Nadia Botello. Photo by Mike Jackson, alrightmike.com

Homework

I Finally Realized I’m a Sound Artist

Nadia Botello is a sound artist, experimental composer, sound designer (and former synchronized swimmer!) based in Philadelphia. She is an advocate for women in electronic music (see: the illustrated history of women in electronic music at filiamusica.com), teaches children deep listening and the science of sound, and has composed, performed, and installed numerous works in LA, Philadelphia, and New York. If this weren’t enough, she is a loyal and present friend with a playful and courageous spirit. Learn more about her at www.nadiabotello.com.
– Alisha Adams, curator

I’ve been involved in the electronic music and sound communities for well over a decadeI started going to raves (and producing them) as a very young teenager, learned how to audio engineer at sixteen, tour managed and did event production, went to Sweden and wrote/recorded an analog synth improv record at twenty-one, got into sound design when I lived in Los Angeles for a number of years, learned how to build synthesizers, found myself collaboratively scoring experimental opera and dance, found a reason to begin performing live, made my way into the art world “proper,” and much more.

Despite all this time and experience, I often hesitated to identify as a “sound artist,” “experimental composer,” or “sound designer” until one pivotal evening in Los Angeles when I saw Suzanne Ciani give a retrospective and Q&A on her work and career as a composer and sound designer. She was a pioneer of modular synthesis and commercial sound design, and is considered one of the “godmothers” of new age electronic music. Listening to her that night made me realize that I was on a similar path, and it was incredibly empowering to see a woman engaging and succeeding in traditionally male-dominated areas of work. After that night, I sought to learn as much about the history of women in electronic music as I could. Because even though I had been creating it for years, I had a very limited idea about the vast influence many women had on the medium (and the tools to produce it!). Suzanneand the stories of these women—gave me the confidence to claim these identities, pursue a sound-based creative practice full-time, and (most importantly) to make my own way.

Over the last six months or so, I’ve been trying to connect the various women working in and around electronic music (broadly defined) across Philadelphia. As a creative community, Philadelphia can often feel compartmentalized; the academics are hanging with other academics, DJs are out with their crews, DIY artists are clustered in basements and warehouses, “fine artists” are showing in galleries, etc. There’s certainly a bit of cross-over, but why not traverse these worlds a little more? Philadelphia is home to some talented and wonderful women studying, performing, and engaging in electronic music practices. Connecting with each other (and the greater community at large) is something I’d really like to encourage. I believe there’s power in presence, visibility, and the sharing of knowledge and resources. We have so much to learn from each other.

Below are a few resources that I consider “jumping off” points to delve into a more comprehensive (but still incomplete) history of women in electronic music. Important for anyone who listens to, enjoys, or is curious about electronic music . . . but especially for women (and young girls) to know—our paths and creative practices are strengthened because of them. These are some of the women who came before. Let’s honor their influence.

Listen: Seven Hours of Women Making Electronic Music (1938-2014)

Watch: Suzanne Ciani’s sound design for Xenon (pinball)

Read (books): Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound by Tara Rodgers // The Feminine Musique: Multimedia and Women Today and “On Writing for Multimedia” by Sabrina Peña Young // Women Composers And Music Technology in the United States: Crossing the Line by Elizabeth Hinkle-turner // Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice by Pauline Oliveros

Read (online): More articles & resources on women in electronic music

Photo by Mike Jackson, alrightmike.com

Red car in trees. Photo by Emily Bucholz.

Disposable Life

Cheap and Joyful

Emily Bucholz is a photographer, illustrator, video artist, and renowned adventurer. Her films have recently been seen in STROBE Network at Flux Factory, NY, and the 2015 Digital Fringe. Her work is filled with joyful detail, and often captures the humor and frailty of intimate moments. She is an inspired event planner, maker of unique, handmade party decor, and defender of fun. You would be lucky to take a road trip with her. See Emily’s work at www.emilybucholz.com.

-Alisha Adams, Curator

 

The playwright at Franny Lou's Porch. Photo by Lauren Karstens.

