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National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival Presents Meredith Monk, Robert Wilson, Tyondai Braxton and More

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National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival Presents Meredith Monk, Robert Wilson, Tyondai Braxton and More

With over sixty total events featuring more than 100 artists over a four month span, National Sawdust's ongoing Digital Discovery Festival is the rarest sort of story in NYC's post-COVID live music world: an unalloyed success.

Having built a unique niche over the past five years as a haven for contemporary composers and ground-breaking artists from across the genre spectrum, National Sawdust's position as a patron to its community of artists was deeply imperiled by the pandemic until a generous grant from a single sponsor breathed new hope into the organization's mission. National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini says, "Almost immediately after we received the Alphadyne Foundation support, we pivoted to online and moved to intentionally and quickly reroute the budget from this grant back into the pockets of our artists and our staff. I'm very proud of our team's ability to make this huge online festival of new performances happen so quickly. We went from closing the doors to the venue and canceling all our live shows to premiering the Digital Discovery Festival in under fifty days. It has been an enormous undertaking and we're grateful to be able to share these vital performances with our audience."

Each week of the Digital Discovery Festival draws attention to artists who traffic in a theme that is dear to the National Sawdust ethos. An exploration of Patterns in Music boasts appearances from art-rock composer Tyondai Braxton and organist Cameron Carpenter; a week of shows nodding to Innovation features performances from theater legend Robert Wilson and MacArthur Grant-winning sculptor/composer/inventor Trimpin; the prompt of Virtuosity frames sets from arts icon Meredith Monk and guitar wizard Julian Lage.

Since its inception in late April, the Festival has released several free-to-watch events each week, including at least one newly-released full-length Archival Concert, two 30-minute taped-from-the-artist's-home Discovery Performances that showcase emerging artists in concert, and a performance-based Masterclass with an established artist, moderated by Prestini and vocalist Helga Davis, discussing their pandemic experience and their vision for the future. Following their premiere dates, all events are readily accessible on the newly-constructed Live@NationalSawdust website, as well as on Facebook Live. Both sources also house videos from all the previous week's events.

All Discovery and Masterclass artists are paid $1000 per performer for each 30-minute event 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.

National Sawdust is deeply grateful to the Alphadyne Foundation for making the Digital Discovery Festival possible. Alphadyne has fully underwritten the Festival which includes the composer competition, performances and masterclasses. This remarkable gift has allowed National Sawdust to support artists directly with financial and technical resources, while also helping National Sawdust develop its overall digital stage capacity and skills.

Additional archival performances and events in the Digital Discovery Festival will be announced in upcoming weeks. Lineup and links for the current updated Digital Discovery Festival follow; please visit Live@NationalSawdust for the most up-to-date information.

Upcoming Digital Discovery Festival Concerts and Masterclasses

Volume 7: Pride Week

Available Now: Kangmin Justin Kim (Discovery Concert)

Available Now: Madame Gandhi (Archival Concert)

Available Now: NationalSawdust+ presents: Beyond Butterfly and the Don (Archival Concert)

Available Now: Sonic x Womyn Amplify (Archival Concert)

Available Now: Adam Tendler (Discovery Concert)

Available Now: Jamie Barton (Masterclass)

