Full Interview: Kin of the Moon and Karin Stevens
LF: Hi! I’m Lauren Freman for Second Inversion, here with Kin of the Moon and Karin Stevens Dance, talking about their April 20th performance, What Better Than Call A Dance? Hi you guys!
LF: Can you introduce yourselves and introduce the project?
HB: How about we introduce other people? So, I’ll introduce Karin: this is Karin Stevens, she’s an amazing dancer/choreographer for Karin Stevens Dance, and loves and supports live music.
KS: Woohoo! Live NEW music!
HB: And she’s working on several projects. She’s this amazing dynamo of just, everything. She’s currently involved in this Water project, talking about all sorts of climate change stuff--She’s gonna be dancing at Carkeek Park on the 14th of April. So y’all should go to that too! It’s really awesome.
KS: I’ll introduce Kaley Lane Eaton, a fabulous composer and vocalist (also a teacher of my 16 year old daughter, and that’s been really amazing)
KLE: For me too!
KS: Kaley and I met at a Second Inversion Community Advisory Board meeting, and then we met at the new NUMUS conference, or, workshop day last year. And in February, you reached out to me and asked me to participate in your electroacoustic opera called lily(bloom in my darkness)--that was performed in its first iteration at the Chapel last June, I was the performer of the role of Lily—which my company will be producing again with Kin of the Moon in October the 11th through 14th at the Erickson Theater. We’re gonna be highlighting Kaley’s music: Lily will be presented again, and a new commission called Lung will be involved. And all these fabulous musicians (plus a few others).
KLE: I’ll introduce Leanna: This is Leanna Keith, who is an amazing floutist of all the flutes. Any flute you can think of. Including a wine glass! [EDITOR’S NOTE: earlier that night, she had demonstrated, through some kind of flute-magic I have no hope of understanding, that she can play any old cup like a flute.]
LK: Any of em.
KLE: She’s also a Taiko drummer, she’s a movement artist--aerial silks! She’ll be moving in this new work that I’m doing with Karin in the fall, which I’m really excited about. We also have a duo called Stack Effect, so we sing and play together a lot. Which is amazing, because she’s an amazing chamber musician. And she just plays the hell outta that flute, and is such an amazing energy to have in this group of people.
LK: I think that leaves me with introducing the wonderful Heather Bentley, who is one of the three co-directors of Kin of the Moon--which, I should say, is also Heather, Kaley, and myself—we direct it together, which is really exciting. Heather is this incredible violist, sometimes violin, sometimes cello player, and also improviser, composer extraordinaire. It’s been almost—we’ve got a few more months to go before it’s been a year of us playing together, but it’s been one heck of a ride. It’s been absolutely awesome. We’ve been having a ton of fun, and our project together is something really different.
LF: Can you guys tell me about the program, about what’s coming up, what we’re gonna see on April 20th?
HB: Yeah, it’s called What Better Than Call A Dance?
KS: And where’s that line from, Heather?
HB: WB Yeats!... There’s this poem called The Cat and the Moon. All of the titles of our programs get snuck in from that poem. The first one was called The Pure Cold Light In The Sky, and the one after this one is called When Two Close Kindred Meet. It’s really ripe with all these cool lines.
LK: Also, the title of our group, Kin of the Moon, is from this poem, so we’re just taking everything we can from this poem.
HB: And coming up--we have to create the absolute perfect program for this--there’s a line called Wander and Wail, which, I mean…
LK: [enthusiastic gestures]
KLE: So yes, April 20th, there’s What Better Than Call a Dance? This program is going to be a couple of original pieces by Heather and myself, inspired by dance forms. So we’ve got a waltz, a tango, a céilidh [pronounced the same as Kaley]--the Scottish céilidhe--which is a dance--that I’m not named after...and it’s spelled totally different. It kinda sounds like a jig. Oh, and an EDM piece.
[laughter from the group]
KLE: We’ve written those, and those will punctuate a program of improvised movement and music by Karin and our friend Beth Fleenor, who is amazing and will be improvising clarinet, and doing all of her incredible things with Karin. So it’ll be seamless, they’ll all kind of blend into each other, where you’ll have improvisation, then a piece, then an improvisation, then a piece, etc. etc. And it’s all inspired by movement.
HB: But that EDM piece is really quite unique. This is one that Kaley put together.
KS: This is the capstone, right?
