Q & A: GABI talks live set-up, opera & more



We’ve been giving Sympathy several spins in the office since it’s release and are very excited to celebrate with GABI this coming Wednesday at LPR. We had quite a few questions for composer/songstress Gabrielle Herbst, in which she happily obliged. Check it out below:

Q: Your voice comes across as an extremely dynamic and powerful instrument throughout Sympathy, how does that translate into your live show? What kind of set-up do you have going in terms of electronics, etc?
A: The live set-up involves live vocal processing, electronics, synths, electric guitar, midi-vibraphone (or real vibraphone) strings and trombone. It has been a really interesting process developing the live set after recording Sympathy. So many things changed in the studio, and we needed to find that magic again in a live context. Ultimately it’s been exciting–creating a new sound–holding onto some of the electronic elements we found in the studio while maintaining a spontaneous live musicality. They are different beasts, the studio and live shows- and each have their own magic. I adore singing live – it takes everything out of me and I give myself over to it.
Q: You have mentioned recently you have an upcoming collaboration with Sugar Vendil of the Nouveau Classical Project. NCP has graced our space several times and we are very intrigued by this project, could you tell us a little more about it?
A: Sugar got in touch with me after seeing my opera Bodiless at Roulette last April. We had a meeting and really connected. We are in the process of planning a personal and intimate multimedia piece exploring modern issues with womanhood and feminism. I’m composing the music alongside choreographer Celia Rowlson-Hall and performed by Sugar Vendil and NCP.
Q: Given your incredibly rich & eclectic history in music thus far, from your time studying Gamelan to your vocal training at Bard, how does your past translate into your creative present, and future?
A: All the musical experiences from my childhood and throughout my life have shaped and informed my musical intuition and aesthetic choices. I learned about a pure love of sound from Greenwood Music Camp in Cummington, MA, where I spent over eight summers living Brahms, Beethoven, Wagner, Schubert, etc. etc. I learned a great deal about form, craft and discipline from my composition professors at Bard College. I slept and dreamt through endless Balinese gamelan performances as a tiny child, and I learned how to sculpt my voice as an instrument with my voice teacher at Bard. All of these expenses have deeply influenced who I am now, what I make, and what I’m becoming–they are part of my skin and bones.
Q: You also have experience in the opera world with the debut of Bodiless last year. Should we expect any other opera pieces in the near future?
A: Yes! I am already musing about my next opera and would really love to fully stage and perform Bodiless again. The field of opera is tantalizing and deep. There is so much room to experiment and push within the field, so much new territory to cross, and so many definitions to muddy.
Q: How was it working with Daniel Lopatin and Paul Corley on Sympathy? It’s been mentioned that the recording of the album was “open-ended,” were any of these tracks completely improvised?
A: My band and I came into the studio sessions fully rehearsed. All my songs were prepared but in the studio the songs took on a new life. They grew from that first level of tight and rehearsed to more fully realized versions of themselves. This happened through spontaneous experiments, layering, playing with sounds-molding the sounds like clay. Opening up the songs allowed them to have more dimensions. Working with Paul and Daniel was a perfect fit–together, we found the sounds I had imagined in my head for so long.

Q: Given that the performance is “in-the-round,” we believe this will only elevate your ethereal sound for the surrounding audience. Have you ever performed under similar circumstances and do you feel these type of set-ups have an impact (if any) on the performance as a whole?
A: I’ve performed in many site- specific, non-conventional spaces, but never truly in the round. I hope that the intimate set-up will allow the music to be experienced more deeply.
Q: Finally, what should the audience expect from this performance? Any special guests up your sleeve or visual elements?
A: I hope that when listening to my music, people will close their eyes and see shifting colors, vistas and landscapes. Physically on stage there will be two vibraphones, midi and acoustic, many fantastic musicians, and we will be performing all of the songs on the album which we have never done before for a live audience! Other than that, I want to keep all surprises secret.

After learning more about GABI’s process, how could you not be intrigued about her upcoming performance, in-the-round, this coming Wednesday? For tickets & details, click here.
posted by M.B.D.