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My Favorite MASS MoCA Moments

Katherine Myers reflects on her 14-year relationship with MASS MoCA as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations.

Besides my 16-year marriage, 14 years is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere. These have been particularly milestone-filled years:  I’ve lost two parents and a lot of eyesight, gained a daughter and a legion of remarkable friends and colleagues, and witnessed more great art than anyone living in a town of less than 15K could possibly dream of.

Given that long history, it’s a challenge to provide a “Top 10” List, but a recent plane trip offered me time for contemplation. Here’s what I came up with, presented in no particular order.

1. Michael Oatman has popped up regularly over the last decade and a half.  I first met him when he was in Unnatural Science (2000) where his incredibly detailed installation schooled me in Vermont’s scandalous history of eugenics. When I was introduced to his collages in Becoming Animal (2005), I was even more taken with him. His suspended Airstream trailer is an absolute marvel and he is a delightful person. Every institution should be so lucky to have an artist like Michael in their “stable.”

2.  I love that MASS MoCA does some events that are pure camp, simultaneously high quality and totally over the top.  On this list: Tragedy (2011), our heavy metal BeeGees cover band who repeatedly told us “We love you North Adams City!” and Corn Mo and the Wau Wau Sisters (2005) which involved a trapeze, a sparkly jumpsuit, Meatloaf covers and Catholic school uniforms.  What a night.

3. Hotel Pool (2005) was produced by MASS MoCA but took place in the pool at the Williams Inn. It was a play and a water ballet with some shocking moments. Incredibly well-crafted and enjoyable.

4. It’s probably no surprise that the shows I like best are the ones with the coolest stuff to see. Crowd pleasers are easiest to sell and, when attendance rises, everyone is happier. On my favorite shows list: Oh, Canada (2012), Unnatural Science (2000), Huang Yong Ping’s retrospective (2006), Uncommon Denominator (2002), Becoming Animal (2005), and Cai Guo Qiang’s exploding cars in Inopportune (2004).

5. Dean & Britta’s 13 Most Beautiful… Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screentests (2009): The films are completely mesmerizing on their own and Dean & Britta’s score and live performance only served to enhance them.

6. Ann Hamilton’s corpus (2003) taught me the magical power of an art installation.  My father-in-law passed away while Ann’s falling paper was on view.  His death was not unexpected and he had lived a good, long life. When my husband called me that morning with the news, there was no reason to head home but a pause for reflection did seem appropriate. It was before the museum opened; I just started to wander in the galleries and, without thinking, found myself in corpus which was truly the ideal place to reflect on a loss and a life well-lived.

7. Anouk Van Dijk’s Stau (2006) started with dancers emerging from underneath your seat. Then, somehow in the middle, you were standing and all the seats were gone and you were milling about in a pitch black theater when suddenly spots came up illuminating dancers, sometimes right in front of your nose.  The piece ended with dancers and audience writhing against the wall to a deafening percussive soundtrack. Sound crazy? It was, but it was also probably the most viscerally affecting performance I’ve ever experienced.

8. Of All the People in All the World (2007), which involved millions of grains of rice representing various population statistics arrayed in the Hunter Center, brought a 100% lovely group of British actors from Stan’s Café to North Adams for a couple of weeks.  We get to know many wonderful artists but these Brits count among the most delightful. Coupled with the beautiful, clever, moving installation, it was an exceptional experience.

9. Material World (2011) made great use of MASS MoCA’s strengths; the exhibit utilized our remarkable space to great effect from the Wade Kavanaugh and Steven Nguyen’s paper forest to Tobias Putrih’s illuminated fishing line, inspired by our local Hoosac Tunnel.  It was accessible, jaw-dropping, fun, and interesting for all ages.

10. Canadian singer Patrick Watson’s performance this past summer (2012) was nothing short of magical.  At first, we were disappointed that the show was inside on a beautiful summer night. Yet, when we saw what he did with the lights, we were so glad that he had insisted on the darkness that only Club B-10 could provide at 8 PM on an evening in late June.

And one more for good measure…

11. Solid Sound Festival is really non-stop work for our staff. At the first Solid Sound (2010), the only music I actually listened to was the first three songs of the Mavis Staples set which included “The Weight.” Bone-tired late in the day on Saturday, I enjoyed Mavis’s performance from a special rooftop vantage point and received a much-needed spiritual boost (and sitting down for 15 minutes didn’t hurt either).

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What did you like the best over the past 14 years?

Posted December 7, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Dance, Exhibitions, Film+Live Music, Material World, Music, Oh Canada, Staff, Theater, Tragedy: The All Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees, Wilco Solid Sound Festival
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Marc Ribot & Silent Film

 

Nominated for the Jazz Journalist Association’s Guitarist of this year, Marc Ribot, American guitarist and composer, has developed a career which defines the concept of independent musicians. Born in Newark, New Jersey, Marc Ribot moved just across the Hudson River that little town New York City in 1978 during his mid 20s. After playing in a few bands, such as John Lurie’s jazz assembly The Lounge Lizards during the 80s, Ribot began working alongside of some impressive folks, such as Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, and a familiar face to MASS MoCA, Nels Cline (Member of the band Wilco, the curators of our Solid Sound Music Festival) Working with international artists, Ribot has toured globally, put out 19 albums, and explored multiple areas of music, from avant-guard Jazz to Cuban sounds.