KLE: Yeah, this is gonna be the final thing that concludes our pieces, but then you guys’ll come in on the bass drop. I write electroacoustic music, and I love EDM, I love dance, I love trap music --all of this stuff is really movement based. But it was still kind of a stretch, it was like “Okay, how do I write EDM in Supercollider?” but I figured out a cool thing. There are a couple names that come up a lot when we’re talking about our work and our music, and those names are often Pauline Oliveros and Hildegard, who have sort of this mystical feminine thing. I have wanted to kind of use Hildegard in my work because she’s just a very inspiring figure, kind of a muse to me. So we’re gonna sing this Hildegard chant into this microphone that picks up our signal and takes little granules (I wrote a program in Supercollider that does this) from what we do, and then turns them into a beat, played over the speakers. So you’ll hear this kind of driving, four-on-the-floor beat that’s actually made out of our voices, from the Hildegard chant. So our singing will kind of dissolve into this beat that will emerge, and then you guys [indicating Karin] will join us--
KS: --for the Finale.
KLE: It’s Hildegard and EDM, it’s like--
LK: --Trap Hildegard!
KLE: It needed to happen!
LF: That should be the tagline! You guys mentioned the Yeats poem: What is the significance of this poem to your sound, to your ethos, to-- should I be looking for a throughline narrative with these titles, or should I grow some chill?
HB: What do you think is the closest kin of the moon?
LF: Me, personally? Gosh. Uh. A Comet?
All: [laughter] We’ll take that…
KS: We’re blazing
LK: I think for the most part, we’ve used it as a way to describe what we’re coming up with. Rather than saying “What can we do with this poem?” it’s more like “We’ve done this, how can this poem describe that?” and it’s worked really well!
KLE: I remember you [Heather] shared this poem with me when I was in a residence in Hambidge this fall. We had a November concert date, and we weren’t a group yet, we just had this concert we were gonna do. And I remember this very clearly because I didn’t have internet, I had to walk down to a certain part of the forest to get internet. So I would go down in like, sweatpants in this Georgia Appalachian weird weather, and I’m out there in a storm trying to check email, because we had a lot of important stuff we had to coordinate. So there would be like, this poem, then your response to the poem, and I would always come in late to the conversation. But I was so into it, I was in the forest with the moon, reading this poem like “yeah! I’m not studying this right now, but this is it. This is totally what it is.” so I have this very intuitive, immediate --
KS: visceral, embodied sense of The Kin of the Moon
KLE: yeah, so that’s how I relate. But surely you two [indicating LK and HB] have a more studied--
HB: I think we chose it in about five minutes. We had two other names that we were entertaining. It’s actually really hard to name something, and it gets into a lot of social media issues and internet issues in terms of association. Even if nobody has it trademarked or anything, it might be associated with something you don’t really want to be associated with, for whatever reason. So we went through two other different names, Leanna and I (because Leanna built the website).
LK: Before the group even happened, I built the website.
KLE: This is how we do things.
HB: We just do everything really fast. And then it was just so right. I’m usually really good at naming things, and I thought “I’m done, I don’t really have another name in me, so what are we gonna do? I really like Yeats, and I bet there’s some phrase in a Yeats poem--I’m gonna go look at a bunch of Yeats poems and I’m gonna come across one.” So I looked up one Yeats poem that was just, super dismal. I thought “no, that’s not gonna work, ‘cause we’re not emo like that” So the next one that came up in my search was called The Cat and the Moon. [quotes the first few lines] I tried to memorize it, but I can’t remember.
LF: I have it written down, if you wanted to recite it at some point. I came prepared!
HB: Yeah, let’s read it!
KS: [reads the poem in its entirety]
LF: Brilliantly recited, thank you! So, since this program is so genreless, and so--the word that comes to mind is inclusive--do you think that you could provide some entry points for someone who’s, say, not versed--someone who stumbles into the venue, doesn’t know what they’re in for, but wants to stick around?
HB: Our tagline is “Chamber music of right now.” When we describe ourselves a bit further, we say we’re “improvisation-centric, technology-friendly chamber music” and we have guest artists, in this case a dancer with a guest improviser.
KLE: What we really try to do is create a welcoming, immersive experience for those people specifically. We obviously have our audience, people who are into this kind of thing, that we expect to see and hope to see, but I think there’s a lot barring people from going to these kinds of shows, so our hope would be that the sounds we’re making and the stuff we’re doing, in and of itself, is the thing--so if you walk in and you’ve never heard anything before, you’re welcomed when you’re there.
