Immersion Therapy: Hannah Baiardi Unpacks Emotions on “Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation” Piano Instrumental Album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Hannah Baiardi embraces her spiritual side on Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation.

Hannah Baiardi embraces her spiritual side on Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation. Photo by Funn Foto.

Hannah Baiardi immerses herself in a cathartic sonic experience on her new album, Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and pianist delved into jazzy sophisti-pop on her last two records, Magic (2022) and Straight From the Soul (2021), but Ascend Your Vibe explores the restorative side of mellow instrumental music.

“I brought all my emotions to the piano bench and got to unpack them in real-time at the keys,” said Baiardi about her fourth album. “The longer strings of phrases are riding a feeling while the pauses are the reflection and the process. The feelings drive the ebb and flow and unfolding of each piece.”

Throughout Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation, Baiardi unfolds feelings of hope, gratitude, and wonder across eight spiritual tracks, including the magical opener, “Pensive,” and the otherworldly “Somewhere East of Here.” Glistening keys slowly strike and pause alongside tranquil samples featuring soothing birds and a ticking clock.

“As a listener, you can choose where to direct your attention. The clock can ground or distract you,” writes Baiardi on her Bandcamp page. “The anticipation before a chord can make you focus on the next chord or can help you be in the in-between spaces.”

To get inside her headspace, we recently talked with Baiardi about her musical beginnings, favorite artists, and latest album.

David Fenton's "The Activist’s Media Handbook" traces his life in the media, from the "Ann Arbor Sun" to progressive public relations

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

David Fenton, The Activist’s Media Handbook: Lessons from 50 Years as a Progressive Agitator

Activist and public relations firm founder David Fenton launched his very first PR campaign in Ann Arbor in 1971: Fenton worked to get John Sinclair out of prison where he was serving a sentence for giving drugs to an undercover agent.

Following this effort, Fenton wrote for the countercultural newspaper Ann Arbor Sun where he worked on a campaign to increase sales by running a contest called “Win a Pound of Colombian Marijuana.”

Fenton’s new book, The Activist’s Media Handbook: Lessons From 50 Years As a Progressive Agitator, spends two chapters on his time in A2 and also details what happened before and after.

Of his time working at the newspaper and in activism, Fenton writes:

Everybody's Kranky: Bruce Adams' new book chronicles the rise of Chicago's thriving 1990s independent music scene and the influential record label he cofounded

MUSIC WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Bruce Adams and his book You're With Stupid

For a guy who cofounded a record label named kranky—small k, thanks—that used marketing slogans such as "Honk if you hate people, too," Bruce Adams is one of the nicest people in the music industry.

Adams' new book, You're With Stupid: kranky, Chicago, and the Reinvention of Indie Music, recalls not only the rise of his experimental label but also the inventive, genre-hopping sounds that were coming out of the city in the 1990s. It was also a time when major labels swooped into town to sign the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, and Liz Phair after Nirvana showed corporations that the independent music scene could sometimes provide commercial hits.

A former Ann Arbor resident, Schoolkids Records employee, and WCBN-FM DJ, Adams moved to Chicago in 1987 to work for various music-distribution companies. He also worked at the influential Touch & Go Records as a publicist, handling bands such as Ann Arbor's Laughing Hyenas as well as Slint, Die Kreuzen, The Jesus Lizard, and many other bands that took the energy of punk rock and twisted it into new forms of dynamic and frequently very heavy music. 

But in 1993, Adams and his colleague Joel Leoschke looked at the stacks of indie-rock CDs and 7-inches flooding into the Cargo Distribution warehouse where they worked and decided they wanted to do something completely different with their record label. The duo took their inspiration from 1970s progressive-music labels such as Editions EG, which counted Brian Eno's transformational ambient albums in its catalog, and ECM Records, which focused on jazz (and classical) that came from a more European approach to improvisation; more open to exploring space and unique timbres rather than blues-informed swing. They also looked toward German kosmische musik of 1970s groups such as Neu! and Cluster as well as then-contemporary psychedelic bands such as Spacemen 3, which played drone-based rock 'n' roll.

Adams and Leoschke wanted kranky to represent music that was artful, hazy, and deep—and they found the perfect first band for their new label: Labradford.

Prazision was the debut album by the Richmond-based duo (later trio) Labradford, which used guitars drenched in reverb, 1970s analog keyboards that weren't popular then, and sung-spoken vocals that blended into the vast smudge of ambient sounds. 

