appear in the film, but for the most part the story is told by those who took part in it. We made a great effort to include a 360 degree perspective on the story, from gays and lesbians who took part in the riots to police officers who were sent in to close down Stonewall to politicians who enacted public decency laws that impacted gay life. The filmmakers, Kate Davis and David Heilbroner, have a great track record in establishing trust with film subjects, and in treating them fairly and empathetically. That trust was key to getting people from all sides to participate in the film.
IT: What was the biggest challenge in making this film?
MS: By far and away the biggest challenge in making the film was how to represent it visually. Surprisingly for an event that took place in 1969 in the nation’s media capital, the events at the Stonewall Inn were not recorded by local television stations or independent film crews. Only a few photographs of the riots exist. Yet the three days of riots were intense, dangerous and emotionally charged. We chose to depict that intensity through the use of images from other public protests and disturbances of the time—and put a card at the top of the film announcing that stylistic approach. In doing so, we hoped to preserve the integrity of the film without diminishing the power of the story.
Nearing the end of their week on the Eastern half of the country, Maus Haus perform tonight at Pianos on the Lower East Side. The independent San Francisco band produces electronics-heavy, rock-oriented songs that pull from countless influences without sounding like pastiches or tediously intentional bricolages. They seem to avoid these pitfalls through creative collaboration, a self-described “six-person filtering system” that lets the music drift from familiar territory to singular explorations ranging from dreamy to driving. For a sample, here’s “Winter” from their latest 7″.
Last night I heard Maus Haus open for local shoegaze trio (+ drummer) School of Seven Bells at a sold out Mercury Lounge. The band started with their slower-paced recent release “Winter” (hear it above) and proceeded through an hour or so of their work.
As on record, the music evoked a flurry of references from the past 60 years of popular music without falling into stylistic mimicry. Instead the familiarity generated an immediate connection and comfort, while fresh, original use made the content actually interesting.
Without the cleanliness of post production, Maus Haus’ live show was sonically more aggressive than their headphone experience. Squealing synths struck fearlessly at the forefront, as the performance made obvious a love for playing with undeniable “keyboard sounds.” Although musically dissimilar, the approach — complete with mod-wheel-riding keyboard shredding — was in some ways reminiscent of YMO, as strange as the comparison might sound.
Synth patterns were played, repeated, and varied live rather than sequenced, and the band threw dramatic time changes into most of their songs. These changes, possibly the most dynamic aspect of the music, were lead by an energetic, concentrated rhythm section. It was here that the set received its strongest song-to-song variety.
These guys didn’t really “make it look easy.” There was a looseness to the group, but it was tempered by orchestrated changeups. With no reverb washes or heavy noise to hide behind, they would look at each other to help keep things on track. The shifts didn’t need to be as dramatically precise as those in the music of a band like Radian, but were instead more like the variety found in Deerhoof’s songs.
For the most part the ensemble proceeded without a standout charismatic vocal presence, but an itching Joshua Rampage brought out some heavy personality for the driving, less harmonized song “Reaction!”
At some point drummer Joseph Genden switched stations with Sean Mabry, a strange site that was followed by some fun percussion interplay, with Mabry finishing drum runs that Genden would start from the other side of the stage.
Maus Haus never seemed to over-indulge in a particular direction, sound, or genre, which made for a refreshing absence of the feeling that they were “trying to be” something in particular. All the details fell cohesively into the service of good songs. Oh, and I could actually hear and understand the lyrics.
Before they came to town, I had a chance to talk with the three Js of Maus Haus about their creative process and where they see themselves fitting in musically.
Bijan: Here’s a general lineup I gleaned off the internet:
Aaron Weiss: bass, synths, trumpet, drums Sean Mabry: vocals, drums, synths, trombone Tom Hurlbut: sax, flute, clarinet, drums Joe Genden: synths, drums Josh Rampage: vocals, synths, bass, rhodes Jason Kick: vocals, synths, bass
There are lots of “synths” in that list. What kind of gear are you guys using on the electronic side of things?
Joe Genden: Our recordings are always shaped by what’s on hand – junky yamaha keyboards, old casios, microkorgs, a few old analog mono synths, various drum machines, an omnichord, an old lowrey organ, and some soft-synths here and there. In the live show, we try to keep it minimal and digital, and sample any of the sounds we can’t replicate. There are a lot of those.
B: Ultimately you get grouped into a sort of indie, rock-oriented realm, with the common note that nobody’s a dedicated guitarist. Why do we make such a big deal out of this fact?
Jason Kick: It’s an easy characteristic that separates us from other bands–no guitars in any sort of rock band is odd to most people. For us, it was not a conscious decision from the beginning, but no one picked up a guitar until well after we had a lot of ideas going. We had a lot of other instruments to play with. There may have been a moment where we said, “well I guess we could/should add guitars”, but then thought, “hey, maybe we shouldn’t.” There’s still no hard or fast rule, but we’ve managed to avoid it for the most part, save some brief moments on “Lark Marvels.”
