Jennifer Walshe & Tony Conrad | Graham Foundation | Experimental | Chicago Reader
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Jennifer Walshe & Tony Conrad All Ages Free Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Sat., Feb. 28, 8 p.m. 2015
Price: free with RSVP at
I’ve spent much of the last couple of weeks trying to get my head around the range and audacity in the work of Irish composer and vocalist Jennifer Walshe. Having earned a PhD in composition from Northwestern University in 2002 under the tutelage of Amnon Wolman and Michael Pisaro, Walshe, as critic Alex Ross recently pointed out, is part of a new breed of dynamic vocalist-composer that obliterates traditional boundaries between practices and stylistic realms (Agata Zubel, Maja Ratkje, and Caroline Shaw are others). I haven’t heard much of her music because only a small portion has been recorded, but it ranges from operas to orchestral efforts to chamber pieces. She’s tapped into conceptual endeavors too. In 2007 she conceived the imaginary art collective Grúpat, for which she assumes 12 different characters—though it’s meant less as a theatrical exercise than as a way to modulate her own thinking as a composer. During this rare visit to Chicago she performs with the great minimalist violinist Tony Conrad. The pair will reconvene its long-running duo project, Ma La Pert, in which Walshe improvises and focuses on radical, often wordless vocalizing—occasionally fed through electronic effects—while her partner generates grainy, acidic drones. Within this framework both musicians mix and match by switching instruments and processing each other’s output, eventually casting a fascinating spell that takes Conrad’s early work with La Monte Young in the Theatre of Eternal Music into the land of the absurd. —Peter Margasak



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