Composer and video artist Kathy McTavish profiled in American Composers Forum

Kathy McTavish is well-known in videopoetry circles for her innovative poetry films and her cello compositions, which have been featured in soundtracks by other video artists, most notably Swoon. The American Composers Forum, which awarded McTavish a Jerome Fund for New Music (JFund) grant in 2013, has just posted a profile of her and her latest multimedia project at their website.

JFund awardee Kathy McTavish has a C.V. that, when compared to that of even the most cheerfully miscellaneous composer, is remarkable. In addition to the standard fare of being a classically-trained cellist with studies in composition, she holds a master’s degree in mathematics, completed coursework in a PhD program examining Theoretical Ecology, and, somewhat unexpectedly, was an active graffiti artist for many years. And rather than keeping each of these aspects of her intellect in neatly separate compartments, McTavish is actively seeking ways to bring all of these passions into one unique artistic output.

For instance, McTavish describes the work in Theoretical Ecology as being “very similar to music theory. It’s a search for patterns and dynamics – a vertical, chordal, network view coupled with a horizontal, linear, melodic analysis.” During her work in Theoretical Ecology, McTavish experimented with simulating the shifting dynamics of food webs through time, and in doing so she was struck by the similarity between generative systems and music composition. “This felt like a different way of looking at orchestration and generative algorithms like the fugue,” she says.

McTavish’s work supported with the 2013 JFund is a multi-sensory, immersive installation called høle in the skY. The core of the work is concerned with climate change and extinction, and is told through interlacing the stories of Martha, the last passenger pigeon who died in 1914 in the Cincinnati Zoo, and an anonymous girl growing up on the Iron Range of Minnesota as drawn from Sheila Packa’s book “Night Train Red Dust”.

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