The guitar sound of a band is often the definitive sound of the band, and it’s a very cathartic instrument that sounds quite different depending on who’s playing it. Synthesizers are viewed as less idiosyncratic and physical, but it’s fun for us to make synths the noisy, cathartic center of attention that guitars often are, and get physical with them. They also make good basses. And drums.
JG: People do make a big deal about the guitar thing, but really, we cheat. We use a lot of bass in higher registers. Doesn’t anyone notice that a bass and a guitar are pretty much the same thing?
B: Some reviewers refer to your band like a 60s throwback, while others relate your sound to the futuristic. Where do you see yourself between this discrepancy? Is there some relationship between the two?
Josh Rampage: The 60s served as an important generation of new and interesting sounds that were previously unheard of. thinking of the 60s and their idea of the “future,” it’s interesting to consider what has occurred musically over time – we think about how we can integrate the same sort of forward thinking that created such compelling sounds back then, while bearing in mind all that has been made musically in the 50 years leading up to this point in time, 2010.
JG: In the 50s and 60s, musicians got their hands on synthesizers and tape machines, became scientists and engineers, and saw a future of alien music completely unlike the past- without acoustic instruments or human performers. I’m sure we don’t sound like Milton Babbitt or anything, but maybe we like the idea of looking into an imaginary alternate musical future, and make music with that in mind.
B: It’s funny to read reviews of your music, because people really struggle to describe it. The most common approach is to use comparisons, but these are wildly varied, I assume matching the diversity of your influences. What do you think makes your music so particularly difficult to describe?
JR: We have a 6-person filtering system that typically vaporizes any semblance of evidence of the ideas we steal from in the first place. We have such varied tastes and influences among us that when combined, the results take on a unique sound by a convenient default.
JK: There are six of us with pretty varied tastes and influences, reaching into all kinds of pop and experimental music, so schizophrenic comparisons make sense. When we’re working out new ideas, we cook up all sorts of things, but the ones we develop into songs are the genuinely unique ones, as we are most excited by combinations of sounds we haven’t quite heard before. Also, a song has to have a nice melody or two that reminds of music we’ve listened to all of our lives–but haven’t quite heard yet.
B: With six people, how do you bring it all together for a composition/recording? Is there some complex bureacracy at work?
JR: Goes something like this: idea suggestions that lead to lengthy email debates, fish fights (getting slapped with a salmon!), and inevitably ending in hugging it out and the resulting recordings.
B: Where do the lyrics come from?
JK: Many of the lyrics come from us filtering real-life experiences into a state of mind that is slightly beyond reality.
JR: Absurd, dada and surrealist leanings, creating a lyrical atmosphere, real-life experiences, and trying to tell a story in a way that has never been told before.
B: Your songs have some dramatic (and enjoyable ) stereo imaging. What’s your ethic or approach with this?
JK: Stereo by nature is a special effect. It seems that stereo was created because we have two ears. Our ethic might be “to keep both ears engaged.” Extreme panning, like on many 60s records, can be tiresome, but when it helps create movement and helps the whole mix seem more visually imaginable, we pan like crazy. Panning also helps manage a lot of ideas at once.
Bijan: How do you make these songs work live? Did touring Lark Marvels material inform the production of Sea-Sides?
JK: Sea-sides is a mixed bag of songs that were older and newer to us, but if anything, we felt less obliged to represent the recording, because we found from the “Lark Marvels” songs that live renditions could be different and still work. The first three songs on sea-sides were auditioned live before finishing them, but the production on all of those went beyond the live versions, quite a bit, with around 100 tracks for each song.
B: Who does your visuals, and what’s the guiding aesthetic there? I noticed an image from Richard Heffner’s Open Mind in a performance photo…
JG: We’re always into the idea of our music as accompaniment to visuals – partly because a bunch of guys pounding on keyboards might not be as visually interesting as guitars – but also because we’re influenced by the effect of a lot of old soundtracks – Spaghetti Westerns, Bollywood, etc. We aspire to be a soundtrack. In our earlier shows, we used found footage of early computer graphics, psychology experiments, and a clip from Open Mind. Since then we’ve played with a couple visualists – Tyler Freeman, who uses a Wii controller to interact with his visuals, and Miko Revereza, who does live video feedback with an old camcorder and editing deck.
B: Any favorite / memorable shows that you’ve played?
JR: NP 2010 at the mezzanine [in San Francisco] with !!! and a show in Oakland on Halloween where I broke aaron’s glasses and we all almost died.
B: What do you think makes a good live performance?
