GRAMMY nominated Dawn Avery creates a contemporary soundscape from electronica, pop and classical elements. Her sultry vocals and soaring cello lines reflect a deep spirituality rooted in her Native American heritage and love of Sufi tradition. Avery toured and performed with the Soldier String Quartet for 10 years at such venues as The Kitchen, the Knitting Factory, CBGB’s and Lincoln Center in NYC. As an improviser, she worked with contemporary avant-garde and jazz artists John Cage, John Zorn, Elliott Sharpe, Ornette Coleman, Roscoe Mitchell, and Grover Washington; rock musicians John Cale and Sting, and World Music artists: Sussan Deyhim, Glen Velez, R. Carlos Nakai and Humayan Khan. She is currently touring her newest multi-media projects with guitarist/ producer, Larry Mitchell— 50 Shades of Red and Love Songs for a Changing World, that feature downtempo music, video, and theatre. Their recent Off-Broadway production and recording, Crane on Earth, in Sky, won two Global Music Awards (best album, best World Music Theatre).
This interview has been edited for length and concision.
Annie Corrigan: You’ll be teaching a composition workshop during Sound Symposium. When you teach these one-off classes, what do you hope to impart to the students?
Dawn Avery: How to work creatively and collaboratively while expressing the sometimes hidden soundscape of your own culture and the world around you.
AC: The list of musicians you’ve collaborated with is incredible, from all corners of the musical world. What do they all have in common?
DA: I have been extremely privileged to work with amazing musicians, most of whom share a common love of music and its power to make positive change in the world by expressing their love and respect for all of humanity while supporting people and organizations through their work.
AC: Your bio says, “Her sultry vocals and soaring cello lines reflect a deep spirituality rooted in her Native American heritage…” What about your spirituality and heritage influenced your playing?
DA: I am committed to writing and performing music that has a specific spiritual component, and often multi-layered meanings. For example, my multi-media recording project entitled 50 Shades of Red consists of love songs for family, community, lovers, and the divine and use metaphors from my Kanienkehake (Mohawk) culture. Or my most recent project, Crane on Earth in Sky is a soundtrack written for an Off-Broadway play dedicated to environmental issues using Indigenous stories about the Crane. I seek collaborations that make a positive difference in the world through music.
AC: What does it feel like to sing while you play?
DA: The cello is so versatile. It can sound like a voice with the ability to express so many different emotions, and can act as the perfect accompanying instrument for voice, with bass lines or strumming chords, so singing with the cello feels completely natural! But then again, dancing with it feels natural, too!
Dawn Avery At Sound Symposium XIX*
- Concert — Thursday, July 5 at 8:00pm (LSPU Hall)
- Concert — Friday, July 13 at 7:00pm (D. F. Cook Recital Hall, MUN School of Music)
*Times and locations subject to change.