Though much of the celebration and NYC's annual parade has been postponed by the ongoing pandemic, National Sawdust is proud to support Pride in Volume 7 of the Digital Discovery Festival by commemorating the history and future of our city's vibrant community and by celebrating artists who are creating music and theater with an explicitly LGBT+ perspective. Trendsetting countertenor Kangmin Justin Kim will present a program of opera and classical songs from gay composers and poets, including an aria from M. Butterfly, the premiere of which was cancelled at Santa Fe Opera due to the global pandemic. Kim's program is available to the public now. Pianist, memoirist and gay advocate Adam Tendler has risen to prominence in the contemporary classical community with his nuanced renditions of the oeuvres of Aaron Copeland, John Cage and Philip Glass; he'll perform an original composition "Texas Letters" and "How Now" by Glass for the Digital Discovery Festival on June 25. Pride Week concludes with a Masterclass conversation-performance between NS+ series curator Elena Park, composer and National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini and the Beverly Sills Award-winning mezzo-soprano and outspoken gay rights and body-positivity activist Jamie Barton on June 26 who will perform selections from Gustav Mahler, Amy Beach and Henri Duparc. Three newly-released shows from the National Sawdust archives emphasize the excellence and diversity of the LGBT+ artistic community. The queer electropop artist Madame Gandhi came to prominence as a drummer for M.I.A., but she's proven herself to be a provocative performance artist and a fast-rising star following this buzzy headliner performance at National Sawdust in 2018. NationalSawdust+'s Beyond Butterfly and the Don from January 2020 features Kangmin Justin Kim and female baritone and trans advocate Lucia Lucas performing opera scenes and songs, followed by a conversation with Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer. Sonic and her collective Womxyn Amplify's Seasons - An Experimental Voyage Through Sound, performed recently in March 2020, is a mixed-media piece investigating the very nature of sound itself.

Volume 8: A/V

Tuesday, June 30 at 6pm: Drum & Lace (Discovery Concert)

Wednesday, July 1: Ricardo Romaneiro: Liquidverse Apollo 11 (Archival Concert)

Wednesday, July 1: Jojo Abot: Power to the God Within (Archival Concert

Thursday, July 2 at 6pm: Rafiq Bhatia (Discovery Concert)

Friday, July 3 at 1pm: Ted Hearne (Masterclass)

More than almost any other music venue in the city, National Sawdust is renowned for its excellent sound and lighting. Boasting a one-of-a-kind Meyer Sound System and one of the strongest technical teams in the business, National Sawdust is fighting to keep that same level of audio fidelity in every show that's part of the Digital Discovery Festival. The Festival's theme for our eighth week, beginning June 29, is A/V, showcasing the versatility and creativity of our audio-visual artists and crew while they strive to bring you as close to the live concert experience as possible. Classically trained pianist, composer and multimedia artist Drum & Lace, best known for her fashion and film work, will broadcast an exploration of compositions in sight and sound on June 30, including unreleased material and tracks from her new EP Further, out June 12th. On July 2, experimental guitarist and electronic soundscape creator Rafiq Bhatia will take the audience through a layered performance where he employs vanguard, sculptural approaches to guitar in an aural funeral ceremony commemorating the staggering human cost of the COVID-19 crisis. Rendered through a hallucinatory, audio-reactive video treatment, the performance channels the risk and uncertainty of a live show while suggesting other possibilities for expression, communion, and catharsis in our isolated present. Our weekly Masterclass conversation-performance with vocalist Helga Davis and National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini will be joined by composer Ted Hearne on July 3 to discuss the first workshop showing of his new piece Agnes in the Graveyard, with a libretto by librettist Chana Porter which incorporates both live performance and video. Hearne will be joined by an amazing line-up which includes Natalie Joachim (flute, vox), Alex Sopp (flute, vox), Eliza Bagg (synth, vox), Catherine Brookman (synth, vox), Ayanna Woods (electric bass, vox) and Greg Chudzik (electric bass). Volume Eight of the Digital Discovery Festival will also see the premiere of two never-before-broadcast productions from our archives. The work of producer and composer Ricardo Romaneiro has become a welcome fixture at National Sawdust where he was a official curator for Season Five; for his Apollo 11 show, he has teamed up with Steve Pavlovsky of Liquid Light Lab to stage a fully-integrated 12-piece electronic and acoustic orchestra, synched to a video of the US moon landing, swimming in a psychedelic light show. Jojo Abot's passionate mixed-media piece Power to the God Within is an engrossing experience and a true audio/visual adventure.