LK: I think part of it is that we try to focus on certain types of voices that you may not hear anywhere else. We tend to focus on a lot more female composers if we can. This particular show, it is genreless, going from all these different types of dance from the waltz to EDM, so it’s one of those things where, even if you’ve never heard anything like this before, that’s kind of the point. You’ll be able to experience something that is vastly different over the course of an hour, so you’ll probably find something that is at least very memorable.
KLE: And movement being the theme-- movement is something we all do, and you [indicating KS] can definitely talk about that, somebody going to this, where they’ve never experienced concert art--and how movement can really be something that unites us and that draws us all together.
KS: We hope so. We hope so. It’s been essential to me, to advocate for local new music, and to build this work that I do together with these amazing composers and artists in music in Seattle. I had already engaged Beth, Beth and I go way back, we’ve done a lot of work together through various groups: the Seattle jazz composers ensemble, the Sam Boshnack quintet, she was a player in a work I did where Heather did the work of bringing musicians together, playing music by Wayne Horvitz, Mike Owcharuk, Nate Omdal (just to give all those lovely people a shoutout--that’s the advocate in me! We’ve gotta be building audiences for each other) but Beth and I had actually not gotten to work together, and she’s written one of my favorite pieces--it’s a piece called Silt (another shoutout). So, when Heather engaged me, I said I’ve already been talking to Beth about working together, I want to commission her someday, but right now, we just want to play together, Beth and I, and create this synergy. That’s been a long-time dream of mine, to just get into a studio and spend more time together than apart. So, Heather invited us to be a part of this, and Kin of the Moon has created this with us. So for me, I hope that it’s another layer of the people that have come to support my work, to see music from another direction. I’m fabulously excited about this side of Kin of the Moon, that we’re all women, and, to be surrounded by all these women. and on some levels, there’s this woo-woo heart-driven part of me that knows that the movements and sounds we make together, matter: they can have power, and have affect. So I’d like to imagine that the common experience, that there is something beyond the traditional transaction of art consumption or aesthetic gesture. And I think that, for me, a lot of what comes about in that, as I’ve realized over the years, is that it’s about this exchange that we have with each other, and that Beth and I have with each other (and it’s unfortunate Beth couldn’t be here tonight, but she’s here in spirit). That’s what I hope, that the experience that we all get to create together at Chapel (which is a really awesome space for music, by the way) goes beyond the aesthetic gesture, that we’re doing something that is important. We haven’t had a lot of support for our voices, especially in music. Just to go back to some of the work Kaley’s done, there have been so many women’s voices in music that I didn’t even know about, and have learned from Kaley. I’m just really excited to be a part of this energy that they’re building with their own music. I kinda don’t care if people like it or not. I mean, I love that you asked that question, I don’t mean to dismiss the question, but there’s this part of me that’s like “What we’re doing really matters, and we’re just gonna keep f***ing doing it whether or not we have the support, or whether or not everybody gets it.” And I know there are people who get it, who will be there and support this--and I will keep supporting you guys [indicates Kin of the Moon members], and this isn’t the end. April 20th will continue on.
LF: I think it’s interesting that you say that it doesn’t really matter whether or not people like it, because it seems to me that it’s part of your philosophy that everyone’s a dancer--that you will necessarily like it because it’s part of you, y’know? That everyone is involved.
KS: I don’t know that everyone will enjoy watching me move, but I do believe that we are movement. It may not be the word that we’re all dancers, but to borrow the words from a philosopher friend, Kimerer Lamothe, that we are bodily cells. So our resonance of sound is movement, our bodies are the movements that we make, whether there are patterns of movement that are serving us and serving one another, or they’re not. And I think it’s important that we continue to cultivate movement--that I believe are in the sounds we make as well--(and I’ve made some of these composers move with me lately. Ask Kaley and Beth.) It’s been amazing to move together, and then they pick up their instruments and we create something together with sound and movement. The main point in there is that I hope to help people recognize that we need to move, and that movement is in this relationship of building things together. And in cultivating movements that are creating wellbeing, and sounds that we know, are creating something new, or renewing something ancient. To go back to a sort of feminist, feminine idea of returning to some things that have gotten pushed out, and bringing them back.
KLE: And that’s a great encapsulation of it, right there.
KS: I dunno if that is in our weekend in terms of our aesthetic gesture, but--it is earth weekend, earth day weekend, and that’s been on my mind a lot lately.
