Curator Playlist: Sxip Shirey

Sxip Shirey

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Ahead of his April 1st edition of ‘Hour of Charm’ at National Sawdust, long-time NS collaborator and former artist-curator and former artist-in-residence Sxip Shirey created a playlist featuring artists he’s previously curated. Learn more about his curatorial process and listen to the full playlist below.

Here are a few of the artists who have played at Sxip’s Hour of Charm or Sxip’s curated events. I have been doing this series for 20 years. It started at the Bindlestiff Palace of Variety, then moved to HERE Art Space, a stint at ART in Boston, The Living Room, Joe’s Pub, and now at National Sawdust. I believe that the art variety show is at the heart of every diverse art scene. It’s where artists try new things, collaborate, and have some moments of real brilliance AND if you don’t like something, there’s always something else coming in a few minutes. 

Baby Dee - So Bad

Baby Dee is my Leonard Cohen. Her album Love’s Small Song is incredibly profound. “So Bad” is a spooky number. Voice, harp, accordion, piano. Dee plays all the instruments. She told me that when she was young she would go to church and watch her mother go into the confessional booth and come out looking beat up. 

Ned Rothenberg - Color Wheel

Ned Rothenberg’s solo music is like watching a tree turn itself inside out and reinvent itself at every moment. It touches on a pre-lingual truth about reality. 

Johnny Rogers - Spero-7

Oregon composer Jonny Rogers and multi-instrumentalist does amazing things with tuned wine glasses. I can listen to his work all day long.

Sarah Anglis - A Wren in the Cathedral

Sarah Anglis is a composer and instrument builder based in London, one of the amazing things she made was a robotic carillon which is featured in the next song of mine in the list, Woman of Constant Sorrow. Go find the YouTube video of Wren in the Cathedral. It’s really interesting. 

Sxip Shirey - Woman of Constant Sorrow (featuring Rhiannon Giddens)

Rhiannon Giddens and I are dear friends and she is one of the most profound artists I know. She is sitting at a cultural nexus and communicates issues with race, music, and culture clearly and beautifully. This song is my answer to “Man of Constant Sorrow”. It features electronics, stand-up bass played by Rubin Radding, and a robotic carillon by Sarah Anglis and Rhiannon Giddens. The dancer is Hilton Dennis, who I toured with internationally in the contemporary circus show LIMBO. 

Paola Prestini - Listen Quiet

Paola Prestini’s music is beautiful, profound, and often surprising.  It’s a joy to know her and to get to collaborate with her on projects. These two pieces are two works of hers I especially like. 

Paola Prestini and Jeffery Zeigler - We Breath Again

Here she is with her husband cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, who is just an incredible musician, I love their collaborations together.

"I believe that the art variety show is at the heart of every diverse art scene. It’s where artists try new things, collaborate, and have some moments of real brilliance AND if you don’t like something, there’s always something else coming in a few minutes."

Amanda Palmer - The Ride

Amanda is a dear friend, collaborator, and great composer of songs. This is a piece of music she developed with her fan base on social media. She asked them what they featured the most. They answered, she poured over the answers and wrote this song. 

Sxip Shirey featuring Xavier - Cinnamon Stick

I wrote Cinnamon Stick after coming up with a odd loop and thinking wow, Xavier would sound great on this. This is a pop tune, it’s very catchy, but listen, it’s pretty weird actually. The build-ups include strings and an invention called the Turner Winch. The Turner Winch is is 2 piano strings stretched out on a board connected to a winch with a big handle that you turn to change the pitch. It’s played with a bow. They are made by Columbus Ohio composer Mathew Turner. 

Todd Reynolds - The Solution

Todd is a virtuosic violinist and has a deep relationship with the program Ableton. He does live sets in the quadraphonic sound where he improvises and loops and builds a piece all around you. 

Lacy Rose - Mizzi

NYC Baroque voice-trained composer Lacy Rose wrote this song cycle on Gustav Klimt’s muse Mizzi.  I love her unique voice.

Short Dress Gal by Carolina Chocolate Drops featuring Luminscent Orchestrii and Adam Matta

I define folk music as music that one makes for one’s immediate community using the materials available in one's immediate environment. Human beatboxing is a fascinating example of a modern folk art form that kept growing to become a sophisticated vocal percussion form. Adam Matta beatboxes on this track featuring Luminescent Orchestra (my old band) and Carolina Chocolate Drops (Rhiannon Giddens’ old band).

My Brightest Diamond - I Have Never Loved Someone

Shara Nova is a great composer of song and sound. She also has a unique voice. If you ever get the chance to hear her sing without a mic, what you will discover is that she can project softness across the room. I saw her perform once standing next to an opera singer, who sang in an operatic voice projecting across the room, then Shara would sing with the same volume but project a soft tone, with the same volume. I find it amazing. There is nothing harder than writing a great song in my opinion. Songwriting is a collaboration of the writer and the culture in which it is being written. A great song can be simple or complex but it has to have a special magic to really connect. This song has that. 

Dayne Kurz - Love Gets in the Way

On that same tip, here is a beautiful love song written by Dayne Kurz.

About Sxip Shirey

Sxip Shirey is an international composer, producer, sound artist, and sonic pioneer. His compositions, performances and curated evenings “Sxip’s Hour of Charm” established him as a fixture in New York’s underground art scene and internationally. He makes music, sound design and Foley for theater, dance and film. Shirey presented at TED, is a United States Artist Fellow, and has been artist curator and artist in residence at National Sawdust, Brooklyn. He was the composer and music director for the circus arts production “LIMBO”, produced by Melbourne based Strut N Fret Productions House and London based, Underbelly and South Bank Center. “LIMBO“ toured internationally (2013-2019) to critical acclaim, including Sydney Opera House, London’s Southbank Center, the Bogota International Theater Festival, and Madonna’s 57th Birthday Day party. Shirey teaches workshops in "Text and Object Oriented Composition" at Norwegian Theater Academy in Fredrickstad which he considers a contemporary Black Mountain College. His community-inclusive, immersive choral works, "The Gauntlet," developed with Coco Karol, have been created for Rockefeller Center, The Sydney Opera House, Bard College, Friends of the Highline, Cleveland Museum of Art, and virtually in 3D immersive sound for NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center. He is a collaborator of singer, scholar, and song composer, Rhiannon Giddens, and released tracks together that include, “All Babies Must Cry,” “Woman of Constant Sorrow,” and “Just the Two of Us.”  Shirey composed for the short Neil Gaiman film "Statuesque" which premiered on Christmas Day on SKY TV, UK. Other compositional highlights include music for choreographer Morgan Thorsen’s “Still Life”, for choreographer Dan Safer’s “The One You Feed” at M.I.T., the Pearl D’Amour production "Ocean Filibuster" which premiered at A.R.T. in Boston, music for Little Amal’s visit with the artist SWOON’s Sibylant Sisters presented by Saint Anne’s Warehouse, and music and Foley for puppeteer Kate Brehm's "The Poacher" at Harvard University. He is currently working on a new 3D sound radio opera with co-composer Paola Prestini based on a play written by Winter Miller, "No One Is Left Behind." And is in pre-production for the film Sibylant Sisters, by the artist SWOON.