Volume 9: Activism

Monday, July 6: In Situ: Miyamoto is Black Enough (Archival Concert)

Tuesday, July 7 at 6pm: Andrew Yee (Discovery Concert)

Thursday, July 9 at 6pm: Mireya Ramos (Discovery Concert)

Friday, July 10 at 1pm: Lara St. John (Masterclass)

National Sawdust has always supported creators who strive for social change and advancement, making our week nine program, beginning July 6 - a celebration of Activism in the arts - a particularly timely evocation of the core principles behind the Digital Discovery Festival. Cellist Andrew Yee is a member of the New York-based Attacca Quartet, whose recent collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw won them the Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance. Yee's trailblazing solo performances draw strength from their classical training, bi-racial heritage, non-binary identity and adventurous creative spirit; they will present works by composers Ernst Reijseger, Mingjia Chen, Caroline Shaw, and past National Sawdust Hildegard Competition winner, inti figgis-vizueta on July 7. As the founding member of the Latin Grammy-winning, all-female mariachi-band Flor de Toloache, violinist and vocalist Mireya Ramos has consistently used her platform as an artist to address issues concerning women's rights and the Latinx community. She'll be playing a self-composed set of new songs, accompanied by her husband Andy Averbuch on guitar, on July 9. Our weekly Masterclass event will see vocalist Helga Davis and National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini in conversation with the acclaimed violinist Lara St. John. St John has been an outspoken advocate for victims of sexual abuse in the music conservatory world; this talk on July 10 between three of the most prominent women in the classical music community will address the current state of the #MeToo movement within that world. As part of this event St. John will perform works by Bach and composer activist Melissa Dunphy. Volume Nine of the Digital Discovery Festival also takes us back to before the venue existed, with archival film of an In Situ performance by Miyamoto is Black Enough, a high-energy band featuring composer Andy Akiho on steel pan, cellist Jeffrey Zeilger and poet Roger Bonaid-Agard, whose lyrics address conversations of race, identity and belonging. This event hits our archives on July 6.

Volume 10: Music & Tech

Monday, July 13: Angélica Negrón (Archival Concert)

Tuesday, July 14 at 6pm: Dan Tepfer (Discovery Concert)

Thursday, July 16 at 6pm: Molly Joyce (Discovery Concert)

Friday, July 17 at 1pm: Jennifer Walshe (Masterclass)

Any instrument is, by nature, a tool, but each evolution in technology has given the modern musician continually more complex and challenging tools to compose with. For Volume 10 of National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival, beginning July 14, we've invited three artists whose groundbreaking experiments in Music and Technology are challenging assumptions of what it means to be a creator and a performer. Innovative pianist and composer Dan Tepfer made news and raised eyebrows with the rigorous, algorithmically-coded 2018 album Natural Machines and his more recent experimentation with inverted notation upcycling of the Goldberg Variations, #BachUpsideDown. For his July 14 Discovery Concert, Tepfer promises to deliver a LIVE artificial-intelligence driven composition for keys. Performer Molly Joyce's work is focused on "disability as a creative source." Following an auto injury that rendered her left hand permanently impaired, she has continued to play on a vintage electric toy organ, an instrument that imparts a unique and enervating sound to her haunting compositions. Joyce will present five self-composed songs, including one from her forthcoming sophomore album on July 16. The overlaid visuals accompanying the performance features closed captioning. This week's Masterclass on July 17 will be between vocalist Helga Davis, National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini and the AI-inspired composer Jennifer Walshe, exploring the topic of how our rapidly advancing technological future is poised to shift the way we listen to and create music. Our Week 10 archival concert, going live on July 13, spotlights a 2019 set from composer/performer and National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence Angélica Negrón, performing original electronic songs and showing off some of her more esoteric instrumentation for cookware and potted plants.

