Behold: the gift of MUSIC! We’re #PLEASED our wildly talented friend Sarah Ruth Alexander joined the crew at Shiny Sound Recording Studio in November for the newest installment of our Songwriting Scholarship project, which resulted in the beautiful track we’re releasing today, “We Sing the Body Electric.” Clear your schedule for a few minutes of musical meditation today, and hum along if you’re feeling fine!
If you’re not already familiar with Sarah Ruth and her impressive catalogue of spellbinding recordings and creative performances, we’re very excited for you to enter this new chapter of your life. First, we recommend checking out her project, They Say the Wind Made Them Crazy. You’ll notice immediately the quality of Sarah’s vocal performance; at UNT she studied vocal studies and electroacoustic composition. She loves engaging and creating with fellow artists, playing with a wide array of musical friends and touring often. We had a blast adventuring together to Santa Fe with Spiderweb’s collective performance of #PLEASED in May! Sarah is also one of our favorite DJs at KUZU, often hosting special guests from around town and curating awesome playlists on her show Tiger D every Tuesday night. Worth tuning in for, always!
At Spiderweb showcases, Sarah often shares her unique style of music and musings that help ground the audience by encouraging participation, thoughtfulness, or laughter throughout the room. She has the rare talent to craft an entire landscape with just a few notes; a storyteller through sound. You may have seen her expertly wield a dulcimer or a harmonium, either playing solo or with friends, and the professional range of her voice is no less than awe-inspiring. Earlier in 2018 she led an incredible vocal workshop via our Happy Hour series to share voice maintenance, warm-up exercises, and other tricks of the trade, but you can (and should!) also hire her for private lessons (find the details on her website).
This was a special recording for us not simply because Sarah Ruth is one of our very favorite humans to collaborate with, but also for the first time ever the Wake & Bake crew got to contribute to the track too (listen for the ethereal hummmms)! Then we ate waffles and pie. All-in-all a wonderful day of friendship and music. While you enjoy this track, we hope you’ll check out the following interview in which Sarah shares her experience creating with the Shiny Sound crew, her musical background and variety of influences, and what she hopes to manifest in the coming year.
Tell us a little bit about your journey with music.
I grew up on a farm until age 11. It was a 20 min. drive to the bus stop and then about 30 min. more to school . One day I asked my mom if she would pick me up from school. She thought I meant from the bus stop so of course she would, but I meant from the school. When school was out, I waited and waited and my 1st grade teacher ended up taking me home with her. While this was getting sorted out, she let me play her piano. When my parents came to pick me up, she told them to get me into music lessons, that she thought I had some talent to harness. So, my dad bought me an organ (pianos need tuning, organs do not) and enrolled me in lessons. Fast forward to 2004 when I received a bachelors degree in music from UNT. I appreciated the discipline and rigor of pursuing a music degree which included writing an exposition to a fugue, analyzing sonatas, sight reading and transposing a piece on piano in order to graduate, and classical vocal training. (Twice this year I've been asked if I'm a musician or a singer, so I respond both-as there is no difference, and go through what I had to do in order to earn my music degree, ug, so pardon me for the 'holier than thou' seeming response. You do not need a music degree to be a musician, but as a female, sometimes I use it for validation, which is a bummer).
When you knew you'd have a half-day at Shiny Sound to record this song, how did you feel about it?
OMG! I was surprised, honored and excited!!!
What were your anticipations for recording?
The piece I recorded has space for improvisation, so I tried to not practice it too much so there would be some freedom left to explore. I was excited at the prospect of working with other people/instrumentation.
What was the recording process like for you?
I really love collaborative processes, so it was dreamy for me!! Getting to work with Corbin and Jacob was awesome! Corbin had this chaplain's organ, which sounded great with my harmonium, and Jacob played that effortlessly, of course. It felt like we hit the ground running. Plus, Spider crew were there and super open to participating, so it was a really good group experience for me.
Can you give us a little background about your song, “Sing the Body Electric?”
It's a piece that I've performed solo a few times, so relatively new. It's a little different every time as there's room for improvisation, especially in the vocal part, but it has a composed form mostly set by the harmonium.
What are your interests and passions outside of music?
I gain a lot of inspiration from reading and visual art as well lately. A lot of my favorite musicians to play with are visual artists as well as musicians. They are equally bad ass at both, which I find amazing.
What or who are some of your influences as a musician?
As of late, Body/Head (Kim Gordon's guitar duo with Bill Nace) and I have a crush on one Van Halen song, "I'll Wait", Eddie Van Halen's keyboard parts and then the guitar parts, too, OMG. Growing up on a farm, sequestered from people and music has made for odd holes in my pop music knowledge, so I'm late to the party on some things. Cocteau Twins, Diamanda Galas, Dead Can Dance, Michael Jackson, Meredith Monk, Cathy Berberian, Bob Wills, Ray Price, and Cecil Taylor comprise the longest standing influence/inspiration. Glenn Gould, Diamanda Galas, and Cecil Taylor are my favorite pianists. I like seeing those 3 names in a sentence.
What would you like to accomplish creatively within the next year?
My long term goal is to tour Europe. My short term goal is to make good work, go further, do new things.
Anything else you wanna share with us?
Gratitude and super thanks to Spiderweb Salon for all the love and support you all provide to the creative community!
Sarah Ruth is a diverse musician and artist – a multi-instrumentalist, she employs hammered dulcimer, harmonium, electroacoustic sound art, and extended vocal techniques. She performs frequently both solo and with multiple bands and improvisational ensembles in the North Texas area and tours nationally.