Composer Laura Steenberge
Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, January 8, 2017. Dominique Cox as Brainchild and Carolyn Chen, Heather Lockie, and Argenta Walther as The Others. Costumes by Jill Spector.
Begun in 2008, Brainchild is Johnson’s ongoing, nine-part collaborative fiction and sound project. For each successive part of her story, the artist collaborates with a different guest composer who creates a choral work for performance. The story follows a girl, Brainchild, who discovers the abandoned structures of an ancient civilization, and slowly discovers her own strange connection to its builders. Through an intercessor, Brainchild begins her awakening and subsequent communion with these forces, as mysterious overseers and attendants monitor her progress with unease.
Drawing on 15 years in a close-knit sci-fi reading group and passion for experimental music, Brainchild is simultaneously modest in tone and ambitious in scale, and still not halfway complete. For Part 4 composer and multi-instrumentalist Laura Steenberge created a layered A Cappella score for the waning daylight of the Armory’s two-story art studio. The audience watched from above as the novice Brainchild, guided by the chorus, a set of handbells, and the shared oversized songbook, learned the score’s melodies.
Image: Monica Nouwens
Courtesy Armory Center for the Arts