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Emily Wells, Ashley Bathgate and More Featured This Week in National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival

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Emily Wells, Ashley Bathgate and More Featured This Week in National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival

National Sawdust's physical doors are still closed but, thanks to a generous grant, the mission of providing artists the resources and support they need to create and present new work continues with the Digital Discovery Festival, featuring over 100 artists from May through the end of July. With an evolving roster that focuses on contemporary composition and spotlights ground-breaking artists from across the genre spectrum, the festival includes a weekly drop of three newly-released full-length concerts from the venue's rich archives alongside three new virtual events: two 30-minute taped-from-the-artist's-home Discovery Performances that showcase emerging artists in concert and a performance Masterclass with an established artist, moderated by vocalist Helga Davis and composer and National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini, discussing their pandemic experience and their vision for the future.

All Discovery and Masterclass artists are paid $1000 per person for each 30-minute performance and receive gifts of relevant audio-visual equipment and livestream training to better prepare them for the immediate realities and future of the post-COVID live music world. In keeping with National Sawdust's reputation for the highest-quality A/V experience in our concert hall, the venue's staff provides strong oversight for sound and lighting and commercial-level post-production finishing. No other American music venue is currently providing this level of artistic financial support and polished content. All events are accessible on the newly-constructed Live@NationalSawdust website, as well as on Facebook Live, entirely free of charge.

This week's Digital Discovery Festival theme focuses on Sonic Landscapes: musical compositions that utilize layers of sound to form densely textured audio art. This music comes to life through a variety of vocal techniques, looping and layered instruments, found sounds and original beats, all coalescing to create an orchestra of sound echoing the complexity of our newly-absent natural and urban environments. This week's musical performances remind us that art doesn't exist in isolation from our experiences; the wordless power of sonic landscapes allows us to connect with issues and feelings we're unable to articulate. They remind us that music can be a primal source of healing or inspiration or instigation.

Complete online release dates for this week's Digital Discovery Festival events follows. After a brief Memorial Day break, we will continue on the week of June 1 with Discovery concerts from Conrad Tao and Thana Alexa and Antonio Sánchez, a classic archival performance from composer Huang Ruo's 2019 National Sawdust Artist-in-Residency project Sonic Great Wall and much more. New weekly Festival themes and upcoming artists will be announced shortly.

Archived versions of every previous week's Digital Discovery Festival events can be found online in the Live@NationalSawdust Archives.

Tuesday, May 19 - First Airing at 6PM


Discovery Performance

Stream at Live@NationalSawdust or Facebook Live

"Quietly transfixing" composer / producer Emily Wells is known for her varied use of classical and modern instrumentation, "a master of blending the worlds of classical and electronics" (NPR) and "dramatic, meticulous and gothic songs" (The New York Times). On stage Wells' builds a "new instrument" out of acoustic and electronic drums, synth, violin, and her evocative performances leave audiences equal parts dancing and grieving.

Wednesday, May 20 - First Airing at 6PM


Discovery Performance

Stream at Live@NationalSawdust or Facebook Live

American cellist Ashley Bathgate has been described as an "eloquent new music interpreter" (The New York Times) and "a glorious cellist "(The Washington Post) who combines "bittersweet lyricism along with ferocious chops" (New York Magazine). Her "impish ferocity", "rich tone" and "imaginative phrasing" (New York Times) have made her one of the most sought after per-formers of her time. The desire to create a dynamic energy exchange with her audience and build upon the ensuing chemistry is a pillar of Bathgate's philosophy as a performer. Dynamism drives her to venture into previously uncharted areas of ground-breaking sounds and techniques, break-ing the mold of a cello's traditionally perceived voice. For the past ten years Bathgate was a member of the acclaimed sextet Bang on a Can All-Stars. She is also a member of the chamber music group HOWL, TwoSense with pianist Lisa Moore, and Bonjour, a low-strung, percussive quintet.

Masterclass: Sonic Landscapes

Featuring Live Performance and Conversation with


Moderated by PAOLA PRESTINI and Helga Davis

Friday, May 22 - First Airing at 3PM

VIJAY IYER: Masterclass

Stream at Live@NationalSawdust or Facebook Live

Composer-pianist Vijay Iyer has carved out a unique path as an influential, prolific, shape-shifting presence in modern music. He was described by Pitchfork as "one of the best in the world at what he does," by Los Angeles Weekly as "a boundless and deeply important young star," by The New York Times as a "social conscience, multimedia collaborator, system builder, rhapsodist, historical thinker and multicultural gateway," and by Minnesota Public Radio as "an American treasure." A musical innovator, an active collaborator, and a member of multiple artistic communities, Iyer continues to reimagine the role of the musician in the 21st century.

New from the National Sawdust Archives

Wednesday, May 20 - First Airing at 8PM

RYUICHI SAKAMOTO with Taylor Deupree, Joseph Branciforte and Theo Bleckmann

First Performed at National Sawdust on April 26, 2018

Stream at Live@NationalSawdust

Pioneering electronic musician, composer, and pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto is joined by fellow sonic adventurers Taylor Deupree, Joseph Branciforte, and Theo Bleckmann for an expansive set exploring the outer reaches of sound, emotion, and ambiance.

Wednesday, May 20 - First Airing at 8PM


First Performed at National Sawdust on May 21, 2018

Stream at Live@NationalSawdust

Raised on Orcas Island off the coast of Washington state, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's compositions are surreal yet rooted in nature. By combining the organic elements of her upbringing with the technological prowess gained from her studies at Berklee College of Music, Kaitlyn's impact on modern music is distinct and significant. Revisit her transformative National Sawdust performance from spring 2018.

Wednesday, May 20 - First Airing at 8PM


First Performed at Rockefeller Center on August 3, 2019

Stream at Live@NationalSawdust

In the summer of 2019, the sound of hundreds of human voices transformed Rockefeller Center's outdoor plazas in an immersive, site-specific choral and movement piece The Gauntlet - an intimate, personal experience where individuals were led through musical corridors of sonic architecture formed by the human voice. Created by composer Sxip Shirey and choreographer Coco Karol, each performance of The Gauntlet is unique, reflecting the site, community, and performers it is created with. This iteration of The Gauntlet was inspired by the theme of Transformation, with text formed from 'movement interviews' with changemakers, cultural figures, and artists.


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