June 6, 2015
Peter Karl Studios, Brooklyn
LORA FAYE writes songs about the pleasure of disorientation: that human tendency to thrill at the loss of control. A Brooklyn native, she has headlined such local stages as Lincoln Center and Joe’s Pub. The past few years have awarded her a handful of prestigious songwriting awards, and she continues to be recognized as an emerging and innovative talent in her genre- bending landscape.
MARYAM ZARINGHALAM is a PhD candidate in Biology at Rockefeller University, and the founder of ArtLab, an event series and blog that creates opportunities for art and science to intermix.
GEOFF MCDONALD is a conductor of opera and orchestral music as well as a cellist, pianist, composer, and educator. He is the music director of the Longy Conservatory Orchestra, Bard College Orchestra, and On Site Opera, and plays in the Brooklyn-based indie rock band Miracles of Modern Science.
LAURETTA CHARLTON is an Associate Editor for Vulture at New York Magazine, where she writes about music.
One night – the legend goes – a young Robert Johnson walked to the crossing of four roads, sat down on his guitar case, and waited. At midnight, the devil appeared, and the two ragged figures made a wordless pact against the moonlit sky. The devil reached out and took Johnson’s guitar, tuned it, calmly, played for a while, and then handed it back to his one-man audience. In this murky place, with road signs akimbo, Johnson exchanged his soul for the ability to play the blues.
While acknowledging the myriad ways Johnson's myth has been appropriated and misinterpreted by musicians and scholars for years, today I'm preoccupied with this Faustian tale because I think there’s something interesting about the disoriented "crossroads" where it takes place.
We find ourselves, like Robert Johnson, occasionally prey to ecstatic redefinition through disorientation. We seek it: a child spins like a top; a teenager takes consciousness-altering drugs; we fall in love, and it changes the way we touch the tea kettle.
Other times, disorientation finds us. We are visited by strange and beautiful neurological demons, or spiritual ones. We lose sight, sound, smell, and in their place appear odd, entertaining auras. We find ourselves marginal to places that used to be home, and hear home in songs that make no rational sense at all.
We lose true north, and in its place we find wonder.
So here's a group of songs about the pleasure of disorientation, that bizarre human impulse to revel in the confusion of the roller coaster, the sleight of the magician's hand, and the vast, queer terrain of America.
-- Lora Faye