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!
🎶 “The Ideating Knell” composition for “prepared guzheng zither” ↘︎
🎶 “The Ideating Knell” (2014) full album on Signal Dreams label ↘︎
Scenic Designer: Sarah Ross Lighting Designer: Colin Gawronski Costume Designer: Karen Brown-Larimore Sound Designer/Composer: Brian Grimm Props Master/Asst. Scenic Designer: Pam Miles Technical Director: Tony Lyons Stage Manager: Tenley Pitonzo Asst. Stage Manager: Abbi Hess
~ If you see the show and stay for the Talkback, be sure to ask the actors about their ride-along with the Madison Sanitation Department!!
~ Also, be sure get to the show early to check out the visual art exhibit in the gallery area outside of the Playhouse Theater. It’s hosted by Arts + Lit Laboratory and comprises of art pieces made out of trash and recycling!
Some details on the show from Forward Theater: This off-beat buddy comedy pairs essential workers from two different worlds in the shared cab of a New York City garbage truck. Danny’s a white, blue-collar mansplainer hiding a heart of gold. Marlowe’s a Black, Ivy League-educated newbie learning the ropes from her old-school partner. When they’re thrown together to pick up what the world has discarded, they discover there’s more that binds them than taking out the trash.
“A surprisingly humane and honest play that’s filled with as much laughter as it is drama…and reminds us that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. We learn that if given a tattered, grimy old volume of text and illustrations, and you take the time to examine it carefully, its value can exceed your imagination.” – Chicago Theatre Review
ASL-Interpreted Performance: Saturday, Sept. 23 at 2pm – Reserve here for special pricing and unobstructed view of the interpreters.
Audio Described Performance: Sunday, Sept. 24 at 2pm – Please email firstname.lastname@example.org us to let us know you’re coming, so we can make sure you have the correct device and a great experience.
🤩 Playwright Lindsay Joelle to attend Wednesday, September 13th talkback!!
Notes on Sound Design and Original Score by Brian Grimm
** Please do not download these files, I’m streaming them here as a preview – if you want a copy of the album, wait for the official soundtrack to come out for purchase on GrimmusiK Records bandcamp. ** Thanks!!! ❤️ Brian
The Music is Trash…
That’s right! You heard me! You didn’t even have to hear it from a critic or local theater review – this is comin’ straight from the source! The original music in this production is entirely made from trash, garbage, and recycling that I recorded. It was an absolute blast to record all of these fascinating sounds to see what sort of grooves naturally presented themselves and then build music cues from there. These garbage grooves feature aluminum cans, milk cartons, yogurt containers, a broken margarita glass, cardboard boxes, paper and plastic cups, paper and plastic bags, velcro, olive oil and wine bottles, an old beat up carbon steel wok and more!
Stage Prop Sounds I also had a very fun recording session at the Overture Center, where I recorded a bunch of the props that are featured as garbage on stage throughout the production. In the music, you’ll hear a ton of percussion created from a mannequin, cat crate, birdcage, campfire pot, bamboo steamer, suitcase, along with some plastic and metal fans that were in the dressing room!
Kalimba Theme The one exception in this landscape of trash music is the kalimba thumb piano; which was a delightful Christmas gift from my parents this year! The kalimba theme that I recorded is tied to one character specifically and appears four times throughout the show. That’s all I’ll say to avoid any spoilers. But if you see the show, see if you can catch all of the times this theme appears!
Special Sound Design Moments from Trash I utilized the trash, recycling and prop sounds a few times in the show that became a mix of sound design, field recording and musical elements. One example is a panic attack moment of anxiety that one of the characters suddenly finds themselves in. To heighten this uncomfortable feeling, I added a crescendo and accelerando of a heart beat sound, which was actually made by striking a cardboard box with my thumb (the sound turned out great!). The feeling grows as the city soundscape also crescendos, accompanied by unsettling birdcage sounds and a distorted and slowed down version of the kalimba theme in the background.
