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Artists on the Verge

Artists on the Verge

By Ema Katrovas

Have you given your heart and soul to mastering a “high” artform only to find yourself unwanted on the market? My name is Ema Katrovas and I’m an opera-singer-turned-experimental-performer. On the Artists on the Verge podcast I interview artists who have found ways to exist in the real world while still making the art they want, especially by founding their own "indie" companies and ensembles. I also read and talk about research on the anthropology, politics and economics of the arts as well as the impact of technology on the arts, among other things. (More at:
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Ep. 12: Holiday Special: Mike Miller (organist, singer, pastor)

Artists on the Verge Dec 23, 2021

Snippet No. 9: Reacting to "Another Art World" by Nika Dubrovsky and David Graeber Pt. 3

Snippet No. 9: Reacting to "Another Art World" by Nika Dubrovsky and David Graeber Pt. 3

We're finally here - at the third installment of reading "Another Art World" by Nika Dubrovsky and David Graeber. Even if you're a new listener, you can start here because in the last segment, the author's promised to finally get to the heart of the matter: What might "another art world" look like?

But – something happened between the last instalment of the essay, published in November 2019, and this installment from November 2020: the pandemic and the anti policing protests of the summer of 2020. Understandably, the authors felt they had to switch gears – so this installment of the essay spends quite some time drawing a parallel between the police state and the art world.

Link to the third installment of "Another Art World" in eFlux magazine:

My interview with co-author Nika Dubrovsky:

Music: Dieter van der Westen: The Balkan Night Train

💋👁👂🏼 Artists on the Verge website:

👀 Instagram: @artists_on_the_verge

About the host ✌🏼:

💌Newsletter (best way to stay in touch):

😇 Become a patron and gain access to "backstage" videos:

Jun 07, 202301:23:12
Ep. 24: Reilly Smethurst (composer, Web III researcher)

Ep. 24: Reilly Smethurst (composer, Web III researcher)

This episode is a conversation with composer and Web III researcher (and internet sceptic!) Reilly Smethurst. Is it a pessimistic episode? I actually don't think so.

My take: The fact that the internet does not replace real-life communities and live gatherings around art, and hurts artists by creating global, algorithmically-moderated competition, is an empowering bit of knowledge which I hope inspires listeners to find ways to make art outside the internet and use the internet in smart ways to their advantage.

Reilly and I talk about the strange disbalance between the number of viable career paths for artists and the number of people studying creative disciplines, the absurdities of arts funding, the difference between the Dionysian and Apollonian approach to creating, artificial scarcity, how regulation may be the only answer to the excesses of the online arts market, and Reilly’s one actionable solution to the predicament posed by the internet, among other things.

All music in this episode by Reilly Smethurst:

Inheritance (2019)

Uterus (2016)

Organised (2019) Angel (2018)

During the interview, we mention the essay “Another Artworld” by Nika Dubrovsky and David Graeber. Here are some links:


My interview with Nika Dubrovsky:

Reacting to “Another Art World” Pt. 1:

Reacting to “Another Art World” Pt. 2:

Timestamps (add 30 seconds to account for intro):

00:00 Intro

02:28 Arts careers on the decline but more people studying arts

08:32 The problem with electronic music and Reilly's "Apollonian reactionary phase"

20:00 Mocking the arts funding bodies

23:37 Web II and Web III - almost the same and both bad for artists + failures of Audius and OpenSea and the difference between music industry and art industry

40:57 Reilly's advice about how to face a world impacted by the internet

💋👁👂🏼 Artists on the Verge website:

👀 Instagram: @artists_on_the_verge

About the host ✌🏼:

💌Newsletter (best way to stay in touch):

😇 Become a patron and gain access to "backstage" videos:

May 31, 202359:39
Snippet No. 8: Reacting to "Another Art World" by Nika Dubrovsky and David Graeber (Pt. II)

Snippet No. 8: Reacting to "Another Art World" by Nika Dubrovsky and David Graeber (Pt. II)

No time to read academic essays? Well, have no fear, we'll read this one together. "Another Art World" by David Graeber and Nika Dubrovsky examines how we might re-imagine the art world.

Part II of "Another Art World" lays out a hypothesis about how post-industrial ideas of production as well as ideas imbedded in Western thought as far back as Greek myth, unfairly legitimize the existence of curators, art dealers, and art administrators, who safeguard the ONE rule that can’t be broken within the art establishment. If you want to know what that rule is, keep listening. Oh, and that faux “experimental,” “boundary-pushing” posture of contemporary art? They argue it’s not a bug but a feature, one that benefits those who most profit from art dealing.

