11/11 | BC Grimm (prepared guzheng) , Def Sonic, & Hunter Nicholson @ Common Sage! (Madison, WI)

Check out this incredible poster art by @assortedpsychedelia Andrieu Todd!!! 😍😍😍

Saturday, 11/11/2023
Common Sage
934 Drake Street

BC Grimm
Def Sonic
Hunter Nicholson

Potluck @ 7pm
Music @ 8pm
$10 suggested donation

I’ll be performing the title track from my 2014 album of experimental zither music called, “The Ideating Knell”. It’s a long-form piece for a ‘prepared guzheng’ Chinese zither, exploring all of the non-traditional sounds you can make on the instrument. In the spirit of John Cage’s groundbreaking solo prepared piano works, this music prepares the guzheng with shell necklaces, clay pottery tools, mixing bowls, small gongs, bows, dulcimer hammers, clay teapot shards, and more! I would describe the 21-string guzheng with its spine of bridges and large coffin-like resonating chamber as a “cathedral of sounds”.

I’m very excited for this opportunity to perform at Common Sage, hosted by Tim Russell and Liz Sexe! An experimental musician and dancer couple who I’ve known nearly the entire time I’ve been in Madison! What they are cultivating with these monthly experimental house shows and potlucks is in kindred spirit to what Ka Baird used to do in Madison before she moved to NYC. It is helping to rekindle a sense of community for the experimental and improvised community here in Madison. It’s something that’s been missing in our scene for years now, and I’m so glad it’s back!! It’s been really hard for Tim and me to schedule a month where I’d be around and available to perform, and we finally got one! Hope to see some of you tomorrow night!

I’ll be taking the new sounds that I’ve been creating for this updated version of the piece and working on a new album of prepared guzheng music for another label soon! More details to come in the coming months, but I’m very excited to release a new album of prepared guzheng sounds on the 10th anniversary of the original release of this concept!

From a performance of the piece at an outdoor festival back in 2014, photo by Audre Rae Photography
Picture of the setup from a recent performance of The Ideating Knell in Cleveland, OH at the Cleveland Institute of Art

“The Ideating Knell” composition for “prepared guzheng zither” ↘︎

“The Ideating Knell” (2014) full album on Signal Dreams label ↘︎

“Before the 19th” (React Theater) Original Soundtrack Release with a Message to Vote!!

Original Score composed, performed and recorded for React (Indianapolis, IN) filmed production of “Before the 19th” written and directed by Georgeanna Smith Wade.

Please DONATE to React and support this amazing youth theater organization that is giving young people a creative voice and starting community dialogs around important social issues through their original art:

“Before the 19th” Epilogue (excerpt) – high school youth actors from React giving historical context about who was included and who was excluded in the 19th Amendment.

From Georgeanna (playwright & director),

“Before the 19th” began in a room of 15-ish high school students who had gathered to create a mystery about . .. something. That was all we knew. In the end, we created a fictional piece set in 1904 where a group of society young women debate the issue of equal voting rights. It originally premiered in January of 2017, right after the 2016 presidential election. One of the actresses stood on the stage with tears in her eyes and said that she had voted for the first time that previous November while archival footage played of women voting throughout history. That moment cemented what I have always loved about storytelling: it’s an honor to give voice to someone’s story. I’ve voted in every election I could since directing this show. I trust the cast members will do the same. I’m forever grateful to the people who worked for women’s rights to vote, and may we all ensure that access to all our citizens.”

Notes on the Score

When I started working on this project, I knew that I wanted to include a composition by a female composer and hopefully one who had ties to equal rights in voting. Naturally, I turned to a good friend Dr. Emma Cifrino, DMA (UW-Madison) who has specialized in researching a number British women composers who were in their prime during the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Dr. Cifrino suggested that I look into Ethel Smyth, an English composer who could have been straight out of Before the 19th‘s “Ladies League of Arts and Culture”. Not only was Ethel well studied as a composer, a member of these sorts of Women’s Arts Societies, and the first woman to have an Opera staged at the MET (in 1903), she was also a suffragette! Lo and behold, Smyth even had a piece called “The March of the Women” that she composed to celebrate the release of suffragettes from jail (and conducted it once from a jail cell)!

The first half of Track 26 “Epilogue” is an arrangement of this suffragette anthem, “The March of the Women” (1910) composed by Ethel Smyth (with lyrics by Cicely Hamilton). In the second half of the arrangement, I meld the March of the Women theme with the La Folia chord progression and it’s triple meter, which is in contrast to the march’s big two feel. This La Folia material appears throughout the score representing the Ladies League Theme, progress, and hope for the future. As the arrangement shifts, it becomes a sort of “La Folia variations on a theme of March of the Women”, crescendoing to the end with the conviction of progress made but with the understanding and determination that there’s work yet to be done.

