In the spirit of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a defiant display of art that challenged society and caused a riot at its premiere, the Spring Revolution festival at National Sawdust is meant to challenge the status quo, hosting profound performances that change how we see the world. This year, the festival celebrates the voices of multicultural women by featuring a female curator – Pulitzer Prize winner Du Yun – as well as a female composer and/or female artists in each event.
“This year, we are in an awakening: the female voice has been acknowledged as a force to be reckoned with,” National Sawdust co-founder and artistic director Paola Prestini explained in a mission statement. “But it’s important to remember that female is not a genre. Women are not just women. They are Chinese, they are indigenous, they are trans, they are mothers, partners, advocates and so much more.”
With the festival set to begin on March 2, we’ve assembled a guide to let you know who you’ll hear and what you might expect to experience.
WHO: L’Rain is Taja Cheek, a gifted multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, tape manipulator, and vocalist from Brooklyn.
WHAT’S GOING ON: Kicking off this year’s Spring Revolution, L’Rain performs a set of spiritual music exploring the complexity of grief and the audacity of joy. She’s been described by The New York Times as a “one-woman studio band” who deploys “a sea of loops: guitar arpeggios, synthesizer burbles, endless layers of vocal harmony.” You can hear the results on the lush, soulful self-titled album she released last September, which Tiny Mix Tapes proclaimed “filled with experiments in looping, field recording, layered vocals and guitar arpeggios that call to mind the best moments of Stereolab or Frank Ocean’s Endless.” At National Sawdust, she’ll perform in a quartet with saxophonist/keyboardist Ben Katz, bassist Devin Starks, and drummer Buz Donald.
WHEN: Friday, March 2 at 7pm
Songlines for a New World: Where the Sky Meets the Earth
WHO: This double header, curated by writer, scholar, and artist Xenia Hanusiak, turns a spotlight on Australian female perspectives.
Genevieve Lacey is a recorder virtuoso, serial collaborator, and artistic director, with a significant recording catalog and a career as an international soloist.
Emily Wurramara is a singer-songwriter and activist who grew up in remote Groote Eylandt, where her days were filled with travel, fishing, and extended family – including a mother telling stories of dreams and dolphins, which in time inspired Wurramara’s own gift for storytelling. Her breakthough 2016 EP, Black Smoke, earned a spot on year-end best-of lists throughout Australia.
WHAT’S GOING ON: Lacey, performing at 7pm, presents the New York premiere of two immersive works that prompted critical praise and sold-out houses in Australia and elsewhere: En Masse, which ponders environmental themes and employs music by Lawrence English, Ben Frost, Nico Muhly, and others; and Pleasure Garden, a sumptuous mix of 17th-century works by Jacob von Eyck and contemporary music by Lacey and Jan Bang. Wurramara follows at 10pm, presenting her inviting, intimate songs alongside Brisbane-based singer and guitarist Saraima Navara.
Refugee Orchestra Project
WHO: The Refugee Orchestra Project brings together instrumentalists and singers whose friends and families have fled to this country to escape violence and persecution in performances that loudly proclaims these individuals’ importance to our cultural wealth. The project was conceived by conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, who realized in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis that many of her own closest colleague and friends were not aware that she and many others like her had come to the U.S. as refugees to seek asylum from violence and persecution abroad.
WHAT’S GOING ON: For Spring Revolution, the Refugee Orchestra Project will present Refugees Are Us, a concert experience that draws from and builds upon will draw from and build upon a video initiative undertaken in collaboration with non-profit collective Papel & Caneta. Yankovskaya shared her thoughts about the project, and about the idea of artistic collaboration serving as a model for fostering cooperation and mutual regard, in an essay published by National Sawdust Log.
WHEN: Sunday, March 4 at 4pm
WHO: Born of Spanish, African, Chinese, and French heritage, CuCu Diamantes is a fascinating singer-songwriter and actress from Cuba. With producer and guitarist Andres Levin, Diamantes co-founded the sizzling-hot Latin fusion band Yerba Buena, and was directly responsible for garnering major recognition and popularity for the band, including a Grammy nomination and critical media praise.
WHAT’S GOING ON: Pecados de Picasso (The Sins of Picasso) is a musical theater jazz cabaret piece that evokes themes of the #MeToo movement. The performance exposes the sordid and overlooked history of famous artists from the 20th century, namely, their treatment of women, minorities and creative communities in their personal lives, and consequently, their art. Sins of Picasso is produced by Red Hot. The concerts will raise funds to help fight AIDS and gender equality in Cuba and Caribbean communities. Visit www.redhot.org to learn more.
WHO: Saint Sister, formed in November 2014, is the new project from Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty. Their music draws from early Celtic harp traditions,’60s folk, and electronic pop to create ‘atmosfolk’—a mix of soulful vocal harmonies, dreamy synth, and electro-acoustic harp. Named “the best new band in Ireland” by the readers of The Irish Times, the duo comes to the U.S. for a rare concert after a 2017 year filled with sold-out performances in Europe.
WHAT’S GOING ON: “What was I doing all those years?” asks Morgan Macintyre in the Saint Sister single “Causing Trouble,” reflecting on past relationships and the age-old truth that the people you knew in the past never really change despite the fact that everything else does. “The song is about transitioning, from Belfast to Dublin, from an old love to a new, and the gaps that can be found between you and another person or place when people transition at different paces and in different directions.” The song pulls from a wide range of disparate influences: The arrangement, courtesy of Gemma Doherty, takes the shimmer of’90s pop stalwarts Moby and Massive Attack, combining luscious harp textures and crisp vocal harmony with 808 thuds and subterranean bass to create a chasmic slice of modern electronic folk. Saint Sister’s show is presented in part by the Irish Arts Center.
