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Kaufman Music Center releases new collaborative album with Nathalie Joachim + 10th-graders from Special Music School

July 15, 2020

Kaufman Music Center is proud to announce the release of Transformation, an album created by the 10th-grade class at Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School in collaboration with Grammy-nominated flutist, composer, vocalist and 2019-20 Kaufman Music Center Artist-in-Residence Nathalie Joachim. Special Music School is NYC’s only K-12 public school that teaches music as a core subject.

Transformation comprises seven original works produced this spring by Joachim and student collaborators via a remote, group-driven recording process. The EP-length, digital-only album will be issued on Friday, August 14 via Bandcamp as the inaugural release on Kaufman Music Center’s own label. The album can now be pre-ordered, and a preview track, Chrysalis, is available to stream.

At an online album preview event on Wednesday, August 12 (6 pm Eastern time), Joachim will perform the title track, Transformation, and discuss the album with Kaufman Music Center Executive Director Kate Sheeran and a Special Music School 10th grader. A track from the EP will be premiered, and audiences will have the opportunity to submit questions in advance for Nathalie and the students. The $15 ticket price includes the album download; watch this space for ticket and streaming links.

A unique response to our present moment
When the COVID-19 crisis struck, a unique workshop focused on composition and improvisation quickly evolved into an ambitious album project. A 2019-20 Kaufman Music Artist-in-Residence, Joachim had intended to spend the season co-composing a performance based on the theme of “transformation” with the students, a participatory sonic experiment that would culminate in an in-person performance at the end of the school year. And then the pandemic hit.

“Suddenly, we went from being in shared spaces, to living in isolation in our homes,” says Joachim. “We found ourselves universally impacted by something beyond our control, which was unsettling to say the least. However, the faculty and staff of Kaufman Music Center began to adapt immediately, with an admirable show of force in support of the students’ education. That was inspiring to witness, and got me thinking: was there a way that I could also support the students at this time? Could I use all that we had learned together about the fluidity required for transformation through our creative work, to offer a new artistic outlet for the students in this challenging moment? And thus, our project took on a new shape, and became an opportunity for us to collectively process this transformative moment in all of our lives.”
Under Joachim’s guidance, the dynamic resulting tracks reflect new, unconventional creative processes stemming from the quarantine. From a self-generated soundbank of acoustic and electronic musical material contributed individually from home, the class worked in small groups via Zoom to create new pieces that represent their interpretations of the “transformation” theme. Their sonic explorations of textures and timbres have produced pieces ranging from ethereal beauty to pulsating rock rhythms. The album’s title track, featuring vocals and flute by Joachim plus recorded samples from the soundbank, captures the haunting fragility of the moment, the sense of hope infused with uncertainty.

Kaufman Music Center Executive Director Kate Sheeran says, “The new album embodies our season-long theme of ‘transformation’ more than we ever could have anticipated. At a moment when our world has been turned upside-down, the possibilities for collaboration and connection through the arts are even more important. We are so proud of the students at our Special Music School High School for responding to these challenges with curiosity, resilience and support for each other. While unexpected, we are fortunate and moved that Nathalie Joachim’s Artist Residency has culminated in this beautiful EP that is a sonic document of these times. We look forward to sharing it with the world.”

About the music
To create the seven tracks of Transformation, Nathalie Joachim’s 10th-grade class split into small groups. Drawing on the collective soundbank of original musical material, each team used music production software to shape their chosen sounds into a finished piece. From the liner notes of Transformation, here are their comments.

Nathalie’s track: Transformation
“Transformation attempts to capture the haunting fragility of this moment. The recorded samples symbolize the purity of childhood, and the flute line represents the sensation of searching for something new, while holding on to pieces of yourself that seem to be slipping away. This search is interrupted by a moment of gravity that overwhelms, then quickly returns to a landscape of familiar remnants. The final statements present a renewed sense of optimism, albeit infused with uncertainty. A symbol for the intersection of possibility and hope for our future.” – Nathalie Joachim

“Even though we couldn’t work together, our group had to find a way to work collaboratively without actually being in the same place. This really allowed the original ideas of the project to shine through. It also gave us a bit more freedom to make sounds in ways that we wanted and it required us to think about how we could work with other people through these challenges.” – Pyam Pendleton

Digital Tears
“This moment in history alters the definition of collaboration when it comes to art. When in a creative space, we often picture people physically together, but this isn’t possible in today’s world. We all wanted to play an active role in the blossoming of our project… Whether listening as a group to what we had created, or questioning someone’s construction of the melody, we learned how to be critical without offending or pressuring each other.” – Ciana Meyers

“The title comes from the atmospheric sounds and sensations we experienced while listening through [the soundbank]. Our idea was to create something very open, and space-like.” – Graeme Buehrer

Singing Summer
“The main idea of the piece was to create a calm and relaxing sound that people can enjoy and close their eyes to. Our group began by brainstorming, then discussing what key we wanted and what textures we could use…The compositional technique we used was a melodic sounding mix with a textured bass line.” – Moxe Meiri

“Instead of relying on one idea to return to repeatedly, the piece brings the listener from one idea to another, stopping at various places along the way. I think that the unconventional creative process, stemming from quarantine, greatly contributed to the very dynamic nature of the piece.” – Leon Leveau

“Everything is changing. Everything is transforming. Like everything this year, our short but mighty piece, Chameleon, is built on the idea that everything around us is constantly becoming something new.” – Benjamin Barham-Wiese

Nathalie Joachim, Producer
Ben Young, Mixing and Engineering
Andrew Copper & John Glover, Assistant Producers