By Amanda DeBoer Bartlett, Soprano
The first time I toured with Dal Niente to California, during the late winter of 2014, we stayed at the Hotel California in Palo Alto. We were in residence at Stanford University, workshopping new pieces by the PhD candidates, and they had graciously scheduled us plenty of down time during the week. The snow hadn’t melted in Chicago, so Palo Alto felt luxurious at 70 degrees. At night, after finishing rehearsals, we would sit out on the roof of the Hotel California telling stories, sharing beers, and talking about how strange our little niche of the music industry is. On that tour, I remember finally getting to know Mark Buchner, Dal Niente bassist, and Andrew Nogal, our oboist, even though we’d been in the group together for a while. I remember working with composer Jessie Marino on a piece for solo voice and electronics that is now one of my favorite solos to perform. I remember composer Kurt Isaacson sharing a bottle of Fernet Branca with us while we told ghost stories. Honestly, it felt like Dal Niente Summer Camp.
While prepping for another California tour next week, I am amazed by how much has changed for Dal Niente during the past two seasons. We welcomed a new executive director, harpist Ben Melsky, who is so infectiously cool and uplifting that I swear the ensemble floats while he’s in the room. We released a rad chamber pop album with Marcos Balter and Greg Saunier of Deerhoof. We added new members, took some slick photos with Aleksandr Karjaka, threw a sweet party in our own space, recorded some astounding music by George Lewis. It’s been intense.
Through all the changes, though, this still feels like the group I want to hang out with after a long day of rehearsals. Not only do we all share the same passion for realizing impossible music and mastering our craft, we share a vision for the world that embraces complexity and ambiguity with excitement. Plus, these people have great taste in beer.
Next week, during our California tour, we’ll be playing rock-solid music by Katherine Young, Greg Saunier, Natacha Diels, Raphaël Cendo, Stephan Prins, Giacinto Scelsi, and Franco Donatoni. It’ll feel like a Dal Niente Greatest Hits Tour because these pieces are so ingrained in our aesthetic identity, and we’ve studied these particular pieces and composers for years. But, it will also feel completely fresh, since this will be a new crowd away from our home turf of Chicago. I’m particularly excited to check out the student composer pieces we'll be workshopping at USC. I love seeing what the next generation of composers is up to.
If you’re in the Los Angeles area, we look forward to sharing some beautiful music with you!