Theresa Wong Premiers New Work With Vajra Voices

The all-female choir joins Wong at the California Jazz Conservatory.


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Theresa Wong.

Photo by Heike Liss

In recent years, Theresa Wong has worked outside the Bay Area far more than at home, so when she performs locally, it tends to feel like a special occasion. The Berkeley cellist, vocalist, composer, and conceptual artist has collaborated with some of the most intrepid artists of the era, from guitarist Fred Frith and post-modern dance pioneer Anna Halprin to Danish jazz pianist Søren Kjærgaard and Tin Hat Trio violinist/vocalist Carla Kihlstedt, with whom she created an acclaimed multimedia duo project inspired by Goya’s disquieting Disasters of War etchings (music released on John Zorn’s Tzadik label as The Unlearning).

Wong premieres her latest work, To Burst To Bloom, May 14 with the Bay Area all-women choir Vajra Voices as part of the San Francisco Early Music Society Early Music Sundays series at the California Jazz Conservatory. Commissioned by Vajra Voices, To Burst To Bloom is song cycle based on the poems of Sun Bu’er, a 12th-century Taoist master. Exploring the fluid interplay of abstract vocal utterances with language and meaning, the project continues Wong’s fascination with sound as a vehicle for transformation.

Raised from the age of 10 in Danville, she grew up dedicated to piano and cello, but by the time she enrolled at Stanford, she was ready to take a break from music. After graduating with a degree in design, Wong moved to Europe, studying applied arts in Vienna and eventually found her way back to music. An encounter with Fred Frith in Venice led her back to the Bay Area and Mills College, where he became one of her mentors, along with cellist Joan Jeanrenaud and bassist Joëlle Léandre. “They’re examples of artists who are active, exploring interdisciplinary and conceptual things, not just music,” she said. “I could bring in a video piece, a graphic score, a pop song.” She’s been creating strikingly original work ever since.

Theresa Wong and Vajra Voices, 4:30 p.m., May 14, California Jazz Conservatory, 2087 Addison St, Berkeley, $20, 510-845-5373, CJC.edu.

 

This report appears in the May edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

 

Published online on May 3, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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