Link to text of "Another Art World Pt. 1" in eFlux journal: 💋👁👂🏼 Artists on the Verge website: 👀 Instagram: @artists_on_the_verge About the host ✌🏼: 💌Newsletter (best way to stay in touch): 😇 Become a patron and gain access to "backstage" videos:

May 10, 202342:30
Ep. 23: David Devereux (audio fiction maker, founder of Tin Can Audio)

Ep. 23: David Devereux (audio fiction maker, founder of Tin Can Audio)

David (aka Dev) Devereux's story is one of carving out a space of freedom online. A full-time sound engineer by profession, Dev is the founder of Tin Can Audio, a Glasgow-based audio fiction company which has become home to all the strange sounds and stories Dev wants to make.

Community is important to Dev’s story – from the community of wonderful voice actors and creators around Tin Can Audio to the online community, which Dev has engaged in interesting ways by opening up the creative process to the public (for example by making an entire audio fiction drama, from script writing to sound editing, live on Twitch.)

Dev and I talk about the origins of and funny stories from the series made under Tin Can Audio, about the more unexpected inspirations for stories from video games to music to popular TV shows, the idea of demystifying the creative process and showing audiences how things are made, and about how much time goes into making something that’s actually good, among other things.

This episode features music from Dev’s audio fiction (The Tower and Middle:Bellow, respectively) as well as excerpts from the audio fictions Tin Can, Middle:Bellow, The Tower, The Dungeons Economic Model, and Anamnesis featuring the voices of (in order of appearance):

David Devereux

Charlotte Ryder

David Pellow

Katrina Allen

Mark Gallie

Roger Best

Links :

💋👁👂🏼 Artists on the Verge website: 👀 Instagram: @artists_on_the_verge About the host ✌🏼: 💌Newsletter (best way to stay in touch): 😇 Become a patron and gain access to "backstage" videos:

May 03, 202344:41
Snippet No. 7: Reacting to "Another Art World" by Nika Dubrovsky and David Graeber (Pt. 1)

Snippet No. 7: Reacting to "Another Art World" by Nika Dubrovsky and David Graeber (Pt. 1)

No time to read academic essays? Well, have no fear, we'll read this one together. "Another Art World" by David Graeber and Nika Dubrovsky talks about how we might re-imagine the art world. In part one, they introduce the idea of the art world creating artificial scarcity and talk about how this has roots in Romanticism. They also touch on the Proletkult in early 20th century Russia, which was founded on the (Romantic?) idea that "everyone is an artist" and was one of the few real-life attempts to create art communism.

Link to text of "Another Art World Pt. 1" in eFlux journal: 💋👁👂🏼 Website: 👀 Instagram: @artists_on_the_verge 💌Newsletter (best way to stay in touch): 😇 Become a patron and gain access to "backstage" videos:

Apr 13, 202301:14:42
Bonus: True Stories About Funding a Short Film (ft. director Vivian Säde & producer Eve Tisler)

Bonus: True Stories About Funding a Short Film (ft. director Vivian Säde & producer Eve Tisler)

In this conversation with director Vivian Säde and producer Eve Tisler we talk about a short film we’ve been working on (named Echo and created around the monodrama Sentiment by Juliana Hall and Caitlin Vincent) in order to talk openly about all the work that goes into any creative project, even when things never actually "click" to make the project to happen. We also talk about "women filmmakers," budgets, artists and mental health and how opera on film is gatekept, among other things.

YouTube version (with supplementary images): A blog post talking more deeply about the EU grant escapade:

Contents (add 30 seconds to accommodate intro):

00:00:00 Intro 00:00:18 The Logline 00:01:29 The First Two Years: From Test Shoot to EU Grant Escapade 00:09:28 New Beginnings: Teaming Up with Vivian 00:13:15 Eve Comes on as Producer 00:13:59 Choosing the Right Collaborators

00:16:27 A Detour with a Czech Producer

00:18:48 Women in the Film Industry 00:24:45 Echo: The Producer's Point of View

00:27:11 What IS a producer, anyway?