Volume 11: Patterns

Monday, July 20: Square Peg Round Hole (Archival Concert)

Tuesday, July 21 at 6pm: Joel Ross (Discovery Concert)

Thursday, July 23 at 6pm: Tyondai Braxton (Discovery Concert)

Friday, July 24 at 1pm: Cameron Carpenter (Masterclass)

Patterns are what separate music from raw sound; the analytical mind espies rhythm and intention and finds joy in the recognition of a shared idea. This is true of most music but especially so for the three selected participants in National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival for week eleven, beginning July 20. Each of these singular minds revel in intricacy and in the shivering pleasure that layers of sound can transmit. Only 24 and already bearing a resume that includes collaborations with Herbie Hancock and Makaya McCraven, the high-flying improvisations and sterling technique of Blue Note recording artist Joel Ross have made him into a rising jazz star and the modern face of the vibraphone. Ross will share a set of his original post-bop work on July 21, featuring collaborator Gabrielle Garo on flute. The enigmatic, experimental creations of new music composer Tyondai Braxton have been capturing the imagination of avant-pop aficionados since he first emerged on the scene nearly twenty years ago as a co-founder of the seminal art-rock collective Battles. Since leaving the band, Braxton has released nearly a half-dozen solo albums and performed and been recorded extensively by and with Kronos Quartet, Wordless Music Orchestra, Yarn/Wire, Bang on a Can All Stars, Alarm will Sound, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the BBC Concert Orchestra. He'll be performing a solo set of new and electronic music on July 23. A powerful figure in both the classical and LGBTQI worlds, organist Cameron Carpenter is the most creatively experimental and commercially successful artist on his instrument today. For our July 24 Masterclass, Carpenter will perform a short live piece on his spectacular digital organ and discuss the role of patterns in his musical thinking with vocalist Helga Davis and National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini. On July 20, the Digital Discovery Festival will premiere a classic archival concert from November 2019 featuring the percussion trio Square Peg Round Hole's first headlining show at National Sawdust.

Volume 12: Virtuosity

Monday, July 27: Alan Braufman presents Valley of Search featuring Cooper-Moore and James Brandon Lewis with special guests Standing on the Corner (Archival Concert)

Tuesday, July 28 at 6pm: Julian Lage (Discovery Concert)

Thursday, July 30 at 6pm: Sae Hashimoto (Discovery Concert)

Friday, July 31 at 1pm: Meredith Monk (Masterclass)

For Week 12 of National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival, beginning July 27, we are focused on Virtuosity, spotlighting three short concerts and conversations with genuine virtuosi: an exceptional percussionist early in her career, a guitarist in the prime of his creative years, and a MacArthur Grant winner whose name has become synonymous with forward looking artistic excellence. The rare example of a child prodigy whose talent has burnished with age, Julian Lage is known for his delicate wizardry on the guitar, whether as a contemporary classical soloist, as part of a jazz ensemble or playing folk-pop. For his July 28 Discovery Concert, Lage will perform a solo program of self-composed originals. Sae Hashimoto is a versatile percussionist and a rising star on the avant-garde scene. Having premiered new work by John Zorn and played with the New York Philharmonic as well as the Met Opera, this Juilliard graduate will present a program of classical and contemporary work on July 30. This week's very special Masterclass on July 31 will be between vocalist Helga Davis, National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini and the iconic choreographer-composer-performer Meredith Monk. On July 27, we also look back through the National Sawdust archives at jazz virtuoso Alan Braufman's live performance from August 2018 of his album Valley of Search, with pianist Cooper-Moore and saxophonist James Brandon Lewis.

Volume 13: Renewal

Tuesday, August 4 at 6pm: Michael Mwenso and Vuyo Sotashe (Discovery Concert)

Thursday, August 6 at 6pm: Tesla Quartet (Discovery Concert)

Friday, August 7 at 1pm: Lawrence Brownlee (Masterclass)