JR: Avoiding computer malfunctions and making sure everyone has used the bathroom beforehand. Emilio Estevez jokes seem to lighten the mood for certain audiences. Above all that – genuinely enjoying ourselves while hoping to help the audience in getting on the same page as we are – we love when people get down while we are.
B: Any recent releases you guys are enjoying?
JR: GonjaSufi, ambient (dolphins into the future, the caretaker), Cosmogramma, flying lotus’ new one.
JK: The new Charlotte Gainsbourg, Sonny + the Sunsets, Add N to X (not new, but listening a lot), Nite Jewel, + still shocked at how good the new MGMT record is, as I never cared for them before but I think they’re doing something interesting with their vast recording budgets.
Last week, filmmaker Ken Burns sat down for an exclusive interview with THIRTEEN’s President, Neal Shapiro, to discuss the making of his upcoming film, The Tenth Inning. The documentary picks up where the original Emmy Award-winning, nine-part documentary series Baseball left off.
Set to air in the fall of 2010, The Tenth Inning will follow the triumphs and trials of baseball from 1993 through 2008, including its growing popularity on a global scale, and the scandals surrounding performance-enhancing drugs. The film is co-directed by Burns and Lynn Novick, and co-written and produced by Burns, Novick, and David McMahon.
Founded in 1964 by Jerry Masucci and Johnny Pacheco, Fania became the premiere label for salsa music and the sound of New York. The label hosted some of the most prominent names in Latin music, like Celia Cruz, Ray Barretto, and Héctor Lavoe, and toured the world as the Fania All-Stars.
In addition to releasing remastered works on CD and MP3, Fania today expands its offerings by letting DJs and producers revisit its catalog and sculpt sets based around more contemporary formats informed by hip-hop and electronic music.
One DJ to have his hand at the Fania Live series is San Francisco’s SAKE-1, who put out the third installment with his From the Fresh Coast mix. Since then he’s collaborated with New York City DJs Laylo and Bobbito Garcia to create an annual celebration of Fania’s music, featuring Fania classics and remixes along with relevant rare grooves.
DJ Laylo is a filmmaker, activist, and half of the hip-hop duo Eli Efi and DJ Laylo. As a DJ she’ll play “anything that moves [her] from the African Diaspora music continuum.”
Bobbito Garcia is a DJ, writer, sneaker guru, and celebrated hip-hop icon with a broad musical focus.
I spoke with the three DJs about their relationship with the music and how they came together to share their love of Fania.
DJ Bobbito Garcia, orig. photo: Francisco Reyes
Bijan: How did the idea for the three of you getting together and paying tribute to Fania come about?
SAKE-1: When Fania was purchased by Miami-based Latin music distribution company Emusica earlier this decade they initiated a promotional partnership with NYC-based music periodical Wax Poetics. I had wanted to do a Fania tribute party for a few years and contacted Wax Poetics magazine, since I didn’t have a direct contact with Fania or Emusica. They wound up recommending me as an artist for their “Fania Live” DJ album series, in which a few DJs were picked to interpret/mix/remix/curate the Fania sound and back catalog for the electronic music generation.
I still wanted to do a proper tribute to Fania as a club night however, so when the CD was released in 2008 I did it in SF, and of course there was only one DJ in the world that would make it legit, Bobbito. So I asked him to come spin, and it was a great night. We did another night in LA, then collaborated with Laylo to do the NYC event a few weeks later… Once Laylo got involved, it took the event to a new level and i think we felt that we had the right folks to make it an annual event, and in NYC which is synonymous with Fania.
B: As DJs with strong ties to hop-hop, what do you think are the intersections of hip-hop and salsa/boogaloo/other Fania genres? How might these connections come out in your set?
Bobbito: The intersections one might find between Fania and Hip-Hop would be that both found a home in New York during the ’70s, and were shaped idealogically by the economic and social conditions of the times. A great film that explores this is Henry Chalfant’s documentary From Mambo to Hip Hop. He pays it a lot better justice than what I could explain in this interview. The connection that comes out in our sets is easier to explain. Hip Hop taught us to not accept what was played on the radio, but to dig deeper into our souls and decide for ourselves what beautiful music should be shared amongst us. So during our party, yes, you’ll hear some of the Fania classics, but you’ll also be exposed to rare and unknown album cuts from their catalog, modern-day remixes with hip hop and dance beats, and some live-recorded performances from that era. And since we have many hip-hop heads who follow us individually, some of whom don’t listen to much outside of rap or it’s sampled derivatives, we are helping shine a light on them of an entire Latin movement that was powerful and deserves to be preserved. . . thus the name of the party SIEMPRE: A DJ TRIBUTE TO FANIA RECORDS.
B: Technical curiosity – are you playing vinyl, CD, serato/traktor, or what?