00:34:53 Our Estonian Experimental Film Fund Application

00:36:15 The Realities of Short Film Budgets and Paying Your Crew

00:41:21 Women Aging IN to the Film Industry

00:45:48 Artists and Mental Health 00:52:32 The Committee Evaluation of the Estonian Experimental Film Fund 00:58:36 The Particular Difficulty of Funding an Opera Film

01:02:52 Reinventing Opera, the Voice, and the point of making Echo 01:08:23 Final Thoughts (and a Final Plaint About the American Funding System) 💋👁👂🏼 Website:

Mar 27, 202301:15:10
Ep. 22: Nika Dubrovsky (artist, founder of the Museum of Care)

Ep. 22: Nika Dubrovsky (artist, founder of the Museum of Care)

Nika Dubrovsky is an artist who believes everyone is an artist.

Originally from Russia, where, after an education in visual arts, she was involved with the cultural underground of the 80s, she immigrated to the United States in 1989, right after the communist regime fell. Interestingly, once in the US, Nika seemed to take up the same position she had under totalitarianism, in circles of cultural critics and activist.

One of Nika’s recent projects is the Museum of Care, the concept of which comes from an essay of the same name which she wrote with her late husband, David Graeber, during the pandemic of 2020. The essay imagines a world in which the office buildings left empty by lockdowns are turned into communal spaces, or Museums of Care, after the pandemic, the way royal palaces were turned into state museums after the French and Russian revolutions. The idea of art, and the place of art and the artist, are important to Nika Dubrovsky’s, and for that matter David Graeber’s, cultural critique, which is why I wanted to interview Nika for this podcast.

Nika and I talk about the underground art scene in Soviet Russia, the Proletkult, in which everyone is an artist, the idea of direct vs. indirect action, the creation of autonomous zones, like the Zapatista communities or Rozhava, and at the end I ask Nika three questions about her article, co-written with David Graeber, “Another Art World” which critiques art institutions as they exist today – among other things.

❤️ Time stamps (please add 30 seconds to account for the intro): 

03:14 – Nika’s origins and Samizdat

06:27 – The Museum of Care

10:50 – “The Government is the Government, the State is the State” (and meeting David Graeber)

13:29 – Visual Assembly, the Role of the Artist, Proletkult and how Everyone is an Artist

20:02 – The War Against the Imagination

23:20 – Storytelling, Creative Refusal, Schizmogenesis

24:44 – Technology

26:39 – Extinction Rebellion and Direct vs. Indirect  Action

30:50 – Taking direct action and autonomous zones

40:15 – The Mona Lisa and Its Value

42:09 – Three Questions About Another Art World

42:47 – A Summary of “Another Art World”

44:17 – Question 1: Isn’t the internet a social experiment in what happens when everyone can be a creator and, if so, why are there still winners and losers?

01:00:40 – Question 2: Even if everyone should have the access to the means of producing art, isn’t art also an act of service which requires expertise?

01:12:29 – Question 3: Why use the word “communism”?

👁 Links: 

The Museum of Care website:

The Museum of Care (article):

David Graeber Institute:

Another Art World (essay):

Dieter van der Westen: The Balkan Night Train

💋👂🏼👁 Podcast website: 

Mar 13, 202301:17:21
Snippet No. 6: Debating Myself About the Internet (ft. my Medium article)

Snippet No. 6: Debating Myself About the Internet (ft. my Medium article)

In this Snippet, I debate myself-from-a-little-over-a-year-ago about the internet as it pertains to artists by re-reading and reacting to an article I wrote on Medium called “5 Ways The Internet is Failing You As An Artists – And 5 Things You Can Do About It.” I recorded this in the context of having done some interesting interviews lately but not having time to edit them just yet – so this is me feeding the beast of an online platform whilst complaining about the very mechanism that compels me to do so. The irony does not escape me.

Here is the original article:

💋👁👂🏼 Website: 

👀 Instagram: @soprano_on_the_verge  

 💌Newsletter (best way to stay in touch): 

😇 Become a patron and gain access to "backstage" videos:

Feb 13, 202328:02
Snippet No. 5: Experimentation vs. Communication (ft. Theorema Review)
Jan 25, 202315:54
Anniversary Livestream (clean audio version)

Anniversary Livestream (clean audio version)

This is the audio from the anniversary livestream I did on January 13th, 2023. I fixed some of the audio issues from the livestream so it's a bit easier to listen to. 

