National Sawdust, the renowned music incubator and Brooklyn performing arts venue, has just announced the full lineup of its highly anticipated annual two-week festival, Spring Revolution. In the spirit of Stravinsky’s iconic work The Rite of Spring, a defiant display of art that challenged elite society and caused a riot at its first performance, Spring Revolution challenges the status quo and hosts profound performances that change the way we see the world.
This year, Spring Revolution celebrates the voices of multicultural women by featuring a female curator, female composer and/or female artists in each performance.
National Sawdust Co-Founder and Artistic Director Paola Prestini elaborates: “This year, we are in an awakening: the female voice has been acknowledged as a force to be reckoned with. But it’s important to remember that ‘female’ is not a genre. Women are not just women. They are Chinese, they are indigenous, they are trans, they are mothers, partners, advocates and so much more.
“This year, Spring Revolution is focused on seeing the world through the lens of multicultural women because the female perspective is the human perspective, and the human perspective should be inclusive.”
Du Yun, the Pulitzer-Prize winning composer who curates the final six performances of Spring Revolution as her own Pan-Asia Sounding Festival, co-presented with National Sawdust, adds: “Without new works—and new perspectives behind them—we have no hope of ending the division in our culture. Therefore, I am honored to use my platform as a National Sawdust curator to present the first ever Pan-Asia Sounding Festival in collaboration with Spring Revolution. My goal is to question the ownership of culture and demystify the Asian culture, a culture viewed too often through a lens of “tourism” and exoticism. Through six music performances, one film screening, and one installation, the festival will serve as a vehicle to encourage new ways of writing and performing new music, all through vibrant collaboration across regions and groups. It is my hope that audiences not only come away both more engaged and less assumptive about Asian culture, but also with a deeper, more intertwined understanding of the region which I call my native land."
The festival will give the stage to women creators from Russia, China, Ireland, Australia, and Cuba who will program a wide variety of performances, exploring topics such as indigenous culture, cultural appropriation and more. It comes in the midst of National Sawdust’s third season, which features 15 female composers and artists as curators, Artists-in-Residence, and commissioned creators. The venue’s focus on women this season further cements National Sawdust’s reputation as an institution that “links the music to broader social issues” (Time Out New York), solidifying the venue’s standing as “a major player on the new-music scene” (Washington Post).
Curator Du Yun’s Pan-Asia Sounding Festival consists of six concerts that question—and challenge—what it means to be Asian. The opening concert explores the intersection of traditionalism and modernity with Gamelan Dharma Swara, the Balinese, New York-based ensemble described by the New York Times as “an ambitious and powerful ensemble … [that] plays gamelan as a living language”; the New Yorker noted the “rapturous response” from its audiences, “including a fair amount of crying.” Dharma Swara’s performance includes two premieres: the world premiere of No Ma Den by groundbreaking composer I Dewa Ketut Alit, and the New York premiere of Sari Ing Kerta by I Gusti Nyoman Darta, Gamelan Dharma Swara’s Artist-in-Residence (March 9). Later that evening, Du Yun’s own experimental ensemble, OK Miss, debuts its latest work. Saturday, March 10 opens with The Shanghai You Don’t Know, themed around hidden traditions, musical or otherwise, from the iconic Chinese city. In addition to a documentary, the concert features native music, harp, dancer, and mouth organist. Later that evening, another performance features two enterprising cellists, “remarkable virtuoso” Matt Haimovitz (New Yorker) and Frances-Marie Uitti, dubbed by The Guardian as “arguably the world’s most influentially experimental cellist.” The two performers were hand selected by Du Yun to perform works by seminal composer Isang Yun alongside other Bhutanese music. Finally, on Sunday, March 11, Japanese/Peruvian violinist Pauchi Sasaki will perform with American flutist and 2012 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow Claire Chase, and closing out Spring Revolution and the Pan-Asia Sounding Festival, “fiery alto saxophonist and prolific composer” Aakash Mittal (Star Tribune) performs a fusion of jazz and Indian music with his Awaz Trio, a group that has toured internationally, performing in India, the United States, and beyond.
In addition to Du Yun, other curators include Australian-born and New York-based opera singer Xenia Hanusiak, who curates a full day of programming on March 3, the first day of the festival. She serves as Artistic Director for Songlines for a New World, which explores the world through the lens of Australian women with three unique performances. International recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey, hailed by The Guardian for her “combination of sensuality, wit and mind boggling flamboyance,” takes top billing, as she premieres two multimedia works never before seen in New York: En Masse and Pleasure Garden. En Masse, which features composers from Nico Muhly to Williamsburg-based DJ Olive in its soundtrack, evokes environmental themes in its concerns about consumerism. Pleasure Garden is a concert version of the same atmospheres from Lacey’s interactive exhibit for the Vaucluse House Gardens located in Sydney. In the exhibit, the garden became its own interactive instrument, with changing music based on the movements and location of the garden’s visitors. Another of the Australia-themed concerts in Songlines for a New World features singer-songwriter Emily Wurramara performing inspiring musical stories of growing up as a pioneering indigenous leader.
Other renowned women are also enlisted to tell their stories in Spring Revolution. CuCu Diamantes, the Grammy-nominated Cuban-American singer, songwriter, actress, and philanthropist, will present her own rejoinder to the #MeToo movement in a concert entitled The Sins of Picasso. The two performances, led by musical director Alain Pérez, are a hybrid of music, performance art, cabaret and theater written by Diamantes and performed in collaboration with other musicians and artists, to express the vitality of Latin-American and Caribbean-American culture. Running on both March 6 and March 8, the performances spotlight Picasso’s own sordid history of abuse and sexism against women, leading to a larger examination of 20th century art and its treatment of women, minorities and creative communities in the United States and Latin America that often are ignored and lack a voice in mainstream media.
Mesmerizing Irish duo Saint Sister, characterized by The Guardian as “eerie electro-folk” and praised by Entertainment Weekly for a “delicate, full, desperate vocal shine,” give a performance featuring their latest single, “Causing Trouble.”
The festival lineup also features The Refugee Orchestra Project, founded and conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya. The group—one of National Sawdust’s Artists-in-Residence this season—will debut REFUGEES ARE US, a concert experience celebrating and supporting the refugee community by addressing problematic narratives about refugees with truth, humor, and music. The performance will draw from and build upon the REFUGEES ARE US video initiative, a collaboration with non-profit collective Papel & Caneta. More information about the initiative can be found at http://www.refugeesare.us/.