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Singer Erin Neff Blends Music and Art to Create Mesmerizing Results

erin neff

For this weekend’s concerts, we will be joined by our featured soloist, mezzo-soprano Erin Neff. She has been performed at the Telluride Chamber Music Festival and Jewish Music Festival, sang multiple roles with the San Francisco Opera, and even made her directorial debut at the Mendocino Music Festival. In addition to performing and directing, Neff has also applied her vocal talent towards elaborate art installations. Her works include public and outdoor exhibitions, and often incorporate different languages and vocal techniques. “I focus on a space and then do something unexpected with it,” she explained.

Neff began collaborating with artist Lewis de Soto about 15 years ago. de Soto, a professor of art at San Francisco State University, develops multimedia projects with dynamic elements such as light, sound and sculpture using a range of mediums. Their most recent work, Tahquitz, was inspired by the Cahuilla tribe in Southern California, whose indigenous language already includes multi-pitch patterns, a skill called ‘bird singing’.  The Tahquitz is an ancient creature associated with the origin of the Cahuilla people. “I was responsible for transcribing a recording of a tribe elder reciting the story in his language and in English,” said Neff. “After that, I taught it to myself and set the words to music.” The completed showcase was displayed at UC Riverside’s Culver Center for the Arts where large boulder, constructed in the same manner as a stage prop, hung above visitors in the gallery’s lobby. The heavy presence represented Tahquitz Peak, a sacred location to the Cahuilla. Click here to hear the California Report’s coverage of the exhibit.

Tahquitz-Culver-main space3

In 2009, Neff and de Soto transformed an emergency exit corridor at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art into an elaborate sound installation titled Klage/Lament. Mounded around the room were four speakers projecting recordings of Neff performing excerpts from Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game at random intervals, which provided a constant shift in ambiance. The Glass Bead Game, Hesse’s final novel, is set in an unknown year in the future where young students learn an intricate game that requires a blend of skills in arts and sciences. The prominent theme from the novel echoed in Klage/Lament is the inevitable factor of change. This piece has additionally been installed at the Beall Center for Art and Technology at UC Irvine. Read more here.

Hear Erin Neff and the Symphony of the Redwoods this weekend, Sat. Feb. 6 at 8pm and Sun. Feb. 7 at 2pm. Both performances at Cotton Auditorium, Fort Bragg. Tickets are $20, guests 18 and under free.

Click here to buy tickets

Click here to RSVP on Facebook 



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