LF: That segues into another question I had which is that, a) Kaley, you wrote this article called “Things I Wish I Had Known When I Thought I Couldn’t Be A Composer” which spoke to me very personally, so, thank you for that, a.
KLE: I didn’t think anyone read that.
LF: Absolutely people read that! And I’m sure more people than just myself were inspired by it and moved by it. So thank you for that! And I’m wondering if you can sort of expand on that. I’m wondering if there was a defining moment, or defining mentor, or defining collaborator that made you go “Yep, I can do this, I’m allowed to do this.”
KLE: I’ve talked about this in a lot of different circles in my life recently! I didn’t start composing until my last year of college, and I had never even thought about it until then. It had not even crossed my mind. I had been a concert pianist, I was winning concerto competitions, I was surrounded by classical music composers my entire life, studying opera, and all that. But I went to Whitman College and I took a course by the incredible Susan Pickett--who I hope watches this, I’m gonna send this to her, if she isn’t watching on facebook right now--Dr. Susan Pickett, at Whitman College. She teaches a course called Women As Composers, and it’s just a semester-long course filling in all the gaps that you don’t get in your textbook. and she gets everybody in there. she talks about...all this incredible music from Hildegard until now. You can’t even do all of it in a semester but, so I took that course and was just like [mind blown gesture], like “WHOA” and really had to reckon with the fact that I had never considered women as composers, which was odd, given that I’m a woman musician, raised by a raging bra-burning feminist, who made sure that everything I consumed as a young child was feminist. And that says something, that even having a mother like that, who puts everything on the line to make sure that her daughter is aware that she can be anything, STILL I didn’t even know, right? And my dad was also very feminist, and was involved in that as well. I couldn’t have been more set up to know that women could compose, but I didn’t. So then I was really mad--like really mad--and noticed that at Whitman College there’s a composition program for undergraduates, and there were no women in it--even given the fact that there was this amazing course, and there was Dr. Pickett who was just this incredible teacher, she taught the theory classes and was very like, in-your-face about women that compose. And still, at least my senior year, there were no women in it, so I just signed up, and I was like “I’ve never written anything, but I can just be in this class, because I can probably write better than you.”
LF: just on principle!
KLE: And I remember, before I signed up, we’d done this theory exercise in my 20th century theory class which was really dumb, it was like, take three pitches in a pitch class and write a two-measure piece. And I did it as part of the assignment, but what I made was actually really good. I remember playing it on the piano, like “that’s dumb but--”
LK: I’ve totally done this assignment!
KLE: --so I already knew I might like it. I remember being in my apartment my senior year of college thinking like “Oh my god, all I ever want to do ever, for the rest of my life, ever, is compose.” And I felt very upset because I had spent my whole life preparing to be a very serious performer, and felt like it was too late (which is ridiculous, because I was 22) and that was it. So after college, I went to Boston, and was teaching. I did get my masters in voice even though I knew that I wanted to focus on composition...because I knew that my work would be heard more if I performed it. Because, as a woman, there’s gonna be a lot of dudes who might not play your music, honestly. There’s a social thing there, that I just didn’t want to have anything to do with, so I was like “I’ll perform my own music, and then people will hear it, and then maybe somebody will like it,” and that ended up working out. So, I started composing out of anger.
LF: Spite composing!
KLE: So I was performing music as a commitment to having it be heard by my friends--I still write for my friends, that’s why we’re having this. The only reason some of my music gets played is that I have friends who want to play it. I have to emphasize, to add a little addendum to that article I wrote, that you have to just do it. You have to just commit, you have to just be like “I’m not gonna care if anyone tells me I can, I’m not gonna wait for funding, I’m not gonna wait, I’m just gonna do it, and I’m gonna advocate for myself, and I’m not gonna sit around being like ‘nobody wants to hear my music’” Who cares? Just, f*cking do it. So that’s why I’ve been able to do it--because I just said I’m going to. So that is my number one advice for people, especially young women, who feel like “Oh I dunno if I can do this,” well, you can. Just do it. I mean, if you need to talk about it, just call me, and I’ll yell at you until you--
LF: she’s on social media, we can find her everywhere. How bout everybody else? Do you also have a moment, or a mentor or collaborator that stands out as like “Yep, this is mine, this is my space to take up?”
