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Cheryl Leonard with Stones
Cheryl E. Leonard, self portrait.

Polar Soundscapes, featuring Cheryl E. Leonard with Phillip Greenlief.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 7:30pm. Goldman Theater, David Brower Center, Berkeley, CA.

 

A six part program with five compositions by Leonard and a post-performance conversation led by Paul Dresher. Presented by Other Minds and the David Brower Center as a closing event for the exhibit: Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art 1775-2012.

Cheryl E. Leonard is a composer, performer, and instrument builder. Over the last decade she has focused on investigating sounds, structures, and objects from the natural world. Her recent works cultivate stones, wood, water, ice, sand, shells, feathers, and bones as musical instruments. Leonard is fascinated by the subtle intricacies of sounds. She uses microphones to explore micro-aural worlds hidden within her sound sources and develops compositions that highlight the unique voices they contain. Her projects often feature one-of-a-kind sculptural instruments that are played live onstage and field recordings from remote locales. Leonard enjoys collaborating across artistic disciplines and creating site specific works. In addition to developing her own projects, she has composed numerous soundtracks for film, video, dance, and theater, and has designed sounds for exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, WA.

Leonard holds a BA from Hampshire College and an MA from Mills College. Her music has been performed worldwide and she has been commissioned to create instruments and music for Kronos Quartet, Illuminated Corridor, and Michael Straus. She has received grants from the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, ASCAP, American Composers Forum, American Music Center, Meet the Composer, and the Eric Stokes Fund. Leonard has been awarded residencies at Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, Djerassi, the Arctic Circle, Villa Montalvo, the Paul Dresher Ensemble Studio, and Engine 27. Recordings of her music are available from NEXMAP, Unusual Animals, Ubuibi, Pax, Apraxia, 23 Five, and Great Hoary Marmot Music.

To learn more about Cheryl Leonard and her work, follow this link to her web site.

Since his emergence on the west coast in the late 1970s, Evander Music founder and saxophonist Phillip Greenlief has achieved international critical acclaim for his recordings and performances with musicians and composers in the post-jazz continuum as well as new music innovators and virtuosic improvisers. He has performed and recorded with Fred Frith, Meredith Monk, Nels Cline, and They Might Be Giants; albums include THAT OVERT DESIRE OF OBJECT with Joëlle Léandre, and ALL AT ONCE with FPR (Frank Gratkowski, Jon Raskin, Phillip Greenlief). Recent residencies have included Headlands Center for the Arts and from 2012 to 2014 he was the curator at Berkeley Arts, a home for progressive music. He is the recipient of a San Francisco Bay Guardian Goldie Award.

Event Program

Meltwater (2013)
for two performers on icicles, scientific glassware, penguin bones, and Antarctic rocks, with field recordings of the Marr Ice Piedmont on Anvers Island in Antarctica
Cheryl E. Leonard and Phillip Greenlief – icicles, scientific glassware, penguin bones, and Antarctic rocks

In 2009 I spent a month at Palmer Research Station on Anvers Island off the Antarctic Peninsula. Palmer is built on a sliver of exposed rock at the edge of the Marr Ice Piedmont, a vast glacier that enshrouds the island. Like most glaciers along the Western Antarctic Peninsula, the Marr is shrinking, its surface increasingly fractured by exposed crevasses and its periphery collapsing into the sea. Behind the station the ice has retreated more than 1500 feet over the last 50 years. Along the fringes of the Marr I recorded meltwater streams, towers of calving ice, and icicles inside crevasses. I also heard things that eluded my microphones: faint whispers and gurgles, lost languages of air and stone, songs blown away by the wind, gamelans cached in ice and water. This piece is a contemplation of Antarctica’s melting glaciers and a re-imagining of some of their transitory, fading voices.

