Bushwick and SAL: Art Inspiring Art for a Fourth Season
September 15, 2018
By Wes Weddell, Associate Director of The Bushwick Book Club
If my friend Phil hadn’t secured it for his (wonderful) Now See Hear project first, the tagline I’d want for The Bushwick Book Club Seattle is only three words: Music. Art. Repeat. Heading into its ninth season, Bushwick stages events where a bill of 8-12 songwriters/composers and other performing artists share original work inspired by a particular piece of literature. Since 2010 we’ve traveled from Narnia to Oz to Gotham with works classic and contemporary, celebrated and complicated. Along the way, over 300 local acts have built a library of 1,000+ songs.
In addition to mainstage programming, Bushwick has grown its partner-events over the years, and the organization is delighted to announce another season collaborating with Seattle Arts & Lectures to bring a songwriter to select SAL events. The first pairing will happen during the Poetry Series kickoff featuring Alice Walker at Benaroya Hall on October 4, with J.R. Rhodes having accepted the musical assignment. And this year, the vision expands to include recording each Bushwick/SAL composition along the way!
One of the things that keeps me devoted to the Bushwick premise is the way conversations develop over the course of a performance: the threads that arise with each new response to the shared source material, and the audience interaction. Add the author into the mix—thank you, SAL!—and the stakes get enjoyably higher.
A testament to both the strength of SAL’s curation and the depth of commitment musicians make when accepting this particular challenge is just how many of these songs become a regular part of an act’s live set following the event, often finding their way onto studio releases as well. Some highlights:
Moe Provencher: “No Use Waiting” – inspired by Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (3/5/15)
Ben Mish: “King Me” – inspired by the poetry of Robert Wrigley (9/29/15)
Beth Whitney: “Fireflies” – inspired by Linda Pastan’s poem “Fireflies” (11/10/15)
Amanda Winterhalter: “SEER” – inspired by Geraldine Brooks’ The Secret Chord (1/28/16)
Isaac Castillo: “My Skin” – inspired by the poetry of Tyehimba Jess (3/4/18)
The Bushwick/SAL alliance so moved Reggie Garrett that he wrote a stirring song inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ work before we’d confirmed that as a partner event (we never did, but SAL audiences got to learn about it later).[*] I, on the other hand, abbreviated my Wild song in the presence of Cheryl Strayed and a full Benaroya house (slightly-naughty final verse here). Studio versions of both coming soon.
A vibrant scene requires many contributors, and The Bushwick Book Club Seattle is honored to work alongside Seattle Arts & Lectures to keep us all reading, humming, and engaging. Here’s to another creative year!
The Bushwick Book Club Seattle will provide musical performances at the following SAL events during the 2018-19 season: Alice Walker (Oct. 4); Danez Smith (Nov. 26); Solmaz Sharif (Feb. 11); Ilya Kaminsky (Apr. 1); HERE: Poems for the Planet feat. Kimiko Hahn & Friends (Apr. 25); Jericho Brown (May 21); Imbolo Mbue (Jun. 7). Bushwick’s own mainstage season launches September 29 with Original Music Inspired by Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist in the brand-new Hugo House theater.
[*] Garrett was featured in a recent issue of Living Blues magazine, which began its piece: “At the showcase of jury-selected performers at the Folk Alliance Region West . . . Reggie Garrett and the Snake Oil Peddlers, an acoustic trio, stood out from the other musicians.” That short set included “So Far Away,” the song inspired by Coates.