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Stephanie Richards' 'Gong' Resonates The Body's Frequency

Stephanie Richards.
Chris Weiss
Courtesy of the artist
Stephanie Richards.

Stephanie Richards' trumpet sounds like deep space wrapped around your head, a flood in the endless void. She has worked with many of the modern masters — including Henry Threadgill, Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, Anthony Braxton and Butch Morris — and co-founded Bang On A Can's Asphalt Orchestra. Now, she's preparing her solo debut, Fullmoon.

The composer and improviser mutes the bell of her horn with percussion instruments that resonate at buzzing, whooshing and whistling frequencies, with live manipulation by electronic artist Dino J.A. Deane. She then edits the live recordings, "re-configuring and reshaping the arc of the music," she tells NPR Music, in a process she calls "re-composition."

For the composition "Gong," director and animator Cossa explains the surreal and striking Renaissance-meets-Pop-Art imagery of the accompanying video:

I turned to the symmetrical compositions and symbolism of Renaissance painting to convey the eerie tranquility I heard in Richards' music. The empty courtyards and still-lifes were then rendered as through the lens of Pop Art, especially the Japanese psychedelic variety as fashioned by Tadanori Yokoo and Keiichi Tanaami.

Consciously avoiding a digital aesthetic, I drew great inspiration in particular from Tadanori Yokoo's animated films from the late '60s. I loved the pensive pace and limited, even naive, animation of Yokoo's films. Though working with animation software, I restricted camera moves to simple pans or zooms and generally rationed the amount of movement within the frame in order to complement the trance-like progression of the music.

The result is spell-binding, perhaps spooky, until you let it consume not just your ears, but the resonance of your body.

Fullmoon comes out May 18 via Relative Pitch Records.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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