Arts & Entertainment

Local lens; Red Desert Ensemble, living local, playing global

GERMANY — Park City’s Katie Porter and her husband Devin Maxwell create music on a local level in their band Red Desert Ensemble (works for clarinet, percussion and electronics)

They can be found playing at the Park City Library, the Park City Community Garden, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA), and the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA).

They’re love of traveling and sharing their musical knowledge, skill, talent and passion with like-minded people takes them around the United States and the world.

Porter is currently in Germany for a residency called Klangraum in Dusseldorf. She’s an invited artist, along with six other musicians (from the UK, Germany, Argentina, Hungary and the USA) to participate in a week of performances and creative music practices. Porter presented graphic scores called Mazes.2, and played the bass clarinet in other composers works, including performing a new work by German composer Eva-Maria Houben on bass clarinet and piano, performing an installation by artist Bernd Bleffert where he played sand from sculptures installed in the gallery. They also sang with Argentinian composer Angeles Rojas to create overtones in the room for hours.

“Klangraum is put together by composer Antoine Beuger, a member of the Wandelweiser Composers Collective, he and his wife Sandra were my hosts and fixed me amazing macrobiotic vegan food (I’m not vegan), and special German chocolates and wine from a friend’s vineyard. During my performances the artist Renata Hoffman North drew several automatic drawing portraits of me, my words and my sounds, and the poet Xiane Sierocka-Stock wrote poems and thoughts as she listened,” Porter told me.

This week she’s headed to Documenta 15 in Kassel to see the artist collective Ruangrupa and their work on collective art and shared resource building.

“I’m just here to learn, and then I go onto Berlin to celebrate the record release of my album Phase to Phase with Lucio Capece in Japan on the Japanese label FTARRI. Lucio and I composed these pieces together, spending every Tuesday for a year meeting on zoom to play our bass clarinet and talk about our lives. I recorded my part in Park City and he recorded his in Berlin, and it just came out on this fantastic label Ftarri, with gorgeous artwork by Cathy Fishman (watercolor whales),” Porter said.

She has a handful of CDs here in the U.S. and people can contact her directly to purchase. She explains that Japan can’t ship her new album right now because of COVID.

On Thursday in Germany, Porter was interviewed by the artist Sylvia Alexandra Schimag, who touched upon Porter’s writing in the journal Sound American.

Porter is involved in large projects that involve bringing communities of musicians together, such as the Listen/Space Commissions and the VU Symposiums where she invites composers and performers to create new works in the mountains with her.
“These are projects that have allowed us to share the time and space that we have in Utah with musicians from around the world and create music in a more open way,” Porter said. “I’m still very much in the thick of it, and processing my time here. These are some new artistic practices for me, a new way of working collaboratively with musicians to make new works, something I’ve done for awhile as a clarinet performer, but never so much my own ideas, my own sounds.”
Her next concert in Utah is on August 12 for an art opening at UMCA.  The flutist Christine Tavolacci from Los Angeles will be in town and the two will perform a duo they wrote for bass flute and bass clarinet, along with a few other works by Antoine Beuger and Wadada Leo Smith.
Porter’s husband, Devin Maxwell, is a highly successful and sought out musician in his own right with his career as a composer and current work teaching composition at University of Utah and Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

The married duo’s latest album, Chorochronos, is on the NYC label Infrequent Seams and has received great reviews in the UK music magazine, The Wire, as well as in Salt Lake City’s magazine Slug. 

This article is less about Maxwell than his wife and the mother of their two children simply because he was, during interviews, a little preoccupied with happily taking care of their three children while she is in Europe. For this dynamic Park City Family, that means taking them to Colorado to compete and to the Utah Olympic Park where they’re nordic combined athletes on the Park City Ski and Snowboard – Nordic Team


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