For the cellist Rebecca Merblum, music has never been a standalone art. It was never just about playing for the audience, but about listening and experiencing people and things around you. For her, sound and listening have always had topography. Each is connected to experiences and relationships. And then the pandemic emerged, and Merblum’s relationship to performance and music drastically shifted. So began the “Conversations for Duet with Cello.”
Over the past year, Merblum has led evolving, virtual conversations with artist and landscape architect Rebecca Krinke, museum professional Lesley Kadish, and her cello. The central question was: What happens when the audience is invited into the performance itself, inside the conversation? When happens if, instead of playing for the audience, Merblum were to have a direct, one-on-one conversation with a member of the public? What would we hear then?
This conversation is the culmination of that year-long conversation. Moderated by poet Mwatabu Okantah, this event will be part performance, part interactive experiment, part panel discussion, asking attendees to personally engage with presenters to explore the question: What do we hear?
Mwatabu S. Okantah is a poet, essayist, professor, and vocalist. A former Assistant to the Director of Black Studies at Cleveland State University, he is an Associate Professor of Pan-African Studies and Director of the Ghana Study Abroad Program at Kent State University. A 2019 BMe Community Genius Fellow, he is also the recipient of the 2021 Great Lakes Black Authors Expo, Alice Dunbar Nelson Literary Achievement Award.
Rebecca Merblum is a cellist based in Minneapolis, originally from Connecticut, who has woven her musical life around chamber music, collaboration and teaching. She plays as a frequent guest with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra and has crafted recent collaborations with the James Sewell Ballet and composer Chad Hughes. Rebecca is also very much involved in mentoring and working with students in Nairobi as a part of the Art of Music Foundation.
Rebecca Krinke is Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota. Her hybrid art-design research and practice is broadly focused on individual and collective trauma and healing. This works manifests through interior installations, exterior environments, and written texts; she is currently co-authoring a book on the work of artist Char Davies.
Boris Oicherman is the Cindy and Jay Ihlenfeld Curator for Creative Collaboration at the Weisman Art Museum of the University of Minnesota, where he has established a new program of creative engagement with research across disciplines and cultures, exploring the potential of artists to become drivers of radically diverse knowledge in the academy.
Image credit (top, L to R): Mwatabu Okantah, Rebecca Merblum,Lesley Kadish, Rebecca Krinke (photo illustration by Anna Bride), Boris Oicherman