LK: Oh gosh, yeah, my undergraduate flute professor, Dr. Christine Erlander Beard, who is this incredible new music advocate and also just piccolo diva extraordinaire. I love her to bits. I started studying with her when I was in high school, and not once was she like “You have to play this piece and this piece,” she was very much like “What do you want to play? Here’s a bunch of recordings! Listen to all this cool stuff!” and eventually is was just like “Well, clearly you want to play this stuff, do that.” And so, she was super supportive throughout all my exploration. And I had another professor named Barry Ford, who was the orchestra director but also a composer, and a fantastic composer at that. And I took as many composition classes with him as I physically could, because it was always just an incredible experience, and he was also one of those people who was like “Yeah, just DO it. Do the thing.” It’s funny because, after I’ve graduated, and gotten my master’s degree and everything, I’m still playing the music of other people, and I love doing that. Mostly stuff from my friends, but a lot of it has just been me sitting down and going “Okay, I’m gonna write something this week. Here we go.” I think those two people have been instrumental in me actually getting out there and just doing it.
LK: Mentorship is important!
HB: and you have all those cool Sunday things
LK: Yeah! I make a new video every single week. I compose something on the spot with my looper every Sunday. And part of that is just for me to learn how to use a looper--because it’s hard. The first few videos are really hilariously bad--and the other part is that I want to make sure I’m creating stuff, because I spent so many years thinking “How can I be the best possible flutist I can be?” and now I’m going “How can I be the best possible musician I can be?” and I think for me, that involves learning to write. So, if you’re around YouTube, if you look me up, I post videos every Sunday.
KLE: We’re always around the YouTubes.
LF: Yeah, we’re on the internet right now, this is YouTube-adjacent!
LF: That’s the title of your next collaboration, once you run out of Yeats lines. What about either of you [indicating HB and KS]? Are there any mentors or collaborators that stood out to you?
HB: Well I’ve had so many collaborators, because I’ve been around the block! So I’ve had some really wonderful--I’ve been in music for a long time. But I really love working with these two [indicating KLE and LK] and I love working with Karin. This is great, to start writing music--I came to it SO much later than you did, Kaley. I have two grown sons, who are embarrassingly old actually. I won’t tell you how old they are. But yeah, I didn’t start composing until I was in my forties.
KS: [snaps] that’s just--
HB: I did an improvisers program a really long time ago. I think of myself really as an improviser-composer. And what that means is that, having been in the improvising space for a really long time, what I really like is that you come up with ideas when you’re improvising, especially with other people--or even by myself--that I wouldn’t come up with, if I had just decided to go sit and write something. So it’s kind of this magical space, and that’s where I’m coming from, as a composer. But then, once I started writing actual pieces down--like, I wrote a piece for, an orchestra, and wrote little chamber pieces, and wrote an opera
LK: Just a throwaway, “I wrote an opera.”
LF: Just casual. “I wrote an opera or whatever. It’s YouTube adjacent.”
HB: Actually, yes! I was finally brave enough to put like 50 minutes of it on YouTube. But Beth Fleenor is the star of the opera, which is about Ishtar, the goddess of sex and war. But anyway, once I started to write these down, it gets into all of these other interesting artistic issues of structure, and what do you want to have actually down on the page, versus what you don’t want to have down on the page. So, all of our pieces that we do together are a combination of stuff that is written down and stuff that is not written down. Actually, we have a piece where nothing is written down, Atmokinesis, where the only thing that’s written down is the code--
KS: Oh! but by the way--
KS: --As part of the Seattle International Dance Festival on June 15, Kin of the Moon, these three women, will be joining me for Atmokinesis. They’ll be performing that again, if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s a very cool piece, I’m excited to work on it.
HB: Do you know this word?
LF: I sure did look it up!
HB: It’s a superpower! It’s the psychic ability to control the weather, through invoking the elements. So it’s a journey through the elements, it’s kind of like climbing up out of the mud, and swimming through the Water, and dealing with Fire and Air, and finally going into this spiritual space of Ether. It’s really cool, and there are things that Kaley programmed, so that what happens with the signal we create is just really cool. And it’s a completely improvised piece.
LK: A 40 minute, completely improvised marathon.
HB: It’s a little exhausting to play, but it’s really--
KLE: It makes me feel guilty, because I’ve written these algorithms, so I just stand there. And they’re like--
KS: I’m gonna make you dance, Kaley.
LF: You just volunteered!
