I was honored to be invited to tell a story at the RISK! podcast live show in Baltimore at the Creative Alliance on November 3rd, 2017. I’ve been a big fan of the open, wild, freewheeling storytelling style of RISK! for a while now, which spares no sensibilities in telling things just exactly as they are.
I got to share the stage again with the fantastic KL Parr, who I had the pleasure to meet at my second outing with Baltimore’s own Stoop Storytelling series in February, 2017, as well as Rachel Hinton, Shamyla Tareen, and the illustrious host of the RISK! podcast, Kevin Allison. Three of our stories were featured in the podcast of that evening’s storytelling, available at the RISK! site, and here’s a brief excerpt from mine, in which I describe my failed aspiration to badass status and my infinitesimally short career in the eighties as a fake-smoking male stripper who’d learned to dance by watching Twyla Tharp and Bob Fosse and providing accompaniment by Harry Partch (it did not go well).
Performed a couple stories last weekend with live electronic accompaniment (using the smallest rig I’ve used to date for a minimalist invocation of mood) at the Center For The Arts in Homer, New York, as a participant in a two-day festival of electronic, electro-acoustic, and experimental music. I’m always honored to share a bill with so many amazing artists, and this year’s festival was my first outside of the previous venue in Huguenot, NY.
I’ll be performing as a part of the wonderful Electro-Music Northeast Festival in Homer, NY, on 9 September 2017 (I’m in the 4:20 PM slot on the second stage). The festival is a two-day coming-together of fantastic players, composers, video artists, experimentalists, and other electro-acoustic explorers, and I’m honored to be participating for my fifth year with the group. It’s an absolute bargain for the diversity and density of work on tap, and there are seminars and a synthesizer petting zoo to get your hands on the greatest and latest gear in the field.
For years, the Electro-Music festival was held in the Catskill region of Upstate, NY.
For the first ever Northeastern Electro-Music Festival, a new location has been discovered at the Center for the Arts in Homer, NY. This year’s gathering features two full days of innovative electronic music concerts, seminars, workshops, demonstrations, jam sessions, video artists, and a mini swap-meet.
There will be a hands-on “Synthesizer Petting Zoo,” with various rare and odd synthesizers, drum machines, and other pieces of electronic music gear you hadn’t known existed.
Please bring your own headphones for the Petting Zoo, otherwise a community set of headphones will be made available; iPhone/iPod headsets work well, too.
I’ve been experimenting with ways of telling stories on stage. I’m drifting away from the scripted, the cut-and-dried, and the composed in favor of the kind of stories you tell around the campfire or in a bar, surrounded by new friends and old. I’m using improvisational electronics to score these stories and stepping up on stage with just a single index card with a collection of waypoints to remind myself where I am in case I drift off the subject, and I’m increasingly happy to work in this loose and natural mode. Stories come in and out of focus, I find the point, lose it again, and work my way back. It feels like the kind of thing I’ve been trying to do ever since the first time I set foot on a stage with a synthesizer and a microphone, nearly thirty years ago.
This time around, I was thinking about stories from outside, from just off the beaten path, just beyond the edge of the highway, where we find meaning in unexpected places.
Twelve years ago, I got inspired by the potential of podcasting and started two podcast series, Last Night I Dreamed I Was You, a spoken-word podcast for storytelling, philosophical explorations, and rambling narratives inspired by my greatest inspiration, radio novelist, Jean Shepherd, and 12 Minute Travelogues, a series of ambient music experiments. For more focused podcasters with the drive and skill to get their work out there, those were good times, but I never managed to cultivate an audience and social media was then still pretty much just freestanding blogs and Livejournal. I changed careers, got on a busy track, and drifted away from my podcasts, but 2017 is a different climate, and the collective interest in word-of-mouth storytelling is at new heights, so I’m going to try it again.
This one’s the last of the original run of Last Night I Dreamed I Was You, a late-night reflection on endings and how we need them. I’m hoping to get the new series running within the month, working in the mode of telling small stories that add up to a larger narrative.
If you like what you hear, watch this page. When the podcast is ready, I’ll post links to your favorite podcast index as well as embedded players in case you prefer to listen via joebelknapwall.com from your browser.
I’ll be performing a piece for spoken word and electronics on Sunday, 6 August 2017 at 2:30 PM as part of the 13th Annual Electro-Music Festival at the Irving Theater in Indianapolis, Indiana [directions]. The entire weekend is a long-form celebration of electronic, electro-acoustic, and experimental music that runs the alphabetic gamut from the abrasively new to the zestfully soothing, with a three-day bill jam-packed with amazing musicians I’ve had the pleasure to work with and otherwise revel in for several years now. I’m bringing my combination of left-field storytelling and digital atmospherics to the party, and I get to spend the rest of the time enjoying and educating myself in how it’s done.
All ages show – tickets at the door Weekend pass $25, or by day: Friday $10, Saturday $15, Sunday $12
I went acoustic for the first time ever for the 2017 Queering Sound spoken word show hosted by Sonic Circuits and Rhizome DC, performing a version of my story about a particularly awkward career move to the accompaniment of live banjo instead of my usual consort of digital instrumentation.
It was an interesting venture into more traditional storytelling for me and a big break from my usual obsessive need for control of every aspect of the sonic underpinning of my stories…and it went particularly well. Looking forward to more events of this type in the future, and am grateful to Sonic Circuits and Rhizome DC for hosting and inviting me to be a part of this show. If you’re unfamiliar with either of these organizations, I’d encourage you to check them out—good art comes from here!
The first purchase I ever made as a member of the working public was a cassette player.It was 1983, I was just about to turn fifteen, and I had a little brown envelope containing seventy-three dollars in cash that Carlo Petrucci handed me after my first week working at Pal Jack’s Pizza in Laurel. I was in Baltimore, visiting my grandmother, and we climbed into her turquoise Barracuda with sticky clear plastic seat covers embossed with little flowers that did absolutely nothing to stop those seat covers from clinging to your thighs like duct tape and headed up the street to Luskins.