Bobbito: I’m still strictly vinyl in my DJ sets. I prefer the superiority and warmth of analog sound. I also love, in particular, the Latin music’s rich history in artwork (which has been the subject of books like Cocinando and others).
Laylo: Sake and myself rock both vinyl and Serato. I love vinyl but also like that Serato allows one to play music/edits/remixes that you can’t find or have never been released on wax.
B: What role did this music have in your lives growing up? Why do you think the “Fania” name carries such a strong, inspiring legacy?
Bobbito: My father was a Latin Jazz musician and we grew up with an actual set of Tito Puente’s vibes, a gift directly from him, in our living room. My mother was Fania All-Star singer Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez’ personal hairdresser. Honestly, though, I didn’t tune into Fania until my adulthood. As a child, I looked at Latin music as what my parents listened to, and I tried to find my own rhythm. The Fania legacy was, and still is, so ridiculously powerful, how could I, a Boricua music lover, not eventually discover it?! I love all music with soul, and the fact that so much heart was poured into the making of Barretto, Colon, Cruz, Rivera, etc. records, plus they happen to be my own peoples . . . it’s a wonderful passion that drives me to hear, play, dance, smile, all that.
Laylo: All of my best childhood memories have Fania as a soundtrack. My mother moved from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico in the early ’70s as a young adult…and my moms was a crazy salsa dancer. She has tons of stories of seeing Fania legends live and dancing the night away. Fania was a huge part of her life and she made it a part of ours. Whether it was a birthday party or cleaning the house on a Saturday afternoon, there was always some Ismael Miranda, Willie Colon, or some other Fania great blasting in our home. At family gatherings, we used to do dance-offs between all the kids. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I loved the music as a little girl, and the more I dig as an adult the more I love this era of Salsa.
B: Can you tell us a little bit about Jose Conde and Pupy Pedroso w/Los Que Son Son?
Laylo: There’s always controversy about who started what with Salsa so I’m excited that this show is bringing together older Cuban musicians, younger Latin fusion artists, and the pan-Caribbean flavor of New York City…all paying homage to the power of Latin music.
B: What are you working on at the moment?
Bobbito: I have a residency at Camaradas en El Barrio, NYC, the first Monday of every month. I also started up a new label called Alala Records, releasing 7″ vinyl only. I’m up to a ton of other things, best for people to peep where I’m at on my Facebook page.
Laylo: In true NYC form, I’m working on a bunch of things at the same time. I work as Development Director at Firelight Media, a Harlem-based film production company. My film Estilo Hip Hop premiered on PBS last year and we’re getting ready to release our DVD on June 22nd in partnership with Indiepix Films. I’m also working on an album with my partner, Eli Efi, who is a pioneering hip hop artist from Sao Paulo, Brasil. And of course, I’m always spinning music I love around NYC and other cities.
B: Could you share a couple of your favorite Fania records, or a couple that you’re into at the moment?
Bobbito: Impossible to list favorites cuz there are so many, but two that have been stuck in my head recently are Ismael Rivera “Caras Lindas” and Bobby Valentin “Nací Moreno.” I love when any genre–driven by people of color–dives into social issues, expressions of self-love, upliftment . . . topics that challenge people to think and at the same time move their feet.
Laylo: I agree, choosing a favorite is impossible, but two songs I’m currently loving are “Apaga La Luz” by Celia Cruz and Willie Colon and “El Hijo de Obatala” by the incredible Ray Barretto. I love these tracks cause they literally force you to dance but also because the lyrics bridge spirituality, social justice, and cultural pride.
Bobbito, SAKE, and Laylo celebrate Latin music with Pupy Pedroso, Jose Conde, and their bands this Sunday at 3PM.
They’ll be performing the full SIEMPRE! DJ tribute at Le Poisson Rouge on July 11 with live violin and congas.
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Although Jorge Santana gives this one some California/rock flavor, here’s a piece of Fania All-Star goodness:
This Thursday night, multi-instrumental musician Bora Yoon performs at Warsaw for a show headlined by electronic dub supergroup Moritz von Oswald Trio. The event is a joint production between Knitting Factory and Beyond and also features electronic composer Keith Fullerton Whitman.
Bora Yoon performs with a collection of conventional and unconventional sound-generators, from her own voice, string instruments, and Tibetan bowls to household items processed through software. One moment she might be singing, while a few minutes later her cell phone sits on a turntable, its periodic proximity to a microphone or a listening ear acting as a visible LFO. This visually performative element underscores her singular performance, which constructs sound environments from a myriad of sources.
A recording from a performance at last February’s Unsound Festival gives an idea of how five minutes might look and sound:
In anticipation of the show on Thursday, I asked Bora Yoon a few questions via email.
Bijan: Describe what you’ll be doing at Warsaw on June 3.
