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:

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. 

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?”

Everything’s All Right: Jonathan Crayne Finds the Way Forward on “Oknow” EP

PULP MUSIC INTERVIEW

Jonathan Crayne includes flavors of ‘90s alt rock on his <i>Oknow</i> EP.

Jonathan Crayne includes flavors of ‘90s alt rock on his Oknow EP. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Crayne.

Jonathan Crayne’s debut EP is like a self-pep talk the Adrian alt-rocker wrote to tell himself every little thing’s going to be all right.

The six-song Oknow chronicles Crayne’s emotional resilience and personal growth after experiencing previous challenges in life and love.

“I wanted it to be character pieces that depict going through different stages—whether it’s being a kid or trying to persevere—while ending things on a high note,” said Crayne, who’s also a guitar, bass, and percussion instructor at Ann Arbor’s School of Rock. “I write a lot of sad stuff, but I don’t want to leave anyone like that.”

He delivers on that promise across Oknow’s six insightful tracks, starting with the hopeful opener, “The Good Kids.” Alongside contemplative electric guitar, Crayne sings, “I think I finally found the meaning / Now it’s time to tell yourself / This will not end!”

To further explore his optimistic mindset, we recently chatted with Crayne about his musical journey and latest EP.

Deep Dive: Kim Fairley's new memoir recalls how she grew up “Swimming for My Life”

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Author Kim Fairley and her book Swimming for My Life

Swimming was not just swimming for Ann Arbor author and visual artist Kim Fairley.

The sport was layered with physical challenges, abuse from coaches, and family expectations that exceeded what was reasonable, all of which she depicts in her new memoir, Swimming for My Life.

At the start of her book, Fairley shares an early, positive memory of swimming at the beach where she struggled in the waves and remembers, “The ocean reverberated in my head, but when I glanced up at Dad, I saw his pride: my daughter, my oldest.” Following that experience, Fairley’s parents encouraged her to join a swim team in third grade in Cincinnati where she grew up. While Fairley did not immediately love swimming even back then, her attempts to stop were not heard even though she tried to tell her father:

Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" gets a contemporary update with new music at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Beatrice (Jacquie Jones) and Benedick (Chris Grimm) wield words like swords in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's modern-day, music-filled update of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

Beatrice (Jacquie Jones) and Benedick (Chris Grimm) wield words like swords in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's modern-day, music-filled update of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor Civic Theatre.

"Therefore play, music."
—Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing

It’s become customary for directors to find ways to make Shakespeare more accessible.

When director David Widmayer proposed the Bard’s Much Ado About Nothing as the play to welcome audiences back to the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, he embraced Benedick’s call for music.

“My original pitch was to replace the violence in the show with the metaphorical violence of a battle of the bands,” he said. 

That proposal was turned down, but music remained a key element for the production, including some cast members creating original compositions for Shakespeare’s verse.

Widmayer has performed in several Shakespeare productions at the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. This is his second time directing a Shakespeare play. 

“I was looking for something that basically we could have fun with and get the audience back into the theater,” Widmayer said. 

In Widmayer’s reimagining of Much Ado, musicians and artists go off to war but when they return they lay down their arms to return to the arts. The time is now, but the titles and arrangements of Shakespeare’s world exist in this imaginary version of modern times.

“It’s a place where people can come and perform music and find joy in that art together,” Widmayer said.

Good C.A.R.Ma.: Peter Madcat Ruth's latest band and album mix Indian music, blues, jazz, and more

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Peter Madcat Ruth's C.A.R.M.A. Quartet poses on the wooden steps of an outdoor stage.

Cosmic Concertos: Dan Ripke, John Churchville, Peter Madcat Ruth, and Brennan Andes are the C.A.R.Ma. Quartet whose debut album, Cosmic Convergence, explores sounds from across the musical universe. Photo courtesy of the band.

Ann Arbor’s beloved harmonica virtuoso Peter Madcat Ruth recorded a new album, Cosmic Convergence, with his genre-jumping C.A.R.Ma. Quartet, which is playing a concert at The Ark on Sunday, November 6. The Quartet gets its name from the initials of the band members’ names: John Churchville (drums); Brennan Andes (bass); Dan Ripke (electric guitar); and the Ma taken from the first two letters of Ruth’s longtime Madcat alias.

Ruth's a musical explorer whose career goes back five decades and includes recordings with everyone from jazz pianist Dave Brubeck to funk king George Clinton to classical composer William Bolcom to word-jazz artist Ken Nordine. Cosmic Convergence continues Madcat's exploratory ways, moving in all sorts of satisfying directions by deftly incorporating elements of Indian music, folk, blues, jazz, Americana, and more. (The album isn't streaming yet, but CDs will be available at the show and vinyl at a later date.)

In a recent phone conversation, Ruth talked about the origins of the C.A.R.Ma. Quartet, his nonexistent retirement plans, and the inspiration he got from playing music with Brubeck.

Now and Later: H.R. Webster engages in associative thinking to form her poetry in “What Follows” 

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Poet HR Webster and her book What Follows

H.R. Webster’s poems in What Follows scrutinize the space after trauma, in womanhood, around death, and when someone has gone too far.

The poet does not shy away from what is unfolding but rather turns an intent eye on each scene where “There is the calf’s share / blooming in my coffee” or “A killdeer faking it in the parking lot.”

In the poem “Ritual,” we learn that things commonly desired and sought after nevertheless disappoint because “It does not light / the growing dark, does not lift its wings in flight.” 

Webster’s collection implicates the discomforting present and its aching aftershocks. The titular poem confronts how “Death came and took from you a virginity you did not know you possessed, but guarded, closely.” The poem goes on to ask, “What fruit rots first.”

This question characterizes many of the poems that start at the moment when the experience begins to decay—sometimes right away: “On first dates men often ask how would you rather die, / I kid you not, drowning or fire.”

Newer Jack Swing: Ypsilanti R&B singer Where She Creep was inspired by the past for his debut album, "Feels"

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Where She Creep standing against a brick wall, wearing a animal-print fur-like jacket.

Kyle Love is clear about his primary musical inspiration: the new jack swing sound of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that melded hip-hop with R&B.

The 32-year-old Ypsilanti singer who performs as Where She Creep has created a fresh twist on that classic sound with his debut album, Feels, which came out earlier this year. He describes it as “healing music” that deals with new-age concepts to explore the politics of love. 

“These are songs that aren’t afraid to be vulnerable, touching on the framework of healthy relationship dynamics and what honoring some of these values might look like and what they might not look like,” Love said. “It’s here to sharpen your belief system, make you want to hug a loved one, but most of all, to encourage you to analyze for yourself, for better or for worse.” 

Influenced by Michael Jackson and many other soul-singing greats, Where She Creep also cites his cousin Brian Campbell, who taught him songwriting, and his producer and best friend, Pranav Surendran, as inspirations. 

After dealing with some setbacks during the pandemic, Where She Creep recently declared he is throwing himself fully into his career, giving it 100 percent of his attention. 

Pulp caught up with the singer to talk about Feels, his Chill Place Parties project, and more.