In times of trouble, we seek out songs we know which bring us comfort. Great artists harness that impulse of nostalgia and desire for the familiar, then use that energy to subvert expectations with new possibilities. For our Week 13 series, beginning August 4, National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival embraces Renewal as a creative force to reshape music in ways we never considered and bring light to our darkest hours. The magnetic impresario Michael Mwenso, alongside his band The Shakes, specializes in musical code-switching, freely adopting and repurposing the drama, whimsy and spirit of the Great American Songbook, African beats, funk, modern jazz, dance pop, Delta blues and cabaret theater with equal, effortless verve. Pre-COVID, Mwenso was a Season Five National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence; he's spent much of the spring and summer in quarantine with his bandmate, the South African nightingale-voiced Vuyo Sotashe. The two will present a selection of original duets, both new and from the Shakes catalogue, on August 4. The four string artists who make up Tesla Quartet originally met while students at Juilliard; a decade later, they've become a highly-regarded professional chamber group whose finely filigreed, lyrical renditions of the works of Haydn, Ravel, Mozart and Stravinsky have won plaudits from BBC Music and The Strad. Though their planned touring schedule has been critically impacted by COVID-19, the Quartet are currently engaged in the Alternating Currents Project, commissioning a group of a dozen similarly hard-hit composers to create new works for performance. They'll share some of these new compositions for their Discovery Concert on August 6. Our August 7 Masterclass conversation-performance, hosted by vocalist Helga Davis and National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini, features Lawrence Brownlee, the tenor that NPR called "one of the most in-demand opera singers in the world today." Brownlee will discuss his process when adapting a new role, his critically-acclaimed recital work Cycles of My Being (created in collaboration with composer Tyshawn Sorey and lyricist Terrance Hayes) and his fervent advocacy for greater diversity within the opera community.

Volume 14: Innovation

Monday, August 10: Jenny Hval (Archival Concert)

Wednesday, August 12 at 1pm: Robert Wilson (Masterclass)

Friday, August 14 at 1pm: Trimpin (Masterclass)

Innovation requires the genius to recognize the possible and the single-minded drive to make it a reality. Volume 14 of National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival, beginning August 10, celebrates three remarkable artistic minds whose phenomenal creative talent have brought vital innovations to the interconnected worlds of music, theater, visual art and opera. On August 12, the Digital Discovery Festival is proud to welcome the celebrated playwright and stage director Robert Wilson. For over fifty years, Wilson has been on the vanguard of experimental stage work, building an awe-inspiring curriculum vitae that includes landmark artistic collaborations with Philip Glass, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Lou Reed, Allen Ginsberg and Tom Waits. For this very special event, scheduled on the 18th anniversary of the passing of John Cage, Wilson will present an appreciation of the revolutionary composer with a solo performance of his famed "Lecture on Nothing." The German-born MacArthur Award winner Trimpin is an interdisciplinary sculptor, inventor and experimental composer known for his wildly creative instrumentation and outré approach to notation. Trimpin will join vocalist Helga Davis and National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini on August 14 from his home studio for a Masterclass performance and conversation on the nature and aims of innovation. This weeks' archival release, scheduled for August 10, features Norwegian experimental songwriter and innovator Jenny Hval's 2017 performance at National Sawdust.

Volume 15: Global Bridges

Monday, August 17: Huang Ruo's Sonic Great Wall (Archival Concert)

Tuesday, August 18 at 6pm: Conrad Tao (Discovery Concert)

Thursday, August 20 at 6pm: Thana Alexa and Antonio Sánchez (Discovery Concert)

Friday, August 21 at 1pm: Amir ElSaffar (Masterclass)