You can also watch the original livestream here:

Livestream schedule: 

Vivian Säde (director and screenwriter, co-host) - 19:00 - 20:30 CET (1pm-2:30pm EST)  1

9:20 - 19:40 CET (1:20-1:40pm EST) - Jason Cady  (composer, co-founder of Experiments in Opera) and Christoph Ogiermann (composer, improvisor)  

19:50 - 20:10 CET (1:50-2:10pm EST): Elena Floris (violinist, actress at Odin Teatret)  and Felicita Brusoni (vocal experimenter)  

20:10 - 20:30 CET (2:10-2:30pm EST): Darja Lukjanenko (visual artist and communicator) and Helena Mamich (psychiatrist and singer)   

Omar Shahryar (composer of music for and by children, co-host) - 20:30 - 21:20 CET (2:30-3:20pm EST)

20:40-21:00 CET (2:40-3pm EST): Kate Gale (writer, founder of Red Hen Press) and Richard Katrovas (writer, ex-poet, father of the host)  

21:00 - 21:20 CET (3-3:20pm EST): Cassandra Kaczor (classical-composer-turned-pop-music-artist) and Deyiş Görgülü (singer of Ottoman music)

💋👁👂🏼 Website: 

👀 Instagram: @soprano_on_the_verge   

💌Newsletter (best way to stay in touch):

😇 Become a patron and gain access to "backstage" videos:

Jan 21, 202302:57:60
Snippet No. 4: Can contemporary art / theater / music still be original?

Snippet No. 4: Can contemporary art / theater / music still be original?

This is a Snippet in which I ask myself why it seems so hard to be original in the field of contemporary art/theater/music and possibly introduce you to the term “flameout,” coined by anthropologist David Graeber.

The snippet is also available with images/video on YouTube:

Link to David Graeber’s lecture (very recommended):

David Graeber’s website:

The Institute for Experimental Art (co-founded by Graeber):

Full Artists on the Verge episode with composer Jason Cady (the one I quote at the end):

❤️More about this podcast: 

❤️Instragram: @Soprano_on_the_verge

Dec 12, 202207:11
Ep. 21: Deyiş Görgülü (singer of Ottoman music, founder of Evden Musique)

Ep. 21: Deyiş Görgülü (singer of Ottoman music, founder of Evden Musique)

Deyiş Görgülü was 9 years old when she swore off music. She was 30 when she decided to take it up again. So, what makes someone refuse music for 20 years?

Deyiş grew up in Turkey as part of the Alevi Bektashi community. In fact, her name, Deyiş, is the name for a type of Alevi spiritual music. But, in the mid-90s, as a child, she lived through one of the flareups of the Kurdish-Turkish conflict. The tension surrounding this conflict, which started way back in the early 70s, meant that her father, a trumpetist for the Turkish army, forbid her from singing Alevi songs, since Alevi culture is fundamentally pacifist and therefore anti-military. It wasn’t until she moved to France, as an adult, that she felt she could sing again and, eventually, founded an ensemble called Evden with viola d’amore player Isabelle Eder and flautist Marie Ploquin. They perform a kind of fusion between European classical music and Ottoman music – and just to give you an idea of the vastness of Ottoman music, Deyiş sings in Ladino, Turkish, Greek, Assyrian, Armenian, and Arabic among other languages.

Deyiş and I talk about Alevi culture and the cem gathering, which Deyiş likens a to jam session, about the vast world of Ottoman music, about the meaning of the word Evden, the name of her ensemble, about a song Deyiş is writing for the women of Iran, and about one problem shared by music and baklava, among other things.

Evden’s Facebook page:


Evden Musique - Yeniliğe Doğru (text by Rumi) (live):

Erdal Erzincan - Bugün Bize Pir Geldi:

Evden Musique - Evden Musique - Στο ’πα και στο ξαναλέω (Sto 'pa Kai Sto Ksanaleo):

Nov 13, 202227:30
Ep. 20: Helena Mamich (psychiatrist, singer)

Ep. 20: Helena Mamich (psychiatrist, singer)

Madness. It’s a popular literary and operatic themes, but seldom would you get to talk to an artist who is trained to cure madness.

Helena Mamich leads a double life: she is both a doctor at a psychiatric ward in Berlin and a soprano spatializing in classical contemporary music. As a singer, Helena has achieved enough even for someone who doesn’t have a parallel life as a doctor– she has premiered numerous works by contemporary composers, recently debuted in a new opera at the Bethanien Theater in Berlin, collaborated with the German band Black Needle noise on a crossover track, and in the year 2019 she won the Večernjakova Domovnica prize awarded annually by the Večerjni list daily newspaper for the most successful musician of the Croatian diaspora and as if that wasn’t enough, Helena has recently published a book of political haikus in her native Croatian. One of Helena’s big missions is to educate the public about psychiatry and one of the ways she would like to do that is through a short opera based on her experiences as a psychiatrist (she’s already written the libretto.)

