Behind the Scenes: The beginnings of FJORDS

Ever since I got into self-producing concerts, I've been really curious about how other ensembles do it — and really grateful for other organizations, sharing what they know with us. I'll be sharing behind-the-scenes process and insights, in the hopes that they’ll be interesting or useful. Holler at us with questions. – Ellen

A couple nights back, Q met up with our friends and collaborators Manual Cinema to hammer out the details of our big collaborative project, FJORDS, based on poems by Zachary Schomburg. We’re so excited! If you’re not familiar with Manual Cinem’s work, check out their website, which has some beautiful trailers to give you a taste of what they do.

When a string quartet collaborates with a contemporary shadow puppet company, there are many question marks. Should we be behind the screen, or in front of it? Will we be following the puppets, or will the puppets be following us? Can I stand up, while playing my violin, and interact with the puppets — please? (I’m proud to report I received a definitive ‘um, maybe’ from Kyle Vegter, the composer.)

We also hammered out financial and logistical aspects of our agreement: how much money we need to get this thing off the ground; who owns the rights to sound recordings, video, photographs; how we'll split proceeds from ticket revenues.

We’re excited that, thanks to Kyle, the compositional process will be highly collaborative. The quartet will get together with him about twice a month, playing and talking through musical ideas and material, so that when we get the final version of the piece in November, it won’t be a "mysterious piece of paper." At the same time, Kyle will be sharing scratch recordings and conceptual ideas with Julia, Drew and Sarah so that they can get to work on the visual elements of the show. It’ll be a big, continuous-feedback creative process.

The show will premiere February 23-26 in a theater-style run; we’ll let you know when the venue has been settled. We’ll also perform FJORDS at the Empty Bottle, with poet Zach!, on March 2 as part of theAssociation of Writers & Writing Programs conference. Special thanks to Kyle for discovering Zach’sawesome poetry, for hooking us up with this awesome conference, and for answering the phone when I called out of the blue six months ago and exclaimed, "Our groups should work together!"

Photo of Manual Cinema by Maren Celest.