Thanks to everyone who came out to the show last week and congratulations to all the participants on a wonderful workshop. Details for the spring Composers' Workshop will be coming soon. We're not finished mixing the recordings from this past session. But for now, here's a finished recording of my piece.
This Sunday was the last rehearsal of a fantastic workshop. I realize that I haven't written much about the day to day of this workshop(getting married is a terrible blogging distraction). Nevertheless it's been one of the best. More importantly, it's been delightfully different in tone and style from past workshops. Once again Russell Thorpe stepped up in a major way and wrote 3 different tunes. Multi-resident John Chittum has finally wrote a piece for us and it doesn't suck. Brian Padavic and Leah Sproul Pulatie also brought in strong work and have performed amirably. Peter Lawless continues to be his opinionated and refreshing self. And we have three great newbies in Eric Chapman, Teri Quinn, and Mike Shanks. I want to thank Pat Conway for coming and giving us a fabulous critique and Jennifer Coates for collaborating with us and writing lyrics for both Brian and myself.
I have not put up any recordings from rehearsals simply because the recordings I have are very poor quality. And by poor I mean way worse than the less than terrific recordings I usually put up. Luckily Peter has been gracious enough to record yesterday's rehearsal and hopefully that will yield something blog-worthy.
I invite you all to come out this Friday to check out the art and hear something truly unique.
Returning for her second Black House workshop, is the talented Leah Sproul Pulatie. I orginally had reservations about bringing in a vocalist but she blew us away with her technical abilities, her musicianship, and the fearless way that she deals with all the weirdness that we write for her. And with that, here's Leah:
Where are you from and what brought you to Kansas City?
Originally, I'm from a town called Rockwall right outside of Dallas, Texas. I came to Kansas City to get my doctorate in composition at UMKC Conservatory.
Who are you musical heroes and why?
I don't know that I have heroes, exactly, but there are definitely people whose music and careers I admire. Carol King has always been a model for my songwriting--her songs are catchy, concise, and say exactly what they mean. I like other songwriters like Annie Clark and Neko Case for the opposite reasons--their musical and lyrical complexity. Art Music-wise, I love composers Libby Larsen and Meredith Monk. I must admit part of the reason is because they are women--still quite the minority in this field, and hence an inspiration--but it's also because they are total innovators of craft, form, genre...you name it. Larsen has developed the uncanny ability to incorporate American language and all of is various regional dialects within her instrumental music, and Monk is just a maverick. She makes the art that she has to with no apologies. It's really motivating.
How do you feel about Kansas City's music scene in comparison to other places you've lived?
It's pretty great--especially in the realms of art music and jazz.There's a ton of support. I lived in Louisville, KY prior to moving to KC, and that city ihas a big Indy/Pop music scene (I still stream their indy radio station online! go WFPK!), but Kansas City has proven to be just as much of a music town as Louisville--just of a different stripe.
What had you heard about Kansas City before you moved here?
Not a ton. My dad is originally from KC, and I have some family in town, but I had no idea about the arts/music/cultural scene until I got here. Paul Rudy described it to me upon my first visit as a "sleeper city," which I like. It's a lot more happening than most folks give it credit for.
I've really admired the confidence in your delivery and how you well you've fit in with the different composers' music in Black House. How do you approach this?
Thank you! I have really enjoyed getting into everyone's different styles. I think it evolves much in the same way as the rest of the group--you feel it out and find out what your part has to say within the whole. I'm a terrible sightreader, so the first few sessions I'm able to sit back and listen to everything else come together, and I can then make better choices about my own part once I start woodshedding. It's kind of cheating, but at least now my shameful secret is out and my conscience is clear.
How much jazz experience do you have?
I started singing with the jazz band in high school andI sang with a few combos during my undergraduate degree. The only jazz specific training I had was listening and singing along with Ella, Billie, and Diana Krall albums. That, and a single, very painful, semester of jazz piano. I began working with non-jazz based improvisation during the latter part of my undergraduate and throughout my master's degree, and that's how I came to Black House for my first session. It was kind of a shock having to read standard notation again, haha.
Where do you see yourself going with your music?
I'll continue performing in addition to writing and having my works played by other people. I also love collaborating, so that will be a part of it, too. It's difficult to say for sure. I've got many seemingly unrelated musical interests--art music, improv, pop, theatre music--I want to find a way to synthesize them all into what I do. That's why I'm still in school, I guess...to figure that part out.
Do you consider yourself as more or a singer or a composer? Does that matter?
I consider myself a composer. I don't know that it matters, really, but I've got a lot of friends who are professional, classically trained singers. They work a lot harder and know a lot more about the technical aspects of singing than I do, so it's more difficult to compare myself with them. I do, however, work very hard at composing, so I am much more comfortable with that title. Many singers also don't do the extended vocal techniques I do (screeching, high belting, screaming/yelling), because they're not very sustainable on the instrument--there are only a few specialists who can perform that way without losing their voices. I think it is because I am a composer that I'm more willing to contort and strain to get the sounds that will have the greatest impact. It may sound flippant, but I'm not as protective of my voice because I don't consider it as my main focus. I love singing, and I will sing until my cords fall out, but it's just a part of the whole.