The label went on to release albums by godspeed you! black emperor, Stars of the Lid, and kranky's most popular act, Low, the slowcore band fronted by the husband and wife duo of Alan Sparhawk and the recently deceased Mimi Parker. The label still continues to this day, releasing forward-looking music by Grouper and Jessica Bailiff as well as albums by Dearborn's Windy & Carl and Ann Arbor's Justin Walter.

Adams and Leoschke used what they learned from working for indie labels and distribution centers in order to not make the same mistakes they saw happening over and over: treat the bands with respect, pay them, and only release music you love. In the words of American poet Joe Perry, kranky "let the music do the talking."

A lot of music memoirs are filled with gossipy details, but since Adams really and truly is a nice guy, You're With Stupid avoids any deep, dark revelations or pointed barbs. It's more a survey of the vast amount of creative musical endeavors that defined Chicago in the 1990s rather than salacious tales of excess.

Adams will discuss You're With Stupid at the Ann Arbor District Library's Downtown branch at 6:30 pm on Thursday, November 17. I'll be the guy interviewing him—Adams doesn't say in the book why he sold his portion of the label to Leoschke in 2005, so I'm going to ask him that—and we'll talk about the kranky's groundbreaking music and the 1990s Chicago independent music scene.

For those unfamiliar with the label, Adams picked five tracks and added commentary to introduce new listeners to the kranky sound:

Friday Five: Kingfisher, Riot Course, Kai West, Hues, Anhedonia

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Art for the albums and singles featured in this week's Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features large-ensemble indie rock by Kingfisher, polished punk via Riot Course, guitar ambiance from Kai West, hip-hop by Hues, and genre-agnostic electronica by Anhedonia.

Group Swim: PTD Productions' "The Sweet Delilah Swim Club" makes a splash on the importance of friends

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

"The Sweet Delilah Swim Club" celebrates the friendship of five women over time.

The Sweet Delilah Swim Club celebrates the friendship of five women over time. Artwork courtesy of PTD Productions.

PTD Productions' The Sweet Delilah Swim Club is funny, heartwarming, and shows the beautiful bonds of five women just trying to get through life.

This comedy, written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, takes us to North Carolina and introduces us to a group of girlfriends who met swimming for their college swim team. Every year during the same weekend in August, they rent out the same beachside cottage in the Outer Banks and use that time to catch up with one another and have a yearly group swim. Time progresses rapidly in this show, with the first scene taking place 22 years after graduation and the characters in their early 40s. By the end of the show, another 33 years have passed and the ladies are in their 70s.

Marie Jones plays Sheree, the former captain of the team and the group’s Type A organizer. She has a set schedule for each day and gets overwhelmed if the schedule doesn’t go according to plan. Sheree's weird health food disgusts her friends even though they all pretend to like it. Jones’ performance is endearing and honest as she navigates a character learning to give up some control.

Things to Do: Pulp Event Roundup for November

Kate Peterson and Sarah Cleaver reunite for a Nervous But Excited show at The Ark.

Kate Peterson and Sarah Cleaver reunite for a Nervous But Excited show at The Ark. Photo via The Ark's Facebook event.

To fill up your November calendar, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of arts-related events, exhibits, and more throughout Washtenaw County. Check out some local cool happenings in music, visual art, theater and dance, and written word and film.

MUSIC

Bill Edwards
November 11
Canterbury House, Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bill Edwards performs tracks from his new Americana album, Thirteen Stories. Throughout his latest release, Edwards pens sentimental stories from different perspectives, including a hall-of-fame baseball player, a seasoned songwriter, and a nostalgic boater. Read our preview and interview here.

Nervous But Excited
November 11
The Ark, Ann Arbor

Ten years after their sold-out finale at The Ark, the local folk duo of Kate Peterson and Sarah Cleaver reunite for one of their final Nervous But Excited performances. Their repertoire ranges from smart, introspective narratives to the tactfully political while interspersing songs of love and loss.

Olivia Van Goor
November 11
Blue Llama Jazz Club, Ann Arbor

The Milford jazz vocalist is influenced by swing and bebop jazz from the mid-20th century. Van Goor unearths and reshapes gems from the Great American Songbook and other jazz standards in a way that’s beyond replicating what has already been done before. Read our past interview with Van Goor here.

All for the Music: Remembering longtime WEMU and WCBN DJ Michael G. Nastos

MUSIC HISTORY

A black and white photo of Michael G. Nastos MCing an event.

