When the World’s On Fire

With Shazhad Ismaily, percussion

Lullabies, Hymns, and Songs of Resistance in a new America

In the Birth of Tragedy, Frederik Nietzsche theorized the religious myth of Silenus (“the best thing for you would be to have never been born”) as the trauma that necessitated the birth of the artistic beauty of Greek Tragic theater.

The Carter Family’s “When the World’s On Fire” points to a different process at work in American culture: when utopian optimism collided with the lived reality of the New World and produced apocalyptic visions of devils, fire, and brimstone. As Greil Marcus writes, paving the way for the “devil” as a primary antagonist in the sublime musical expression of musician Robert Johnson and a blues and gospel musical heritage of enormous power and beauty.

Whatever the political effects of these socio-religious transformations might be, it seems clear to us that they have “stung…into poetry” some of the great beauty of the wellsprings of our musical heritage.

Today, as myth and fantasy spill out into the political stage, New York icon, guitarist Marc Ribot joins with National Sawdust artist-in-resident, celebrated performer and vocalist Sophia Brous to premiere a new exploration into songs of beauty, disorder and dissent for a new America, where the blurred lines between dream and waking call on a new songbook of lullabies, hymns and songs of resistance to guide us in the days ahead.

Featuring selections from Sophia Brous’ celebrated song cycle Lullaby Movement (originally conceived with David Coulter and Leo Abrahams), Marc Ribot’s forthcoming Songs of Resistance project, and other world premiere repertoire.

Photograph courtesy of the Museum of Cannock Chase.  Copyright unknown.

Sophia Brous

National Sawdust Artist in Residence Sophia Brous is a inter-disciplinary musician, vocalist, performer, creative director and curator. An artist with diverse interests, she collaborates with companies and artists internationally on new and devised works and commissions. Brous is current resident artist at New York’s National Sawdust and past resident artist at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center and the Red Bull Studios New York. She is finalist in the Melbourne Prize for Music Outstanding Artist Award.

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, and now largely based in New York, recent commissions and collaborations include the celebrated song cycle Lullaby Movement with David Coulter and Leo Abrahams’; In Dreams: David Lynch Revisited’ (The Barbican, Paris Philharmonie), large ensemble collective EXO-TECH featuring Kimbra, Moses Sumney, Colin Stetson, Yuka Honda, Sean Lennon and many others, Arthur Russell Retrospective for BAM; Hallucinations for DOCUMENTA Athens 2017; motion picture Mary Magdelene, Frank Zappa opera ‘200 Motels’ for Southbank Centre London; and forthcoming commission Gorgons (National Sawdust/Yale University).

Alongside her creative projects, Brous is a recognised artistic director and curator and from the age of 22, emerged as one of Australia’s youngest arts leaders as Program Director of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and Curator of Music at the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. She is current Artistic Associate at the Arts Centre Melbourne where she is founder and curator of Supersense: Festival of the Ecstatic. She is a 2019 Creators Fund recipient of the State Government of Victoria

Marc Ribot

Marc Ribot was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1954. As a teen, he played guitar in various garage bands while studying with his mentor, Haitian classical guitarist and composer Frantz Casseus. After moving to New York City in 1978, Ribot was a member of the soul/punk Realtones, and from 1984 – 1989, of John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards. Between 1979 and 1985, Ribot also worked as a side musician with Brother Jack McDuff, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Chuck Berry, and many others.

Rolling Stone points out that “Guitarist Marc Ribot helped Tom Waits refine a new, weird Americana on 1985’s “Rain Dogs”, and since then he’s become the go-to guitar guy for all kinds of roots-music adventurers: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp.” Additional recording credits include Soloman Burke, Neko Case, Diana Krall, Beth Orton, Marianne Faithful, Arto Lindsay, Caetano Veloso, Laurie Anderson, Susana Baca, McCoy Tyner, The Jazz Passengers, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Cibo Matto, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, James Carter, Vinicio Capposella (Italy), Auktyon (Russia), Vinicius Cantuaria, Sierra Maestra (Cuba), Alain Bashung (France), Marisa Monte, Allen Ginsburg, Madeleine Peyroux, Sam Phillips, and more recently Joe Henry, Allen Toussaint, Norah Jones, Akiko Yano, The Black Keys, Jeff Bridges, Jolie Holland, Elton John/Leon Russell and many others. Ribot frequently collaborates with producer T Bone Burnett, most notably on Alison Krauss and Robert Plant’s Grammy Award winning “Raising Sand” and regularly works with composer John Zorn.