Bora Yoon: I’ll be presenting ( (( PHONATION )) ), an interdisciplinary song cycle of ambient electro-acoustic soundscapes, using voice, electrified viola, turntable, Tibetan singing bowls, radios, water, metronomes, musicboxes, homemade instruments, and electronics — and visual artist R. Luke DuBois will be joining me on live visual projections, which will be manipulated in realtime, creating essentially an immersive audiovisual environment and experience.
B: How are R. Luke Dubois’ visuals integrated into the performance? Do they affect decisions that you make on stage or do you do your thing while he does his?
BY: We essentially do our own thing in tandem — Luke sets up a camera and uses the live video feed from the performance to manipulate in realtime as the performance occurs — creating a sense of time and elasticity, and the idea of permanence or possibility of permanence.
Luke is amazing, and a brilliant visual artist in his own right, and considering he programmed Jitter, and it’s his medium, I usually just speak in general terms of the artistic intent and macro arc of the set, and where the set travels to, what textures are involved, and what moods are to be evoked, and we hit the stage. He does what he does best, I do what I believe I do best — and it works.
B: As an improviser with a lot happening at once, do you make “mistakes” or is it all just part of what happens? Do you incorporate unintended actions/sounds into the developing performance or just leave them behind?
BY: The way I see it, whether it’s improvised, or thru-composed, everything has to fall into step with the rhythm of the moment. So whether it’s planned, or accidental, at its moment of delivery, the performance has to breathe with the energy in the room, so it comes off seemingly ‘new’ every time, and doesn’t seem forced, or too rigid. My compositions are approximately 75% structured: I know the order in which things come in, and the rest is somewhat breathable, within the context of the set, the pacing of the night, the energy in the room, and what seems to fall into place. Whatever happens happens — so when there’s feedback in A-flat, harmonize with it then.
B: How does a specific space affect your performance? When you’re not the only musician of the evening, as on June 3, does the bill/lineup have any effect on what you do?
BY: Space and architecture certainly affects the way I present my performance. Music has the dynamic ability to create both inner and outer space for a listener — and I believe that taking a venue space into account, in its presentation and delivery, only augments the dynamism of delivery, to be more experiential, than presentational beyond just the proscenium of a stage.
For instance, if it’s a church space, large concert hall, or auditorium, then there’s acoustics to play with, perhaps even history to fold into the repertoire, sense of time, balcony, layout — or if it’s a small space like a blackbox, then I have to create inward space — playing with close micing, the subconscious associations of sounds, and perception of proximity, and sense of scale through effects, and visuals, and lighting.
The billing, and the lineup also definitely affects what I perform, as I often find myself in pretty varied scenes: electronic, contemporary classical, multimedia, art world, dance world, etc. Knowing what other performers, kinds of performers, overarching context or theme of the night focuses my instrumentation of a set (if it’s a more classical gig, then I’ll use my viola, more tonal instruments — or if it’s an electronic festival, hen I’ll use my vocoder, synths, etc.), allows me to anticipate the expectations of the crowd, how to play with that expectation, create contrast, and segue in interesting ways so that the night, not only my set, has a nice ‘bloom’ to it.
In essence, all factors work towards creating a kind of rarefaction of experience: from intimate to transportive, by utilizing the perception and scale of sound.
Subwoofing Spoons with Max/MSP
B: Do you have a favorite piece of gear, other than your voice?
BY: One of my favorites in the battery in the Tiny Orchestra I schlep around with me is an original instrument I made last spring with Brooklyn’s League of Electronic Musicians and Urban Robots (LEMUR) called Subwoofing Spoons. They are a pair of repurposed Swedish spoons amplified with an old violin pickup, and processed through custom software in Max/MSP, to create a large bass subwoofing hit, approximated by its attack. When there’s a sweet subwoofer in the house, it’s quite satisfying to hear — it’s basically having a German industrial rave in your hands.
My newest addition and enchantment I am working into ( (( PHONATION )) ) is this Stroh violin, a horned violin from the turn of the century, when recording technology was not sensitive enough at that point to capture softer sounds like strings, and voice — so that they altered the entire string family to sound a bit shriller (akin to an erhu) so they would be able to be heard.
I’m drawn to its mutant form, and how instruments are a reflection of the time — and that it was a hybrid prototype of various audio technologies of the time — and is very much a part of the steampunk aesthetic I am drawn to, which is this idea of “ancient future”, and the cyclicality of patterns through time, as we move forward in such a digital age.
B: 2003’s Proscenium recording, which I just heard recently, seems like a very different side to your music. How does the experience of recording and performing this type of work compare with something like ( (( Phonation )) )?
BY: In a past musical life, I was a classical composer,and folk-singer before I started to experiment more into the sound / noise side of things.