KLE: Lemme think about that. I always have these like 30 minutes to reflect on everything. And it’s so interesting, this idea that it’s completely improvised, it’s not notated, but then coding algorithms is like the most notated, hyper-exact thing you could ever have. Way more so than musical notation. But it’s coded in such a way that these algorithms then give them freedom to kind of exist. And that just --my brain is goin’ crazy right now, I’m like “That’s like what a plant is! Like, the seed has its algorithms and it grows, and like, nature is all just algorithms. Anyway, that’s just my brain, and doesn’t--
LF: Well you’ve got plant-related subject matter in Wilderness, right, so plants as a subject are not far from your brain
KLE: No, plants are everything to me, they are why we exist. Plants give us fire, they give us everything
KLE: I just think about plants a lot…
HB: Okay, I’m just gonna say something, because I’ve been thinking about #metoo a lot. And I’m not gonna say the whole impact that it had on me, because we all had a big impact, but one of the things-- you live with this thing now that’s been going on for some months, and you’ve got these more little layers of thoughts and inklings, and, for me, when I was a kid, I always did many, many, many things-and Leanna, I know that you’re like that, you do many, many, many things-- I did art, I did math competitions, I did so many things, and I kinda got into the music funnel. I’m a classical violist. I made my living playing the viola, which is a very hyper-specific instrument as well, and so I wasn’t doing all of the other stuff. And it’s not really the right choice for me. It’s way better, now that I’m composing, and creating our stuff together, and doing other things as well. So, this is this little idea that I’ve been trying on since #metoo--I should get a t-shirt, I want it so say “I’m a Genius Polymath.” And what’s so interesting to think this thought to myself is that, as a woman, my first inclination is to be like “Oh, well isn’t that presumptuous.” I don’t know if I am a genius polymath or not, but why not say it anyway? When I think about, like, how is it that I can compose music when I never took a composition class. There, I said it! But now I say to myself, “I can compose music, and I can learn anything I want, because I’m a genius polymath. I can learn anything that I want, because of that.” So that’s something to try on. Like, this next--I was asked to write a piece for the Thalia Symphony, and it’s going to be about the shape of the universe, which means I need to learn some astrophysics. And so I said to myself “I can learn that, because I’m a genius polymath.” So it’s like, what if women, and especially younger girls just had the sense that it was allowed to them, to say that about themselves, or just to have that self-knowledge. Then it takes a lot of ceilings away from one’s attitude.
[agreement from the room]
HB: but I will say, that Wayne Horvitz gave me a few composition lessons, and he told me a couple of things--well, he told me three things. He said “Heather, you don’t have to compose in a tonal way if you don’t want to”...and he said “don’t stop composing, so when you get started and you’ve got everything set up, just keep going and don’t interrupt yourself and go get a cup of tea or something like that, because you might not be able to pick up where you left off.” And then the third thing he said was “Learn a freaking notation software,” so I learned Sibelius.
KS: He’s so funny, I love him. After we did These Hills of Glory, we had coffee, tea, something or other, and I said “Y’know, I’m just curious about your process making that work.” and he’s like “Oh, you dancers and your process.” Yeah, he didn’t really answer the question. It was great. I loved it.
LK: By the way, before we leave this thought about the #metoo movement, I do want to say that the first piece on this concert that we’re doing on April 20th, the céilidh, has something to do with that.
KS: Is that Hildy? Is that the first one?
KLE: No, this one is really insane, it’s the céilidh, the Scottish jig. It’s called .22, which is both a kind of gun and an age that I was once. And it’s kind of crazy, and it links these two stories in my life together, one of them having to do with my #metoo moment, and another with having to shoot a .22. Luckily those things didn’t intersect. You don’t want to miss that piece: there’s a lot of pennywhistle style piccolo playing and Irish fiddling that go along with this story.
My thought about the #metoo movement was, we were talking about the learning of our name, Kin of the Moon and being exposed to this poem in the raining woods in my pajamas in Georgia. #metoo [the viral hashtag] happened at the same time, and seeing all these stories in my feed, and not really thinking much of it at the time, but also posting, y’know, Me Too--because of course, right? So this [indicating Kin of the Moon members] happened at exactly the same time, so there’s something there, some kind of empowerment. It seems to make sense.
LF: Well Karin, I wanted to give you the chance to sort of name check any mentors or collaborators that had an impact on you--a positive impact!