Helena and I talk about how psychiatry and classical contemporary music complement each other, how important understanding someone’s culture is in determining whether they have a psychiatric condition, how every discharge letter from a psychiatric ward could be a libretto, as well as one thing Helena says should be taught in conservatories but isn’t.

Helena’s website and blog:

Helena’s Instagram: @helenamamich

Music (all music on this episode is interpreted by Helena Mamich):

G.Scelsi -Lilitu:

Black Needle Noise:

Gerhard Stäbler: blindflug:

Ivana Lang: Macji pir (Cat's wedding):

💋👁👂🏼 Website:

Oct 13, 202234:15
Ep. 19: Felicita Brusoni (vocal experimenter)

Ep. 19: Felicita Brusoni (vocal experimenter)

Meet Felicita Brusoni, Italian singer and voice researcher. Felicita is pursuing a doctorate at Malmö Academy of Music is Sweden (part of Lund University) where she is working on a project called “A Voice Beyond the Edge.” One of her main mentors is composer Michael Edgerton, author of The 21st Century Voice: Contemporary and Traditional Extra Normal Voice which is a catalog of vocal sounds that often comes up in conversations about extended vocal techniques.

As the name of Felicita’s artistic research project implies, this is definitely going to be an episode for voice geeks but also for those who like the bizarre. Felicita and I talk about the inaccuracy of the term “extended vocal techniques,” about the somewhat hard-to-define but increasingly popular discipline of “artistic research,” about the difference between extended techniques in the mid-20th century and today, about Felicita’s fresh discovery that humans can produce ultrasounds, but also about singers Cathy Berberian and even Maria Callas and, at the end, Felicita even tries to teach me an extended technique I hadn’t done before – to mixed results.

Felicita’s website:

Felicita’s Instagram: @felicitabrusoni_soprano 

🎵 Music:

Felicita Brusoni sings Vinko Globukar’s Jehnseits der Sicherheit:

Felicita Brusoni sings Michael Edgerton’s Anaphora:

Cathy Berberian sings Luciano Berio‘s Folk Songs:

Cathy Berberian sings Luciano Berio’s Sequenza III:

Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi in murder scene from Tosca:

For more about Artists on the Verge: 

💋👁👂🏼 Website:

Insta: @Soprano_on_the_verge

Sep 13, 202241:28
Ep. 18: Darja Lukjanenko (artist, communicator, bread maker)

Ep. 18: Darja Lukjanenko (artist, communicator, bread maker)

To see images pertaining to this episode (including Darja's social sculpture End of the World Bread) you can watch the YouTube version:

Darja Lukjanenko is a Ukrainian visual art student based in Prague, Czech Republic, who, since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, started giving lectures about Ukrainian art to the public to amend what she perceived as a pervasive ignorance about Ukrainian heritage and the sovereignty of its art.

During our interview, Darja and I sat next to her “social sculpture” called End of the World Bread. It’s a table with a white tablecloth and on it some six loaves of bread. The soil baked into the bread was collected in Kiev by another Ukrainian artist, Bohdana Zaiats, on the first days of the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Darja and I talk about bread as a universal symbol of home, an open letter Darja wrote to a major Czech arts organization since the beginning of the war, the potentially problematic use of the word “decolonize” in the context of post-Soviet countries, and the artists social responsibility, among other things.

Darja’s Instagram:

Music for this episode is by Sasha Lukjanenko, from Darja’s project called Lullaby for Plevel:

More about this podcast:

Jul 08, 202223:35
Snippet No. 3: What Are “Indie” Artists, Anyway, and Why Do They Matter?
Jun 05, 202206:20
Ep. 17: Vivian Säde (filmmaker)
May 23, 202235:24
Snippet No. 2: Book Review of The Death of the Artist by William Deresiewicz
May 02, 202206:58
Snippet No. 1: "What’s in A Name?”: The Topsy-Turvy Path of Branding this Podcast
May 01, 202208:14
Trailer for Artists on the Verge

Trailer for Artists on the Verge

Learn more about the Artists on the Verge podcast hosted by Ema Katrovas at


Quite Piano by Alena Smirnová (licence:

Navegantes by Stereohada (licence:

👀 Instagram: @artists_on_the_verge

About the host ✌🏼:

💌Newsletter (best way to stay in touch):

😇 Become a patron and gain access to "backstage" videos:


May 01, 202202:53
Ep. 16: Daniil Posazhenikof (composer, founder of Geometry of Sound)

Ep. 16: Daniil Posazhenikof (composer, founder of Geometry of Sound)

Daniil Posazhenikov is a young Russian composer, curator, performer and improviser who, over the past five years, has participated in gathering what he calls a kind of theater production company consisting of young Russian artists from various disciplines. The troupe’s name is Geometry of Sound and they have so far managed to put on about five productions a year in Russia. Their output is hard to pin down, but falls within the experimental and performance-art category and is often site-specific. 