To contact Dr. Cifrino about her research, email: cifrino[at]wisc.edu

Other writeups and info about “the March of the Women”:
1) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_March_of_the_Women
2) blogs.loc.gov/music/2022/03/ethel-smyth-and-the-march-of-the-women/
3) blackbird.vcu.edu/v17n1/gallery/1917-suffrage/e-smyth.shtml
4) www.classical-music.com/features/works/how-ethel-smyths-march-of-the-women-womens-suffrage-anthem/  

One way to support women composers and performers is to DONATE to the LunArt Festival based out of Madison, WI:


Our Democracy is on the line. We’re in an unprecedented time of out of control political conspiracy theories, violence, lies and election denial – because of this, I urge you all to vote!! Before the 19th had its premiere around the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment being passed into law. Now a century later women’s rights have been rolled back, it’s more important than ever to show up to the polls and vote for your local representatives who support women! Generations of women fought long and hard for the right to vote and we owe it to them to exercise our democratic action; especially for those who have a voice (like the youth participating in React) but cannot yet express their views at the polls. Their future depends our our decisions today! May they be sound, sane decisions, rooted in reality. Stand up for truth & vote in support of women rights!

*The views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent or speak on behalf of React *

Some other tidbits about the Score

The original stage production was scored with music from DJ Spooky’s “Rebirth of a Nation” featuring the Kronos Quartet. That visual arts project & album was really unique especially for the mid 2000s. Remixologist DJ Spooky was taking the silent KKK propaganda film, Birth of a Nation and flipping it on its head 100 years later. DJ Spooky remixed the visuals from that silent film live accompanied by both pre-recorded and remixed compositions for Kronos Quartet mixed with them also playing live to help score this re-envisioned tableau. So when Georgeanna asked me to compose a replacement score for the filmed version, there was one caveat: they’d already filmed the choreographed movement sequences to the DJ Spooky soundtrack… So I had to stay in the same tempo, same orchestration style and same musical key in order for it all to match up with the dancing & movement on film and of course to stay true to the original vibe that everyone was used to. At minimum I needed to be a string quartet, at maximum I needed to be an orchestra. I spent some time studying the raw musical elements behind Rebirth of a Nation (ex. key of C minor, certain note patterns, the rhythmic intensity, the tempo, etc) and ended up re-mixing that material. The trick was to compose something similar enough to replace it while also sounding enough like me that I didn’t feel like I was simply biting someone’s material or infringing on copyrights… I treated it as sort of a theme and variations on the basic concepts and continued to spin the web further and further as the project developed. It tickled me that I was remixing a remix – something I feel that DJ Spooky would approve of!

I also wanted to source something from the Classical Music world to match the atmosphere of The Ladies League of Art and Culture, so I set my sights on the La Folia chord progression. This has been a long lived musical playground for Western composers over the last 400 years. Being in this “remix mindset” I knew I could leverage the flexibility of the La Folia theme and variations to round out the voice of these compositions and infuse it with some other source material. The result is a heavy Baroque style throughout the score. I am using both my standard cello (sometimes with steel, sometimes with gut) and my sarangicello (with gut) to get a big ensemble blend. The sarangicello has the same top two strings as the bass viol da gamba, although it sounds a little more like a tenor viol and it sits within in that range. Those impressions of viola da gamba further helped in exploring the Baroque La Folia flavors.

I also wanted to include an instrument that showed the Ladies League of Art and Culture dedication to preservation of American Cultural Heritage. The instrument I chose to help represent the leagues historical arts interest was the Glass Harmonica invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761. It has a dreamy quality, but when you listen closely to the texture it can be a little harsh sounding too, that complexity drew me in. Incredibly difficult to play, requiring a delicate technique – it’s the type of instrument which requires absolute dedication and perseverance in order to create beauty. Qualities I thought would resonate with such an arts league.

It was a lot of multi-tracking, but I had a blast making this soundtrack and I hope you enjoy the end result. → now go vote!!!

Album Credits

Violoncello, Sarangicello, Guqin zither & Production by Brian Grimm
Composed, Performed, Recorded, Mixed, & Mastered by Brian Grimm
(c) 2022 Brian Charles Grimm
(p) GrimmusiK Records

Track 26 includes an arrangement of “March of the Women” composed by Ethel Smyth in 1910

Play Written and Directed by Georgeanna Smith Wade
Film Directed by Glenn Pratt
Film Edited by Jaytel Provence
Costumes Designed by Beck Jones
Produced by Justin Wade and React

Had a blast last night @ Adult Swim’s HALLOWEIRD!