KS: Yeah, I can say a couple of moments. I’ll say the positive first: Hannah Wiley, at the University of Washington! I came from a heavy ballet background, and there are things in a young life that you can’t control, or who you grow up with, so there was a lack of love directed at myself, to say those words in the least way I can say at the moment. I can remember in particular one ballet class, her coming to me during Adagio and her saying “just do it like you’re making love.” So that was a transformational moment. She’s also really joyful, and a person in a ballet class, and has humor, and so that was a turning point for me. It was when I decided to commit. That time in my life, I had had a journey away from dance and back to dance, and away from dance, and back to dance. One of my #metoo moments unfortunately was with a male choreographer who was a pedophile sociopath who went to jail a year for [assaulting] a girl who was even younger than I was--God, I’ve never said that, out loud, to the public, but there you go. We need to start being open about the realities. But I had a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful opportunity to work with Molissa Fenley at Mills College (Lauren went to Mills College too) [Fenley is]--an amazing choreographer who fortunately had connection with Peter Boal, who danced one of her most famous works. It was a solo, to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. And I believe people accused her of being arrogant for creating this solo. She’s the most remarkable woman. Her work--gosh, after the Exxon oil spill, she created a work--she had injured her knee or something, it might’ve been dancing that solo--she created these floor dances. One of the dances was with, I think it was a Robert Long installation (I hope I have his name right), there were these rocks in a circle. The music was Gorecki’s Sorrowful Songs, the 3rd Symphony, and this entire dance was on the floor. She says she was considering the Exxon Valdez oil spill--the birds in particular--you can see it in her movements. I learned so much from her, about space. She made us study abstract expressionist artists, and then up into late 20th century, 21st century artists, and to really look at making dance from these different perspectives. We had to study an architect, I studied Mies van der Rohe. Anyway, it’s a process to get over the layers of shit that I think go even beyond our own lifetime, and for me, it was just that sense of having to do it right all the time, always having to be On, and having to be perfect. We were doing this amazing piece called Marble Halls, by Mark Morris at Mills College Repertory Dance Company. He’s very neoclassical, very precise choreography, choreographed to every beat, and very specific timing and movement, and I just biffed this moment, just totally f***ed it up, and was just devastated. She said something to me that has always stuck with me, which--I came offstage, and she saw I was pissed, and said “What’s up?” and she quoted Dave Brubeck. A quote about jazz music, and the spontaneity of the moment--basically, in so many words, that there are no accidents. So from then on out, that stuck with me, and, I always tell everybody, every dancer, with everything that I work on, that there are no accidents, there are no mistakes, there’s only being in the now. And maybe the choreography that I came up with was not supposed to happen. We’re now in this moment, in this performance, and it means to be alive, with each other. So that’s always stuck with me. I dunno if that’s really a Dave Brubeck quote, but it was really a beautiful, transformational moment. The other side I would say to that, though, I think maybe unlike you guys [indicating KotM]--it sounds like you had professors that were women, but you don’t have a lot of representation of women in composition.
KLE: Just one professor in my whole life [was a woman].
KS: So, unlike you guys, my lineage, in modern and postmodern dance was founded by women--amazing women, doing amazing things out for over a hundred years. But I would say that there weren’t really any mentors, any women that really wrapped their arms around me, or said “Hey, lemme show you the light, I care about you,” that sense of bringing you into the fold, and I think that probably, there’s just been such a battle and a fight to just exist, and be acknowledged, and to do our work. We’ve had to sort of do it in a way that was--I’ll just throw that word out there again-- the Patriarchy, doing it in a way that is anti-natural to the way it’s supposed to be. I think that’s a sad truth. I feel that I’ve been out on my own to figure out how to do this, and I wanted to acknowledge that.
KLE: I think that there’s a push, especially for women in artistic disciplines that are male-dominated, to teach. I love my teaching life, but I know that I was pushed to work with kids as a composer, probably because I’m a woman. Like “Oh, you can do this kids’ workshop, because you’re probably good with kids.” And this has been tricky for me, because I do love teaching, and I feel very strongly about teaching, but there’s always been a weird thing about how I’m being asked to teach, and who’s asking me to teach. More so earlier in my life--now I feel like I have some agency there, and am kind of able to--
KS: Doctor Kaley--She’s a Doctor now.
KLE: Right! But I think this might be a thing with mentorship: women who have achieved a certain level of maybe being able to be a mentor, to have learned all these things, and can share that knowledge--if they’re too nurturing, or too maternal in a mentoring role, in some way, there’s a fear that doing that takes away from your credibility.
