Event
07/30/2016, Amado’s , San Francisco, CA

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About

Creator of songs and sonic spaces.
Composer-performer of intricate chamber pop. Architectural acoustician for Meyer Sound.

Contact

Publicist
Samantha Brickler
812-339-1195

Fierce Joy: Melody Parker Moves to the Sound of Myriad Worlds on her Debut, Archipelago

Composer, singer, producer, and acoustic engineer Melody Parker often danced in silence. The motion turned into sound and sound into songs.

These songs coalesced into Archipelago (release: May 13, 2016), Parker’s striking debut. It invites the listener to inhabit an otherworldly place and time, where the familiar rubs shoulders with the fantastical. “I created these songs with mourning and celebration for this watery home we know—and for the paradoxical richness of our experience within it,” she reflects.

Parker’s work vibrates with intensity, by turns contemplative and carnivalesque. To convey emotional breadth, her intricate orchestrations and production employ a broad sonic palette. The pieces sparked engaging performances by members of tUnE-YaRds, Naytronix, and other Bay Area jazz and improvised music circles.

“Forming this music from dancing, I excavated joy and laughter from my gut,” reflects Parker. A response to a global, collective anxiety and to her own personal grief, this physical movement broke through Parker’s psychological and creative paralysis. “It’s an expression of the vital spark that emerges in our darkest moments. A fierce, willful joy."

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Archipelago depicts a resilient human spirit in a world gone awry. “That joy is essential, and I've felt it in my own heritage,” states Parker. Her father grew up in Cajun country, Louisiana, and her mother hails from the farmland of the Philippines. “In both places, environmental vulnerability and poverty converge, but the cultures are exuberant, rich with dance. I know the history of my family’s hardship, but their revelry is more persistent.” Via mythical tales, Parker points to this in “Bold as the Bayous Heave” and “Archipelago.” Yet she grapples with these tensions most directly in “Plenty,” inspired by her first voyage to the Philippines with her mother and a return trip to her father’s corner of the world.

To an inherited love of dancing, Parker brings her own long-standing fascination with the experience of sound as a thing in and of itself, how sound flows from ordinary objects and everyday movements. Over the years, she cultivated an intent ear for sonic nuance, which became a key element in Parker’s work. She has spent years listening to sonic environments, building Foley stages for companies like Pixar, and considering sound in her creative work in theater.

“Interacting with the world makes sound. Movement makes sound,” Parker reflects. “I write music imagining a world, and that world contains movement. I tapped into a primal need to move, and to then listen to the sounds that emerged from that movement. In my music, too, you can hear my love of Foley, my connection to the theatrical side of song and listening with fascination to sound, all sounds.”

Although Parker was trained in the classical tradition, she didn’t find her footing in its milieu. After studying music composition in college, Parker wrestled to articulate her vision for songs that she could perform authentically, with a great big ensemble. The simple prettiness of her voice belied her more complex sensibilities. Archipelago was Parker’s answer to her conundrum, and it was years in the making.

Gathering scattered musical fragments, she gradually knit her ideas together. Parker engages motley influences, combining incongruous elements to surprising effect: Kitchen-sink percussion and drum machines. Girl group vocals and parade brass. Old-world accordion and new wave synths. Woodwinds and choir bells. There’s a playfulness to Archipelago that resists pretension or preciousness. Parker creates her pieces with precision, consideration, and a stunning sense of how sound can evoke emotion and imagery.

Integral to Parker’s compositions are her lyrics, though they often operate in peculiar, sometimes contradictory tandem to the rest of the piece. She played around, tinkering with phonemes until they yielded coherent, distinctive statements. With its quirky, interlocking layers, “The Prophet and the Profiteer” rose from this process, using the sound and sense of a small phrase to build a deeper significance. “When I like the sound of a verbal phrase, I find it delectable, too,” she says. “It tastes good to sing. I can spend days playing at that sensory level when I write, but ultimately I’m curious about how it leads to meaning.”

Parker’s style may be idiosyncratic, but these songs were not meant to be played alone. As the songs  evolved, Parker thought of close friends and colleagues: experimental, adventurous musicians she sang with from time to time. She nervously approached them, yet soon found she enjoyed the role of producer and bandleader. “Many of them were already exploring the outskirts of pop,” she says. “I really wanted to write music that they would be interested in playing, that they would enjoy.” She succeeded, leaving ample room for improvisation.

Writing music is a parallel endeavor to Parker’s daily profession, that of transforming sound in the built environment. As an acoustic engineer for Meyer Sound, she makes sonic spaces using electroacoustic architecture. The Constellation Acoustic System couples material architecture with transducer technology and digital signal processing, altering the reverberant sound field as if the room were entirely different. “With active acoustics, we electronically reconfigure the walls and ceiling that define a space. So a small theater can effectively expand into a symphony hall or a cathedral, for example. Or a psychophysics laboratory can offer immersive scenes for studying multisensory perception.“

The creative connection between her engineering and artistic pursuits excites Parker. “My acoustics work allows me to shape a space itself, often to supernatural effect. Making music, I set in motion what’s inside and beyond those walls, animating it with sound.” Parker imagines how to turn a moment’s impression, a snippet of a phrase, into an entire realm. The listener can feel these worlds move and savor Parker’s carefully cultivated joy.

Dispatch Details

Doors Open:
7:00 PM
Concert Start Time:
8:00 PM
Venue:
Amado’s
Venue St. Address:
998 Valencia St
Venue City, State:
San Francisco, CA
Venue Zip:
94110
Venue Link:
Ticket Price(s):
$15.00 - $17.00
Ticket URL: