Okkyung Lee is a cellist, composer, and improviser pushing contemporary cello performance to its extreme limit without abandoning a reverence for its tradition. Classically trained in her native South Korea, Lee has developed a polyvalent approach to cello that spans tonal elegance, turbulent improv, and the noisiest reaches of extended technique, sometimes within minutes. Her penchant for pushing boundaries breaches space itself, as she routinely departs from the concert stage in an exploration of each venue’s structure, audience, and other furnishings in her expanded performances. In demand for her versatile, visceral playing, she has recorded and performed as a bandleader, collaborator, solo, and in intimate improvisation settings with the likes of Cecil Taylor, Marina Rosenfeld, Arca, Bill Orcutt, Ikue Mori, Vijay Iyer, Mark Fell, and John Zorn, appearing on over 30 albums. Lee currently leads the Yeo-Neun Quartet, an acoustic chamber ensemble inspired by the Korean pop music Lee gew up listening to as a teenager intertwined with textural improvisation.
Blank Forms has curated a program of music and poetry as part of Josiah McElheny’s new solo show, Observations at Night. McElheny’s sonic sculpture, “Moon Mirror,” will function as both an acoustic reflector and an open stage-like platform for performances, as part of an exhibition of optically dynamic paintings and sculptures inspired by cosmic revolutionary figures like Joe McPhee and Sun Ra Arkestra singer June Tyson. Tyson’s optimistic communication of the potential for world-building beyond the painful alienation of presiding earthly visions serves as the focal point for the series’ interrogation of how music and poetry might illuminate new pathways of resistance to our troubled political climate. An international assembly of artists from a diverse spectrum of creative improvising idioms have been selected to use McElheny’s parabolic structure as a catalyst for explorations of both acoustic feedback and social interaction between performers and audiences from heterogeneous cultural spheres. Featuring performers pulling inspiration from black American free jazz as well as experimental music, deep listening, and folk traditions of Korean, Japanese, Iraqi, Indonesian, and Persian music, the surreal convergence of mysteries of light and sound proposes that we might today not only pass through what can feel like a dream or nightmare state but find something here, visible or audible in the twilight that can lead into a cosmic future.