AIR Serenbe and ArtsATL are excited to announce their collaborative effort to host a series of residencies at AIR Serenbe. The project residencies, Transient, will support musicians and composers who place a particular emphasis on the narratives presented between and behind songs. “At AIR Serenbe we are always looking for dynamic ways to showcase the process stories behind finished works,” says AIR Serenbe executive director Brandon Hinman. “We are focused on how the threads of process in a particular form — in this case, music — show up in the final manifestation of a piece. In line with our ongoing investment in artists who are using story as and through performance — from song to spoken word, from lyricism to lecture — we are pleased to announce the Transient Project Residency with ArtsATL as a timely and innovative addition to our program.”
The residencies will provide time and space for rest, research, reflection and work. In addition, the organizations will present a performance and conversation at AIR Serenbe or in metro Atlanta, as well as intimate video portraits of each visiting artist, to be published on ArtsATL. “ArtsATL is thrilled to release this new series of content in collaboration with AIR Serenbe,” says ArtsATL executive editor Laura Relyea. “By providing insight into these composer’s different creative processes, we hope to inspire and arouse conversation about the creative processes that lead to contemporary music works.”
To help bring this project into being, ArtsATL and AIR Serenbe recruited the aid of Michael Kaufmann, a cultural entrepreneur from Indianapolis with a rich background in city-building and artist management. His work, which operates at the intersection of cultural, economic and community development, works to empower others to create experiences of surprising beauty. Kaufmann has worked as a film archivist for the New York Public Library, a project manager for Indiana Humanities, and worked for over a decade as label manager for Asthmatic Kitty Records (Sufjan Stevens, Helado Negro, Julianna Barwick, My Brightest Diamond). Currently, Kaufmann works for the Health and Hospital Corporation as the vice president of Civic Investment, having spent the last six years supporting art and design, ecology and equitable livability initiatives for Eskenazi Health. He continues to manage musical artists including Son Lux, Hanna Benn and Oliver Blank. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to support the launch of the Transient Project Residency. It was important to me that we curated a diverse group of artists who are exploring their craft both in theory and practice. The group is not only diverse in background and musical style, but also in each of their unique ways of composing,” says Kaufmann. “I am confident this experience will not only enrich the residents, but also provide a musical legacy for the community of Serenbe and greater Atlanta area.”
For its inaugural year, 2017, the Transient Project Residency will host the following confirmed artists:
Rafiq Bhatia + Nina Moffitt (May 1–17)
Rafiq Bhatia seeks to reconcile meticulously sculpted sound art with risk-imbued improvisation, communicating earnest emotional intensity through labyrinthine sonic complexity. His early explorations, documented on two critically acclaimed recordings – Strata and Yes It Will – have been described by the New York Times as “transcending real sound in real time with the unexpected,” and by the Washington Post as “approximat[ing] life in the information age . . . profuse, immersive and immense.”
In 2014, Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang joined founder Ryan Lott as members of Son Lux, expanding the former solo project into a trio. They have since been heralded as “the world’s most lethal band” by NPR, and described as “thrilling . . . an ideal synthesis of contemporary forms” by the Wall Street Journal. In the past two years, Son Lux have written, recorded and released an LP, Bones, and have given over 250 performances in North America, Europe and Asia.
Bhatia has also worked with a breadth of creative musicians including improvisers Vijay Iyer, Billy Hart, David Virelles and Marcus Gilmore; producers Valgeir Sigurðsson and Prefuse 73; vocalists Sam Dew, Olga Bell and Moses Sumney; emcees Heems (Das Racist) and High Priest (Anti-Pop Consortium); members of the chamber ensembles ICE, JACK and Alarm Will Sound; and numerous others. You can hear him on recordings featuring pop revisionists Lorde and Sufjan Stevens, and on the soundtracks to the films The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Air and Afflicted.
Nina Moffitt is an interpreter, an oral historian and a vocalist. Her singing prioritizes emotional honesty and a desire to expand the role and boundaries of the voice as an instrument. Her style, repertoire and songwriting are informed by a vast web of influences, from Sarah Vaughan and Joni Mitchell to Mahalia Jackson and Stevie Wonder — all evidenced by incisive lyrical interpretation, soulful phrasing and dramatic timbral shifts.
Named after Nina Simone, and the daughter of a pianist-composer, Nina’s roots in sound took hold early in life. By the age of 12, she was leading her church congregation under her father’s musical direction, and singing became her key vehicle for self-expression. At Oberlin College, she earned her B.A. (with honors) in cultural anthropology, but spent equal time slipping into jazz classes, performing with the Oberlin Jazz Ensemble and studying classical technique at the Conservatory.
A native of Brooklyn, Nina lives and performs there with her alternative R&B project TUTU and The Will Mason Ensemble, an avant-spectral jazz septet. She also collaborates with guitarist/composer Rafiq Bhatia and occasionally sings backup vocals with alt-pop outfit Son Lux.
Nina is currently working on new music that explores the manipulation of her voice in an experimental choir-like role.
Oliver Blank + Asha Jimenez (May 8–June 11)
Oliver Blank is an English artist, designer and composer. His artwork introduces a sense of intimacy to our public spaces, and his design projects focus on the prevention of suffering.
