Cellist Seth Parker Woods has recently completed his doctoral degree at University of Huddersfield in England, following preparatory work in Chicago, Brooklyn, and Switzerland. He’s now living in Chicago, has a new CD out at the end of November 2016, and has a jam-packed calendar of performances and curatorial activities.
What’s the lowdown on your new CD coming late this month?
asinglewordisnotenough, my debut solo album, comes out November 25, 2016 on London-based Confront Recordings. It is very much an ode to my childhood and seeks to provide a soundtrack to this complex and messy thing we call life. It features music by composers Michael Clarke, Edward Hamel, George Lewis, and Pierre Alexandre Tremblay. The works on this album are a culmination of five years of collaborations with the aforementioned composers in developing a solid new body of work for solo cello and electronics that aims to change the face and function of the instrument, body, and choreographic object through experimental means. Inspired by the work of Jean-Michael Basquiat, Abdul Wadud, BreakBeat Poets, Laetitia Sonamii, and Robert Normandeau, this project is here to provide a soundtrack to all things beautiful, solemn, raw, quirky, and hushed.
What is it like in Huddersfield, where you did your doctoral studies?
Neatly tucked into the great north in West Yorkshire, and positioned between hub cities Manchester and Leeds, Huddersfield boasts a lot and is ever growing. Known for its historical textile manufacturing, rich brass band culture, punk rock scene, a cheeky cuppa (cup of Builders brew black tea) and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Huddersfield is a hidden treasure. I completed my PhD there at the recommendation of friends and colleagues Heather Roche and Pierre Alexandre Tremblay. In the Center for Research and New Music there is a slew of exciting developments happening both in composition, performance and research. The research centre is under the direction of composer Liza Lim and boasts a phenomenal faculty and student body with mind-blowing outputs. The beginning of my time there was definitely difficult, but I have now grown to love it and call it a second home.
How does your work in movement research fit into your artistic aesthetic?
My connection to movement research started during my adolescent years, but a more focused exploration came during my years taking dance class as well as workshops/courses in Labanotation, Mind-Body Centering, contact improvisation, and as a student of Jivamukti yoga. In regard to research and performance I’ve always been fascinated with prioritising physical choreographic performance over the sonic when playing the cello and this somehow led me to discover new ways to both analyse subjective choreographic practices of musicians and dancers and use the results from those investigations for analytical, pedagogical and artistic purposes. The more I delved into this area, the more it influenced the artistic works I was interested in and the collaborations that will ensue. Edward Hamel’s Gray Neon Life and Aaron Cassidy’s The Crutch of Memory are great examples of such approaches. Beyond organising personal movements, my work as both a movement artist and cellist is to discover how we move, but most importantly why? This exploration has culminated in a series of exciting new work, such as Almost Human, my collaboration with composer and instrument builder Ian Hattwick for cello, mover, and prosthetic digital spine.
How have you come to pick Chicago as your new base of operations?
I moved back to the States in late 2015 after spending six years living, studying and working in Europe. With a bittersweet departure, I needed to find a new home to live. I’d previously lived in New York City, but was very hesitant to call it home again, especially after the life I had abroad. Chicago had been popping up on the map more and more while I was living outside the USA, so with advice from friends I chose to make it my base due to its vast cultural and artistic communities. It’s not overly saturated, which I love, and there seems to be room for everyone to share their story without it being quickly interrupted. There’s still room for growth here, as I find some of the programming still conservative in scope, and I think I’m working to help usher in even more risk taking.
What is the focus of your new post at Fulcrum Point?
I currently serve as the Curator of Discoveries and Inclusion. I came to know Fulcrum Point New Music Project via meeting its Artistic Director, Stephen Burns. After sitting on a panel for diversity and inclusion in the arts (music specifically), Stephen approached me about joining Fulcrum Point to assist with curating the ensemble programming and to oversee program curation of the Discoveries “Hear and Be Heard” scheme for young and upcoming composers. In short, Discoveries provides a platform for young and emerging composers to learn and present new contemporary works, and it provides an open dialogue to curious concertgoers and artists in a relaxed setting outside of the normal concert hall. Our upcoming Discoveries concert will feature works from Elliot Lupp and Anthony Green on November 16th at the Merit School in Gottlieb Hall.
Now that Fulcrum Point is in its 18th year on the Chicago scene, we’ve been working to revamp the vision, scope, and content which we’ll be bringing to Chicago and the US. In doing that, we’ve been working on some exciting new projects that will be unveiled in the coming year including a newly commissioned world premiere by cellist/composer Tomeka Reed on February 9, 2017.
November 21, 2016 — Cellist with ECCE Ensemble: A celebration of Yehudi Wyner, at Boston Athanaeum
December 4, 2016 — Cellist with a.pe.ri.od.ic and Dante Boon play Jurg Frey, at Constellation Chicago