I was connected with Daniil by another Russian artist who told me in a private message that she is embarrassed by her country and this made me reconsider the question which everyone seems to be grappling with, these days: Should the individual, even the individual artist, be held responsible for the politics or economics of the country they live in? We touch on in this question in our conversation with Daniil.   

Daniil and I talk about the need to connect with audiences, whether experimentation belongs in the education system, how indie performance art can fly under the radar of censorship, and what it means not to be needed by the system you are part of, among other things.   

Daniil's online profile: 

More about Geometry of Sound (English version doesn't exist but you can use an online translator from Russian) : 

🎵Music (Composer: Daniil Posazhennikov):  


Figaro Rave (theater music): 

G:Grammar: no online recording available  

Mirror (ballet music):

Apr 13, 202222:16
Ep. 15: Richard Katrovas ("ex-poet," my father)

Ep. 15: Richard Katrovas ("ex-poet," my father)

Richard Katrovas (a.k.a. my father) is the luckiest person I know: He grew up in cars, the eldest son of a criminal who bounced checks while lugging his family of seven across the United States. They lived from motel to motel and car to car, fleeing from the police, which meant my father and his four younger siblings missed much of elementary school. The two times his father was in prison, the rest of the family lived with his mother on welfare in public housing. Long story short (and I describe his circuitous life path more in the intro) he became a poet, later an "ex-poet," and a creative writing professor, as well as co-founder of the Prague Summer Program for Writers, which sprouted from the 1990s American expat community in Prague, Czech Republic. 

I interviewed my father more or less on a whim, a day before he left to return from Prague to the US, after visiting my sisters and me for the holidays this past December. I didn’t necessarily plan to edit our conversation into an episode of this podcast, because I wasn’t sure If my father really fits what I would think of as an “indie” artist but what I realized is that our conversation is one about myths – personal myths, historical myths, cultural myths. My father’s story can be framed as a manifestation of the American dream or it can be understood, as my father has come to understand it, as a story of how lucky it was to be white in 1950s and 60s America. The format of this podcast, in which I ask artists to “sing a song of themselves,” to paraphrase Walt Whitman, really emerges from my growing up with my father's storytelling and self-mythologizing, and so his voice really does belong in the Artists on the Verge series.

I should also add that I was editing our conversation after Russia invaded Ukraine this February, and this loomed over our conversation, in retrospect, in the sense of how much we talk about the way history plays out in the lives of individuals. 

Richard Katrovas' website: 

More about this podcast: 💋👁👂🏼:

Mar 13, 202236:53
Ep. 14: Elena Floris (Odin Teatret violinist, actress, music director)

Ep. 14: Elena Floris (Odin Teatret violinist, actress, music director)

Violinist Elena Flores has been Musical Director of the legendary Odin Teatret since 2015, and became assistant director of the theater four years ago. The core of her creative philosophy is “discipline,” a word she said many times during our interview. She is also a self-described “rock star” who spent much of her career as a violinist in popular ensembles like Nidi D'arac. Elena has now spent half her career as an actor in the Odin Teatret ensemble and so her journey is also one of remaining open to the unexpected opportunities that present themselves, even when they are perpetuated by tragedy like, in Elena’s case, a devastating earthquake.

Elena and I talk about, among other things, the discipline necessary to become (and stay) an artist, how the institution of classical music might be brought into the 21st century, and how, after initial resistance, Elena began to see theater as a kind of musical composition.