Coaxing his audience out of the quotidian, Blank’s artwork induces unforgettable experiences that instill a shared romance and sense of community. Past installations include composing orchestral music for long-forgotten buildings and hosting a phone line that collects messages for lost loves and forgotten friendships. Blank’s artwork has appeared across the world in countries including Japan, Mexico, Spain, Finland and the United States, and venues including Tate Gallery, London’s Design Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Blank gives public talks about humanitarian design and the role of affection in public artwork. A regular speaker and workshop leader at SXSW, Blank is also a member of the advisory board of SXSW Eco, and a Practitioner-in-Residence at Berkeley, University of California. You may also have caught him on BBC, the New York Times or CNN.
Over the years Blank has called Helsinki, London, Manchester, and New Orleans home. Today he lives in San Francisco.
With the natural world as her muse, Canadian-Venezuelan artist Asha Jimenez compels us to reflect on our connection with the earth. By combining visual, physical and experiential practices with her background in software development, Jimenez transforms the mundane into the extraordinary and in doing so reveals the terrestrial as cosmic.
Inspired by the declining beauty of the Dominican Republic, Jimenez’s documentary The Weight of Gold (2016) juxtaposes the idyllic locales of the island with haunting visuals of loss and destruction caused by the mining industry. More recently, in her first collaboration with Oliver Blank, The Rock Collector (2017), the duo welcomed audience members into an enchanted phone booth at an old hotel to share a cathartic experience and cast away their burdens.
Jimenez’s forthcoming collaboration with Blank, The Last Conservatory, invites the audience to rest on a bed of earth from which emanates passages of poetry and prose concerning nature collected from across the world alongside original music. By forcing the audience to physically connect with the natural world, and simultaneously stimulating all of the senses, Jimenez intends to reveal nature’s incredible therapeutic capacity.
Having lived in Venezuela, Canada and the United States, Jimenez is a nomad by nature but hopes to one day find a piece of land to call home.
Roberto Lange a.k.a. Helado Negro (July 5–13)
Roberto Carlos Lange, the voice and mastermind behind Helado Negro, has cultured his identity, ideology and musical dexterity with constant artistic and introspective development; Lange is an innovator involved in every phase of his creation. He has brilliantly accomplished powerful works with formidable statements, altogether praised by public and media.
Born in Florida to Ecuadorian immigrants and currently residing in Brooklyn, Lange’s upbringing provides essential elements to the backbone of his music, in particular his songwriting. Helado Negro has a consistent bilingual – English and Spanish – presence in his lyrics. With a hybrid identity and music as a vehicle, Lange eradicates barriers of language and space, positioning culture at a balanced intersection. His music crosses physical borders and creates a crosscultural connection where Spanish and English exist in congenial and harmonious manner, as well as people being united through music in boundless space of real time.
Roberto Lange, as a multifaceted creator, uses various forms of conceptual expression; he also has a profound affinity and participation in art as a visual artist working with mediums such as video, sound and performance. Helado Negro, beyond the persona, serves as a creative space that encourages a cohesive collision of art and music. As a result, Lange’s career has carefully interwoven each aspect in an equally intense manner. The idiosyncrasy in his production is clearly visible in every step, from details in the art of the album cover to songwriting and live performance, a well-tailored natural flux connecting every element.
Hanna Benn (September 14–October 15)
Composer, vocalist and genre-spanning collaborator, Hanna Benn has been creating music for over a decade. Her multidisciplinary approach has incorporated dance, opera and theater — submerging boundaries and discovering new sonic landscapes in the process.
With origins rooted in gospel and choral music, Benn began exploring music as both an intimate and collective experience at an early age. Her influences soon included Stravinsky, English pastoral music, R&B, Alice Coltrane and Olivier Messiaen.
Benn studied composition and voice at Cornish College of the Arts and has been composing ever since. While in Seattle, she cofounded an experimental pop band called Pollens. She has worked with CMF Festival Orchestra, Saint Helen’s String Quartet, Seattle Chamber Players, St Marks Cathedral Choir, Opus 7 and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
She wrote and recorded work on Son Lux’s Bones album and toured with Boots (who has produced Beyoncé, FKA Twigs and Run the Jewels). Her commissioned work and compositions have been performed across the country, from a five-hour immersive opera and dance performance in collaboration with Alice Gosti and the Northwest Symphony Orchestra to a composition celebrating Black American composers with Davida Ingram and the North Chamber Orchestra. She recently completed a residency at Central State in Indianapolis where she wrote much of her new album.
Olga Bell (January 2–14, 2018)
Born in Moscow and raised in Alaska, Olga Bell is an American composer, producer and performer based in Brooklyn. A prodigious classical pianist as a child and teenager, Bell graduated from the New England Conservatory before moving to New York City to pursue electronic composition and songwriting. Her critically acclaimed 2014 album Krai, described as “spectacularly well-unified and exceptional” (Wondering Sound), was premiered at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and appeared on The Quietus’ Best of 2014 list.
Bell makes original music, remixes and videos under her own name. As half of Nothankyou, Bell makes dance music with British musician Tom Vek. From 2011 to 2013 she toured as a vocalist and keyboardist with Chairlift and Dirty Projectors. She is currently at work on her third album, which will be released on One Little Indian Records.