Composer, producer, and video artist Emily Wells and her band (cellist Topu Lyo, drummer Addie Vogt, and multi-instrumentalist Alec Spiegelman) will perform work from her 2022 album Regards to the End. A loving ode to and dialogue with AIDS activists of the past, Wells' latest album weaves a narrative of radical empathy and hope out of their resiliency.
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For her third appearance on the National Sawdust stage, composer, producer, and video artist Emily Wells and her band (cellist Topu Lyo, drummer Addie Vogt, and multi-instrumentalist Alec Spiegelman) will perform work from her 2022 album Regards to the End. A loving ode to and dialogue with AIDS activists of the past, Wells' latest album weaves a narrative of radical empathy and hope out of their resiliency. By crafting her orchestral pop around the question “What could we learn from the activists of the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the face of climate crisis?”, Wells ties together the AIDS crisis, the climate emergency, and her own lived experience watching the world burn. As a 2022 Toulmin Fellow for The Center for Ballet and the Arts & National Sawdust, continued to explore these concepts through movement and projections. Wells will present part of this video work—crafted out of footage of AIDS protests, extreme climate events, and contemporary dance—during this performance, as well as songs from her latest album and her back catalog reinterpreted for a 4-piece band. Even under the weight of historical and current governmental denial and neglect, Wells refuses to give in to despair, singing in "Dress Rehearsal": “Where nothing is still, love happened here.” Join us as Emily Wells looks to the past to find a way forward in a burning world in this headlining performance.
“Quietly transfixing” composer / producer Emily Wells is known for her varied use of classical and modern instrumentation, “a master of blending the worlds of classical and electronics” (NPR) and “dramatic, meticulous and gothic songs” (New York Times). On stage Wells’ builds a “new instrument” out of acoustic and electronic drums, synth, violin, and her evocative performances leave audiences equal parts dancing and grieving. Wells’ latest work, This World is Too _____ For You released in March has been hailed by NPR as “breathtaking” “mind-blowing” and “visionary”. The ten song album, arranged for chamber ensemble by composer Michi Wiancko, was commissioned by Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series and Metropolis Ensemble who performs on the album along with drummer / composer Shayna Dunkelman (Du Yun, Xiu Xiu).
“The new songs are the rub between desire for, and desire to strip oneself of all wanting” Wells says of the new material, which clamors around all the edges, and sometimes into the center of our collective uncertainties.
“I grew up with hymns and I often find myself drawn to a form that seeks redemption, even for transgressions unknown... they are an offering, an oath. As a queer kid raised in the south and the midwest by a music minister and a preacher's daughter I am interested in the reclamation of themes and ideas that have often been used to constrain me.” Of Wells’ video work, which accompanies her performances, she says, “the video and the songs are mirrors of one another: grace, the body, movement, and the natural world, beating against our windows, drunk with the answer.”
My work bridges pop and chamber music and explores concepts around human relation to the natural world rooted in a love for both. I am interested in the ways performance and recordings influence one another and I work in both realms. My work also interacts with my video practice through projection at performances which intersects imagery of contemporary dance, extreme weather and effects of climate crisis, and protest footage from ACT UP.