Australian-born double-bassist/composer/vocalist/DJ Lisa Dowling is about to turn “Dirty Thirty” and celebrate it with a concert on Monday, October 1st, kicking off Vicky Chow’s Contagious Sounds series at 8 PM at the Gershwim Hotel. Lisa will be giving people a really good cross-section of her great artistry, and as you’ll see on this page, there’s much that she has already done in that vein. She had some time to talk about that stuff as well as that great Ear To Mind concert we covered here at The Glass.
You may know her also from the two NY ensembles Concert Black and Heavy Hands, and her gig as a DJ, but just to listen to what she does on an instrument that doesn’t seem to get nearly as much face time as the cello, violin or piano, and adding other elements, you’ll see she is an amazing solo performer.
BTW, programming note: The Glass will be streaming the concert as it happens.
CM: Can you just ask you about Contagious Sounds for a minute? Vicky Chow buzzed me last night, and she says “Would you be able to interview Lisa Dowling and talk about the Contagious Sounds concert?”, and I said “Oh, that’s weird, I was going to interview her anyway!” [laughs]
Lisa: I love Vicky! Yeah, Mariel Roberts and I were the first people that performed for Contagious Sounds 2 years ago! I performed in the series with both Concert Black and Heavy Hands, and this time around I’m going to do a solo set that is going to be a combination of my own songs and larger works. I’m playing 2 extended contemporary bass pieces, which are “Valentine” by Jacob Druckman, and “Pretty Polly” by Jacob Richman–Very excited about playing those. The last one I’m planning to do is John Cage’s “The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs”.
John Cage: The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs/A Flower (Manhattan School of Music, 2009)
I’ll also be doing a new piece I wrote yesterday–After listening to Florence and The Machine all day yesterday, I got very inspired to write something. I’ll be doing 5 of my own works and 3 composed works.
It’s going to be a nice presentation of all the things that I’ve been exploring and experimenting with the last 4 years.
Vicky’s always so great about bringing in and presenting artists that aren’t necessarily from New York. The new music scene is pretty small and intimate as it is, but Vicky’s series is particularly a great way to experience what’s going on outside New York, inside New York, and how all those relationships intertwine.
CM: You compose as well?
Lisa: Yes, the beginning of all that was a piece that I had–It was originally a response piece to Robert Honstein‘s piece he wrote for Concert Black (“RE: You”). We had a show at Gershwin Hotel, and I decided that it would be cool for me to come up with something that tied in with Robert’s music. We had collaborated with using a different tuning for the bass than the orchestral setting–With a lot of the stuff I do, I experiment with different tunings, and I think that’s why the sounds that I create are unique because I do experiment with those different colors. That was the beginning of all that, and now with the trio Concert Black, we do that piece as well as my original piece “Grey”, which we’ve played recently.
Grey (lullaby for the end of the world) ~ Live at Spectrum, NY; 2012
CM: You are on an official release called The Invention Room as part of a project called BLURBOXER?
Lisa: That was an experiment with a sitarist (Gian Luigi Diana) who also does electronic music, and we got together when I first moved back to NYC 3 1/2-years ago–We got together every Saturday, and just improvised and recorded that stuff. The whole CD is improvised, and we funded it ourselves. From that, I formed the group Massive Time Collective, and I bought the rights to 6 short animated films by Jan Švankmajer–I was doing a few shows in NY around that time as well where we would improvise to the 6 short films. He was a really cool animator, and did a lot of innovations with stop-motion animation and claymation, and I’ve always been fascinated by his work. I had 6 or 7 musicians that I worked with on that particular production. It was really cool!
EtCetera (Live Performance at Galapagos Art Space, Brooklyn NY, April 2010; Massive Time Collective: Lisa Dowling, Doublebass; Annie Lyle, Bassoon; Nicole Camacho, Flute; Tony Jarvis, Bass Clarinet/Guitar; Gian Luigi Diana, Sitar/Electronics)
CM: Can you talk about the DJ thing too? [She moonlights as DJ Li’l Miss Dolemite]
Lisa: I took some time off, but recently I’ve gotten back into it with a couple of shows during fashion week, and I’m doing a bi-monthly party at a place in the East Village next month. I love to see people move and have a good time, and to be in control of that is the best feeling ever!
I think that’s also bled into a lot of the stuff I’ve been writing for myself, which I got the pleasure to experience when I opened for the W4 Collective End of Summer show–I had lots of people I don’t even know come up to me and tell me it really moved them and not only in an emotional way but in a physical way, and as a musician who is training for classical music, that’s a huge motivator and compliment! It’s very flattering!
Bread and Honey (Lisa Dowling, vocals and double bass; Caffe Vivaldi, NYC, 9/16/12)
CM: You were working with Inhyun Kim on her Ear To Mind concert that I reviewed (This Is Just To Say–Live Art II)–Was there anything unusual for you doing that? Turns out the vocalizing isn’t unusual for you…
Lisa: For me, no…
CM: Streamers in your mouth? [laughs]
Lisa: Well, yeah, that was definitely the first time I had streamers in my mouth! Personally, who knows? [laughing] But, we actually had to practice it a few times, because you had to hold it in your mouth for a while, and be as loose as possible–As you saw, mine ended up breaking right up at the end!
CM: Well, the thing is, Coco [Karol] just keeps going whenever she works with them, she kind of lets it go as if it were planned that way.
Lisa: She’s amazing to work with, so is Inhyun! I really hope we end up working together again soon, that was a lot of fun.
CM: Megan Schubert is wonderful too, of course!
Lisa: I knew Megan because we both did the MSM contemporary program, and she graduated the year before me, but this was the first time we worked together, and I’m looking forward to doing more with her!
CM: The thing is, you probably saw my review, but I basically was saying that the part where you and Megan were yapping at one another sounded like it took on a phasing effect, it was really cool.
Lisa: When you’re in it, you don’t really hear what the audience perceives it to be like, but yes, I can see that. I think Inhyun originally had the idea that we were some kind of monkeys, I’m not sure what we were supposed to be communicating, but the idea was that it would grow in anxiety and movement towards the end, so, it was a big climax right at the end. It was super-effective and it was fun to do!