The initial concept for Death Blues began in April of 2011 while I was in New Orleans. Struck by the general consensus that another Katrina-like hurricane was likely, yet no one seemed to be leaving, prompted the intense consideration of what it means to focus on one’s interests in an undetermined amount of time. That situation seemed to be a metaphor for people living in any location – celebrate what is important to you in the time that you have.
I thought about this on a long walk one morning there, reflecting on the terrible flu I had just recovered from, and the excitement I had for my renewed health, and getting to visit a city I had never been to before. This sense of renewal and newness really helped fuel my ideas about celebrating the moment. I felt a sense of gratitude, but also a sense of focusing and understanding the things in one’s life that are of great interest and importance. I began to think about the role that music has played in this sentiment throughout time, and as I thought about the music for a new project, I knew it had to harken back to something old, ancient event; something fundamental. And of course there are stories and ideas for other mediums that could share that same tie to something old, ancient, and fundamental as well. As these ideas started to come together in my mind, intertwined within them was the feeling that New Orleans gave me – celebrate life right now because it won’t be around for long. And so became Death Blues.
The project utilized a number of methods of communication, writing, recording, images, movement, video, taste, performance, and more, creating an experience that’s understood in a more personal way that develops over time.
A number of publications around the Death Blues concept have been issued: A manifesto elaborating on the project idea, as well as other writings and videos discussing the concept. Musically, the project follows a linear conceptual narrative beginning with the recording Death Blues; a straightforward, repetitive raw Americana that exemplifies themes of focus and aim through hard minimalism. Here: An Advanced Study of Death Blues takes that direction further by stripping the instrumentation to merely percussion and vocals; a dense meditation, an isolation tank, a walking dream of primal, and somehow familiar, communication. If we’re encouraged to be present in the moment, to be conscious of the reality of our existence, the LP Non-fiction addresses the mysterious understanding of what reality even is by creating a reality all its own. The elaborate LP/book and finale of the project, Ensemble, combines deeply personal revelations, images, and music to express the complexity of layers that exist in each of our lives, in hopes that acknowledging the existence of those layers might help us better navigate them as we each examine our own truth.
Death Blues events were physical manifestations of some of the ideas within the concept. Involving a variety of senses to create a personal experience, the aim for the events was to construct personally interesting moments to become present within; reflecting on ideas and concerns while experiencing a sense of discovery. Concerts, dance performances, readings, visual exhibits, and taste experiences are some examples of what’s occurred within Death Blues events. These have taken place in various cities throughout the US, including Hopscotch Fest (Raleigh, NC), Alverno Presents (Milwaukee, WI), and other venues throughout New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee.
The following people have contributed their time and creative input in order to make various parts of this project possible. Marielle Allschwang, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Crumbs, Betty Blexrud-Strigens, Stacy Blint, Amalinda Burich, Faith Coloccia, Mark Dawursk, Chris DeMay, Jaime Fennelly, William Ryan Fritch, Sally Haldorson, Adam Heathcott, Nathaniel Heuer, Dixie Jacobs, Chris Koelle, Jessi Kolberg, Andrew Lange, Rollie Layman, Tom Lecky, Jeff Lipton, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Andrew McKenzie, Grace McKirdy, Blyth Meier, Jon Minor, Gretchen Morganstern, Jon Mueller, Teresa Mueller, Margaret Muza, Sara Padgett-Heathcott, Ken Palme, Bruce Collin Paulson, James Plotkin, David Ravel, Alexandria Reindl, Maria Rice, Chris Rosenau, Jen Schattschneider-Roach, Aaron Schleicher, Dylan Schleicher, Molly Shanahan, Kaveh Soofi, Daniel Spack, Damian Strigens, Rory Trainor, Aaron Turner, Todd Umhoefer, Mark Waldoch, Jim Warchol, Erin Wolf, and Milan Zori.
Full documentation on this project can be found at deathblues.com.