Interview: Powerdove on improvisation, academia and working with acoustic instruments

Powerdove | collage by John Dieterich

Outside Nashville, the “song” – with its vaudevillian and Tin Pan Alley roots – has become an increasingly irrelevant form. The dominance of crowd-sourced festival culture has pushed popular artists to work less with the “song” as a vehicle for storytelling and more toward designing functional, ambient tracks for the polo grounds, the dancefloor, the gym, the office, the bar, or the bedroom. In many ways, mainstream music increasingly resembles what many of us define as “noise.”

On the surface, Ithaca-based pianist, improviser, and Cornell lecturer Annie Lewandowski’s explorations with Powerdove seem blissfully removed from any larger musical/cultural conversations. However, on closer inspection, Lewandowski’s skeletal vocals nestled amidst house-of-cards instrumental arrangements point to a future where improvisers might be able to bridge the gap between our present thirst for novel timbres and our past predilection for narrative-driven songs.

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