This April and May I was an artist-in-residence at the Vilnius Academy of Arts – Nida Art Colony in Lithuania, to compose music for the next Ergo record and to continue work on my proposed installation Sine Qua Non.
I’d never been to Lithuania or the Baltic region, and knew little about it. Being a small, eastern European country (although technically at the geographic center of Europe), with a complicated history, as recently as 1991 becoming independent from the Soviet Union, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found it to be quite thriving, with an rich culture of it’s own, somehow blurring with the cultures of it’s past occupiers, not at all unlike other central European countries.
When I arrived in the capital of Vilnius, winter was still in full force and it continued to snow for the next few weeks. During my weekend there I was fortunate to meet Max Micheliov, a staunch champion of avant-garde Jazz, a web designer for many musicians and part of the team behind the great Lithuanian Jazz label No Business Records. After almost a full day walking around, enjoying delicious Lithuanian beers, meats, and Russian dumpkins and discussing nearly every topic under the sun, I can say he’s a friend and a person I genuinely admire.
The majority of my stay however was on the other side of the country, a long, snowy train ride to Klaipeda, a short, rickety ferry trip to Smiltyne, and a bus ride through the woods to the town of Nida.
Nida is located on the magnificent Curonian Spit, a long sand peninsula located between the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea, and extending from the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast, and a UNESCO world heritage site. Slowly, the snow melted and deer, moose, birds, hares and boars came out of the stark forests as they turned lush and green. Eventually big, fat mosquitos came out too, and it was summer. Traditionally a fishing village, with it’s own unique heritage and iconography of moose, boats and goddesses of amber and the sea, Nida is now more of a summer destination, so the town slowly came alive too.
I spent my days wandering the dreamy dunes near the Russian border, the Baltic beach and the dense forests looking for secluded spots to practice trombone. Most mornings I biked down to the children’s art school where they generously offered their piano for me to use. Otherwise, I was holed up composing and programming in my massive, modern studio with it’s 30 foot high, vaulted, concrete ceilings and long, dense echo. (which sounded like this)
Many days and nights were also spent talking, dancing, drinking, collaborating and taking searing sauna’s with the seven other artists-in-residence and the gracious staff of the Colony.
This is an excerpt of Swiss spoken word and performance artist Gilles Furtwangler and I collaborating one day. I hope we’ll continue to do more, I’m fascinated by his work.
In April, I gave a workshop to some really bright and enterprising high school kids in the small town of Sakiai and on my way back was able to visit Lithuania’s second city, Kaunas, which is also rich in history and art. Pictured below is the massive Fortas IX monument to Holocaust and World War II victims, the re-established Fluxus Ministries and the Old Town Square.
Towards the end our stay the Academy hosted an international arts symposium where we each got to present our work and meet dozen of artists, teachers, curators, and thinkers. This .gif, courtesy of artist Carlos Carmonamedina, is of violinist John W. Fail presenting some sounds with me during the open studios. John is also a provocateur who never seems to sit still, during his stay he turned his room into a bar.
I also presented a prototype of the generative processing that will be used in Sine Qua Non. This example processes samples of Carl Maguire’s playing piano.
Afterwards I traveled to Riga, Latvia, Strasbourg and Paris, France and Amsterdam, Holland. Now I’m back in Brooklyn preparing to play some gigs with Ergo and record our fourth record, “As Subtle As Tomorrow,” and working towards the debut release by Cherubim on the Zeromoon label this fall. Below is a bit of Ergo’s new music, I hope you can make to our shows. Thanks for reading, as always, we love you madly.
Monday, July 8, 930pm
18 Whitwell Place Brooklyn, NY 11215
Friday, July 26, 730pm
1353 Cambridge St., Inman Sq. Cambridge, MA