Michael G. Nastos was a longtime DJ, journalist, emcee, and announcer in the Washtenaw County area. Photo via Nastos' Facebook page.

Michael G. Nastos, a longtime music journalist and radio DJ in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, died over the weekend. He was 70 years old.

Nastos had been struggling with health problems and was using a wheelchair for the past year or so in public appearances—of which there were many.

Because even with the issues he was facing, nothing could keep Nastos away from engaging with the driving love of his life: music. 

U-M's production of the musical tragedy "Bernarda Alba" mixes period costumes and an abstract set to confront contemporary issues facing women

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

UMich's production of Bernarda Alba

Scenic designer Jungah Han created an inventive set for U-M's production of Bernarda Alba, which had a drab look when it opened in New York City in 2006. Photo courtesy of Linda Goodrich.

Fredrico Garcia Lorca wrote The House of Bernarda Alba in 1936, shortly before he was murdered by a nationalist firing squad during the Spanish Civil War. Michael John LaChiusa shortened the title to Bernarda Alba when he set the play to music and added lyrics; he made some changes to the play while keeping the essential story: 

Bernarda Alba assumes the role of family head after her husband’s funeral. She orders her five unmarried daughters, ages 20-39, to mourn for eight years, as her mother did before her. It will be as though the house is bricked up; even crying is forbidden. One problem is that three of the sisters are enamored with the handsome Pepe el Romano—the eldest is engaged to him—and jealousy takes center stage. But what exactly can the sisters do under the circumstances? Turns out, some life-altering things.

When the musical tragedy opened at Lincoln Center in New York in 2006, the scenic design was drab, a realistic depiction of this closed and lonely home. 

For Linda Goodrich's production of LaChiusa's Bernarda Alba adaptation that's running November 10-13 at the University of Michigan, scenic designer Jungah Han dropped the drab for what Goodrich calls a “wildly inventive” set. The stark red floor is bordered by a black playing area, with a kind of ceiling that descends to oppress the characters. Actors step out of character and onto the rim at times to witness the action or to narrate. 

Fox on the Run: U-M Department of Voice's "The Cunning Little Vixen" was a feast for the eyes and ears

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

U-M's production of The Cunning Little Vixen.

Colleen Cole Beucher plays the Rooster-attacking Vixen as Cinderella Ksebati as the hen Chocholka worries in U-M's production of the opera The Cunning Little Vixen. Photo courtesy of U-M Department of Voice.

For the weekend of November 3-6, the Power Center at U-M was transformed into a magical, wooded wonderland for the Czech opera The Cunning Little Vixen. The U-M Department of Voice and the University Symphony Orchestra came together to present this whimsical tale composed by Leoš Janáček, with the reduced version arranged by Jonathan Dove. 

The original libretto was adapted from the 1920 serialized novella Liška Bystrouška by Rudolf Tésnohlídek and follows the story of a Vixen (female fox) and a Forester. While out in the woods, the Forester falls asleep and when a playful Frog wakes him up, he sees the Little Vixen, traps her, and takes her back to his farm. We move ahead in time and the Little Vixen has grown up, now referred to as simply the Vixen, and is treated as a pet at the Forester’s farm. There is conflict on the farm and she is tied up after defending herself against the Forester’s son and his friend.

Folk Tales: Bill Edwards Channels Different Characters on “Thirteen Stories” Album

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Bill Edwards writes from different perspectives on his new album, "Thirteen Stories."

Bill Edwards writes from different perspectives on his new album, Thirteen Stories. Photo by Chasing Light Photos.

Bill Edwards prefers to keep his songwriting in perspective—though not necessarily his own.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist pens sentimental narratives from different viewpoints on his new Americana album, Thirteen Stories.

“Sometimes [people] listen to or see a singer, and they assume the song you’re singing is from your own perspective. It doesn’t always have to be; that’s very limiting I find,” Edwards said.

“You can use your imagination and sing from somebody else’s perspective. It’s all colored by my personal experience, and some of it’s very personal, but not all of it.”

Throughout Thirteen Stories, Edwards channels the mindset of a hall of fame baseball player, a seasoned songwriter, a nostalgic boater, a distraught wife, and other compelling characters.

“I want [listeners] to get outside themselves a little bit and experience emotion from somebody else’s point of view,” he said. “Can you identify with this even though it’s not necessarily my point of view or their point of view? Do the songs communicate well enough what somebody else might be going through?”