Artist Statement: Classically Trained Vocal Artist Elaine Mitchener on Privacy and Intimacy


© Kin Ho

“Collaboration can stimulate, nurture and expand creativity. It is the best of times, when a spark sets off an intensely exciting creative fire. Not all collaborations work even if the artists are amazing, because it boils down to personalities that coexist and build together.

I am very fortunate to have worked with some of the best artists in their field. In each case, I was challenged to find another way to express myself musically. I have a background in gospel, soul and jazz as well as in new contemporary free improvisational music.

I am fortunate to work with such remarkable iconic artists on Industrializing Intimacy. David Toop, who is a sound artist and musician, heard me sing on Obama’s inauguration day, so I was pretty busy when he invited me to be in his opera, Star-Shaped Biscuit.

Dam Van Huynh and I were introduced by a mutual friend when Dam needed a singer for a piece he had choreographed. And I approached composer and musician George Lewis and sent him some examples of what I did because I had been interested in his music for quite some time.

George is based in New York. I ordered all three and we didn’t get together as a group for this project.

The piece is designed so that each part of the triptych can exist on its own. The only requirement I asked them was to create a reflection of what Industrialization of Privacy meant to them.

Intensive R&D sessions have been between Dam and me because he directs and choreographs me throughout the work, providing an essential thread that connects one section to the next.

I have pre-recorded sound elements and extensive vocal techniques and improvisations, requested by George using the text of the Memorial poem, by his friend, the South African poet K Kgositsile.

David created a soundscape based on a text by Thoreau and also by an unknown writer that I provided. Dam and I worked with an actual conversation between my mom and me that I manipulated and shaped.

R&D is a continuous process of exploration, play and experimentation. It’s harder because I work physically, improvise, and decide which pieces stay as “markers” to help me navigate the work.

I’ve heard the title of the work used to describe how pop artists can connect with their fans through social media. It’s the modern take on a pop idol’s garment teardown in the 1960s, 1970s, and even 1980s. It sounds a long time ago.

The work is not a criticism of social media. It is an investigation into the loss of intimacy in our society in relation to the strength of true intimacy in the search for its centering.

I describe my work as contemporary musical theater. I would not change the description because I understand it. However, if someone shows up thinking they are going to see a West End music style show, they are sure to be faced with something surprisingly different.

My work is constantly evolving as I develop ideas and work with different artists, while being challenged along the way. I approach each project with the excitement of something new and rewarding and while it doesn’t work, that’s okay because it’s an object lesson in itself.

This work brings together many of my ideas in one piece. The immediacy and proximity to the audience provide another edge of excitement.

The artistic team of Earsthetic is not afraid to take risks. This is not suitable for all festivals but there are audiences who are curious, open and ready to discover these works with the artists.

Work cannot be created without support at all levels. I also thank Sound and Music and Arts Council England, who fund the tour, Oxford Contemporary Music and VLC in London. Like Earsthetic, they supported the project by providing essential creative space for R&D and by sharing the work. “

  • Industrialising Intimacy is at the Brighton Dome Studio Theater on November 29, 2015. Tickets £ 8, online booking. Earsthetic takes place from November 25 to December 1, 2015. See the full program.

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