Proscenium is much more nascent in my development towards my original sound — and it took the stripping of lyrical and formulaic elements of songwriting to reach ( (( PHONATION )) ) — which is literally means the utterance of sounds into language. ( (( PHONATION )) ) is basically a result of the degeneration from songs to the elements of music, to see what else could take form — and I have to say, it is the most original and honest music I have made, and is more a departure into more the mood, texture, and timbre side of music’s unraveling, focusing further and relishing in the music-side of things — whereas the songs from Proscenium are much more lyrically-oriented and prescribe much more formulaically into what a “song” is.
I do however still consider the experimental soundscape works of ( (( PHONATION )) ) to be essentially songs without words — and it’s interesting and bemusing / amusing to me to see what radically different genres and categories I fall under now (experimental / contemporary / electronic) , with simply the removal of words and lyrics.
Bora Yoon in The Wind up Bird Chronicle, photo: Stephen Earnhart
B: I read that you’re creating music for a theatrical production of “The Wind Up Bird Chronicle.” Can you tell us more about that project? How did you get involved, and what “music and live performance” will you be doing?
BY: I’m co-scoring and performing the live music for the staged adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s “Wind Up Bird Chronicle” directed by Stephen Earnhart, making its world premiere at the Baryshnikov Art Center next March. I became involved when he was looking for a new composer for the project, through a mutual colleague I had worked with before at BAM and became excited by the project, not only because I am a huge fan of Murakami — but because of its multi-layers of unreality, dream states, and states of consciousness and unconsciousness that I felt I could explore and offer insights as a hybrid composer/composer who draws inspiration from those very invisibles — and also falls within the cracks of many definitions.
I perform at the side of the stage — a one-woman orchestra pit essentially — in a cubicle of soundmaking devices and instruments: with a prepared piano on one end — an aquarium on another (to mirror the set), and a table full of goodies which I make music with: Tibetan bowls, metronomes, walkie talkies, zippers, bird callers, bike bells, velcro, chimes, meditation boxes, radios, and electric viola, electronics, and voice.
I echo the movements of the characters, I embody the motions and imagery happening in the show through seemingly coincidental movements and performance interfaces that resonate what is being described, which creates a sense of Michel Gondry-esque one-degree-removed synchronicity that makes sense, in a very illogical but intuitive way (much like dreams).
I am performing thematic music, as well as live foley, noise, and leitmotifs specific to certain characters, and I’ve carefully chosen which instruments arise when, akin to the imagery described in each section, so that the interfaces of actions are also mirroring what is being described within a certain scene or between characters (i.e. using a bow pulled across my Tibetan singing bowls to create shrieking feedback sounds, during a scene which recalls a man-skinning experience in Manchuria in WWII, so that performatively, the gesture looks like what is being described, though functional in a different way). The show is a rather subconscious rabbit hole of a show — and I am on stage for the duration of the entire show, in addition to a 30-min preshow to set the tone and scene for the audience as they arrive, and settle.
What I enjoy most about the role, is the fact that I perform in an in-between world between what is happening on stage, and what is happening in the minds of these characters, and the other multimedia / tech aspects of the show. I love toying of expectations to an audience of whether they should pay attention to me, or overlook me, as an audience would in a classical setting with a conductor of an orchestra pit — or whether I am actually a character, a ghost character, etc. To me, this role is an embodiment of music’s dynamic ability to be everywhere, and nowhere, be invisible and intangible, yet visceral and illuminating.
I consider it a kind of audio Butoh — or as Stephen and I jokingly call it: “au-toh.”
B: What do you have coming up, in terms of specific performances or new works?
In GOODBYE SOLO, an old man gets into a cab with an unusual request: a one-way ride to his death. The driver agrees, unless he can talk the man out of it. Director Ramin Bahrani infused the story with African, Mexican, and Southern influences to create a unique drama that explores the human spirit and the role of free will. Independent Lens sat down with Ramin Bahrani, the writer/director/producer of GOODBYE SOLO, to discuss his inspiration for the film and the critical acclaim it has received.
GOODBYE SOLO premieres on June 1 at 10pm on THIRTEEN.
What keeps him motivated as an independent filmmaker:
Curiosity. A desire to create a new set of values, culture and images as the current ones seem old, wasted, and often disturb me.
His three favorite films: These are three films that I watched in the last few months and I loved:
The Enigma of Kasper Hauser The Searchers The Last Picture Show
His advice for aspiring filmmakers:
Read a lot, and work as many odd jobs outside of the film industry as possible.
His most inspirational food for making independent film:
I don’t know if inspiration exists but it always finds me working.
Independent Lens: What impact do you hope GOODBYE SOLO will have?
Ramin Bahrani: I hope first and foremost that the audience will be engaged and that they will enjoy and be emotionally moved by the story and characters. Perhaps it may also cause one to think about the nature of friendship, of selfless love, and of the ceaseless battle between life and death, hope and despair.