Odin Teatret website:  


Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major: 

Nidi D'Arac, Pizzica: 

Nidi D'Arac, Ipocharia:  

💋👁👂🏼 Podcast website:

Feb 12, 202236:45
Ep. 13: Miro Tóth (improvisor, composer, saxophonist)

Ep. 13: Miro Tóth (improvisor, composer, saxophonist)

Miro Tóth is a Prague-based Slovak composer, improvisor, and saxophonist who effortlessly moves between genres. He recently premiered his composition Black Angels Songs, Book 1, commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, inspired by the famous George Crumb piece. He created (among other music theater works) a series of operas called Trilogy of the Rod in which a rod – an actual stick - becomes a kind of monolith vested with the absurd power of public officials. He’s also known as a film composer. On the other hand, he stood at the founding of an improvisation scene in Slovakia some fifteen years ago and has performed as a saxophone and vocal improvisor, in genres from jazz to free improvisation, across Central Europe. He is a tireless ensemble-founder – from our conversation I counted about five different ensembles he founded, focused on a range of different genres.

Miro was nice enough to speak English for most of the interview but we switch to Czech and Slovak in the last third of the interview, which is also when the most interesting conversation happens. I try dub over this to convey our conversation - for anglophone people it’s a kind of peek into a foreign culture and language.

Miro and I talk about how you must think of yourself as “nobody” in order to do your best work, the absurd power of public officials, the Czech new music scene, the Ostrava New Music Days festival without which the Czech New Music Scene wouldn’t be what it is, the cultural differences between Czechs and Slovaks, and the permeability of music genres, among other things.

Miro's website:

Music in this episode: 

Black Angels Songs, Book 1 (Dystopic Requiem Quartet):

"Uprostred tmy," Drť band:

Improv w/ Toth/Mazur/Dymny, a Polish-Slovakian trio which forms part of the NewEast project establishing an improv scene in the former Soviet Block :

💋👁👂🏼 Website:

Jan 13, 202233:32
Ep. 12: Holiday Special: Mike Miller (organist, singer, pastor)

Ep. 12: Holiday Special: Mike Miller (organist, singer, pastor)

Mike Miller and I met on our first day of undergraduate music studies when we were both 18. Mike studied voice, as a countertenor, and, later, organ. When I found out, years after we both graduated, that he had become a protestant pastor in Texas, I was puzzled, at first – he was openly gay and I had heard him complain about his conservative relatives who used the Bible to condemn who he was. But then I realized - Mike had never condemned Christianity or God or religion as such – his complaints centered around how selectively people read the Bible. And, talking to him about his life as a pastor, I realized there are many parallels between what he does as a spiritual guide, and the function that artists might have as cultural guides.   

Mike and I talk about the unpredictable life of a pastor, mistranslations of the Bible, myths about Christmas,  and how creating things is one of the bests paths towards greater spirituality, among other things.    

Mike's blog: 

💋👁👂🏼 Website:

Dec 23, 202134:09
Ep. 11: Jim Osman (theater director, sci-fi enthusiast)

Ep. 11: Jim Osman (theater director, sci-fi enthusiast)

Jim Osman is a 25-year-old theater and opera director based in the UK who has already directed a range of interesting projects across mediums and genres - like a sci-fi opera and a fantasy-puppet-satire short movie. He also produced and directed a monthly surreal comedy and puppetry night at Cairo, Brixton, made a video essay about cyberpunk opera for the Cyberpunk Research Network, and had a 1-1 12-week intensive with Daniel Kramer, former artistic director of English National Opera, who supposedly called him one of the most interesting young director he’s worked with. He is currently earning a Masters in opera directing from Royal Welsh College of Music.  

Jim and I talk about the commodification of spirituality and identity, sci-fi as the modern-day fairytale and as a device to better talk about divisive issues, Terry Pratchett as pan-paganism, the problematic union of capitalism and technology, and the future of theater, among other things.   

Jim's video essay on cyberpunk opera:


Motherload (sci-fi opera produced at Tete a Tete theater), text by Susan Gray and soundscape by Liam Noonan, sopranos: Natasha Agarwal and Julieth Lozano: 

💋👁👂🏼 Website:

Dec 13, 202134:58
Ep. 10: Kate Gale (writer, founder of Red Hen Press)
Nov 12, 202132:39
Ep. 9: Christoph Ogiermann (improvisor, composer, founder of Klank)

Ep. 9: Christoph Ogiermann (improvisor, composer, founder of Klank)

Christoph Ogiermann is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improvisor based in Bremen, Germany. He is founder of Klank, a quartet of musicians who improvise on everything from their instruments to cardboard boxes or balloons.   

We talk about feeling like an outsider, the ballet of improvising on piano, the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of German arts funding and also how well supported many German artists are, building one’s music career around making opportunities for others, and playing on boxes, among other things.  