Glugge (2014)
for one player on amplified sand, glass, kelp flutes, water, limpet shells, saw blades, and rocks from Trygghamna, Svalbard; together with field recordings of the barkentine Antigua sailing and motoring through the Arctic Ocean. Video footage shot on location in Forlundsundet, Raudfjorden, and Woodfjorden, Svalbard.
Cheryl E. Leonard – amplified sand, glass, kelp flutes, water, limpet shells, saw blades, rocks; Oona Stern – video

Glugge is a collaborative piece from composer Cheryl E. Leonard and visual artist Oona Stern. It is part of Adfreeze Project, a series of multidisciplinary artworks that grew out of their 2011 residency in Svalbard, a remote archipelago above the Arctic Circle. “Glugge” is the Norwegian word for window or porthole. This piece is a response to the threat of increasing industrialization in the Arctic Ocean, and an elegy for the Arctic icecap and the ecosystem it supports. As sea ice in the region continues to shrink, shipping routes across the Arctic Ocean are becoming increasingly viable, and nations are eager to exploit newly accessible natural resources. These kinds of invasive human activities are likely to further disrupt the already struggling Arctic ecosystem. Glugge also references the history of European explorations of the Arctic and the many doomed quests to reach the North Pole or discover a Northwest Passage.

Ablation Zone (2014)
for one player on penguin nesting stones and amplified Adélie penguin bones, with field recordings of the Marr Ice Piedmont on Anvers Island in Antarctica
Cheryl E. Leonard – amplified penguin bones, penguin nesting stones; Oona Stern – video

The “ablation zone” of a glacier is the area below a certain elevation where there is a net loss of ice mass due to melting, evaporation, sublimation, calving, wind scouring, and so forth. Within the Marr’s ablation zone I collected sounds from meltwater streams and crevasses teeming with icicles. In the ocean near the Marr’s terminal ice cliffs I recorded icebergs, brash ice and bergy bits that it had jettisoned. The Marr produced a beguiling array of unique sounds. Each meltwater stream bubbled, gurgled, or sputtered it’s own rhythms and melodies, sometimes sounding like electronics or machinery. Icicles dripped the intricate layers of gamelan songs. Icebergs crackled and snapped like giant pop-rocks, or provided large cavities for waves to resonate within. To these field recordings, full of motion and energy, I added the subtle sound of polished penguin nesting stones rubbing together, and then otherworldly moans and howls produced by bowing Adélie penguin vertebrae.

Conversation
with Cheryl E. Leonard and Paul Dresher

Program for Polar Soundscapes

Click here to download a PDF copy of the program for The Nature of Music 1 – Cheryl Leonard.

Event Media: Video

Cheryl Leonard
Glugge (2014)

Recorded during Cheryl’s performance at The Nature of Music, a series of events featuring composers and performers of music whose work is inspired by, or includes elements of, the environment. This piece was written for one player on amplified sand, glass, kelp flutes, water, limpet shells, saw blades, and rocks from Trygghamna, Svalbard; together with field recordings of the barkentine Antigua sailing and motoring through the Arctic Ocean. Video footage shot on location in Forlundsundet, Raudfjorden, and Woodfjorden, Svalbard. Cheryl E. Leonard – amplified sand, glass, kelp flutes, water, limpet shells, saw blades, rocks; Oona Stern – video.

Cheryl Leonard
Ablation Zone (2014)

Recorded during Cheryl’s performance at The Nature of Music, a series of events featuring composers and performers of music whose work is inspired by, or includes elements of, the environment. This piece was written for one player on penguin nesting stones and amplified Adélie penguin bones, with field recordings of the Marr Ice Piedmont on Anvers Island in Antarctica. Cheryl E. Leonard – amplified penguin bones, penguin nesting stones; Oona Stern – video.

Cheryl Leonard
Post-performance Q&A

A conversation with Cheryl Leonard, led by Paul Dresher, held after Cheryl’s performance at The Nature of Music, a series of events featuring composers and performers of music whose work is inspired by, or includes elements of, the environment. This conversation was recorded on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at the Goldman Theater in the David Brower Center, Berkeley, CA.

Artist Media

Polarnatt (excerpt)
Cheryl Leonard

This is a 5-minute excerpt from a live performance of Polarnatt in the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival at the Brava Theater on September 8, 2012. The length of the complete composition is 14’22”.

Noisy People
Cheryl Leonard

This is an excerpt from Noisy People, a 2007 feature-length documentary by Tim Perkis about improvising musicians in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Adelie Penguins at the Beach
Cheryl Leonard

Adelie Penguins hanging out on a rocky beach, Torgersen Island, Antarctica

Bats at Lake Havasu
Cheryl Leonard

Bats echolocating at the Site Six boat launch, Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Recorded through a bat detector in order to bring the sounds down into human hearing range. I think these bats are Yuma myotis.

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