IL: What led you to make this film?
RB: A real mountain called Blowing Rock, and two encounters with strangers in my hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina:
A real Senegalese cab driver who is as charming, friendly, and curious as Solo in the film, and with whom I spent six months riding alongside doing the night shift in the cab. An elderly man standing by the side of the road, totally alone, outside of an “assisted living” home that I would pass every day for months.
Blowing Rock provided me with an ending. It is a real life location along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the North Carolina Mountains that I have been visiting since childhood with my family. In October (when we filmed) it is known for its other-worldly beauty as the leaves change into an explosion of colors that burst and flash out of an enveloping and mysterious fog. Blowing Rock is also known to have a wind so powerful that it can blow a person back up into the heavens.
IL: What were some of the challenges you faced in making GOODBYE SOLO?
RB: Every film is a set of neverending challenges.
IL: How did you gain the trust of the subjects in your film?
RB: The two leading actors in the film are both professional, and it was my good fortune they accepted the invitation to be in this film as they are both exceptionally talented.
The rest of the actors are non-professionally trained and locals to Winston-Salem and each of them is a unique gem, especially Diane Franco, the young girl playing Alex, Solo’s step-daughter. None of them knew anything more about the film than the scenes they played in. They trusted me as I trusted them.
IL: Tell us about a scene in the film that especially moved or resonated with you.
RB: William and Solo’s final scene is something very special. Red West, the actor who plays the role of William, has done something phenomenal and magical. West has managed to transfer his inner soul and all our own inner anxieties about the fragility of life, the hopelessness of death, and the power and transient nature of friendship into his face and eyes with only the most subtle of moves, and not even the hint of a verbal utterance. This is what a great actor can do when given respect in cinema.
IL: What has the audience response been so far? Have the people featured in the film seen it, and if so, what did they think?
RB: Thankfully, the response has been very good. The film premiered in the Venice Film Festival where it was awarded the International Critic’s Prize for best film, and then it screened at Toronto Film Festival. It was released theatrically in the U.S. starting in March 2009 in more than 100 markets.
The cast has also seen the film and enjoyed it very much. It was a distinct pleasure for the non-professionally trained actors to finally know the full story of the film.
IL: Why did you choose to present your film on public television?
RB: They were nice enough to ask, and it’s a great opportunity to reach a wide, intelligent, and mature audience via such a respected, important, and long-standing American institution as public television.
IL: What didn’t you get done when you were making your film?
RB: My laundry.
Internationally acclaimed for his first two features, MAN PUSH CART and CHOP SHOP, Bahrani’s films have won countless awards after premiering in festivals such as Cannes, Venice, Sundance, Toronto and Berlin, and appeared on numerous top ten lists. Bahrani was the recipient of the 2008 Independent Spirit Award’s Someone To Watch prize, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship, and has been the subject of several international retrospectives including the MoMA and Harvard University.
He also wrote and directed the short subject PLASTIC BAG (narrated by Werner Herzog) which premiered as the opening night film in Venice 2009 where Bahrani also served on the Jury. GOODBYE SOLO is his first film set and shot in his hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The film premiered in 2008 and immediately won the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival.
Tonight at 8pm, THIRTEEN’s Lincoln Center Studios will host New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in a live Q&A, where he will respond on-air to viewer calls and emails regarding the state’s current fiscal crisis. Christie: On the Line will be presented by THIRTEEN in partnership with the Caucus Educational Corporation. It will be simulcast on THIRTEEN, NJN, Public Television, NJ.com, and WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM.
June 1 marks the beginning of SummerStage, New York City’s free music and arts festival. This year the festival celebrates its 25th anniversary with an impressive calendar of events in Central Park and other locations all around the city. We’ll be covering a number of the SummerStage events over the next few months, and we’ll also be giving away some guaranteed-entry/quicker-line tickets to select performances every week, courtesy of City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage.
To learn more about the festival history and operation we spoke with David Rivel, Executive Director of City Parks Foundation.
David Rivel, City Parks Foundation
THIRTEEN: Can you talk about City Parks Foundation and what it does?
David Rivel: City Parks Foundation is the organization that produces SummerStage, but we also do lots of other stuff. We do free sports programs for kids. We have education programs for school groups. We help get involved in neighborhood parks in a productive way, but the arts and culture programs that we do are the biggest part of the organization and probably the most famous and well-attended.
T: When was the foundation founded?
DR: City Parks Foundation was founded in 1989.
T: So when did SummerStage start?
DR: SummerStage started in 1986. So you’re saying to yourself, “Well how is it that SummerStage is older than City Parks Foundation?” and that’s because SummerStage was founded by the Central Park Conservancy, which is a not-for-profit organization that works to maintain Central Park. After seven or eight years of running Central Park SummerStage they decided it didn’t really fit into their mission anymore. The program was getting larger and more logistically difficult for them to produce. So it made sense for City Parks Foundation, which is a large, producing organization, to take over the program. We officially took over in 1994.
