Viscera Dimension

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  • Date: January 25, 2023 Wed
  • Time: 7:30 pm
  • Location: Hough Hall
  • Tickets: $25

For one evening, one point in time, one nexus of space, the convergence and opening of dimensions simultaneously — The Palladium is transformed into a place of sound and movement experimentation designed by new renaissance artist The Honourable Elizabeth A. Baker and interdisciplinary artist Jinghong Zhang, alongside local Tampa Bay and Sarasota artists John C. O’Leary, III, Tihda Vongkoth, Melanie Lavender, and Kristopher James blending poetry and music.

This evening involves immersive performances of sound, poetry, and visuals. It incorporates one-of-a-kind musical instruments, the “Heaven and Earth” designed and played by Jinghong Zhang as well as “Black Moon Lilith” a double-sided non-resonant amplified zither designed by John C. L. Jansen and played by The Honourable Elizabeth A. Baker. Elizabeth pairs her unique instrument with a veritable spaceship incorporating multiple computers and semi-modular analog synths. Jinghong pairs his instrument with movement and interactive technologies.

The power of language with collaborative influence as a thread in the sonic world takes stage with original poetry by Melanie Lavender and Kristopher James, alongside music by Yamaha Artist John C. O. Leary, III (piano/synth) of La Lucha and Tihda Vongkoth (percussion) of Modern Marimba.

For one evening, one point in time, one nexus of space, the convergence and opening of dimensions simultaneously Viscera Dimension opens.

  • The Honourable Elizabeth A. Baker

Artist Biographies

Jinghong Zhang is an innovator, multi-media electroacoustic music performer, and composer of Chinese origin. As a multi-instrument virtuoso and a unique dancer who frequently expands creative expression through the use of technology, Jinghong is a dynamic and sensitive performer with the ability to evoke profound emotion. Jinghong’s collaborations encompass a wide range of live performance with interactive electronics, orchestra and interdisciplinary presentations throughout the United States and overseas. Bold, adventurous with extraordinary passion for  bringing something unprecedented and groundbreaking through multimedia music to the performance art world, is Jinghong’s primary artistic ambition.

Tihda Vongkoth (she/her) identifies as a Lao, cisgender, non-disabled, questioning nonbinary woman and a member of the Lao diaspora. She is middle class, a partner, a dog/plant/fish/turtle parent, a sister, a daughter, a friend, and a neighbor. Tihda co-owns land as a settler in Sarasota, a territory of Calusa on Turtle Island. She speaks standard American English but grew up listening to others speak Lao English and AAVE. Her worldview growing up was Theravada Buddhist and Protestant, but she is currently agnostic. Tihda is U.S. college educated and grew up in a poor, single-mother family with heteronormative, assimilationist values. She is currently studying the Lao language and arranging Lao classical music.

Tihda's approach to music post-2020 is to nurture musical partnerships based on mutual consent and accountability; hopefully, these are steps toward dismantling systems of oppression. Modern Marimba was created in 2019. She loved playing marimba in high school and college, but there were only a few opportunities to hear mallet percussion music outside of academia. After realizing a need for curating performances and educational programs by and for BIPOC, Queers, and women/femmes, she organized a house concert for her neighbors, friends, and the general public.

Understanding the impact Modern Marimba had on the ability to connect and unite people all around the world during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tihda realized she needed a partner to help move the mission forward toward a concert series. She reached out to composer and performer Steph Davis, a marimbist from Orlando/Boston, who was supportive and excited to join Modern Marimba as a co-founder. From these humble beginnings, Modern Marimba has since collaborated with local Sarasota organizations such as The Newtown Nation, Westcoast Black Theater Troupe, WSLR-Fogartyville, FabAF Foundation, Manasota Anti-Racism Coalition, ALSO Youth, WEDU PBS, Community Foundation of Sarasota, the Patterson Foundation, The Bay Sarasota and Sarasota Music Conservatory.

As a performer, Tihda has appeared as a marimba soloist with the United States Air Force Band, The Florida Orchestra, and the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra. As a percussionist she has performed at the Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí (parading on caixa with Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Unidos de Vila Isabel), the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Breckenridge Music Festival, Eastern Music Festival and Brevard Music Festival. She recently recorded marimba on ‘Arise – Choral Music of Ola Gjeilo’ with the Key Chorale of Sarasota and appears on ‘Symphony No. 1’ by Thomas Sleeper on Albany Records. Tihda has performed as a guest orchestral percussionist with The Florida Orchestra, Orlando Philharmonic, Sarasota Orchestra, Naples Philharmonic, Opera Tampa, St. Petersburg Opera, and Jacksonville Symphony. She has also performed with many local performing arts organizations in Sarasota such as the Sarasota Ballet and the Choral Artists of Sarasota.

