(Photo: Aleksandr Karjaka)
Soprano Amanda DeBoer Bartlett and guitarist Jesse Langen joined forces in 2013 to form Hasco Duo, and have been commissioning, performing, and recording at a breakneck speed ever since. As part of Dal Niente’s 10th Anniversary Season, Hasco Duo will perform twice this Fall- first representing Dal Niente at the New Music Chicago 10th Anniversary Birthday Bash on September 11, and in a full length Dal Niente Presents program on September 14 at The Hideout.
We asked Amanda a few questions about the ensemble’s history and a preview of what to expect on September 14:
Q: How long has Hasco Duo been together? What was the inspiration that led you to form the ensemble?
A: Our first duo show was a Dal Niente Presents show at the Empty Bottle May 2013, which was part of a series called (Un)Familiar music run by Doyle Armbrust. It was originally supposed to be a solo show for Jesse, but after working together on Aaron Einbond's Without Words, we decided to collaborate. We commissioned 7 new pieces for the show; it was quite an undertaking! After that, we played shows together sporadically in Chicago and Omaha, but it wasn't until we put together our first improvised show at the Experimental Sound Studio in the Fall of 2014 that we came up with the name - a respelling of the word chaos - and started recording our first album.
Q: How many new works has Hasco Duo commissioned or premiered? What's your approach to programming a concert that features both older and brand new works?
A: Our approach to programming is very intuitive and impulsive. Half of our output is improvised, and we're always devising new schemes and material on our own or with collaborators. We've also commissioned music from Marcos Balter, Eliza Brown, Ray Evanoff, Fred Gifford, Morgan Krauss, Max Grafe, Jonn Sokol, Ravi Kittappa, and Chris Fisher-Lochhead. We haven't played much older music, although Jesse made some pretty stellar arrangements of DuFay songs for the Mathias Spahlinger festival "there is no repetition" back in March.
Q: What have been some of your most memorable past performances?
A: Our first show as Hasco Duo at the Experimental Sound Studio last Fall was very formative. It was our first improvised show, and we honestly didn't know if it would work. We sort of shot in the dark during the whole process, which was exciting. For that show, we mixed in some of our commissions alongside improvisation and tried to create a narrative for the material. During one piece, I was just laughing the entire time and Jesse was trying to do something very serious. The combination was a little absurd, and the audience was laughing along with me. I remember loving that moment and feeling like we had accomplished something since people were reacting to the performance. I loved that people felt comfortable enough to laugh along with us.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming program on 9/14 at the Hideout. What are some things that audiences can look forward to?
A: We've commissioned new pieces from Ray Evanoff, Morgan Krauss, Max Grafe, and Jonn Sokol for the show, and will be interspersing our own work in the mix. Ray's music is very active and demanding, layering complicated vocal and guitar techniques to create completely novel textures and sounds. Morgan's music, like Ray's, can be very physically demanding, but she creates worlds of repetition with subtle perturbation and fluctuation. Jonn Sokol's piece uses rules from the Magic the Gathering card game and text from one of my favorite books, The Prairie and the Sea by William Quayle. I'm not sure a piece has ever been written more suitably to Hasco's interests! And finally, Max collaborated with a poet friend to create a piece which takes the perspective of the first Mars colonizers.
I absolutely love this program! All of the composers involved are long-time friends and collaborators, and it really shows in the pieces they created. Morgan and Ray were both part of our first project at the Empty Bottle, so it's very meaningful to work with them again as the ensemble continues to develop. Max and Jonn's music is so beautiful, and I want to hear more of it performed in Chicago.
Don’t miss Hasco Duo at The Hideout on September 14 at 8:00 PM.