P R E S S R E L E A S E S 2003
December 17, 2003
Robin Holcomb's new Work-in-Progress Comes to MASS MoCA January 17
(North Adams, Mass.) Gifted Seattle-based composer Robin Holcomb offers the audience a chance to be a part of the creative process and take a first look at her new work during its development on Saturday, January 17, at 7:30 P.M. The Utopia Project, a staged theatrical song cycle and collaboration with filmmaker Britta Johnson, is inspired by the strange and compelling history of the utopian societies that flourished in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the twentieth century. Holcomb's music has been described by the Washington Post as "sensitive, descriptive, adventuresome and full of soul."
According to The New York Times, she "has created a new American regionalism, spun from many threads; country, rock, minimalism, Civil War songs, Baptist hymns, Appalachian folk tunes, even the polytonal music of Charles Ives. The music that results is as elegantly simple as a Shaker quilt, and no less beautiful."
Based in part on interviews with surviving descendents of utopian communities, the songs will describe the fierce independence, frailties, fortunes and misfortunes of these groups and the individuals who founded them, touching many of the themes and issues presented by Fantastic, an exhibition on view in MASS MoCA's galleries. Many of these communities were founded as a reaction to the urban and industrial excess of the post-Civil War period. The 1960s and '70s resurgence of communal living projects mirrors similar reactions and points to a cyclical nature of their appearance and experimental efforts. Incorporating film and spoken word, the performance will illustrate themes inspired by existing texts and invented contexts.
Holcomb's perspective on her art has been forged by rich and varied musical experiences, from her development of a unique solo piano style to her work with chamber ensembles, Indonesian gamelans, improvisational orchestras and musical theater. Having lived in three very distinct regions of the country the deep South, on the West Coast and in New York City her surroundings have also played a key role in her musical development. With interests in folk music that emerged during her childhood in Georgia and the mountains of California, she expanded her musical vocabulary studying ethnomusicology and composition at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
It was in her musical theater work, Angels at the Four Corners, that the seeds for Holcomb's debut as a singer/songwriter were sown. Premiered in 1989 as part of New Music America, it combined storytelling with song, and Holcomb shared in the singing. Some of this material was included on her 1990 self-titled debut album from Nonesuch, which received critical praise and a spot on the 1991 Village VoicePazz & Jop Poll, which called Holcomb's work "as literate as singer-songwriting gets." Holcomb has collaborated on previous albums with a variety of musicians from guitarists Peter Holsapple (dBs, REM) and Bill Frisell to Gospel vocalist Jevetta Steele and sax-man Doug Wiesselman.
Funding for The Utopia Project is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and by a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts and Meet the Composer, Inc., with additional support from ASCAP, The Virgil Thomson Fund, and the six New England state arts agencies.
Tickets to The Utopia Project are $7. MASS MoCA members get 10% off. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams from 11 A.M. until 5 P.M. (closed Tuesdays). Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or online at www.massmoca.org at any time of day.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall St. in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings.
For Immediate Release