Tihda is committed to music education as a path for healing and liberation. She hopes to cultivate a sense of curiosity, literacy in multiple musical languages, and a lifelong respect for music communities. Tihda has presented educational clinics at Kutztown University, the University of South Florida, 9no Encuentro de Ensambles de Percusión, and presented clinics to K-12 students in Pinellas and Sarasota County Schools.  Tihda attended the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, Florida, Interlochen Arts Academy, and has advanced degrees in music performance from Southern Methodist University and Temple University.

With a rich and complex cultural background, John C. O’Leary III—the son of an American father and a Mexican mother—writes music that harbors an idiosyncratic and poetic dichotomy. John was born in the Yucatan peninsula and raised in Cholula and Merida where he started piano lessons at age three. He left everything behind to come to America at twelve years old, where he’s built an impressive resume, including a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of South Florida College of Medicine.

John is the recipient of the Ruth L. Kirschstein F31 predoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke. He has recorded extensively with La Lucha, and  as a solo artist and sideman. John has performed with Randy Brecker, Dick Hyman, Houston Person, Melissa Aldana, Camila Meza, Wycliffe Gordon, Adrian Cunningham, Jason Marsalis, Charles McPherson, Russell Malone, Ken Peplowski, Diego Figueiredo, Chuck Redd, Marty Morell, Jeff Rupert, Shaun Martin, The Florida Orchestra, and many more.

John’s latest solo album and debut for Arbors Records, The Sundering, opens listeners up to all that makes humans vulnerable. It offers a glimpse into the main character’s life scenes that evoke moments full of emotion: memories of childhood, snapshots of joy, of nostalgia, separation, friendship, existential ponderings, and at times confusion and doubt. Ultimately the resolution of internal conflict helps find that place where we can sit still.

“The overall collection of songs creates an exploration of resilience, of putting oneself together after facing hardships, and of feeling like a stranger in an unfamiliar land. The uncertainty but also the grit from someone who leaves everything behind to start a new life somewhere else is felt throughout the music,” -Camila Meza.

The Sundering features stellar collaborations with pianist Shaun Martin, of Snarky Puppy, and jazz legend Dick Hyman on four of the tracks, which celebrate friendship and human connection. The choice of piano duets is fresh and pays homage to the early years of John’s life in America when he listened to Marian McPartland’s famous radio program Piano Jazz falling in love with the sound of improvisation. Bringing to the table an original piece from each of the guests, “Focus” by Martin and “Samba Jelly” by Hyman—the latter was specifically written for the album—the compositions take flight as playful conversations. The improvisations adhere to the spirit of the album: taking risks, conveying urgency, and welcoming the unknown. Shaun Martin also produced the album.

John is a Yamaha Artist and plays Yamaha pianos exclusively.

Melanie Lavender is a Spoken Word artist and a proud Sarasota native. Educated in the Sarasota County school system and Newtown community, Melanie is a wife, mother, and a Podcast/Radio host of Soul of Tha Matter at 107.5 The Vibe and Community Conversations with Mel at WSLR 96.5 FM. The Chaotic Beauty of life influences Melanie to write and work to change her life and community. By using her soulful melodic voice to capture the attention of the audience. Melanie has recited at Selby Botanical Gardens, Manatee Performing Art Center, nightclubs, art galleries, and a featured artist on Greater Sarasota WEDU PBS. Writing “Psalms of The Elusive Black Housewife,” Melanie found a way to transform anxiety and depression into poetry and community activism. This mother, wife, and author chose not to give up but to use the skills taught to her by her elders to keep moving and transform that energy into creativity.

A Florida born Americana/Soul songwriter and performer, Kristopher James, can synchronously transition from crooningly elegant falsetto to soaring soulful bellows – as his vocals and melody shine in the spotlight of the stage.

In 2019, Kristopher released his genre-arching full length, “Kindness Never Quits”, that rooted him as one of the most soulful voices in the South East – ushering him into position, to support acts, such as Marc Broussard, David Ryan Harris, Laura Reed, Kyshona Armstrong and so many more.

Through 2020 & 2021, with humble allure, capacity and persistence, the Tampa Bay native put the communal angst and uncertainty, into supporting furloughed musicians and recording – releasing 2 lauded singles “Never Had To Find Our Way” (Ft. Max Brown of The War & Treaty & Kyshona Armstrong) & “Feelings” (Ft. Mike Hicks of Rascal Flatts), independently.

James takes perhaps his most profound steps, recognizing the fragility of life, in making this year one of intention and attention – Solidifying his path in a courteous stride of soulful southern R&B impressions, on stage: with rousing guitars, swoonful keys and in-pocket rhythms – as well as off stage: with sincere stories, and recognition of how important community is to our continued growth.

Presented by The Palladium.

General Admission: $25.

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