“Raw folk and electronically assisted sonic richness, in an improbably captivating mix.” —The Oregonian
Minneapolis, January 30, 2012—The Walker Art Center presents the 802 Tour on Thursday–Friday, March 22–23, at 8 pm in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater. This groundbreaking collective of composers/performers (and old Vermont friends) blurs the lines between contemporary classical, deeply rooted folk, and modern pop. The evening features Nico Muhly, perhaps the most renowned composer of his generation; avant-folkie Sam Amidon; melancholic/ambient singer-songwriter Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett; and violist supreme Nadia Sirota, backed by the Twin Cities’ own Laurels String Quartet. Collaborators, kindred spirits, drinking buddies … the program includes shared music, inspired solos, and new musical ideas floated in an air of sonic camaraderie and landed with astounding ability. Presented in association with Kate Nordstrum Projects.
Doveman is 25-year-old Thomas Bartlett and a select group of collaborators. Most often, the band includes banjo player Sam Amidon, a folk singer and old childhood friend; drummer Dougie Bowne, sideman to Iggy Pop, the Lounge Lizards, and Cassandra Wilson; guitarist and conjurer Shahzad Ismaily, who has previously appeared with Marc Ribot, the Master Musicians of Joujouka, and Rage Against the Machine; and trumpeter Peter Ecklund, an expert in swing and Dixieland jazz. Originally from Vermont, Bartlett studied piano in London with Maria Curcio before moving to New York City to attend Columbia University. He attended Columbia for one year, and then left to focus on his studies of classical music. After leaving Columbia, he embarked on a career recording with various bands, including Doveman. In 2007 Doveman contributed a version of Radiohead’s Airbag for the downloadable tribute album OKX.
More recently Thomas has played or recorded with Antony and the Johnsons, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, The Frames, Bebel Gilberto, Arto Lindsay, The National, Justin Bond, Martha Wainwright, and Yoko Ono. In 2008 he performed with Brooklyn-based Grizzly Bear on the Late Show with David Letterman. That same year the band did a Take Away show video session with Vincent Moon. Bartlett covered the entire soundtrack album from the Kevin Bacon movie Footloose, which garnered much attention and praise from the likes of Entertainment Weekly and NPR’s All Songs Considered, World Cafe, and The Lillywhite Sessions at Avatar Studios.
Nico Muhly was born in Vermont in 1981 and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated from Columbia University in 2003 with a degree in English Literature and received a master’s in music from the Julliard School one year later.
Since receiving his degrees, he has amassed a string of commissions, collaborations, and premieres that would be notable for a composer twice his age. He has written orchestral pieces for the Boston Pops, the Chicago Symphony Music NOW, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Julliard Orchestra, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Orchestra, and the American Ballet Theatre (for choreographer Benjamin Millepied). His works have been premiered on the BBC and at New York’s St. Thomas Church, Carnegie Hall, the Whitney Museum and the New York Public Library - the latter being a special collaboration with designer/illustrator Maira Kalman in honor of her illustrated edition of The Elements of Style. Muhly has worked extensively with Philip Glass as editor, keyboardist, and conductor for numerous film and stage projects, and contributed to projects by a striking constellation of pop figures, among them Rufus Wainwright, Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons), Björk, Teitur, Will Oldham, and The National.
These personal connections highlight one of the more important aspects of Muhly’s musical life-community. The cast of characters who appear on his Mothertongue release include his closest collaborators- violist Nadia Sirota, folk singer Sam Amidon, and Icelandic producer Valgeir Sigurðsson. Sigurðsson’s and Muhly’s view on musical relationships was, in part, the inspiration for Bedroom Community, the label Sigurðsson founded and which created both Mothertongue and Speaks Volumes, Muhly’s 2006 debut.
Sam Amidon was raised in Brattleboro, Vermont by folk musician parents Peter and Mary Alice Amidon. He sings, plays fiddle, banjo, guitar, and can count in binary code on his hands really fast. All Is Well, a collection of re-worked folksongs produced by Valgeir Sigurðsson and featuring chamber-orchestral arrangements by Nico Muhly and contributions from Eyvind Kang, Aaron Siegel, Ben Frost, and Stefan Amidon, is his first album for Bedroom Community.
