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American Power: Mitch Epstein & Erik Friedlander Commission/World Premiere

"...the pace, the heat, the flow as I imagined it, drove my composing and created the backbone for the suite."--Erik Friedlander

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Performances at The Wexner

Posted on February 23, 2015 by Erik Friedlander

American Power will be performed at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH Friday, February 27 & Saturday February 28. 

We’ve been tweaking and refining the show since it’s debut at The Walker and look forward to presenting the “new” version to an audience.


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Erik Friedlander on American Power World Premiere and Residency at Walker Art Center

Posted on May 29, 2014 by Walker Art Center

The two full days of workshop and development time Mitch Epstein and I had at the Walker Art Center were essential to the development of American Power. We had the chance to experiment with our script as well as try out different blocking ideas and lighting cues. We were able to see that in certain areas of the project the tone of the script had become too serious and somber, so we edited and rewrote, making Mitch’s story more personal and therefore more moving. I had time to delve into the music and find areas that were underdeveloped and had great potential: new ways to work with the images and more subtle variations of the themes I had written–all of which helped make the music more engaging and a better partner for the images.

The two-day intensive occurred the week before our actual performance at the Walker. So, when we arrived to tech and prepare for the performance we felt prepared and ready. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to premiere a piece but, as we had hoped, the American Power premiere was all we could ask for – our best up to that point. We look forward to discovering more about the piece as we rehearse and perform it. There’s a constant sense of discovery with performance that is consistently interesting to me. I look forward to more!

American Power will be performed at the Wexner Center for the Arts in February of 2015. We will be doing two shows there and an additional morning program. Mitch and I are working on a New York performance and some European performances as well, but nothing is firm.

 – Erik Friedlander, May 2014


Posted on May 29, 2014 by Walker Art Center

Above: Erik Friedlander and Mitch Epstein in rehearsal at the Walker Art Center


Cellist/composer Erik Friedlander’s and art photographer Mitch Epstein’s collaborative multidisciplinary work American Power premiered at the Walker Art Center on November 1, 2013 to great success.

This powerful and beautiful hybrid work – part performative monologue, part multimedia theatrical/photographic art work, part contemporary music concert – captivated and engaged the nearly sold-out audience in the Walker’s William and Nadine McGuire Theater. Many stayed for the post performance Q & A session with Friedlander and Epstein, who also connected with Minneapolis/St. Paul’s area arts community through a round table discussion around the importance of collaboration, commissioning, and supporting the creative process.

Leading up to the world premiere, the Walker was able to provide the artists a commission and an intensive developmental/production residency in our McGuire Theater. In the McGuire, Friedlander and Epstein focused on lighting and theatrical staging with their directorial advisors Annie B Parson and Paul Lazar of Big Dance Theater as well as a full complement of Walker technical staff. The following week the artists returned for final production time in the McGuire and the premiere.

The Walker couldn’t be more pleased with this work and these generous artists, and encourages our colleagues to present this important work in the future. Given the urgency of the climate crisis and America’s cultural relationship with energy in general, the project is more than timely. And formally, it also speaks to the interdisciplinary moment in which we are living.

Many thanks to New Music USA for helping to make this exciting project possible!





Curatorial Conversation with Mitch Epstein, Erik Friedlander, and Philip Bither

Posted on April 23, 2014 by Walker Art Center

Photographer Mitch Epstein and cellist Erik Friedlander discuss their collaborative  project and commission American Power with Walker Art Center senior curator of performing arts Philip Bither.


American Power is a new collaborative work by acclaimed cellist/composer Erik Friedlander and photographer Mitch Epstein. Drawn from Epstein’s five-year visual investigation into what he calls “our cultural relationship to energy”, American Power combines live video and performance, large-scale projections of Epstein’s evocative images, his engaging narrative of his travels to American power sites, and a full evening of new solo cello compositions created and performed by Friedlander.

Awarded the 2011 Prix Pictet photography prize for his project, Epstein first invited Friedlander to collaborate with him for its presentation at the internationally important Les Rencontres d’Arles festival in France. The result was an arresting and dynamic combination. Epstein’s images consider how our nation’s behemoth power grid functions in our neighborhoods and landscape—West Virginia high school football teams practicing in the shadow of coal stacks; Texas wind turbines spinning next to old pumpjacks; an oil rig mangled by Hurricane Katrina. Friedlander’s compositions unlock a dramatic dimension in Epstein’s visual narrative, underpinning it with strong melodies and startling improvisations. Rather than providing a score or retelling Epstein’s story, Friedlander notes:

“I was led instead to the source, the power itself: electrical power, hydraulic, solar and nuclear power — the pace, the heat, the flow as I imagined it, drove my composing and created the backbone for the suite.”

The Walker’s world premiere of American Power (November 1, 2013) will be the first public performance of Friedlander’s and Epstein’s collaborative multidisciplinary work since their preliminary presentation. In addition to its commission and premiere, the Walker is providing a two-day intensive production residency for final lighting and theatrical staging with directors Annie B Parson and Paul Lazar of the highly regarded Big Dance Theater, complete with the full resources (technical crew, equipment, etc.) of its state-of-the-art 385-seat McGuire Theater.

A suite of contextual materials and experiences will help audiences dig deeper into the work. These include a three-minute video trailer and online dialogue between Epstein and Minneapolis-based photographer Paul Shambroom; a video interview between the Walker’s senior performing arts curator Philip Bither and Friedlander and a two-camera digital video of the performance to be posted to its Walker Channel and YouTube, and expanded program notes; these resources will serve American Power through its expected international tour. Following the premiere, the Walker will host a Q & A for audience members with the artists, as well as a Think and a Drink social learning event with the artists, Walker members, and Walker performing arts curators.

This interdisciplinary project is especially suited for Walker support. Considered “one of America’s foremost experimental spaces” by The Guardian, it has long been a catalyst for the creative production of artists and active engagement of audiences. An active commissioner (with 75 new works supported this last decade alone) the Walker additionally provides artists extensive developmental, production, and community-based residencies to spur their creative development. This includes commission and residency support for Friedlander’s 2009 multimedia presentation Block Ice & Propane. It welcomes this exciting opportunity to support Friedlander again.

Project Media

American Power: Movement 1; “I. With Speed [electricity]”
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Features: Erik Friedlander

This movement opens the six-composition suite “American Power” for solo cello, created by acclaimed cellist Erik Friedlander, and is indicative of his dynamic improvising style informed by classical and contemporary traditions. His solo and collaborative work has led sources such as Billboard magazine to consider Friedlander as “one of today’s most ingenious and forward-thinking musical practitioners.”

American Power: Movement 2; “II. flowing, grand [water]”
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Features: Erik Friedlander

This second movement in the six-composition suite “American Power” for solo cello, created by Erik Friedlander, continues his virtuosic response to the flow of photographer Mitch Epstein’s images, and his investigation into the idea of power.

American Power Interdisciplinary Excerpt
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This audio/video sample demonstrates how Friedlander’s new compositions and strong melodies unlock a dramatic dimension for Epstein’s evocative visual narrative about his 5-year investigation of US energy production and consumption. The resulting collaboration is a musical, visual, and oral exploration of what Epstein considers “our cultural relationship to energy.”

Start and End Dates



Minneapolis, Minnesota

4 updates
Last update on February 23, 2015

Project Created By

Minneapolis, Minnesota
A catalyst for creative expression and active audience engagement, the Walker Art Center is one of the top-five most visited modern and contemporary art centers in the United States with one of the nation’s largest and most-respected contemporary performing arts programs. Supporting emerging and established artists alike, the Walker regularly commissions new theater, dance, music and…

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