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Gather Hear Alaska

Pianist and actor travel around Alaska with a piano in a van, inviting local residents to share stories on stage in live performance pieces

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Gather Hear Alaska 2017

Posted on May 29, 2018 by Miki Sawada
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OFFICIAL 3-minute Trailer of Gather Hear Alaska 2017 is now available! 

Overview

For the first iteration of Gather Hear Alaska in 2017, I logged 2500 miles driving a piano in a van around Alaska. In a state where I did not have a single acquaintance much less musical connections, I set up my piano for 25 performances in community gathering spaces such as bars, cafes, lodges, libraries, schools, and parks. The visited communities were mostly rural, some with populations as small as 150. The tour was entirely shaped by complete strangers who, through cold e-mails and social media, became my collaborators and friends by hosting my performance, promoting the tour, and inviting me into their homes.

I was driven to undertake this tour by two main urges. One was to attempt to cultivate through classical music meaningful relationships with people of a part of America that is completely foreign to me. This urge still is particularly strong after the 2016 presidential election. Secondly, I felt I had to begin to face the unavoidable question of whether classical music is needed or relevant in our world today. Can classical music really have an impact outside the safety of concert halls mostly filled with a homogenous audience?

The answer to this question was a resounding “yes,” a response so consistently enthusiastic throughout the tour that it shocked and moved me beyond expectations.

With support from New Music USA, I will return to Alaska for a second tour in early 2019 that expands on the possibilities that were opened in 2017. The 2017 tour focused on curating the classical music experience so that the concerts were welcoming and inclusive, yet challenging audiences to engage using their emotions, intellect, and imagination. In 2019 I hope to deepen my impact, this time by introducing them to a large-scale new music work and simultaneously inviting local residents to participate as performers. 

I will visit the same communities, this time accompanied by actor and director Daniel Pettrow, to create site-specific performance pieces that combine music and theater. We will recruit local residents to participate and perform, collecting personal stories on how their relationship to such a unique place as Alaska affects their perceptions of time and community – or perhaps there is a universal common thread to be found. Under Daniel’s direction and coaching, the piece will take the form of poetic non-traditional story telling that will be interweaved with and superimposed on my piano playing. I will be performing “A Kind of Mirror,” a 30-35 minute long piece for piano and electronics composed for this tour by Brendon Randall-Myers. 

Brendon’s piece will include three main elements – folk music, field recordings, and the acoustic properties of the piano – which will be stretched out to massive, trancelike proportions via electronic processing and the manipulation of psychoacoustic phenomena. The piece would be modular, consisting of a number of shorter sections excerpt-able as required by the needs of each performance situation. Each performance of the piece will incorporate site-specific field recordings made by participants in the storytelling component of the project.

Project Media

Gather Hear Alaska in 2017
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Features: Miki Sawada

A retrospective on the inaugural Gather Hear Alaska tour of 2017, featuring footage from the tour, narration by Miki, and a studio recording of Miki performing Gershwin/Wild’s “Embraceable You.” Created October 2017.

“Sustenance” by Brendon Randall-Myers
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“Sustenance” for piano and playback by Brendon Randall-Myers (2015)
Performed live by Miki Sawada, Spectrum NYC Oct. 15, 2017.
This selection showcases Brendon’s interest in the acoustic properties of the piano, exploring its sonic capabilities when combined with electronics, and using these characteristics to shape the piece in a language that is clear, direct, and palpable.

Start and End Dates

05/06/201905/27/2019

Location

Multiple, Alaska

1 update
Last update on May 29, 2018

Project Created By

Brooklyn, New York
Miki Sawada is a musician who is free-spirited in her pursuit of adventure while showing deep commitment to fully realize classical music’s capacity to nurture community and civil society. She recently completed “Gather Hear Alaska,” in which she traveled for three weeks in Alaska with a piano in a van. Accompanied only by a filmmaker,…

In Collaboration With

Composer
Brooklyn, New York
Brooklyn, New York

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