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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tesla's Pigeon, Silk Screening, and No Poo

I haven't plugged Tesla's Pigeon on this blog enough (or much at all, really). Last December, soprano Jessica Lennick and pianist Danny Lawson premiered the piece I wrote during the fall semester, a 20-minute song cycle. From the program notes:

In the 1920's to 40's, Serbian-American scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla lived out his twilight years having metaphorically wrecked himself on Manhattan Island, bankrupted and broken by a public relations war with Thomas Edison. A staunch believer in the connection between his genius and sexual abstinence, Tesla shunned women, choosing instead to feed and care for street pigeons in his hotel room at the New Yorker. His closest friend was a white dove that visited him every day at his hotel room window. In moments of delirium, Tesla believed this pigeon to have mystical knowledge and the ability to communicate with him, and declared to friends that he was in love with her. One night, the bird flew into Tesla's room close to death, and according to Tesla, a light came from her eyes more intense than that of the most powerful lamps in his laboratory before she died in his arms. Tesla said that at that same moment, he knew his life's work was finished. Tesla's Pigeon is sung from the dove's perspective in these final moments, and explores parallels between the relationship between Tesla and his pigeon, and Prospero and Ariel in Shakespeare's The Tempest, with text adapted from Ariel's songs, Goethe's Faust, the poetry of George Sylvester Viereck, Serbian traditional song and poetry, and personal letters to Tesla.

When my friends and Penn colleagues Tony Solitro and Scott Ordway approached me this spring with a plan to present a couple of concerts in this September's Philadelphia Fringe Festival, I was pretty delighted to have Tesla's Pigeon on the program. I've booked Jess again and Tim Ribchester on piano, and (joy!) I'm organizing a studio recording (my first, can you believe it?) to take place around the same time.

A studio recording needs album art! So I ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a commission from Robinson Smith, Executive Creative Director of Design at Pavone (his bio on their site says "I am Batman."), who has designed Harrisburg Shakespeare Festival's gorgeous and striking show posters for years.

The similarly gorgeous and striking Tesla's Pigeon art thus created is below, followed by pictures of Matt and I in our first home silk screening venture, printing the posters I promised as premiums to the most generous Kickstarter donors.



Screen-printing has a bit of a learning curve, especially with regard to photo emulsion development times, but I got there. And I think I did a pretty decent job translating Rob's design into three screens and a sea sponge. I ended up doing a run of 25 (destroyed a few screens in the process, so won't be making more in a hurry), and will probably sell the extras, so watch this space if you want one (Warning: they won't be cheap. Silk screening at home is an expensive and time consuming business.)

City Wide Composers Collective presents
Voice of this Generation: Love Lost




The Fringe concerts are scheduled for September 17 at 7PM, and September 18 at 2:30PM and 7PM at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. N.B. If you click the Fringe link above in the next couple of days, it will have the wrong information! We had to change venue at the last moment because of BYOB concerns at our first choice, which means we also had to switch around dates. Yes, you will be able to drink alcoholic beverages of your choice while you listen to crazy and beautiful vocal music from seven young local composers. No tuxes! No pretension! Well, only a little. We're still composers, even while we're drinking.

And now for something completely different. You might notice in the silk screening photos that my hair is kind of wet. That's an anomaly. I have something to report that may well revolt you, but eh screw it, I'm feeling the need to proselytize.

A couple of years ago, I made an amazing discovery. I have had problems with canker sores all my life. Nothing seemed to help. In fact, it seemed like the cleaner I kept my mouth, the worse the sores got. One day, I got so sick of the situation, I finally did some Googling to figure out what the hell. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there is an ingredient in the vast majority of toothpastes, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (or SLS), which actually causes or significantly worsens canker sores. I switched toothpaste to one of the SLS-free varieties (Rembrandt has one, and Tom's) and HOLY CRAP. Canker sores DISAPPEARED. Even when I do stupid things like bite one spot on the inside of my cheek 27 times in one day until it is a raw bleeding mess of ground flesh, I won't necessarily get one (or if I do, it goes away in a day). WHAT. All these years, I brushed my teeth thinking the sores would get better. I'd been LIED TO.

So as a result, I've turned into a raging hippie who is planning to solve all her problems by experimenting with eliminating certain chemicals from her life. What other deceitful concoctions contain this devil compound, SLS? Shampoo. Hrmm. A little history: when I was a little girl, I used to wash my long hair once a week. As a teenager, I cut my hair short and started washing it once a day. And suddenly, my hair was oily. I'm talking dumped-a-bottle-of-olive-oil-on-my-head oily, every morning. Also, I started getting some pretty serious dandruff/psoriasis. I put the change down to hormones and hoped it would go away. Of course, it didn't. It got worse and worse, and at age 31, I still had a Deepwater Horizon explosion on my head if I skipped a single day of washing.

God, how stupid am I? It was the freaking shampoo. I did a little research. There is a whole movement around the idea that shampoo is basically a giant scam. It's called "No Poo." Yeah, I wish I were joking, but that's what it's called. Well, what the hell. Over a period of about two months this summer, with the help of a lot of Batiste (Best. Product. Ever.), I weaned my sebum-crazy scalp off its daily suds. It's taken a while, but I was determined to give the experiment a decent run, and it's paid off. For the first time in nearly two decades, my hair is not oily. The psoriasis is under control. Apparently this lifestyle choice, if you can call it that, will also eventually translate into healthier hair, as the natural oils, no longer being washed away before they get very far, will be able to spread down the shaft and prevent drying and split ends.

You are being LIED TO. Throw away your shampoo bottle. Sue the damn shampoo companies. It's garbage. Of course, you will have to suffer through shampoo withdrawal for about two months, so don't plan any hot dates or red carpet appearances during the weaning process, but I feel so goddamn liberated now.
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