#34: Janet Feder Denver musician Janet Feder started out a classical guitarist, but couldn't be held back by classical constraints. Experimentation with prepared guitar became her invention and her ouevre, and over the years, she's quietly become an integral working member of the experimental-music community not only on the Front Range, but around the world.
See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Mark McCoin
A teacher, live performer and recording artist, Feder served as music chair at Naropa University for a time; these days, she also performs with Colin Bricker in the duo Cowhause. Now she's using her musical expertise to help curate MediaLive, an ambitious four-day multimedia festival hosted by the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art that starts on Thursday, November 7. Well-qualified for a place in this series, Feder passed the 100CC questionnaire with flying colors. Read on.
If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Yikes! What a toughie right off the top. There are so many people across history I've admired. This is difficult to say with much more than conjecture and supposition because I don't actually know her, however, the person I'd love to play and collaborate with is Laurie Anderson. She embodies and projects the artist's way on all planes: performative, political, moral and contemplative. I have enormous appreciation for the sum total of her boundless and boundary-less contributions which are personal without being preachy, honest and compassionate and never contrived. She seems funny and curious and sometimes angry and always, always smart. Her integration of technology into her musical composition, performance and also her visual art happens in a way so personal to her that is always original -- quite a feat, across the decades. She represents the best characteristics of so many artists whom I admire.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Yoko Ono never ceases to amaze me. She lives an astounding life, having globally and substantially impacted the arts, the environment and human rights issues beyond ... imagination. Pope Francis is really something. He totally had me at "Who am I to judge?" I did not see that one coming. In the entertainment world, Egyptian Bassem Youssef's irreverent middle finger to the propaganda and crooked politics of his country walks that fine and dangerous line of being both hilarious and courageous. As artists we're often prodded to commit to acting, playing, painting, writing as if our every breath depends on it. He reminds us that this is more than a mere concept.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
The fascination with twerking. It's like millions of people just discovered the existence of their behinds. Seriously. Oh, wait, you asked about an "art" trend. Any time I've felt blue about what seemed to me to be artistic or even cultural trends I've eventually realized that these things come and go, that what's good sticks around and morphs into something better, and even if it was ridiculous at first it has to appear in order to become something else. I'm all for evolution, so I try not to get stuck on how I feel about trends. It's kind of like waiting for your kids to grow out of some silly thing they're into that drives you crazy. They eventually leave it but until they do, if you have a feeling about it it only seems to take longer to pass.
What's your day job?
Um, more like jobs, right! I feel incredibly fortunate that teaching about and making music and learning to listen is the work I get to do this time around. One consequence of such incredible good fortune is that I get to pursue a variety of employment situations to make it all pan out. I'm currently teaching the History of Rock n' Roll at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs (last semester it was Ethnomusicology with my friend and extraordinary flautist/composer Jane Rigler). It's a long drive once a week and totally worth it. I also teach a handful of private students in Denver. I just finished scoring Sean Jourdan's dark feature film Teddy Boy with the brilliant vocalist/composer/educator Paul Fowler. I tour, I get to work on projects for and with other people I admire, and I teach in other colleges and universities both domestically and abroad.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I'd fully fund, staff and support all Head Start programs in the United States. I'd learn everything I can from Bill Gates and his philanthropic efforts, leave what I disagree with and endeavor to do one better especially with regard to addressing global economic disparity and injustice. Then I'd launch an exchange program between Israelis and Palestinians whereby one thousand families of each will exchange and host the other's eleven-year-old child for one year. Each family will care for their counterpart's child as their own. In a year's time the children return to their homes of origin ideally with new perspective, and with bonds that will last their lifetimes. I think this is the only way for coexistence to grow into reality in that region. It could become a global model for nations in conflict. Somewhere in there, I'd make all medical care free for everyone worldwide.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Fully fund all Head Start programs. I'd beg the general public to please stop seeing arts education as some kind of leg-up into the corporate world. While it's absolutely true that students who learn outside-the-box thinking through creative arts programs in their foundational education have a better shot at high-paying employment situations, we need to view the arts as being as fundamental to our human existence as air and water and sunshine. It's all that for our intellectual and cosmic selves, and worthy of every morsel and dollar and consideration we give it -- regardless of whether or not it makes anyone a magically more successful money earner. Sorry, that was two things.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
If only you'd ask me for a list -- because Colorado is the best place I can imagine to live a good life and be surrounded by truly unique and wonderful artists, so many of whom are also my friends. But you didn't because I'd run out of room. So it's Ron Miles. Not only is every note that pours out of him gorgeous, he's our finest ambassador. Everywhere I go, when people hear I'm from Colorado they ask if I know him. He is one of the best reasons for being human that I can think of.
What's on your agenda for the rest of 2013 and beyond?
This coming weekend, November 7-10, along with David Fodel and Paco Proano and in collaboration with the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, I'm co-curating MediaLive 2013 for the second year in a row. We're better than ever this year, we have amazing guests coming from around the U.S., we were able to keep ticket prices very reasonable through our generous sponsors, and there is guaranteed to be something for everyone interested in the intersections between sonic and visual, analog and digital performative landscapes.
I'm also really excited to return to Immersive Studios in Boulder this month with Jane Rigler to track whatever I can that will sound beautiful on her current project, which features several other internationally acclaimed improvisers. Paul Fowler and I aim to assemble the best work from our film score and release it on my Bandcamp site (janetfeder.com). My last solo release, Songs With Words, just got picked up for international distribution by Hostile City Industries, which is very exciting.
I'm back at CU by mid-January at about exactly the same time I have concerts in Austria, France and Belgium. I'm presenting my work and performing at the University of North Texas in February. I get to work with Christina Battle as we collaborate on sound and video design for square product theatre's 2014 adaptation of Selah Ann Saterstrom's novel SLAB, which is theater at its best and you won't want to miss it. And I have about half of a new album project ready for the studio -- I could start recording tomorrow.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts (music, performance, whatever...) community this year?
MediaLive 2013! square product theatre. Communikey. Guitarist/composer Dave Devine and his band Relay. The Playground Ensemble. Mark Harris for his enormous strides in arts education through Soundpainting. And my sister, painter Sharon Feder, who has a solo show at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in 2014. Visit Janet Feder online for more information. Learn more about MediaLive at the BMoCA website.
Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.
Do you have a suggestion for a future profile? Feel free to leave your picks in the comments.
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