KS: Your legitimacy, your gravitas
KLE: And I just fight against that, because I want nothing more than to mentor young women, because it’s so important. But it’s tricky, it’s tricky. I’m in an interesting spot with my age and my career where I can still do that, feeling what I imagine is a tug of people who are established, and maybe just want to be established as artists, and not have teaching or pedagogy play as big of a role in their lives as it kind of has to now (I mean, financially) but I love it, so it’s fine. Luckily. But I think about that a lot, about the availability of female mentors. There’s something else going on there.
KS: That’s interesting--when you were talking, I was reminded of--so I have three daughters. And Kaley is a badass mentor (she teaches my 16 year old by the way), but the Eat, Pray, Love author was being interviewed for one of her novels that came out after Eat, Pray, Love, and it was with Terry Gross, I believe. She made a comment, y’know, the question of not having children--which I’m totally in support of people not having children...but she said “I wanted to choose a life of the mind.” And, I’ve always recognized that I’m a very intellectual person. That’s something that I’m hungry for, and, I just found that so sad, to think that the life of the mind and intellect, and that sense of, y’know, “kin of the moon”, that they can’t coexist.
HB: I think there’s a huge area of regret for many mothers, that they gave something up when they had kids--
KS: Some did
HB: --that feeling that they’d like to go back in time once the kids are grown up, and kind of start with those activities again. And I think this is a damaging thought that our society feeds. We need to work toward the possibility that women, as they are raising children, are also full adults who have agency and creativity and work--important work, whatever the nature of it is--and that that needs to be supported, and that these things can coexist. Moving forward that needs to not be a thing anymore, that thing of “Oh, you have a kid, maybe this isn’t the residency for you.” or “Oh, you have a kid, maybe we won’t invite that person to do this particular project,” from that side, but also from that side, if you do have children you’re like “Maybe I’m not gonna pursue this” or “maybe I can never do this.” I mean obviously, we have to adapt to the pressures in our lives, but this thought of like, “I have to wait until the kids or out of the house” or whatnot, this should not be part of our thinking anymore.
LK: I do wanna mention that this does seem rather tangential to what we are as a group, and the kind of performances that we do, but to be honest, this is very integral to what we do. The whole gender spectrum, and feminine identity, and these kinds of ideas, across age differences. Kaley, and myself and Heather, we span a rather different amount of time, and so have very different perspectives between the three of us. So all of these ideas are stuff that, when we sit down and talk and start to make music together, we’re like, “What do we want to talk about in our music, what do we want to get across?” so a lot of this is all what you’ll hear.
LF: That’s awesome. Thank you guys so much for sharing everything that you’ve shared, and for talking with me today. This has been really awesome, so thank you all so so much. Real quick, projects we want to plug for the future, projects we wanna tell the world about?
KLE: So many!
HB: We have another show for Kin of the Moon, that’s June 16th, with the amazing Renee Baker. We commissioned her work, it’s gonna be called Tiaga: Divine Life Suite, it’s a full concert-length work, and we have two guest artists who are performing, Gretchen Yanover on cello and Greg Campbell on percussion and french horn--crazy doubling. So that’s gonna be at Good Shepherd Center at 8:00. And, Renee Baker IS a genius polymath! She makes films, she does all these things--the Seattle Public Library is presenting two of her films that she has created original scores for, and has recorded with her group, the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project. This is being co-sponsored by the NW Film Forum on Thursday June 16th at 6:30 in the Microsoft auditorium in the main library. That’s gonna be un-freaking-believable.
KS: What a weekend!
LK: So, the 14th we have the film showing, the 15th is Atmokinesis, and the 16th is the grand finale of all this.
KLE: And then next fall--
LF: Lily’s going to be remounted!
KSD: On April 14th, we’re doing National Water Dance. I have a whole choir of movers, all different levels and styles, and we’ll be moving through Carkeek Park for National Water Dance on the 14th at 1:00pm, and then April and June, and then October 11th-14th at Erickson Theater, Karin Stevens Dance will be producing a work, Lily, by Kaley, and also a new work, Lung, by Kaley, and all of Kin of the Moon will be performing alongside a couple of other fabulous musicians. Two musicians are coming up from LA, Strange Interlude!
KLE: Strange Interlude! Lily Press, Simon Linn-Gerstein, harp and cello! It’s gonna be a big party!
LF: That’s wonderful! Otherwise, we’ll see you guys on the 20th at Good Shepherd!
KS: And thank you, Second Inversion!
LF: Yes! Thank you! And thank you everyone for watching!