Issue Project Room:
Thursday, January 26th, 8pm ET, ISSUE opens its 2023 season with an expansive gathering of improvising musicians with idiomatic approaches traversing guitar, percussion, voice, violin, trumpet, electronics, and more. Featuring an intersecting cohort across experimental improvisation, the evening welcomes back Bhutanese guitarist and improviser Tashi Dorji collaborating with multiinstrumentalist Alex Zhang Hungtai, the recent duo between artist, improviser, and composer C. Spencer Yeh and musician Kwami Winfield, and a solo performance from performer, composer and sound designer Ka Baird.
Ka Baird’s recent solo performances can be described as dancing somewhere in the undefined margins of experimental sound, performance art, and humor. Exploring extended voice and microphone techniques along with flute, electronic music and their rigorous physicality, Baird’s recent solo practice has evolved into a style all their own.
Bearings is a solo piece commissioned for Lampo's 10 X 20 foot office space series. A special unfolding of performances tailored for one, two, three or four audience members over the course of two evenings, the piece creates a series of sonic encounters that develops over time in relationship to the limited space and the number of people in attendance. Using multiple sound sources in different locations within the space, Bearings plays with perception and presence through voice, electronics, flutes, and shifts of location and light. Sound and source are obscured through a fracturing and dispersal of the voice as well as various antics using the microphone itself as sound source.
Hungry Shells, the seventeenth entry in RVNG Intl.’s intergenerational collaborations series FRKWYS, brings together vocalist,multi-instrumentalist, and sound artist Ka Baird with avant-garde composer and radical performance art pioneer Pekka Airaksinen. Recorded six months before Pekka’s passing, Hungry Shells alchemizes separate but similar spiritualistic practices, canvassing Baird’s voice and synthesizer rituals and Airaksinen’s lysergic sound explorations into startling, surreal landscapes.
Pekka Airaksinen, who left this realm for another in May 2019, is recognized as a pioneering composer both in and outside his native Finland’s fringe art community. A founding member of the late 60s art and music collective The Sperm, Airaksinen discovered Buddhism in the early 1970s, eventually establishing a number of meditation centers around Finland. Throughout his career Airaksinen embraced a degree of obscurity and anonymity that was inspired by his Buddhist learnings, and afforded him complete creative freedom. As he explained, “The less success you have, the more time there is to develop things.”
Ka Baird, who found her musical footing in Chicago playing in Spires That In The Sunset Rise before moving to New York to pursue her solo career, has developed a practice based in forms of active and engaged embodiment. Inspired by Charlemagne Palestine’s Body Music, Baird’s performances explore physical extremes as a catalyst for charged immediacy and presence. “I’m interested in the places between precision and something unrestrained,” she told The Wire in 2019. Drawing on minimalism’s ecstatic deployment of duration and endurance, her recordings explore the outer limit sounds of her voice and its synthesis with developing music technology.
Airaksinen and Baird convened in Utrecht in the fall of 2018 to write, rehearse, and record Hungry Shells ahead of a performance at the Dutch festival institution Le Guess Who? Sessions took place between contemplative walks along the city’s medieval canals, and, for Airaksinen, lengthy meditations in his hotel room. Early on in the trip, Pekka shared ODO with Ka, a collection of Buddhist parables that he divinely received while meditating. After translating several of these texts from Finnish to English the duo used them as text for the album, and a sort of psychic foundation.
On Hungry Shells, Airaksinen and Baird embrace the creative potential within ritualistic or meditative states. Manifesting as stylistic touchstones from both artists’ oeuvre and, ultimately, an innovative discourse, the artists’ voices thread like a golden, mystical rope throughout the album. This merging of musical voices creates the character of this collaboration: a limitless form without ego, dismantling our frame of reality to reveal a portrait of true peace. Hungry Shells adds one last, unique hue to Airaksinen’s spectral, unconventional fifty year discography, and sets a stage for Baird to preserve her mentor and collaborator’s legacy and promote the concept that transformation truly defies time.
