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Artists on the Verge

Artists on the Verge

By Ema Katrovas
Join Czech-American classical singer Ema Katrovas on her ongoing narrative research project which seeks to find out what it means to be an independent artist in the 21st century. In each episode, Ema interviews a different "indie" artist - from free improvisors to poets, independent book publishers to small opera company founders and beyond. For more about this podcast and the related blog and YouTube channel visit
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Ep. 16: Daniil Posazhenikof (composer, founder of Geometry of Sound)

Artists on the Verge

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

Artists on the Verge

Ep. 17: Vivian Säde (filmmaker)
Vivian Säde is a twenty-four-year-old Estonian/intercontinental filmmaker in the very beginning of her career. I was connected with her by another guest to this podcast, Malena Dayen (whom you can hear in episode 4), when I was looking for someone to work with on a short film. I found that Vivian’s sensibility, unpretentiously influenced by pop culture, is a perfect counterbalance to a potentially overly-serious short musical film written around a monodrama for unaccompanied soprano by contemporary American composer Juliana Hall and text by Caitlin Vincent.  Vivian and I talk about the difficulty of breaking into filmmaking, about walking the line between popular entertainment and high art, about the Americanization of storytelling, and about our joint film project and how it ties into issues of feminine identity in the public eye, among other things.   Vivian's website:  This is the first episode on which I used music from the Free Music Archive. The piece in this episode is by Monplaisir, called "Lid" from the album Kitchen Table:  💋👁👂🏼 Website:
May 23, 2022
Snippet No. 2: Book Review of The Death of the Artist by William Deresiewicz
This is my review of a very prescient book which aligns with the concerns of this podcast: William Deresiewicz's The Death of the Artist: How Creators are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech (2020). I share one central insight of the book and also some notes I have as a European-based artist with a theater background. If I get just one person to read this book, I'll be happy! Here's a link: More about this podcast and the related blog and YouTube channel at  Find me on Instagram @soprano_on_the_verge 
May 02, 2022
Snippet No. 1: "What’s in A Name?”: The Topsy-Turvy Path of Branding this Podcast
This is a "snippet" episode in which I briefly expand on a theme relating to the Artists on the Verge podcast. For more about this podcast and related blog and YouTube channel visit Follow on instagram at @soprano_on_the_verge 
May 01, 2022
Trailer for Artists on the Verge
Learn more about the Artists on the Verge podcast and the related blog and YouTube channel at Follow on Instagram @soprano_on_the_verge 
May 01, 2022
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):   Nostalgia:  Figaro Rave (theater music):  G:Grammar: no online recording available   Mirror (ballet music):
April 13, 2022
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: 💋👁👂🏼:
March 13, 2022
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:   🎵Music:   Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major:  Nidi D'Arac, Pizzica:  Nidi D'Arac, Ipocharia:   💋👁👂🏼 Podcast website:
February 12, 2022
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:
January 13, 2022
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:
December 23, 2021
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: Music:   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:
December 13, 2021
Ep. 10: Kate Gale (writer, founder of Red Hen Press)
Kate Gale is a poet, prose writer, librettist, president of the American Composers Forum, and founder of Red Hen Press, a Los Angeles-based independent literary publishing house, one of the foremost of its  kind in the US. Her story is both all-American and quite unusual: It involves escaping a cult, going to college just to spite a conservative boyfriend, and becoming a divorced mom who decided to transform Los Angeles into a literary city. The result was Red Hen Press, named after the American fable about the Little Red Hen who sowed her own wheat to make her own bread.     Kate and I talk about the healing power of storytelling, how a manuscript goes from being one of thousands submissions to being published, how stories aren’t always enough, the taboos around money, the insight manuscript submissions give into the collective psyche, and why e-Books aren’t replacing print books any time soon, among other things. Website of Red Hen Press:  🎵Music:   Moses Concas harmonica beatbox  Nina Simone, "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"  Sonny Boy Williamson harmonica solo Iain Farrington, piano arrangement of ABBA's "Money" Marina Lebenson, piano improvisation on "If I Were a Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof Mark Abel (w/ text by Kate Gale), "Those Who Loved Medusa"  💋👁👂🏼 More about this podcast and related blog and YouTube channel:
November 12, 2021
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.   🎵Music:   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:
October 12, 2021
Ep. 8: Olivia Fuchs (theater director, environmental activist)
