1. Silver City 4:05:48
2. ambient 0:27:60
3. Jackman 5:00:11
4. ambient 0:33:45
5. Tombstone 5:29:10
6. ambient 0:28:05
7. Ocean Grove 6:28:46
8. Del Rio 3:50:47
9. Heart Butte 4:59:05
10. Ponemah 3:03:74
11. Chokoloskee 4:41:62
12. Columbus 5:27:40
13. Grand Isle 3:51:46
14. Jacumba 2:52:60
For the live performance of Border Towns, seven vocalists trained themselves to meld their
voices with a sampled collage of sound effects, songs, and musical ephemera, blurring the
line between recording and live performance. The samples virtually choreographed every
movement, which works in lockstep with the music. Border Towns was a series of 11 tableaux,
with a gestural vocabulary drawing on its own surreal Americana.
Original Program Notes:
“Americana” is a musical catchall: it can mean country, blues, gospel, Western film music,
broadly defined roots music, really, anything within these borders. The term often marks
the endpoint of a trip all gone to look for America, made by de Toqueville, Guthrie, or Lomax,
trying to pin down musical identity, somewhere.
Border Towns began as an encyclopedic mash-up of musical Americana. I was intrigued by
those people who were chosen, willingly or not, to map America: Copland, Dylan, Robeson,
Springsteen, Montana, Anderson, Foster, yet whose song meanings had been bent to new ends
in the popular ear. I started with the question “what is listened to here?” In every town, that
question gets answered differently, depending on whether you are scanning the airwaves, at a
school, or visiting a historical society. More often than not, what’s offered up as local are
representations: Gene Autry is sold in one town; mariachi, now silent in some ways, becomes
a borderlands icon.
Musical locality could have vanished long before the internet or MP3 in the age of the border
blaster; those 100+kW transmitters, placed just over the border in Mexico, that were designed
to be heard as far as Minnesota and New York. They beamed country and R & B in the 50s and
60s, songs sometimes rarely heard on U.S. airwaves. Some singers such as Patsy Montana had
a second career, just over the border, on these X-stations.
Border Towns began with a collection of musical samples and physical gestures, collected on
visits to 11 towns at the literal fringes of the U.S. Interviews, radio station monitoring,
historical society visits, sound walks, and statistical research all contributed to this
collection. I’m not interested in portraying any border towns, but instead in creating an
alternate musical universe that reinvents Americana, and that questions how we hear and see
location in music. Turning documentarians such as Lomax on their heads, I’ve gone out,
collected recordings that were presented to me as “local”, and reassembled them into
traditions of my own making.
Border Towns was presented as a full production on
September 10-18, 2010 at HERE Arts Center in New York.
Laura Bohn, Michael Chinworth, Chris Giarmo, Laryssa Husiak,
Kamala Sankaram, Laura Stinger, Dax Valdes
Mixing: Nick Brooke
Remixing: Jeff Cook at Second Story Sound
Mastering: Oscar Zambrano/Zampol Productions
Original production credits:
Co-director: Jenny Rohn
Set Design: Sue Rees
Lighting Design: Michael Giannitti
Costume Design: Simone Duff
Sound Design: Jeremy Wilson
Music Director: Mary Montgomery Koppel
Stage Manager: Enrico D. Wey
Many shout-outs to those show contributed to this recording and the show:
Jenny Rohn, Scott Lehrer, Kristin Marting and Kim Whitener and the
HARP program, Anna Bean, Madeline Best, Mike Rugnetta, Andrew Lazarow,
Allie Polubiec, Maria del Fabbio, and Dan Goode, Anne Snitow,
Mark and Kristine Day Pottinger.
Also Philip Blackburn at innova Recordings for his help.
A full list of donors and grants is available at www.nbrooke.com
innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.
Philip Blackburn: director, design; Chris Campbell: operations manager;
Steve McPherson: publicist. www.innova.mu