Composer-singers (gifted musicians, too) Danielle Eva Schwob and Gene “Sxip” Shirey had some time to chat with me about their concert at Le Poisson Rouge in New York on Friday, November 30th at 8 PM (Doors open at 7 PM). The event, titled Danielle & Sxip’s Hour of Charm, is scheduled to feature not only these folks but also the likes of Todd Reynolds, ETHEL, clarinetist Ned Rothenberg, harpist Bridget Kibbey, throat singer Liron Peled, beatboxer Adam Matta, and singer-songwriter Corn Mo among several others.
The two composers were originally scheduled to put on a chamber concert with SYZYGY, an ensemble that will still be playing at this show, and they were in the midst of raising money for it, but Hurricane Sandy, and the need for aid for the damages and losses forced the two to make the event a charity concert, from which the funds will be going to local relief efforts.
CM: Originally, this show was going to be a chamber concert only?
Danielle: Yes, it was supposed to be a chamber orchestra thing where Sxip and I and the ensemble were going to do our concert works which were pretty much done for the event (which is kind of a shame that they have to wait), and we were also going to have the Found Objects, with Trevor Gureckis, Bryan Senti and Jay Wadley doing orchestrations of our pop writing with the ensemble as well–We’re still doing this program, it’s just not going to happen until April 2013.
CM: At what point did you guys decide to transform this show into the charity show?
Danielle: I think we made the call unofficially about a couple of days after the power came back on in the Lower East Side, where I was living, We’ve been talking about it pretty much as soon as the hurricane happened, because we were in the middle of our fundraising for the original show at the time, and we just thought it would have been really tacky to continue soliciting money from people. We didn’t know when the power was going to come back on at the time. It’s still awful, and there’s still people suffering not very far away from here.
We just decided we’d be better off postponing that and direct our energy towards doing something–it just felt like the right decision to do it all around.
It wound up being fine! We just got two shows out of it instead of one, so there you go! We could have just pulled the plug entirely, which would have been such a shame because we put so much work into the project. We’ll have to put more work into the rescheduled show now, but what can you do?
CM: Here in Beacon Falls we just lost our power for 2 days. Any time that happens, it feels like the end of the world, but obviously compared to parts of NY and Long Island and New Jersey, we were very fortunate here.
Danielle: It was a pain in the ass for me, I was on the Lower East Side and we had no power or water for a week, but I still consider myself really, really lucky. The worst thing for me was I had to hike back and forth from midtown a couple of times a day to go and charge things, but if that’s the worst thing that happens, it’s not that bad.
CM: Can you talk about the musicians on the program?
Sxip: I think it’s a real mix between–I don’t know if “scene” is the right word, but the kind of things I’m drawn to, and the kind of music I evolved out of, which isn’t a classical music world. I kind of became a composer, but I didn’t go to music school. I was a physicist, so the thing that has always interested me is the idea of folk music and experimental music as the same thing. Human beatboxers like Adam Matta have always fascinated me because it’s an urban folk tradition that’s become this exceedingly complex rhythmic statement. Ned Rothenberg, who plays clarinet with John Zorn–his clarinet technique is all these circles of things that slowly evolve. He’s a highly-trained player, but his technique is so organic. It’s what you’d imagine the roots of minimalism would be. They’re not, but you’d imagine that.
I’m drawn to players that have a very unique stamp on their music, whether they come from a classical tradition, a jazz tradition or a folk one, so I think the people that I’m bringing to the table tend to be these very strong individuals that have this unique stamp.
Danielle: I kind of feel the same at my end, and I guess the people who are on this particular program who I’ve brought in–My own group SYZYGY, Bridget Kibbey and ETHEL–They’re classical, but they do have ties to other genres, which is always really important to me because I actually started off primarily as a rock songwriter, and I studied jazz guitar and all that stuff, and then I came to writing concert music a lot later, so, it’s always important to me to work with artists that are open-minded about these kinds of programs. They’re not necessarily wedded to one particular tradition over another. That’s what I like about the program. It’s exciting that some of my people and some of Sxip’s people are involved. It’s kind of come out as being quite a unified program, which is interesting, because we’ve come from very different places, but it hangs together nicely.
Sxip: It hangs together nicely, definitely! But if just I had put together this program, it wouldn’t be this program, which is great! That’s why it’s exciting to me. I curate a lot of things in New York, and working with Danielle is definitely opening things up to things I don’t normally do.
CM: When you have music as diverse as Adam Motta, Todd Reynolds, Bridget Kibbey and Corn Mo, there’s very different things being done.
Sxip: You have Brazillian composers like Tom Zé, and in Brazil, they don’t have such a hard separation between experimental music, classical music or folk music, and I feel like Brazilians are conscious of that, and I think for concert music to continue to be relevant–because of the way this stuff has evolved, we have a lot of real hard dichotomies.
Danielle: In this country, definitely! In the UK, we obviously still do draw distinctions between genres–No one’s going to stick a rock band in a concert or put an orchestra in a pub or anything. At the same time, people worry less about what’s high art and what’s low art, and I think that that kind of mentality lends itself well to pretty interesting music.
Sxip: And obviously, the alt-classical scene in the UK is helping to–I don’t know if it’s popularizing it–at least giving new venue to this kind of music. You’re loosing a young audience in the US for classical music and concert music. “Concert” music’s a better word, isn’t it?
Danielle: Yeah, that’s what I usually use, that’s a PC term! [laughs] “Serious”! That’s the other one I like! “Serious music”! That’s very funny!
Sxip: “Serious music” is like–What the hell?? [all laughing] But most people do like classical music, actually, and just putting it in a context that’s easily accessible to them, and also having groups that are exciting to play it–I love watching Sō Percussion, because they have so much joy! There’s joy and passion and emotion and full gamut of the human experience in the players when they play the stuff. That’s really important to me, and watching a new music concert where I’m watching the living dead move through notes–I’m like “Why am I here??”. But I think that’s changing a lot right now…
Danielle: Yeah, definitely, especially in New York!
Sxip: Yeah, I think Danielle and I are totally on the same page with that. You put on the concert that you want to see.
CM: Well, especially also because you guys are both composer-performers, there’s much more of that now than there ever was before, and also there’s that concert-like nuance of the chandeliers, the black tuxes, and concert gowns if we’re talking about female soloists. They never want to let go of those trademarks of classical music.
Sxip: It’s just interesting because you could argue that dressing up and all that–It’s a listening ritual, you can make a lot of arguments for it.
Danielle: I like the ritual of dressing up in some way, whether it’s wearing formal wear or a costume, or whatever, I like that idea! It’s a performance, it should be fun to watch! What I don’t like is people all seem to want to wear the same uniform. Not all of them, but so many people want to, it’s the conformity that bothers me rather than the ritual of dressing nicely.
CM: I gotta say your clothes are awesome!
Danielle: Mine or Sxip’s?
CM: Yours! Well, his are great too! But I’ve seen pictures of you and you are dynamite as far as you look…
Sxip: She is! She’s definitely good!
Danielle: I can’t say that I wear feather collars every day, but I do like them!
Danielle & Sxip’s Hour of Charm
Friday November 30 2012 | Doors 7PM | Show 8PM
Le Poisson Rouge | 158 Bleecker St
$20 General Admission | $12 Students
Danielle & Sxip–Event page on the LPR website