Olivia Fuchs is an opera director with roots in indie theater. Her story involves founding her own experimental theater company in London, a burned down performance space, and the UK tradition of performing above pubs. Recently, Olivia has been working on environmental activism, which she hopes to incorporate into her work in theater. Olivia and I spoke about techniques to approaching theater directing, how almost any story can be feminist,  the advantages of growing up bicultural, Margaret Thatcher’s unexpected help in starting a small theater company, and, of course, finding ways to make ecologically-conscious, sustainable theater. Olivia’s website: Music: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sings Dido’s lament  Excerpts from Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen More about this podcast: 
September 11, 2021
Ep. 7: Cassandra Kaczor (millennial musician)
Cassandra Kaczor is a classically trained pianist and composer whose dream was to make a living performing pop music. She’s also the first composer whose work I premiered back when we were both in undergrad.   We talk about millennial angst, our fraught experiences with music education, the greed of American colleges, standing up for yourself as a freelance musician, and the coolness of nuns, among other things.    Cassandra's website:  🎵Music:  "Rigid, Fluid" by Cassandra Kaczor "Animal" by Cassandra Kaczor Excerpt of Cassandra's high school musical, Deadlines  Jennifer Higdon, "Zaka"  "Sam's Song No. 1: Hi" by Cassandra Kaczor  "The Goldfish Forgets" by Cassandra Kaczor  💋👁👂🏼 For more about this podcast: 
May 06, 2021
Ep. 6: Reginald Edmund (playwright, founder of Black Lives Black Words)
Reginald Edmund is a Chicago-based playwright and founder and managing curating producer of Black Lives Black Words, an activist theater organisation which "commissions, develops and produces bold and unapologetic artistic responses to current social and political issues." Since its inception in 2015, Black Lives Black words has served two continents, three countries, nine cities and counting. Reggie and I talk, among other things, about the artist as griot, the changing nature of the idea of "community" in a globalized world, the importance of live performance, and what it means for an artist to be, in Nina Simone's words, "with the times."    Website of Black Lives, Black Words: Music:   Nina Simone, "Good Bait"  Nina Simone, "You'll Never Walk Alone" Nina Simone, "I've got life" 💋👁👂🏼 For more about this podcast:
April 05, 2021
Ep. 5: Jason Cady (composer, librettist, co-founder of Experiments in Opera)
Jason Cady is a New-York-based composer, librettist, pedal steel guitar and modular synthesizer player, and co-founder and co-artistic director of Experiments in Opera. We talk about following one’s musical curiosity, the definition of opera, music and storytelling, leaving the 20th century avant-garde behind, and how when “everything goes” in art, we might as well make it fun.    Jason's website:  🎵 Music:   Herbie Hancock, "Rockit"  Jason Cady, The Sounds of San Donato: Radio Symphony Orchestra Jason Cady, Three Quintets  Generation X, "Your Generation"  Gene Krupa, compilation  Ornette Coleman, Free Jazz  Arnold Schönberg, "Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte" Richard Lerman, Concert Version  Harold Budd, "The Real Dream of Sails"  Anthony Braxton, Trillium (opera)  Glenn Branca, Symphony 13 (Hallucination City)  Jason Cady, I Screwed Up the Future (opera)  Jason Cady, Buick City 1 a.m (trailer + song "The Same Answer for Every Question")  Jason Cady, Nostalgia Kills You (opera)  Jason Cady, Happiness is the Problem Jason Cady, "I Could Not Allow That To Stand"  Jason Cady, Candy Corn (opera)  Monteverdi, Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria (opera)  Jason Cady, Another One Bites (podcast opera, part of Aqua Net & Funyuns)  And finally: 💋👁👂🏼 For more about this podcast:
March 13, 2021
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.  Links:  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:
February 26, 2021
Ep. 3: Miriam Gordon-Stewart (soprano, director, opera frontierswoman)
Miriam Gordon-Stewart is both a world class soprano and co-founder and artistic director of Victory Hall Opera, an artist-led opera troupe in Charlottesville, Virginia. While still an active soloist, she and two other singers turned away from what she calls the "arena" (i.e. the opera industry) to embark on what she calls the "frontier" (i.e. the world of independent creation). Miriam and I talk about the freedom and hard work of the opera frontier, about the stage magic that happens when singers get to lead, about the advantages, both personal and artistic, of having a close-knit performance troupe, and about upcoming projects, which include Unsung, a film that takes a raw look at the lives of opera singers and includes footage and music from Victory Hall Opera’s recording of La Traviata. It premieres online this February, 20201 - see link below for tickets!  Links:  Miriam Gordon-Stewart's website: Victory Hall Opera's Website: Trailer for upcoming opera Fat Pig  Trailer for Unsung  Get virtual tickets for Unsung: 🎵 Music:  Miriam Gordon-Stewart sings Berg's Wozzeck (Act 3 Scene 1) Miriam Gordon-Stewart sings Barber's /Knoxville, Summer of 1915 Overture to Verdi's La Traviata  💋👁👂🏼 For more about this podcast:
February 15, 2021
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:  Music:  "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:
February 01, 2021
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.  Links:  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:
January 13, 2021