Elise Kermani December, 2001
The history of the dice Project
The dice Project was initiated in 1993 as a series of performances and compact discs showcasing women composers from North America and abroad. The dice Project is produced by MiShinnah Productions with institutional support from the New York Foundation for the Arts, The Pauline Oliveros Foundation, Harvestworks, and the Electronic Music Foundation and is released on the IshtarLab Recordings Label.
I wrote these liner notes for the first dice compact disc:
"dice is a cooperative among nine women composers from North America and abroad. Our styles range from free jazz improvisation to avant-garde rock to the 'unclassifiable.' Some of our roots began with classical music training, others with the folk or rock worlds, and still others in hearing the geographical and ethnic sounds of our homes. We are all singers, but we use our voices to create individualistic shades. Yet, there is something uncommonly pure about the way we've all arrived at the use of our voices to express our lives and our art."
On the first disc the nine women composers were: Bonnie Barnett and Cecilia+- from Los Angeles, Qube Chix (with Pamela Z) from San Francisco, Lynn Book then from Chicago, myself then from Brooklyn, NY, Christine Baczewska from New York City, LaDonna Smith from Birmingham AL, Justine (the group) from Montreal and Alquimia, from Mexico City. The idea behind the curation was to attract women from different geographical centers around North America, women who themselves were leaders or individual voices in their respective urban music cultures. It began as a cooperative, in that each participant was involved in the project in an intregal way to publicize their own involvement in the project and spread the word to their own communities. Even though the limitation of the CD was 74 minutes of music, my hope was that the energy produced by dice would permeate into the respective communities and inspire other women composers to compose and produce their own recordings and festivals of new music.
The idea for dice was sparked after a conversation I had had with a producer of a respected CD label. As a young woman composer then living in Houston, Texas I had wanted to connect to other women in new music. I had asked him if he knew any women that I could contact just to make connections and he basically said that he didn't know any. This really surprised me and so I began my search for women in the new music improv scene.
When the first dice was released in 1993 there was a good reception to this compilation from the new music press.
Here are some of the things that was written about dice:
"From the first finely particled, throatsqueezed, high-pitched notes sung by Bonnie Barnett to the final, abruptly concluded, mellifluous rounded vocal tone from Danielle P. Roger, this compilation of works by contemporary woman singer-composers maintains a high level of technical and artistic proficiency. The twelve pieces by nine composers range from the fully scored to the freely improvised, encompass a variety of styles, and over a broad spectrum of vocal techniques, with Lynn Book's melodic ramblings at one extreme and Elise Kermani's ozone-level ululations and grainy throat rumbles at the other."
Paul Dutton, MusicWorks. Winter 1994
"The human voice is our most personal form of expression. No two are alike. Voice prints map the distinctive characteristics of our utterances just as fingerprints trace the unique lines on our fingertips. Metaphorically, we speak of artists finding their voices, or of thinkers giving voice to an idea. For the nine artists/groups on dice, their voices are their art form.
Kermani curated this first volume of Dice, and although gambling dice are pictured on the cover, the disc's title has another meaning as well. In Spanish, one the meaning of "dice' (pronounced "dee say") is "she says". That's fitting, since Dice gives contemporary women composers a forum for their gifted voices."
Liz Sizensky, San Francisco Weekly, March 16, 1994
(Incidentally, we decided to use Liz's analogy for the subtitle of the second dice album: "dice2 - she says").
this CD moves from strength to strength, communicating a solid overall impression of artistry, integrity and commitment apart from the wide variety of styles and sensibilities.
Bill Tilland, Option Magazine, Sept/Oct 1993.
In fall of 1994, we had a record release party with live performances from the participants at the Knitting Factory, on Houston St., New York City. The concert was sold out as well as the first issue of the dice CDs. A limited reissue of the original dice CD was produced in 2000.
dice2 - she says (link to the dice2 website)
dice2 was produced in 1996 in collaboration with Lynn Book. Many of the same women were involved with a few additions and subtractions. The participation was: Amy Denio, Lynn Book, Bonnie Barnett, Pamela Z, TROUSERS (with Elise Kermani, Christine Bard and Elaine Kaplinsky), LaDonna Smith with Valentina Ponomareva (from Moscow) and Christine Baczewska.
Lynn Book writes in the dice2 liner notes:
"The dice chronicles originate from the notion that there are women across the U.S. and around the world who compose music, create sound and speak volumes about their experiences and ideas in ways that defy and redefine traditional modes of production and expression. In each of the Cd collections, dice and dice2, music unfolds into soundscape, songs and song forms are appropriated, collapsed and reconstructed, the lyric and the narrative find new voices and the voice itself becomes a vibrational force at once strange, familiar and ultimately transformative. dice began a movement which continues to reform and revolutionize the way in which we listen and make connections; a way in which one can remember and rethink difference . This collective which joins together women from vast array of communitites and histories, finds its' way back into consciousness - a new 'vocultural' network arises, can you hear it?
This is a 'record' that surveys contemporary culture in all of its confabulations through the innovation and insight of contemporary composers and artists who are women - women with a mission, women with a passion, women with technology, women with a point of view, women taking chances.
The dice chronicles are not only cd collections but also festival, network and sites - and in the future? Who knows what kind of permutation are possible."
In 1997, in celebration of the dice2 CD release, we held a dice Tour with concerts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York, at Thundergulch (with a live internet broadcast from Rensselaer) and at The Kitchen in New York City.
dice3 - an international community
In 2001 there are many more women composers on the new music scene, there are many more women in faculty positions in academia, and there are many more CD compilations and festivals highlighting the music of women. Then, some may ask, why a dice3?
Although I do not have current statistics to give you the specific numbers, I do know that the numbers are still not where they should be: women still do not hold positions of power within established music institutions. Many music departments are run by men in the United States and many institutions (including higher learning research centers) have 99 percent male participation, yet they do not advertise that they are 'for males only'. Perhaps when these numbers are more equalized there will be no need to produce dice. Even if the numbers were more genderly equitable I may continue the dice Project, because dice gives women the chance to make experiments 'outside' the mainstream culture, and there will always be a need to create institutions where people can create art without constraints of following a certain commercialized canon or tradition.
In the fall of 2002 I hope to launch the next issue of the dice project: dice3, an international community of women in new music on the internet. The mission is to extend the invitation to create an alternative community for the creation and dissemination of new music created by women from diverse musical cultures. dice3 encourages individuality, innovation and experimentation in all genres of uncommercial music: vocal, instrumental or electronic.
Viewers who come to the dice3 website will be able to read about and listen to excerpts of music by dice3 participants before buying the music. Viewers will then be able to download individual songs of their choice for a nominal fee, or buy a full CD with their customized playlist.
We will create a webpage for each artist that will have excerpts of sound and/or video, a biographical and artistic statement, and a link to the participant's website.
Because the internet allows for growth and change, artists may choose to add or replace songs after the first year or so. The goal of dice3 is to create a venue for women to explore new techniques and to continue to explore the medium of the internet as a place for dialogue, exchange and interaction.
To submit work for the dice3 project go to http://ishtar.cdemusic.org/dice3.html
To order the dice or dice2 CD's go to www.CDeMusic.org and search for 'dice'.
See also http://ishtar.cdemusic.org/catalogue.html