Cedar Commissions Guest Blog: Krissy Bergmark


Composer and tabla player Krissy Bergmark is one of six 2017 Cedar Commissions artists. Her project, debuting on February 4th (get tickets here), is built upon an intimate, emotional story line created through a “compositional conversation” with dancer Lauren Baker. Bergmark and Baker have exchanged excerpts of music and choreography to create a three movement piece for tabla, cello, electric guitar, fiddle, and dancer. Read Bergmark’s thoughts on the creation process so far below.

In my own experience, and after commiserating with my fellow composing musicians, I’ve found this to be true: writing music will tear you apart.  Like many creative pursuits, it will make you question yourself over and over again. You’ll question the validity of your work, your own worth, and your ability to produce something worthwhile again, no matter the size of your body of previous work. Always walking to the precipice alone, composers are called to reach in to find the source of their voice, and to build something. This piece has pushed me to the edge of that precipice. What started out as an inspired morsel of creativity turned into a void of doubt as I began the project. There’s been a lot of abandoned ideas and re-written concepts, but I also know that it is at these times that we grow the most. This piece has been about accepting new experiences: my first time composing for this new instrumentation, and my first time composing with a dancer.  However, I am thrilled that I’ve been able to work through some of the difficulties. I am incredibly happy to be able to share it, as both a musical work, and as a testament to my own growth.


I’ve also had a lot of help. When your collaborating artist is an unstoppable force of creativity, it eases the burden. Lauren Baker dances for three different dance companies (Black Label Movement, Shapiro and Smith Dance, and Zenon Dance Company), teaches dance classes, and is also a professional photographer.  Working with her has given a great deal of depth to the project, and has been one of my favorite aspects of the piece. Her verbal descriptions of what elements of the piece look or feel like, in addition to her choreography, has absolutely enriched the energy and direction of the piece.


When I initially began this project, I thought it would be a fun experiment. I am a very visual person, and I thought it would be interesting to compose to something visual and reactive. That aspect has absolutely been stimulating and inspiring.  But as the months passed, and events large and small occurred across the U.S., my project took on a different identity.  It no longer felt like an experiment, but as I felt the weight of circumstance, it felt like a podium.


Lauren and I have rehearsed and talked about our lives and the current events and our own situations, and how that impacts us as people. As a woman, the last few months have been hard. And I know there are many others who do and will feel it harder.  But as artists, we can connect, communicate, and share emotions, sometimes instantly. That can mean a lot of different things, but I am hoping that the expressions we’ve developed are received as vindicating, healing, and uplifting. The element of that opportunity, the weight of it, has absolutely influenced the way I’ve written. Portions of the piece focus on a juxtaposition of time feels, sometimes three at a time, which grind and rub against each other as they try to relate. There are dark, soloistic moments to honor what has felt very much like lying in a dark room on a floor, and there are moments of brightness and joy. Through the vindication and weight, I do hope that joy is what rises as people experience our piece, and I hope it gives our audience a chance to embrace human connection through art.


The Cedar Commissions is The Cedar’s flagship program for emerging artists made possible with a grant from the Jerome Foundation. Since its launch in 2011, The Cedar has commissioned and showcased new work by more than 30 local, emerging composers and musicians. Buy tickets for the 2017 Cedar Commissions here

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