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.
In 2010, I sold my Citroën. It’d taken me about eight years to come to grips with letting it ago, and if that says something about me, so be it. I’d put eighty thousand joyous, cantankerous miles on it, all up and down the eastern seaboard, from spending four hours stuck in a solid traffic jam on the Cross Bronx Expressway with the ARRET! light falsely warning me that the car was about to overheat to moments on Route 301 in South Carolina where I did the little mental arithmetic to translate kilometers to miles to confirm that I was indeed doing over a hundred on a lazy old trunk road. I’d lived out a French fever dream, but I went broke, the car developed a few faults beyond my means or technical ability to correct, and I fell into a premature middle age fugue state where I thought maybe, just maybe, I needed to grow up and stop living like a cantankerous continental eccentric.
I drove a practical four door economy sedan for eight years.
Told a story as a part of the Stoop Storytelling Series – The Sex Show. The theme of the evening was sex, so I naturally shared a story of my own in which there was no sex at all, at least on my part, as I’m generally inclined to approach everything sideways, dealing reality a glancing blow.
I was honored to be invited to share the stage with nine amazing storytellers for an evening of lurid tales of the lascivious side of life, though my tale is less about actual sex and more about the tragic excesses of one’s early thirties, odd career choices, and the things you’ll do because of a crush.
It’s less than two weeks to my first big show in a faraway city—I’m going to be telling stories in St. Louis, Missouri at the Kranzberg Arts Center, thanks to the HEARDing Cats Collective on Saturday, 10 October 2015, at 7:30PM.
I performed on Friday, 11 September, 2015, as part of the Electro-Music 2015 Conference at YMCA Greenkill in Huguenot, NY. I’m gearing up for a revival of my award-winning spoken word piece, My Fairy Godmothers Smoke Too Much, and shared an abbreviated episode of lopsided stories of unlikely fairy godmothers, dancing with distant strangers, and otherwise trying to make sense out of the senseless eighties, accompanied by a freewheeling electronic score.
• I’ll be performing in Saint Louis, Missouri at 7:30 PM on Saturday 10 October 2015 at the Kranzberg Art Center [tickets $12 regular, $7 students/artists].