In the Studio

Writer Without a Desk

I found out about playwright Alisha Adams on my deep reads of the FringeArts guide. After speaking to her over the phone, I chose her as one of fifteen curated artists in my Fringe bike tours, and though I haven’t met her in person, the people I’ve sent her wayCurate This photographer Lauren Karstens and Women Bike PHL’s Katie Monroe—have thanked me, as apparently it’s a joy to get to know her. I still have not seen an Adams production, but through her writing, and the work of artists she curated for Curate This, I’ve come to respect her as a serious and deeply integrated Philadelphia artist, and I’m proud to feature her here.

-Julius Ferraro, co-founder

I don’t have my own writing studio, though I have vivid dreams of what it might look like: high ceilinged, bare and white, with plants that aren’t too needy and generous windows overlooking trees. I don’t even have a desk.

Natural light. Photo by Lauren Karstens.

What I have is a six-by-eight-foot bedroom with a child’s futon on the floor and walls covered in fading posters. I can sit at a round table in my cluttered-yet-breezy living room, or recline with my laptop on the thrifted La-Z-Boy. It’s a quick walk to the coffee shop where I know most faces and linger to read every business card and flyer neatly stacked by the half and half. And I have all the spaces near and between.

Picture, dried flowers, candle. Photo by Lauren Karstens.

When I’m working on a play, where I write changes based on the where I am in the play’s development. Park benches and sunny cafes without wi-fi are for early drafts with pen and paper, and the La-Z-Boy and side table are perfect for quickly typing up raw scenes. The generous back table of Franny Lou’s Porch is the perfect spot for outlining story arcs and rearranging plot points with color-coded notecards. Then I read and tinker in bed, propped on several pillows, until I can take a freshly printed first draft out to a cafe and scrawl all over it. If I’m lucky enough to reach the workshop or rehearsal stage, I may find myself in a black box theater, borrowed office space, or gallery.

View from back table at Franny Lou's Porch. Photo by Lauren Karstens.

My most recent play, Shelter-in-Place, brought me to Las Parcelas, a community garden and Puerto Rican cultural space in Philadelphia’s Norris Square neighborhood. We performed the play without mics or lights or a set. The only thing separating us from the noise and activity of the neighborhood was a chainlink fence. The actors—in character—danced to hiphop from passing cars, waved to kids playing outside, talked back to sirens, and laughed as one man slowly rolled a giant plastic barrel down the street. I was more comfortable working here than under a proscenium.

Lac Parcelas. Photo by Lauren Karstens.

My writing process has always been connected to place. Fresh out of college, I wrote a book of poems about the strange, sunny depression of living with my parents in Santa Barbara. The first play lab I ever joined met in the basement of my East Los Angeles apartment building, and my writing had a blind, plunging, subconscious quality. Then, my first “real” plays were all inspired by the foggy shores and singing whales of the San Juan Islands. Other Tongues came from childhood road trips to the Navajo Nation and undergrad studies in Sierra Leone led to Go Yeri Ston. And I can’t leave out Holler Farm in upstate New York, the North Fork John Day Wilderness, and my downstairs add-on bathroom.

Lac Parcelas. Photo by Lauren Karstens.

Writers are famously particular about their space, and I’m no different. Only I need variety more than reliability, public spectacle and communal clatter more than seclusion. I do wonder sometimes how my constantly shifting “studio” shapes my work. Would the continuity of a single writing space better enable me to hear and hone my singular voice? Maybe. But then maybe my voice is singularly variable.

The playwright at Franny Lou's Porch. Photo by Lauren Karstens.

Once, in an Artist’s Way workshop hosted in a neighborhood church, I broke down in tears sharing a quilt design I’d intuitively made to represent my “patchwork” life—the many places I’ve lived and visited and all the jobs, relationships, and creative projects attached. They were tears of acceptance. In my ham-handed way, I was making peace with having often divergent interests and impulses; with having a life full of seams.

All photos by Lauren Karstens