These collective months of quarantine might be so dispiriting that they make you forget just why we choose to live in New York City: the confluence of cultures and experience affords us all opportunity to develop and become more than what we already know. For Volume 15 of the Digital Discovery Festival, beginning August 17, our theme is Global Bridges, featuring artists hailing from an array of unique ethnic and national backgrounds, all drawn (even in crisis) to reap the benefits of the urban experiment. The composer and pianist Conrad Tao has been called "one of classical music's faces to watch" and a musician of "probing intellect and open-hearted vision" by The New York Times. This Warner Classics artist will find a welcome showcase for his considerable talent at this August 18 Discovery Concert where he will perform John Adam's China Gate and a series of original improvisations. On August 20, the Digital Discovery Festival will host a dual performance from four-time Downbeat Critics Poll Rising Female Vocalist nominee Thana Alexa and her husband, the Pat Metheny sideman and Birdman original soundtrack composer, percussionist Antonio Sánchez. Their program will explore how the pair use song to bridge cultures and musical traditions, both as performers and as a couple. Thana's album release Ona ("She" in Croatian) was to take place in National Sawdust's venue in March 2020, but has been postponed due to the global pandemic. Week fifteen culminates in a Masterclass conversation with vocalist Helga Davis, composer and National Sawdust co-founder Paola Prestini and the multi-instrumental jazz/classical/Arab-traditional performance innovator Amir ElSaffar on August 21. The trio will discuss the technique and purposes of musical fusion, how they choose which wells they draw from to best realize their work and the role of the modern cosmopolitan artist in a post-COVID world. Completing our trip around the world, on August 17 National Sawdust will add to our archives the Chinese composer Huang Ruo's spatially-sprawling participatory music piece, Sonic Great Wall, from 2019's FERUS Festival, which seeks to build connection by breaking down barriers.

Volume 16: Trailblazers

Tuesday, August 25 at 6pm: Lucy Dhegrae (Discovery Concert)

Thursday, August 27 at 6pm: Brooklyn Rider (Discovery Concert)

It takes a special sort of artist to push the boundaries of their genre and expand their mastery of craft and concept in directions beyond the established. Volume 16 of National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Series, beginning August 25 is devoted to these Trailblazers, performers and composers who force us to rethink our assumptions about what music can or should be, creating a new way forward for artists and audiences. Season Five Artist-in-Residence Lucy Dhegrae was unable to complete the live performance of her Processing Series - a song cycle for voice that deals with trauma recovery - at National Sawdust in 2020 due to COVID closure, but she'll be presenting a concert featuring music by Kate Soper and Meredith Monk with her quarantined collaborator Nathaniel LaNasa on August 25. The celebrated Brooklyn Rider string quartet are known for their stellar musicianship and for a wholehearted openness to collaboration on display at past shows at National Sawdust with Magos Herrera, Gabriel Kahane and the Silk Road Ensemble. For this August 27 recital, the group will share music and ruminations on the challenges and freedoms of forced isolation.

Previous Digital Discovery Festival Events - Available to Stream Free Now

Volume 1: Spirituality

Samora Pinderhughes (Discovery Concert)

Vijay Gupta and Reena Esmail (Masterclass)

Laraaji (Archival Concert)

Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith (Archival Concert)

Volume 2: Social Change

Kinan Azmeh (Discovery Concert)

Daniel Bernard Roumain and Marc Bamuthi Joseph (Masterclass)

Felipe Salles: The New Immigrant Experience (Archival Concert)

Volume 3: Risk-Takers

Emel Mathlouthi (Discovery Concert)

Mariella Haubs (Discovery Concert)

Alicia Hall Moran featuring Jason Moran (Masterclass)

Magos Herrera and Brooklyn Rider (Archival Concert)

Volume 4: Sonic Landscapes

Emily Wells (Discovery Concert)

Ashley Bathgate (Discovery Concert)

Vijay Iyer (Masterclass)

Ryuichi Sakamoto w/ Taylor Deupree, Joseph Branciforte and Theo Bleckmann (Archival Concert)

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith (Archival Concert)

Sxip Shirey and Coco Karol: The Gauntlet (Archival Concert)

Volume 5: Rebellion

Shelley Washington's Worker's Dreadnought (Archival Concert)

LATASHÁ: Women's Truth (Archival Concert)

An Evening with Blue and Between the World and Me (Archival Concert)

Volume 6: Movement & Music

Sxip Shirey and Coco Karol (Discovery Concert)

Dayramir Gonzalez (Discovery Concert)

Anthony Roth Costanzo (Masterclass)

Theo Bleckmann and Uri Caine: WinterIce (Archival Concert)

Karole Armitage: Art of the In-Between (Archival Concert)

Helga Davis with Marc Cary, PUBLIQuartet and The D.R.E.A.M. Ring: Hold Me (Archival Concert)


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