His previous album of songs, a duo with Doveman under the name Samamidon called But This Chicken Proved Falsehearted, was labeled “the most interesting folk album of 2007” by Stylus magazine.
Amidon lives in New York City and plays in Doveman and Stars Like Fleas, and has also played with Tall Firs, The Swell Season, and Stares. In March 2011, he premiered the Nico Muhly composition The Only Tune at Carnegie Hall.
Amidon studied with the late free-jazz legend Leroy Jenkins and downtown/jazz violinist Mark Feldman. As a teenager he became known throughout the US folk scene as a fiddler, releasing five albums with his band Assembly to great acclaim, as well as performing with his parents. Along the way he and Assembly gathered attention from All Things Considered, CNN, The Boston Globe, and Fiddler Magazine, and eventually Amidon acted in a starring role in a the feature film American Wake, which had its premiere at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Amidon also makes videos and draws comics.
Hailed by the New York Times as “a bold new-music interpreter and the violist of choice among downtown ensembles these days,” violist Nadia Sirota has been praised for her “command and eloquence,” (Boston Globe) and for being one of New York’s “brightest, busiest players” (Time Out New York). She is best known for her unique interpretations of new scores and for commissioning and premiering works by some of the most talented composers of her generation, including Marcos Balter, Caleb Burhans, Judd Greenstein, Missy Mazzoli, and Nico Muhly.
Her debut album, First Things First (New Amsterdam Records), “a collection of vital, imaginative recent scores” (NY Times) was a New York Times 2009 record of the year.
A regular guest with such groups as The Meredith Monk Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound and Continuum, she is a founding member of ACME (the American Contemporary Music Ensemble), yMusic, and the Wordless Music Orchestra.
In addition to performing classical concert music, Nadia has performed with such songwriters and bands as Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Stars of the Lid, The Swell Season, Sam Amidon, Doveman, Bryce Dessner, Gabriel Kahane, Ben Frost, and Valgeir Sigurðsson, and can be heard on new and recent albums by Grizzly Bear, Jónsi, The National, Ratatat, Doveman, My Brightest Diamond, and Arcade Fire‘s Grammy-winning album The Suburbs.
She received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School, where she performed as co-founder of the AXIOM ensemble, initiated the Castleman/Amory/Huang studio’s New Music Project, and created the Juilliard Plays Juilliard program for student composers and performers. After winning the top prize in Juilliard’s 2005 concerto competition, Nadia performed Hindemith’s Der Schwanendreher with conductor Marin Alsop and the Juilliard Orchestra in Alice Tully Hall. As a chamber musician, Nadia has collaborated with such artists as Joseph Kalichstein, Itzhak Perlman, and the Silk Road Ensemble, as well as with members of Kronos Quaret, the Chiara Quartet, and the Peabody Trio. In the fall of 2007, Nadia joined the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music for its new Masters Program in Contemporary Music Performance.
In addition to her work as a performer and educator, Nadia hosts “Nadia Sirota on Q2,” a weekday show devoted to contemporary music on WQXR’s internet radio stream Q2. Winner of the 2010 ASCAP Deems Taylor award in radio and internet broadcasting, Nadia’s show was described by Alex Ross (The Rest is Noise, The New Yorker) as “radio we can believe in.”
The Laurels String Quartet
The Laurels String Quartet of Minneapolis was formed in 2005 as a way to regularly enjoy and explore the diverse world of string quartet music. The original goal was to form an ensemble of talented musicians who could take part in the joy of delving into the great classics of the repertoire as well as sharing its music with the community.
As a quartet, they have performed in some of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s most prestigious and beloved venues, including sold out shows at First Avenue’s Main Room, Cedar Cultural Center, The Fitzgerald Theater, The Minnesota Zoo, and Grand Old Day.
As individuals, their members have performed throughout the world on stages ranging from international locations to a variety of national stages (Santa Barbara, New York, Chicago, Ravinia Park, and more). The quartet is made up of Josh Misner, Zachary Scanlan, and Jesse Peterson on violins, Erica Burton on viola, and Dan Lawonn on cello.
Tickets to the 802 Tour are $22 ($18 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.