Ka Baird and Pekka Airaksinen’s Hungry Shells, FRKWYS Vol. 17, will be released in vinyl and digital editions on October 22, 2021. Mastered by Rashad Becker, the album features an artist essay from Baird, and poetry and cover artwork from Airaksinen. On behalf of Ka and Pekka’s estate, a portion of the proceeds from this release will benefit Nepal Art House, a non-profit art school that provides free art and cultural education to Nepalese children who have limited resources and opportunities.
Monday, June 21, 2021. 8:00 pm
Multi-instrumentalist and performer Ka Baird returns to Roulette (NYC) on the Summer Solstice to present Proximity Exercises—a new work utilizing voice, flutes, electronics, field recordings, installation, and movement. The piece explores relations of proximity and perspective, acoustic density, and physical distancing.
Ka Baird: voice, flutes, recorder, electronics, composition
Aliya Ultan: cello
Lester St. Louis: cello
Ryan Sawyer: percussion
Max Eilbacher: acoustic processing
LONGFORM EDITIONS releases "Brooding Exercises I (Second Movement)"
This recording is from a performance that was filmed on my Greenpoint Brooklyn studio rooftop at sunset on October 9, 2020 for The Kitchen's (NYC) On Screen series. The piece was timed to capture the eclipse of the day’s light, incorporating peaked ambient sounds of the outdoors environment and cityscape; a contact mic’d ground surface; and closed-off, direct input sounds from voice, electronics, and digital piano. My contribution to the Longform Editions is the second movement of this performance where I play plodding piano chords as the sun eclipses. The piece can be divided into five distinct Broods, with electronics and field recordings at time of shoot bridging the five parts together. The electronics were provided by Baltimore intermedia artist Max Eilbacher, who mostly processed and synthesised the sounds of the digital piano to create textures and drones.
The piece felt “of the times”, in a time of great suspension and uncertainty, especially in the US in October. Not only were we facing a long winter of the pandemic but also an election that seemed of absolute urgency and importance. The external world seemed to be in such a precarious place. My best and only defence was to slow down and listen. I am hovering here on the unknown, needing to meditate on the spaces between notes more than ever.
Listening is a portal that keeps opening up further portals. In other words, the more you listen the more you realise how much there is to listen to. Listening is political, a way of making space. Over time, we create habits and patterns of action and thought that block out certain stimuli from the outside. Deep listening or concentrated listening is a way of opening that back up, a technique for meditation and dissolving the separation between the self and its environment. It goes in with open ears, leaving judgments of right or wrong or any other types of qualitative descriptions in suspension. It is to encounter that sound as if for the first time.
released February 15, 2021
Ka Baird with Camilla Padgitt-Coles: Ictum Exercises (Polyrhythmic Studies) is an audiovisual performance that takes a single randomized pattern through several permutations using electronics, recorder, breath and voice overlaid with sound reactive color fields and pulses by multimedia artist Camilla Padgitt-Coles. This piece was commissioned for the December 2020 Experimental Intermedia series curated by Phill Niblock. Although usually a live performance in the space, this year's series was online due to the pandemic.
Ka Baird’s Vivification Exercises, a recording for piano, voice, and electronics that references an invigorated consciousness, is primarily based on a presentation at Roulette’s Brooklyn theater in May of 2018. The event added to Baird’s history of performances that embrace the physical and visceral, though the musical, provocative sounds this time exorcised from both her body and the piano’s.
When an artist commits mind, body, and the elusive rules of instinct to their practice, there are risks and consequences with the promise of reward and transformation. As the five sections of Vivification Exercises are revealed, patterns unfold and fold over, and the experience is like watching a split screen of both speed chess and slow motion origami with insistent non-verbal vocals evoking an underpinning fantasy or conspiracy.
Baird approaches the piano like the grooming of a sleeping beast in need of unknotting, literally pulling fur from the piano keys. And yet there is a breeze blowing through it all, as electronic weather drifts over and under the sound of the piano, seeps through the cracks, and gently tickles without threatening. If not musical magic, Vivification Exercises is a musical truth.