With having said all of that, proving his accomplishments on paper (or rather on a web log) actually doesn’t matter. The music speaks for itself. Ribot’s 2010 “Silent films” album is unique, ambient at times, powerful at others, and holds a sense of charm. Paired with the Charlie Chaplin classic, The Kid, Ribot’s media collaboration allows for a special connection of music and film, and certainly a very big nod to the historic progression of both genres.

On Saturday, July 9th, at 9:00 MASS MoCA will be showing The Kid, with Marc Ribot performing his film score live in our outdoor Courtyard C, and we can’t think of a better way to spend a warm summer evening.

Photo credit: Ziga Koritnik

Posted July 7, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Film, Film+Live Music, Music
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The perils of automatic spell check

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Ralph (aka Rafael) Farris from ETHEL offers a final update before their performance with La Nave de los Monstrous TONIGHT!  Tickets not available online but you can get them at the door so come on down!

Hola Amigos!

First of all, SORRY! Massive typo in my last posting. At the end, I had MEANT to write “Abrazos, Rafael”. But it looks like my spell-checker didn’t like the word “Abrazos”, and took it upon itself to write “Abrams, Rafael” instead.

…Abrams, Rafael? Wow. I’m a but wacky I know, but I ain’t THAT wacky. Anywho, moving on…

So we just had our run-thru. And it went swimmingly. Only a few page-turn problems and 3 or 4 note switcheroos, nothing really big to fix. Yay.

Again, very strange to feel so… calm.

Mary was playing drum rolls on her chin rest, Neil auditioned (and rejected!) a kazoo, Dorothy perfected her penny whistle performance, and my recorder playing has almost returned to a second grade level. Woo-hoo!

This movie is great. The music is a blast to play, Dorothy’s dance captain-ing is absolutely priceless, and the whole show is just darn good fun. We do hope y’all can come by. It’s gonna be a craaaaazy fiesta!

Abrazos(!),

Rafael

Posted October 30, 2009 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Film, Film+Live Music, Music
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Great interview about La Nave

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Our good friends Larry Murray and Caleb Hiliadis at Berkshire Fine Arts and Gay in the Berkshires did an interview with ETHEL’s Ralph Farris.  We recommend the piece as a fun read AND a great primer on how to collaborate on a film score.

Posted October 27, 2009 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Film, Film+Live Music, Music
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ETHEL and La Nave are on their way

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In a Mexican mood thanks to their upcoming performance, ETHEL’s viola superstar Rafael (aka  Ralph Farris) reports on the quartet’s prep for their visit to North Adams.  ETHEL will accompany La Nave de Los Monstrous (Ship of Monsters) on Friday, October 30.

¡Hola Amigos!

Dorothy, Neil and I just finished a marathon work session and I’m thrilled to report that we FINISHED editing and formatting our revised parts for Friday’s show! Woo-hoo!

Now Dorothy’s off to the printer and Neil’s cataloging our ever-growing collection of percussion instruments.

This is a highly unusual turn of events. We’re normally editing parts right up until show time, so I’m going to have to find some other drama to consume me for the next few days. Any suggestions?

We’re all coming together for the final touch-up on Thursday. That’s when Mary breaks out the drum sticks, and Neil and I get to practice our recorder intonation. Folks, it just doesn’t get any better.

OK — I’m going to take a nap now. Catch y’all on Friday!

Abrams,

Rafael

Posted October 27, 2009 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Film, Film+Live Music, Music
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La Nave de los Monstruos Journal: Installment #1

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We asked the members of ETHEL who are performing their original soundtrack to La Nave de los Monstruos (Ship of Monsters) here on Friday, October 30 in a co-presentation with Cinema Tropical and Williamstown Film Festival to tell us a little bit about the collaborative creative process that went into scoring the film.   Ralph Farris, who plays the viola in this rocking string quartet provided the first installment which he entitles “Diving Under the Hood”

Ralph from ETHEL here. Greetings from sunny Manhattan!

ETHEL cannot wait to bring this show to North Adams!

We had a blast putting this live soundtrack together this season (thank you Rachel Chanoff!), and now we’re digging through the whole show, picking everything apart to bring YOU the most coolest day-before-Hallowe’en show y’all have ever seen!

Here’s what-all we’ve been up to of late:

Neil and I just finished two days of high-intensity working sessions together.

– Yesterday was mostly concentrated on the big picture (“What was the name of that toy percussion instrument that you said we should get?”, etc.)  …And then I went out and bought me some of those toy percussion instruments. Don’t tell Neil, but his new recorder is green. Should go nicely with my new red slide whistle.
– Today was digging into some particulars (“Are you SURE that we should play a-sharp minor for that funky groove? I mean, the monster seems so peaceful…”) …And then we copied DVDs and made sure we each had the same version of the score, as we are now about to step away from our respective home offices for a few days.

Dorothy has been doing some super-intensive ear training work — she’s been working with the original score, figuring out harmonic structures and melodic elements where we can accompany the already-awesome soundtrack. The result is a very cool blend of old-fashioned orchestral sci-fi awesomeness and lush, super-romantic, kitschy strings.

Mary’s
floating down the Mississippi now (really!); she had pounded out our tech rider and all of the lighting and sound cues before she paddled off. She also said she was gonna determine if that was an F-sharp or G in measure 15 of the overture…
Will check in next week with another update. See y’all on the 30th!

Posted October 20, 2009 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Bang on a Can, BLOG, Film+Live Music, Music
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