PRJ Grant Recipient Hotel Elefant Reflects On “speakOUT” Concert

Hotel Elefant’s “speakOUT” spring 2015 concert by was hosted by the downtown New York venue SubCulture on International Women’s Day, representing female artists who utilize music to reflect on issues both personal and political. The generous funding from the Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research helped present cutting-edge works by women, with works specifically written for the ensemble by composers on the roster, and presented an in-concert interview selected from the evening’s featured composer Paola Prestini to discuss her music.  Hotel Elefant’s 2015 spring season featured the music of Lainie Fefferman; Jenny Olivia Johnson and Alex Temple; Paola Prestini; and Leaha Maria Villarreal.

In addition to the live performance and in-concert interview with Hotel Elefant’s featured artist, each composer and selected performers was interviewed about the creative process surrounding the “speakOUT” season. Four interviews created especially for this concert garnered hundreds of views on the ensemble’s YouTube channel, forging new and engaging ways of connecting with audiences.

Hotel Elefant, speakOUT 2015 ConcertNamed a “composer-impresario” by The New Yorker and a “Visionary-in-Chief” by Time-Out New York, PAOLA PRESTINI’s compositions have been deemed “radiant” [and] amorously evocative” by The New York Times. In 1999 she co-founded VisionIntoArt, an interdisciplinary production company that has created over 100 multimedia productions worldwide. Hotel Elefant was proud to feature Paola Prestini as its spring 2015 featured composer. The ensemble presented two works of Prestini’s that highlight her focus on strong female roles entitled Inngertuit and Yoani, complete with an in-concert interview to educate listeners on her music and her entrepreneurial vision. The evening’s performance included a world premiere of Prestini’s Still Have Our Bones, augmenting the Yoani song cycle with a new work commissioned by The ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Fund.

Hotel Elefant, speakOUT 2015 ConcertHotel Elefant commissioned LAINIE FEFFERMAN for its 2015 spring season, who responded with a piano trio for voice and sound reinforcement entitled Impostor Syndrome. The work was inspired by a groundbreaking article that appeared in the journal Psychotherapy Theory, Research, and Practice (Volume 15, #3, Fall 1978 1) called “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” by Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes. Fefferman explained, “The Impostor Phenomenon (often colloquially called ‘Impostor Syndrome’) has, in retrospect, played a huge role in the choices and emotions I have made and experienced in my life as a composer, as a teacher, and as a woman.”

JENNY OLIVIA JOHNSON and ALEX TEMPLE created It’s hard even to say it for a collection of collaborations between Chicago and non-Chicago artists released by experimental cassette label Parlour Tapes+ in 2013. “The two of us have spent years talking about the unreliability of memory,” Temple recounted, “and for this piece, we each repeatedly recorded ourselves describing something from the past that we weren’t sure about…and then sent each other the results to be chopped up and reassembled.”

Hotel Elefant, speakOUT 2015 ConcertComposer LEAHA MARIA VILLARREAL’s world premiere of This Is How We Love was written for Hotel Elefant.  Meditating on the effects of abusive or negative relationships this work for voice and mixed ensemble with live processing focuses on the fact that more than 12 million women and men in the United States have been physically abused by an intimate partner over the course of a year. “There are some pretty shocking statistics out there,” stated Villarreal, “that I wanted to give a voice to.”

About the author

Mary Kouyoumdjian & Leaha Maria Villarreal
Mary Kouyoumdjian & Leaha Maria Villarreal


Founded by composers Leaha Maria Villarreal and Mary Kouyoumdjian, Hotel Elefant brings an awareness of today’s music to the general public through commissions, performances, and moderated discussions between composers, performers, and audiences. Committed to modern sounds and sonic explorations, this "audacious and unafraid" (New Music Box) ensemble highlights living composers who are blurring lines, pushing boundaries, and fostering creativity. With a flexible roster of more than twenty musicians, Hotel Elefant works closely with a broad spectrum of progressive artists including John Luther Adams, Richard Carrick, Michael Gordon, David T. Little, Angélica Negrón, and Chinary Ung. Past performances include Lincoln Center, Look and Listen Festival, and the Bang on a Can Marathon; collaborations with IKTUS Percussion and The Nouveau Classical Project; partnerships with Experiments in Opera, Ear Heart Music, and Opera on Tap; and a debut Carnegie Hall performance praised by The New York Times as “deeply felt.”

The ensemble has enjoyed the attention of such outlets and publications as Alex Ross' blog The Rest is Noise, radio station Q2 Music, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Time Out New York hails Hotel Elefant as “one of New York’s fastest rising new-music outfits.”

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