Another example is the lovely quiet Interlude that we get in the middle of the show. A winter storm comes rolling over New York City. To create the atmosphere of blowing winter wind between the buildings I blew on a wine bottle to get a few breathy pitches and I used the ringing sustained sound I got from the birdcage after I would strike it with one end down on the ground and one end up and slowly lower it all the way down as it rang out. It was one of the most fascinating sounds I captured. This is all set in the backdrop of actual sounds of snow falling. Eventually the truck starts moving and the city sounds take over again as we start the next scene and carry on with the play.
The way that the city sounds, and musical sounds interact are very similar to a piece I composed back in 2018 called “They’re Still Here”, a 30 minute long Musique Concrète élégie honoring loved ones who’d passed that year. This unique piece of music dealt with how we handle (or don’t handle) the grieving process our modern society – which actually ties back into one of the themes of this play.
Sound Design Obviously, there are a lot of garbage truck sounds and city soundscapes throughout the play. It’s about a 50/50 mix of sounds that I recorded and sounds that I collected from archives elsewhere. I did spend an entire morning waiting in my driveway for the recycling and garbage trucks to come by so I could record them. One big mistake I made; I forgot to charge my field recorder the night before. So I had it plugged into the side of the garage to get some charge and then every time I heard a garbage truck making a turn down a nearby street in the neighborhood I quickly yanked my recorder out of the outlet and ran over to our fire hydrant (right next to the trash cans) and hurriedly whispered which take and what type of truck was coming by. Then tried to play it cool by hanging out with my dog in the front yard as Anne did some weeding in the garden. We would celebrate (silently) with big fist pumps everytime a big, loud, fun garbage truck sound was captured.
Similarly, the city street sounds & construction sounds were about a 50/50 mix of recorded and found. But in the bar scene, Anne and I went on an undercover field recording mission at a local bar! I won’t name the establishment, but I will say that for a 7pm on a Monday night, it was a lot more crowded and way more drunk than I anticipated…
One of the main issues we faced with all of the garbage truck sounds I recorded and collected is that they were the type of trash collection where the truck grabs the garbage can with an mechanical arm and dumps the trash into the hopper – whereas the NYC sanitation workers are manually loading bags into the hopper. This made it difficult to use the longer stretches of garbage trucks driving, because they all had frequent stops with mechanic arm and dumping/crushing sounds. It made for a lot of stitching, layering, and editing together individual pieces of many different sound clips to create the one fluid sound that you hear in the show from one garbage truck sound to the next.
A Nod to Inspirations from Recycled Music Makers Around the Globe
One of my starting points of inspiration for the music, knowing that it would be heavily percussive and utilizing trash was the famous percussion show on broadway called “Stomp!”. I thought of that vibe as a good launching off point. Something percussive, from NY, with a lot of energy that can move us forward from scene to scene. However, the true main inspiration for taking all of the trash and recycling and creating music exclusively from those items came from various ensembles around the world that have done just that. For instance the “Landfill Harmonic” in Cateura, Paraguay; which is a youth orchestra who built their instruments from trash in their local landfill. Making beautiful music from the ugly and discarded junk that finds its way to their home. In the play, the character Danny explains that you throw something away and it might be shipped to a landfill in India, etc, your discarded trash may see more of the world than you ever do in your whole life. And who knows how it affects the people where it ends up.
I had remembered this orchestra in the back of my head when we started this project and thought of them and how they use the trash of their landfill in such a positive way as a major point of inspiration. I also was thinking of the Eco-Afro-Futuristic punk ensemble Fulu Miziki @fulumusic (roughly translates to “music from garbage”) that I started following in recent years on instagram who also hand makes their instruments and performance outfits out of trash and recycling.
About the band: Fulu Miziki is a collective of artists who comes straight from a future where humans have reconciled with mother earth and with themselves. This multidisciplinary collective of artists is based in the heart of the Congolese capital city Kinshasa and was founded by Pisko Crane. For several years now, it’s founder Pisko has spent an amount of time conceptualizing an orchestra made from objects found in the trash, constantly changing instruments, always in search of new sounds.
Making our own performance costumes, masks and instruments is essential to their approach of Fulu Miziki’s musical ideology. Their unique sound supports a pan-African message of artistic liberation, peace and a severe look at the ecological situation of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the whole world. For Fulu everything can be recovered and re-enchanted.
There’s also a singer who goes by Mc-Deive @mc.deive_ that I started following on instagram. I don’t know much about him other than he seems to sing about Brazil a lot and is maybe in Angola, Africa? Maybe someone can help me out here. All I know is that he sings super catchy songs while accompanying himself on an empty plastic water bottle with his camera man/hype man and that you should follow him!
As a follow up I’ll say that I wasn’t specifically trying to emulate the genre of music after any of these groups, it was purely the concept of trash music that I was taking as inspiration. All of the music genres I created for the show I let occur naturally. I let the trash tell me what grooves it wanted to play and went from there. There are some similarities to Fulu Miziki’s style, but that is more the nature of both projects exclusively using trash as it sounds, and being primarily percussive in nature – which will lead to some similarities. However, it was not my intention to copy their music style nor did I listen to them or any other groups when I was recording and composing this music.
Brennan Connors & Stray Passage maintained a regular presence in Madison as an improvising/experimental jazz unit for over a decade. Their album “Emergence” was released in 2017 via the Italian record label Setola Di Maiale. Saxophonist and leader Brennan Connors has been delving further into his own musical and compositional concepts. Brian Grimm (bass guitar and electric cello) has been composing scores and sounds scapes for live theatre in Chicago, Indianapolis, and throughout Wisconsin for the past 2 years as Geoff Brady (drums, theremin, and electronics) maintains his presence as one of the top percussionists in Madison. “All three members weave in and out of freely tumultuous passages and desolate spaciousness, achieving a collective, convincing direction that challenges the listener’s understanding of the passing of time in live composition” (Emili Earhart, Tone Madison). Always listening deeply to one another and the audience in the room, the trio connects directly to the listener with sensitivity, a wide dynamic range, and deep emotional engagement. Don’t miss the rare chance to see this trio live and in full swing!
BlueStem Jazzis a non-profit venture dedicated to presenting progressive, avant-garde, experimental jazz in Madison WI.
Be sure to check out their website to see their many upcoming events! BlueStem Jazz has been working incredibly hard to book as much high quality Jazz and Improvised music as possible in Madison, WI. Including supporting both local and touring talents.
(from their website) Located on Madison’s near East Side, nestled behind Olbrich Gardens, the award-winning Garver Feed Mill® is a multi-faceted destination that features local artisans, producers, wellness studios, and retailers offering visitors everything from coffee to ice cream, catering to kombucha.
The renovated Feed Mill honors and preserves Madison’s rich agricultural and industrial history by re-activating the building as a next-generation food production center and provide visitors with the opportunity to taste the best of Madison. The historic Mill has been transformed into a platform for local food businesses to grow, and in turn, expand Madison’s profile as a Midwestern hub of high quality, hand crafted food and drink.
Private and public events in our indoor and outdoor event spaces keep Garver bustling throughout the year, bringing people from near and far to “the Soul of Madison” – the vibrant East Side of the City. In winter months, Garver is home to the Dane County Farmers Market, the largest producer only farmers market in the nation.
Health and wellness enthusiasts looking to connect with themselves, each other, and the world around them will also find community at Garver Feed Mill through a variety of spiritual and physical wellness offerings from yoga and meditation classes to aromatherapy and spa retreats.
Garver is a foodie and wellness destination for locals and out-of-towners alike, benefiting from the close proximity and future programming with Olbrich Botanical Gardens and Olbrich Park.
Laminal Animal, a Madison-based trio consisting of Luke Leavitt (piano and electronics), Tim Russell (percussion and electronics), and Ari Smith (bass, percussion and electronics), utilizes improvisation to investigate emergent, complex social interactions in order to create and navigate new sonic landscapes.
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.
Adult Swim is presented by the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co.