National Sawdust Announces FERUS Festival 2020

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National Sawdust, the music incubator and venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, announces the return of the annual FERUS Festival (January 10-17), featuring presentations from National Sawdust Artists-In-Residence and more. This annual showcase of untamed voices will present the latest in cutting-edge new music and multimedia, with an emphasis on performances that push the envelope. Each year the festival is a showcase for all that National Sawdust stands for as a music venue and nonprofit.

"The FERUS festival is our one festival a year that incubates and presents exciting artists-in-residence and the work they are doing at the intersection of art, innovation, discipline, and technology," says Paola Prestini, composer and Co-Founder and Artistic Director of National Sawdust. "I am so excited this year for the artists to explore the Meyer Sound system, and to share their voices, which are deeply emblematic of Sawdust's mission."

Opening this year's festival, Sister Sylvester's The Eagle and The Tortoise is a theatrical reading experience tracing the story of a young Turkish woman who became an icon of leftist resistance as an armed militant, political prisoner, and proxy soldier in the American war against ISIS. Moving between myth, history, and journalism, The Eagle and the Tortoise shifts our perspective on this still-unfolding tragedy of our time. The piece makes use of Meyer Sound's Constellation acoustic system and its immersive component Spacemap to envelop audiences in a live score improvised by both human and non-human performers. The production is directed and conceived by Kathryn Karaoglu Hamilton with dramaturgy by Andrew Kircher, lighting design by Bruce Steinberg, immersive sound design by Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste, projection programming by Robin A. Ediger-Seto, book and model design by Emre Özyetiş, and book design consultation and printing by Gabe Greenberg (January 10).

Part II: A Barely Arching Bridge is the second installment in vocalist Lucy Dhegrae's The Processing Series. This concert confronts sexual violence squarely and unapologetically, and explores how one can transform one's abuse into a tool of healing. Eve Beglarian's She Gets to Decide, which combines personal history, the painting Thérèse Dreaming by Balthus, and the words of Judge Aquilina during the trial of Larry Nassar - "Leave your pain here, and go out and do your magnificent things" - is the centerpiece of a program which also features works by Amadeus Regucera, Philippe Leroux, Georges Aperghis, Chaya Czernowin, Peter Kramer, Guillaume de Machaut, and Francis Poulenc (January 11).

Taking its name from the lyrics of one of the most famous Shaker hymns, composer Sarah Hennies and sculptor Mara Baldwin's Come 'Round Right is an opera with no characters, exploring the cultural residue left behind by the nearly extinct Shaker society. Blurring the lines between music, visual art, and theater, Come 'Round Right concerns itself with labor, identity, survival, love, and the passage of time. It pairs sculptural set pieces by Baldwin, inspired by Shaker furniture and crafts, with music by Hennies based on Shaker hymns (January 12).

National Sawdust, through its partnership with Meyer Sound, is the only institution in New York City using both the Constellation and Spacemap systems in its concert space. Stretching the boundaries of creative possibility, Constellation allows for a single physical space to emulate the acoustics of a chamber music venue, symphony hall, or vast cathedral (and even an ideal classroom or rehearsal studio) - all with the press of a button. The multi-channel panning available through Spacemap grants artists the freedom to explore and play with three-dimensional spatial sound. Combined, these systems have transformed National Sawdust into a dynamic auditory playground where artists of all stripes can craft performances with once inconceivable sonic agility and precision. The Meyer Sound Artist Playground will feature artists exploring the creative and technical possibilities afforded by the new Constellation and Spacemap systems from Meyer Sound (January 13).

A force of soulful, slow-burning R&B, singer/songwriter Sonic has a unique relationship with sound: she's partially deaf. An Artist-in-Residence at National Sawdust for the 2019-20 season, and the first-ever resident to come out of The Revolution series, Sonic kicks off her 3-act performance Seasons: An Experiential Voyage Through Sound with a special preview as part of FERUS Festival. Based on songs from her LP of the same name, as well as new, unreleased work, Seasons immerses audiences in Sonic's journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and self-love by navigating through her experiences as a queer, partially deaf womxn of color. Sonic makes use of National Sawdust's new Constellation and Spacemap systems from Meyer Sound, alongside ASL interpretation, to craft an evening that reflects how she experiences sound. Incorporating live performance, monologue, movement, and more, Seasons will amplify the senses while inviting audiences into Sonic's world (January 14).

Inspired by iconic photographs from Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills (1977-80), #12, #60, #39, and #48, National Sawdust Projects presents a work-in-progress presentation of Untitled (Inspired by Film Stills), featuring artists Eve Gigliotti (mezzo-soprano & Creative Producer), Royce Vavrek (librettist), and R.B. Schlather (director); new music from composers Paola Prestini and Ellen Reid; and excerpts by Nico Muhly and Missy Mazzoli. The workshop performance will be followed by a conversation with the collaborators that gives insight into the process of creating this new chamber opera work. The piece is a study of four women, each confronting a critical choice that determines the course of their lives. Both an installation and a live performance set to premiere in 2021, Untitled (Inspired by Film Stills) will invite audiences to intimately experience the visceral power of operatic storytelling, as voyeurs into scenes of lust, creation, empowerment, and destruction (January 17).

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