Tellus-Circe 005 David Simons/Lisa Karrer: The Birth Of George

A communal dream of comatose patients unconsciously acting out their fantasies, the opera quickly becomes the story of a strange vaudevillian family. George, our protagonist is a “Johnny Appleseed” of the subconscious. Structured loosely on “UBIK”, by Philip K. Dick, no one knows if they’re dead or alive. As the characters are pulled towards consciousness by doctors and loved ones they catch glimpses of the mysterious forces that maintain their shared apparent reality…until a crisis causes their assumptions to disintegrate, revealing the tragic truth of their situations.

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David Simons and Lisa Karrer began creating their opera “The Birth of George” in 1995. They received funding from the Mary Flagler Cary Trust, the Jerome Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation and the Aaron Copland Fund to compose, develop, perform and record it. Sponsored by Harvestworks and American Opera Projects, The Birth of George had its workshop premier at LaMama in ’97. The CD was released in 2003 under Harvestworks TELLUS label. David and Lisa also perform their own compositions for Indonesian Gamelan, Homemade Instruments, Asian and Western ensembles, voice and electromics, and arrangements of other deconstructed world musics. They’ve performed their works in New York, Kansas, Hawaii, Indonesia, and throughout Eastern and Western Europe.

Lisa Karrer works internationally as a composer, vocalist, director and performance artist. She sings in a variety of languages, including Estonian, Native American, Serbo-Croatian, Indonesian and Yiddish. Lisa collaborates, records and performs with artists and ensembles such as Tan Dun, Muna Tseng, David First, Thomas Buckner, Theodora Skipitares, Margaret Leng Tan, Joshua Fried, Jerome Kitzke and Tony Prabowa’s New Jakarta Ensemble; and with David Simons, Douglas Dunn, Denman Maroney, Gamelan Son of Lion and Music For Homemade Instruments, for whom she also composes. Lisa produced the CD’s “Pick of the Litter”(2000) by Music For Homemade Instruments, and Gamelan Son of Lion’s “Bending the Gending”(2002). Awards include a1990 NEA Emerging Artists Grant; two ArtsLink Collaborative Project Grants from the NEA/Soros Foundation and an Arts International grant to further her collaborative projects in Estonia; ’96 Harvestworks Programming Residency; 2003 Arts International grant to tour with Gamelan Son of Lion, and various Meet The Composer Awards. Her most recent opera project “The Simurgh” is based on the writings of South African novelist Olive Schreiner and features additional text by the novelist Doris Lessing. “The Simurgh” will premier in concert in 2004, hosted by American Opera Projects. Currently Lisa is developing “Woman’s Song: The Story of Roro Mendut”, a multi-arts music theater project based on a 17th Century Javanese legend. “Woman’s Song…” is a collaboration with visual artists Kate Yourke and Jenny Lynn McNutt, and features Gamelan Son of Lion ensemble, Balinese and Javanese dance and mask, martial arts, stilt performer and contemporary wayang kulit shadow puppets. “Woman’s Song…” will premier at the Kitchen in October 2003 with funding from the Greenwall Foundation, in co-production with the World Music Institute.

David Simons is a composer/performer specializing in percussion, Theremin, digital electronics, and World Music. He has recorded and toured internationally with his own ensembles, and with Gamelan Son of Lion, Music for Homemade Instruments, the Korean percussion group Samul Nori, choreographer Sin Cha Hong, Estonian band Perception Unit, Shelley Hirsch, Samm Bennett, Lisa Karrer, Denman Maroney, and many others. Simons has composed scores for dance, film, theater, installations, and concert ensembles. He has received numerous awards and grants, most recently a 2003 Rockefeller Foundation residency at Bellagio, Italy to compose music for Newband and its Harry Partch instruments. The American Composers Forum commissioned David in ’98 to write Music for Theremin and Gamelan, and Arts International and Asian Cultural Council grants brought this work to the Sacred Rhythm Percussion Festival in Bali for the millennium( 2000). David was awarded two NY Foundation for the Arts Composition Fellowship (’90, 2000); Harvestworks Artist-In-Residence (’95,’89); Canada Council Visiting Foreign Artist (’92) for sound installation at Art Metropole in Toronto; Composer-in-Residence at American Dance Festival (’91); ASCAP Special Awards (1987-02); and several Meet the Composer commissions. In collaboration with Lisa Karrer, David has received Artslink and Arts International awards for projects in Estonia (95-03). Other recordings include PRISMATIC HEARING Tzadik ’04; BENDING THE GENDING Gamelan Son Of Lion ’02; PICK OF THE LITTER, Music For Homemade Instruments ’00; FLIGHT OF WHISPERS, Jason Kao Hwang CRI ’99; FIELDS AMAZE, Patrick Grant ’97; NEW GAMELAN NEW YORK, Son Of Lion ’95; GOD IS MY CO-PILOT, Knitting Factory Works ’93 ; CHUNK/LIVE AT THE KNITTING FACTORY VOL.2, A&M Records ’89; A DECADE OF DEBRIS, Music For Homemade Instruments ’89; SHELLEY HIRSCH / SINGING, Apollo Records Holland ’88; and SHORTWAVE/ KURZWELLEN by Stockhausen with the Negative Band, Finnadar ’76. David’s writings on music and sound are published in EAR Magazine and Radiotexte (Semiotexte ’94).

Review excerpts

“The duo Lisa Karrer and David Simons was joined by Tunnetusuksus, and together they played an
unbelieveably exciting and mind bending set”
Mart Jaanson, Eesti Paevaleht (Estonia) ’95

” The interacting relationships between voice, instruments and text create really bizarre effects… With the wink of an eye the duo sends up musical and literary genres. One of the highlights was ‘the language of frogs’ (Four Kotekan); with wooden sticks and bamboo mouth instruments they created a croaking tone, slapping their knees and stalking through the delighted audience”
Mainzer Rhein Zeitung,(Germany) October ’95

“The Simons-Karrer Band has abducted the audience on an eccentric journey to understanding their musical landscapes. Their music is highly original and can’t be imitated…”
St. Johan, Austria December 1998

“Before the peak of the program, the musicians presented Virtual Percussion Trio, in which the sound of the Theremin, voice and viola became one kind of contemporary music which was very integrated. The long applause that followed the end of the performance was a clear sign of the enjoyment of the audience. Bravo!”
Ketiga, 21 January 2000 Jakarta

“Simons is redefining what most of us consider a musical experience”
Jay Hartwell, Honolulu Advertiser Jan ’85

“A shimmering, foreboding electronic score.”
Jennifer Dunning, New York Times June ’86

“A purity of utterance…Lisa Karrer’s music might serve as the soundtrack for profound, inner experience.” Tobi Tobias, Village Voice ’92

“Lisa Karrer conjured up a Peter Maxian (non-evil) axis bold as love.”
Eva Yaa Asantewaa Village Voice 2002

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