The Kitchen (NYC) OnScreen: Ka Baird with Max Eilbacher: The Brooding Exercises
Ka Baird presents a new video work entitled The Brooding Exercises with Max Eilbacher, filmed outside at an undisclosed Brooklyn location. In part a response to their piece "Vivification Exercises II" that was meant to be presented at The Kitchen the first weekend of April 2020 and cancelled in response to COVID-19, this new video work airs on The Kitchen OnScreen, Sunday, October 18, at 5:26pm EDT. The video will remain available to watch on The Kitchen OnScreen following the premiere.
Curated by Matthew Lyons.
Premieres on The Kitchen OnScreen, Sunday, October 18, 5:26pm EDT
Ka Baird with Max Eilbacher: The Brooding Exercises is made possible with endowment support from Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust; annual grants from The Amphion Foundation, Inc., The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Howard Gilman Foundation, and The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation; and in part by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Curated by Jonathon Williger for Chicago's Experimental Sound Studio's Quarantine Concerts, Ka Baird presents "The Florian Exercises," a tribute to legendary Kraftwerk founder and flautist Florian Schneider.
Various Artists presents: Ka Baird w Chris Corsano "Kinematics"
V/A006: KA BAIRD with CHRIS CORSANO: KINEMATICS (7")
Edition of 100
Hand cut 7" Mono lathe recording on lacquer with laser etching.
Full color archival pigment print sleeve. Buy HERE
Kinematics is the explosive first time collaboration between multi instrumentalist Ka Baird and percussionist Chris Corsano. Side A, Ordinate, is a frenetic weave of bamboo reed pipe, bubbling vocal utterances and drums, sounding much like a cart-full of shimmering dodos on the loose with the wheels flying off. Side B, Abscissa, is a more focused beating drone that mixes layered tones from an Asian battery operated tone generator (used to practice scales) with slide clarinet and homemade timpani-snare.
Respires, the second solo album by Ka Baird, blurs the line between word and action, definition and possibility. Spirited yet restrained, bearing its wildly thrummed heart strings and inner calm alike, Respires ventures toward the unknown, charting the shifting ground of experimental music and the rewards born of risk.
Tapping the ecstatic energy and cathartic experience of Baird’s live sets, pushing the extremes of psychological and physical release, Respires represents an unquestionable leap for an artist already out on a limb. Largely written and recorded across the length of 2018, the eight pieces align as a series of visceral actions, captured, culled, and intricately shaped by Baird, then expanded with contributions from Zach Rowden (bass), Max Eilbacher and Andrew Fitzpatrick (synths), and Greg Fox (drums).
Respires was born from the intertwined etymologies of spirit and breath, the results of Baird’s singular approach to extended vocal technique and radical notions of “body music” which push her performances to uncompromising extremes. Channeling a raw energy from an internal depth, the genetics of Respires construct new bridges of communication, reaching across the perceptual boundaries of spiritual and physical.
Informed by indigenous, sacred flute music of New Guinea and vocal music of Burundi, Can, Maryanne Amacher, Don Cherry’s Organic Music Society, and Chaitanya Hari’s Kundalini Meditation Music, and driven by a fearless quest for musical discovery, Respires offers a glimpse into a sacred space of the musical avant-garde.
From the unusual folk music of Spires That In The Sunset Rise, to her many collaborative and solo efforts, Baird’s careful artistry and years of experimental exploration, placed in connection with the raw power unleashed by the body, lungs, and reeds, represents an intersection of possible futures on Respires. Tapping the primitive, immediate, unnameable, and fundamentally human, it’s an album which proves the impossibility of failure, when the risk of failure is embraced.
An answer - or continuation of - Joan la Barbara’s long standing indication of the voice as “original instrument,” Respires is spirit, movement, and an immersive life force manifested as sound. A sound in which the self is lost, and becomes something universal.