T: So we thought it was all at Central Park, but there are event listings for all over the city…
DR: The series started in Central Park, but we started doing programming in other parks all around the city. We started a concert series in parks around the cities in 1990. We started a dance program in parks in 2005, and the same year we started a theater program, and those other programs all had different names. We had “City Parks Concerts,” “City Parks Dance,” and “City Parks Theater,” and what we’ve decided to do for this year is to rebrand all of our arts activity under the single brand of SummerStage. That gives New Yorkers one festival which takes place in 17 parks including Central Park but also other parks in neighborhoods around the city with music, dance, theater, and a variety of programming. So it’s just bigger and better than ever before, and it made sense to do that for our 25th annivesary.
Drop the Lime (T&B) at SummerStage 2009
T: How is the festival curated?
DR: So the department works individually and also as a team to see as much stuff as they can. We go to international festivals. We go to important festivals in this country like South by Southwest. It takes about a year to program everything. We’re already starting to program next summer, for example. Some things have been in the works even longer than that. Some works that we’ve commissioned, and we have a couple this year, can take more than a year. For some of the bigger acts — like we have two free performances from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in July — those conversations have been going on for three or four years actually.
T: And so these are mostly free shows, except for a few benefits?
DR: Everything we do is free. All of our sports programs are free. All of our educational programs are free. There are six shows that have a ticket price. The proceeds from those help us pay for the free shows, but we put on 1200 performances a year, so the number of paid ticketed events is dwarfed by the number of free events that we’re doing.
T: So how is it all funded?
DR: We raise money privately. We have a presenting sponsor this year, MasterCard. We have subsidiary sponsors. JetBlue is our official airline, Manhattan Beer Distributor is our official beer sponsor, City Winery is our wine sponsor, so we put it together with corporate sponsorship and some money from the benefit shows. We also have some food, beverage, and merchandise concessions — we get a little bit of money that way. The rest we raise from foundations, from individuals. It’s a big job. It costs about 5.9 million dollars to put on SummerStage, and we work, just as the programming staff works for a year to put the program together. Everybody else in the organization — the development staff, me, the board of directors — works about a year to put the funding together.
T: Can you tell us about the pieces that have been commissioned?
DR: Our commission is a theater piece called “American Schemes.” It’s written by an emerging playwright Radha Blank, whom we’ve known about for a couple of years and have been trying to work with. We commissioned a piece last year also, a theater piece from a different emerging playwright named Chisa Hutchinson, and what’s great is that they know when they write the piece that it’s going to be performed outdoors in a park. So Chisa’s piece last year, which was called “Dirt Rich,” was about a bunch of kids who discovered some money buried in their playground, the complications that ensue from that discovery, and the dynamic among the kids. It was a great play, but what was particularly interesting about it was of course that it took place in a park, next to a playground, as the performance was playing out. So you get these layers of meaning. So when we commission theater pieces we’re specifically commissioning works that we know are going to play particularly well outdoors. Now I haven’t seen “American Schemes” yet. The rehearsals are only starting next week. The first performances are in July, so I don’t know what to expect, but I’m sure Radha’s done a piece that will particularly resonate outdoors.
T: What other performances are you looking forward to?
DR: Some of the other performances that are notable? Well, we can start with the start of the season. The start of the season is June 1. We have two performances that day, one in Red Hook Park, which is a park in Brooklyn, featuring Jay Electronica, who is a contemporary hip-hop artist. Hip-hop is one of our several themes of the season. The other show we have that day on June 1 is Melody Gardot with the New York Pops orchestra, and that’s at the Mainstage in Central Park. So those two shows together kind of give you a sense of the artistic diversity as well as the geographic diversity of the series.
We end SummerStage at the end of August, on August 28 and August 29, with the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. Jazz and in particular bebop are another theme of the season. We have McCoy Tyner, James Moody, Vijay Iyer, and a bunch of other people celebrating the music of Charlie Parker and doing it in parks — one where he lived, Thompskins Square Park in Manhattan, which is basically right next to the street he lived on when he lived in New York City, and then the other day of the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival is in Harlem at Marcus Garvey Park, where of course Charlie played when he was here in New York.
So we’re trying to highlight New York City artists, art forms that were developed in New York City, trying to play music, present dance, and present theater that will resonate with the various communities that live in New York City, and to do that in the very neighborhood parks that are important to communities around the city. So SummerStage is really the New York City festival, and that’s what we’re really celebrating.
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Click here to see the entire SummerStage schedule. Check back for reviews of SummerStage events, event previews with interviews, and more information on the guaranteed entry tickets.