Thanks to Adult Swim for having us, it was so special to improvise for 90 mins with DB Pedersen & Brennan Connors! [see original post] Here are a few clips of me warming up on my instruments and pedalboard before the show, enjoy 🙂

10/21 | Adult Swim Returns: HALLOWEIRD @ Madison Children’s Museum + 100th anniversary NOSFERATU screening w/ live score!

Adult Swim Returns!
HALLOWEIRD @ Madison Children’s Museum
Friday, October 21st 2022
5:30 pm – 9:00 pm

6:30pm on 2nd floor
NOSFERATU (1922) 100th anniversary screening!
with Live Score and Sound FX by DB Pedersen, Brennan Connors & BC Grimm

Monsters and robots and clowns, oh my! Adult Swim returns after three long years!
Adult Swim at Madison Children’s Museum honors the public pool tradition of kicking the kids out so adults can have the space to themselves (without the water or need for a swimsuit). This 21-and-up event series offers adults the opportunity to play like a grown-up for the evening—crawling, sliding, crafting, and dancing their way through the museum. Don’t miss the Wonderground, our newest 10,000 square foot outdoor playground and exhibit space.

Join us to celebrate Halloween in style – wear your favorite costume or make costume accessories after you arrive. Additional activities:

  • Get sketchy or model your costume for a fast-draw competition
  • Compete in a horror film scavenger hunt
  • Experiment with dry ice bubbles
  • Make spooky or silly ghost print
  • Relive a childhood nightmare as you share your worst trick-or-treat “treat”
  • Enjoy a vintage horror flick with live sci fi accompaniment
  • Enter our costume fashion show and contest to win fabulous prizes
  • Halloween crafts galore!


  • $20 advance (advance sales end at noon on day of event).
  • $25 at the door

Ages 21 & up

Ticket cancellation/exchange policy.

Please note, this event is not affiliated with ADULT SWIM, the television and entertainment network—also, we don’t have a swimming pool.

Behold the Monstrosity of DB Squidersen!!

I’m very excited to perform once again with DB Pedersen! He’s been one of the most frequent collaborators to pop up on the GrimmusiK website, and of course, one of my favorite human beings that I’ve met in Madison! It’s been a little while since we’ve performed together; partly due to DB having a few year stint as a chef out in Spring Green at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin and partly due to the obvious lack of performances during this Covid era… I can’t think of a better way to reconnect than scoring a spooky silent film during its centennial this Halloween! DB and I have performed a lot of free improvisation in Madison over the years, most notably in our trio with my brother AJ, called “Sister’s Three”. A big highlight was when Sisters Three composed & performed a live theater score for A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bartell Theatre (Madison, WI) with Strollers Theatre Company. DB is well known for his throat singing expertise, impromptu theatrics and a knack for making any sound effect you could ever imagine with his mouth! If you haven’t seen him perform before, you are in for a major treat; it’s always unpredictable, surprising, funny, and even spiritual when DB gets on stage.

db pedersen in a Spring Green silo!

Brennan Connors performing with Stray Passage @ Cafe CODA | (c) 2018 Paul S Howell Photography

Most of you will know Brennan Connors from our decade long collaboration in his jazz trio Brennan Connors & Stray Passage. Saxophonist and improvisor extraordinaire, Brennan has recently developed a new style which dips into the sonic territory of 20th century composition. Brennan has been working on heady, layered dissonances and new concepts to break him away from expected norms in today’s Jazz or even New Music scenes. It’s been a long time since I’ve improvised with Brennan in such a different mode, outside of the Jazz Trio idiom. I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table!

Not only have DB and I performed a lot of free-improv together, but Brennan and DB have also shared the stage countless times in their free-improv group Amoebageddon. With soundscapes built from flutes and implements through loop stations, saxophones, and electric cello accompanied by live visual art on a projector – this was one of my favorite Madison area acts to see in the free-improv and experimental scene! We’ll be drawing on years of various collaborative configurations in order to bring you a Live Improvised Score to the silent horror film classic Nosferatu!

“did somebody say my name…?”

Film Screening: starting at 6:30pm on the 2nd floor, we’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Nosferatu (1922), an unauthorized film adaptation of the novel Dracula (1887) by Bram Stoker. As the fates would have it… this is actually the second time that I’ll be performing a live improvised score to this film, also at a museum! Back around 2008-2010 I was in a guerilla new music ensemble of graduate composers at Butler University called Ensemble 48. One of our most memorable performances was a live, outdoor, improvised score to Nosferatu, with the film MASSIVELY projected onto the entire side wall of a museum in Indianapolis! It was so much fun! Miss these goofballs >>

vintage Ensemble 48, in costume after our Nosferatu screening in 2008! pictured Left to Right (standing): Joshua Morris, Nick Liebman, Adam Cohen-Leadholm, Zane Merritt, Megan Pokorney, Brian Grimm; (kneeling) Scott Comanzo, Matt Smart.

see you there…..