Marc has released over 20 albums under his own name over a 40-year career, exploring everything from the pioneering jazz of Albert Ayler with his group “Spiritual Unity” (Pi Recordings), to the Cuban son of Arsenio Rodríguez with two critically acclaimed releases on Atlantic Records under “Marc Ribot Y Los Cubanos Postizos”. His avant power trio/post-rock band, Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog (Pi Recordings), continues the lineage of his earlier experimental no-wave/punk/noise groups Rootless Cosmopolitans (Island Antilles) and Shrek (Tzadik). Marc’s solo recordings include “Marc Ribot Plays The Complete Works of Frantz Casseus” (Les Disques Du Crepuscule), “John Zorn’s The Book of Heads” (Tzadik), “Don’t Blame Me” (DIW), “Saints” (Atlantic), “Exercises in Futility” (Tzadik), and his latest “Silent Movies” released in 2010 on Pi Recordings was described as a “down-in-mouth-near master piece” by the Village Voice and has landed on several Best of 2010 lists including the LA Times and critical praise across the board. 2014 saw the monumental release: “Marc Ribot Trio Live at the Village Vanguard” (Pi Recordings), documenting Marc’s first headline and the return of Henry Grimes at the historical venue in 2012, included on various Best of 2014 lists including Downbeat Magazine and NPR’s 50 Favorites. 2018 starts off with the release of not one but two politically charged albums: “YRU Still Here?” (Northern Spy), the long awaited third album from Ribot’s post-rock/noise trio Ceramic Dog, and “Songs of Resistance” (featuring guest vocalists Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Meshell Ndegeocello and more), both voicing anger and outrage during these turbulent times.

Marc has performed on scores such as “The Kids Are All Right,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Walk The Line (Mangold),” “Everything is Illuminated,” and “The Departed” (Scorcese).” Marc has also composed original scores including the French film Gare du Nord (Simon), the PBS documentary “Revolucion: Cinco Miradas,” the film “Drunkboat,” starring John Malkovich and John Goodman, a documentary film by Greg Feldman titled “Joe Schmoe,” a feature film by director Joe Brewster titled “The Killing Zone”, and dance pieces “In as Much as Life is Borrowed”, by famed Belgian choreographer, Wim Vandekeybus, and Yoshiko Chuma’s “Altogether Different”. Marc also occasionally performs his live solo guitar score to Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid”, which was commissioned by the NY Guitar Festival and premiered Jan 2010 at Merkin Hall, as well as live film scores to Jennifer Reeves experimental shorts.

In 2009, Marc was named curator and musical director for the year’s Century of Song Festival, part of the Ruhr Triennale in Germany. The concert series sparked new collaborations with Iggy Pop, Marianne Faithfull, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, master cajón player Juan Medrano Cotito, Carla Bozulich and Tine Kindermann.

Marc’s talents have also been showcased with a full symphony orchestra. Composer Stewart Wallace wrote a guitar concerto with orchestra specifically for Marc. The piece was premiered by the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC in July of 2004 and also appeared at The Cabrillo Festival in Santa Cruz, CA in August of 2005.

Marc is currently touring with several projects including his power trio Ceramic Dog with bassist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith, the Philly soul meets the harmolodics of Ornette Coleman’s The Young Philadelphians with Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Calvin Weston, and with Caged Funk, a project of funk arrangements of John Cage’s music.

Contact: Courtenay Casey (courtenay@nationalsawdust.org)

Upcoming Tour Dates

Past Tour Dates

Sunday, March 18th – 6pm

The Millennium Stage at Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.

Presented as part of the Kennedy Center’s DIRECT CURRENT inaugural season.