Schubert's Symphony No. 8:

Malcolm Goldstein, Vision Soundings, "From Center of Rainbow":

Klank improvisations:

TOCH M for feedbacking Voice Transformer (Ogiermann):

Cheryl Ong & Vivian Wang, "Singaporous": 

Klank website: 

💋👁👂🏼 For moe about this podcast:

Oct 12, 202131:30
Ep. 8: Olivia Fuchs (theater director, environmental activist)
Sep 11, 202128:35
Ep. 7: Cassandra Kaczor (millennial musician)
May 06, 202143:15
Ep. 6: Reginald Edmund (playwright, founder of Black Lives Black Words)
Apr 05, 202140:22
Ep. 5: Jason Cady (composer, librettist, co-founder of Experiments in Opera)
Mar 13, 202157:07
Ep. 4: Malena Dayen (singer, opera director)

Ep. 4: Malena Dayen (singer, opera director)

Malena Dayen is a versatile vocalist and exciting opera director who works a lot with new media. Recently, Malena directed the first opera in virtual reality (The Presence of Odradek with Bare Opera.) She is also a versatile vocalist who sings both “standard” operatic repertoire and, most prominently with her duo New Airs Tango, Spanish music and tango. She is also part of the vocal improvisation ensemble Moving Star based at Carnegie Hall and a collaborative artist at the Weill Music Institute, among other performance engagements. 

Malena and I talk about virtual reality, how technology changes singing, the magical elements of opera, and the so-far still irreplicable qualities of live performance, among other things. 


Malena's website:

The Presence of Odradek at Bare Opera:

Moving Star ensemble:

Malena's upcoming projects🔮: 

With Teatro Grattacielo ( Idomeneo July 2021 (Crete, Greece), L’Amico Fritz November 2021, El Amor Brujo November 2021 (New York City)

With Fairfield County Chorale ( Vivaldi’s Gloria, April 2021

The Late Walk, at the Library of Congress. More info here:

Stay fully up-to-date on Malena's website! 

Music on this episode: 

Malena Dayen sings Blizzard Voices by Paul Moravec

New Airs Tango, Nostalgia 

Moving Star improvisation

New Airs Tango, Cielito lindo 

💋👁👂🏼 For more about this podcast:

Feb 26, 202155:10
Ep. 3: Miriam Gordon-Stewart (soprano, director, opera frontierswoman)
Feb 15, 202156:16
Ep. 2: Julia Mintzer (mezzo-soprano, opera director)

Ep. 2: Julia Mintzer (mezzo-soprano, opera director)

Julia Mintzer is one of those artists who has been able to cultivate a dual career in more ways than one: first, she is both a performer and director. Second, she has worked on the "industry" side of opera as well as on "indie" projects. Julia and I talked about some of her directorial projects, about giving depth to two-dimensional operatic characters (especially soprano ones), performing in art galleries, her direction of the first fully-staged opera in London after the beginning of the pandemic, and the difference between directing for the stage and for video - among other things.   

Julia Mintzer's website: 


"Si vuol di francia il rege" from Maria Stuarda (Donizetti) and prelude to Der Tod und das Mädchen (Schubert):

Excerpt from /Bread and Circuses: The Wrestling Opera/:

La Bohème at Mass Opera:

Carmen instrumentals: 

Dana Varga's research into gender disparity in opera:

💋👁👂🏼 For more about this podcast:

Feb 01, 202151:10
Ep. 1: Omar Shahryar (composer, facilitator, peace maker)

Ep. 1: Omar Shahryar (composer, facilitator, peace maker)

Omar Shahryar calls himself a composer, facilitator and peace-maker. We talk about the meaning and importance of an education in the arts, letting go of the perfection and expectations drilled into academically-trained artists, re-thinking the idea of an audience and – don’t worry – we also talk about getting that all-important funding for indie projects. 


Omar's website:

Opera Schmopera's website:

Channel 4 News report on the children's opera Shoe Full of Stars:

Music on this episode: 

NELV collective: "Trust the Person":

Excerpts from the children's opera A Shoe Full of Stars

(Words by Ed Harris

Music by Omar Shahryar and students from North Huddersfield Trust School

Ensemble: Dark Inventions

Conducted by Christopher Leedham 

Soprano: Lizzie Holmes

Baritone: Neil Balfour)

All 4 minutes of our improv are available to patrons of the On the Verge Series! You can sign up for a free trial here:

💋👁👂🏼 For more about this podcast:

Jan 13, 202101:12:45