Gamelan Dharma Swara + Du Yun & OK MISS
WHO: The first night of composer-performer Du Yun’s Pan-Asia Festival, a potent six-concert mini-series embedded within Spring Revolution, brings together ancient and modern sounds and attitudes.
Founded in 2000, Gamelan Dharma Swara is one of the leading Balinese gamelan and dance groups in the United States and has performed at renowned NYC music venues including (le) Poisson Rouge, Symphony Space, Joe’s Pub, Roulette, and BAM, as well as cultural institutions such as MoMA and Asia Society. The group toured Bali in 2010 with an invitation to perform in the Bali Arts Festival’s popular Battle of the Bands, and recently gave a stunning performance at Basilica Soundscape in Hudson, New York.
Pulitzer Prize winner Du Yun is a composer who also performs actively. Her onstage persona has been called “an indie pop diva” by The New York Times, and “flamboyant” by the Chicago Tribune. She formed OK MISS to create a singular experience—a group existing as both rock band and chamber ensemble, while fostering all that exists in-between. The group has performed at museums, concert halls, theaters, and for silent films.
WHAT’S GOING ON: The 25-person Gamelan Dharma Swara, performing at 7pm, will present an evening of works spanning 500 years, exploring the many facets of the Balinese performing arts. The presentation includes the world premiere of No Ma Den by groundbreaking composer I Dewa Ketut Alit, and the New York premiere of Sari Ing Kerta by I Gusti Nyoman Darta, the ensemble’s Artist-in-Residence. Du Yun and OK MISS follow at 10pm, debuting a slew of new material. The evening will include excerpts from Du Yun’s musical Dim Sum Warriors, which is currently on tour in China.
The Shanghai You Don’t Know + Matt Haimovitz & Frances-Marie Uitti
WHO: The second night of Du Yun’s Pan-Asia Festival spotlights unfamiliar art from a well-known Chinese city, and underexposed music by a late Korean master composer.
The Shanghai You Don’t Know offers a powerful glimpse into one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and the art created there.
The evening’s second show brings together two of the world’s most renowned cellists. Frances-Marie Uitti pioneered a revolutionary dimension to the cello, transforming it into a polyphonic instrument capable of sustained chordal (two, three, and four-part) and intricate multi-voiced writing. Using two bows in one hand permits contemporaneous cross accents, multiple timbres, contrasting 4-voiced dynamics, and simultaneous legato versus articulated playing. Matt Haimovitz has inspired classical music lovers and countless new listeners by bringing his artistry to concert halls and clubs, outdoor festivals and intimate coffee houses – any place where passionate music can be heard. He brings a fresh ear to familiar repertoire, champions new music, and initiates groundbreaking collaborations, as well as creating innovative recording projects.
WHAT’S GOING ON: The Shanghai You Don’t Know, at 7pm, begins with a screening of Lotus Ferry, a documentary by renowned director Zhou Hongbo. The film will be followed by a performance highlighting three distinct traditions from Shanghai: a demonstration of Pingtan style, a humorous performance that is both theater and musical performance; a harpist and dancer intertwining; and a performance featuring the sheng, the awe-inspiring, ancient mouth organ. Then at 10pm, Haimovitz and Uitti share a program titled Two Cellists, featuring works by the extraordinary Korean composer Isang Yun (1917-1995), to be performed in collaboration with Bhutanese musicians.
Pauchi Sasaki & Claire Chase + Aakash Mittal’s Awaz Trio
WHO: The final day of Spring Revolution brings the third and last pairing of shows presented in Du Yun’s Pan-Asian Festival.
Pauchi Sasaki, a composer, performer, and improviser with projects linked to film, dance, theater, installation, site specific and interdisciplinary performances, has performed internationally in Peru, the U.S., Japan, Spain, Chile, Colombia, and Switzerland. Her music recreates intimate subjective landscapes through electro-acoustic sonorities mixed with field recordings and synthesis. Her compositions involve acoustic, amplified, and electronic instrumentation performed through ensemble formats influenced by improvisational aesthetics and ethnic musical traditions. Her work also focuses on the development of real time interactive music and self designed instruments. In her performance at National Sawdust, she is reunited with a distinguished previous collaborator, the dynamic flutist and MacArthur fellow Claire Chase.
Led by Aakash Mittal, a colorful multi-instrumentalist renowned for spinning colorful dissonances, meditative silences, and angular rhythms to express environments and spaces from the American west to the dense streets of Kolkata, the Awaz Trio sculpts sonic landscapes, pointillistic textures, and angular melodies from Indian and American improvised music. The trio – including Miles Okazaki on guitar and Rajna Swaminathan on mridangam, has performed across the Northeast, New York, Denver, and Kolkata, India.
WHAT’S GOING ON: Pauchi Sasaki and Claire Chase rekindle a collaboration that has proved potent already in GAMA XV, the otherworldly duo Sasaki created for Chase’s Density 2036 commissioning project. Sasaki spoke at length about her work, and this collaboration, in an interview published by National Sawdust Log. The Avaz Trio’s debut project, Nocturne, is a series of pieces that abstract and deconstruct five Hindustani evening and night ragas.