I anchor my musical identity most strongly to collaboration in all forms. I believe certain artistic experiences can only be unlocked with multiple minds working in tandem to realize a larger goal, and I have tied both my compositions and wider artistic legacy to that ideal. My most important artistic growth has come from collaborating with luminaries as divergent as conservationists, poets, virtual reality film directors, astrophysicists, or puppeteers, partially because I enjoy beginning with conceptual frames that help me tell bigger picture stories, a skill that conveniently also transfers to when I am composing less collaborative, more intimate work.
As an immigrant, many identities, cultures, and values have collided and interlocked within me over the years, helping create a synthesis of both unique and universal ideas that naturally manifest into music. On a more granular level, I infuse the inspiration of folk melody into the creation of original melodic lines that are deconstructed then supported with complex harmonies, rhythms, counterpoint and electronic worlds. Most recently, my work is mostly in opera, where I incorporate improvisation, live electronics, foley, and spatial elements. Early longstanding influences include the music of Palestrina and Monteverdi, John Zorn, (his life and music), Philip Glass and his early collaborative work, Meredith Monk and her structural based improvisations and compositions, the folk singers Mercedes Sosa and Fabrizio D’Andre, David Byrne (his music and curatorial eye) and John Cage’s writings and his seminal work Sonatas and Interludes.
Since my days as a student, I have believed that true change comes from structural reform. I’m proud to have manifested this through several non-profit ventures, the first of which being VisionIntoArt (VIA), an interdisciplinary arts company I co-founded in 1999. My work with VIA helped facilitate dozens of unique works only possible with multiple creative voices and areas of expertise working in tandem. Spearheading a more ambitious venture, the non-profit music institution National Sawdust, was my attempt to establish systems of creation that could endure outside of my personal creative inputs. I am especially interested in leveling the playing field for all and providing a wealth of resources for future generations of artists, and with this at its core, National Sawdust puts on more than 160 concerts per year and sponsors 8-10 residencies yearly. Many of those concerts are the result of collaborative efforts from disparate artists that we actively support, whether via financial support, technological support, workshop space, or professional development. Programs especially near to my heart include the Hildegard Competition, which directs resources to trans, nonbinary, and female composers, and the BluePrint Fellowship, a commissioning course that offers female mentorship within the composition program at the Juilliard School.
My theory is simple: the potential of multiple minds is greater than one. If the minds come from disparate worlds, even better. Twenty years of collaborating has granted me a bounty of experience, and I always learn something new from watching how others ingest the sometimes delightful, sometimes contentious process of working with other brilliant creatives. Each artist’s passion for their ideas reminds me that even in the hardest collaborative processes, one’s identity is not lost, only rediscovered and reaffirmed. Each project I embark on or witness continues the learning process for me, and is a deeply thrilling ride. My life’s work is to set these moments of clarity and creativity into motion as often as possible.