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Kansas City-based musician and composer Mary Lawson, who creates under the name Mesonjixx, is working with new technologies to create soundscapes of voice, percussion, keyboard, poetry, and found-sounds. Lincoln-based pianist Paul Barnes takes an eclectic approach to programming, weaving his virtuosic piano repertoire with ancient chant.
Mary Elizabeth Jo Dixen Pelenaise Kapio’Lani Lawson also known as Mesonjixx is an artist, composer, writer, performer and collaborator who currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska. Her father is a Black Visionary born and raised in Ozark, Alabama and her mother is a South Pasifika Islander, Oracle from Honolulu, Hawai’i.
Mesonjixx identifies as a Black-femme woman with Native and Indigenous South Pasifika roots. To her, identifying as such communicates and complicates her queer existence.
While living in Chicago (2009-2014) she honed her songwriting and musical style. These years were formative for her composition and writing practice and what laid the foundation for her work as a musician and performing artist today.
Since her return to Nebraska in 2014 Mesonjixx has found balance in her interconnected nature of her identities as a femme-woman, as one who belongs to two diasporas of two hemispheres, and as a black midwesterner who finds the plains of Amerika her home. Mesonjixx creates music to find her unique center.
Soon after her performance debut in 2015 at Meadowlark Cafe, accompanied by Kekeli Dawes (percussion) Myles Jasnowski (guitar) and film (co-directed by Kelsey Lee) Mesonjixx has not only become a fixture of the Nebraska music scene, but has risen to the top of artists in the Midwest. Both as a solo artist and as a leader of a trio and quartet, which has drawn the most talented musicians of Nebraska.
Keyboardist Nate Asad is and has been the band director for Mesonjixx for the last 3 years. Their trio – which featured percussion/sound artist, John Evans – was selected to open for Kamasi Washington’s recent performance in Omaha at the Slowdown and was a returning festival favorite at True/False Independent Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri.
She describes the music as: Black Femme music. Afro-futuristic Experimental Subculture Soul. LEARN MORE
Praised by the New York Times for his “Lisztian thunder and deft fluidity,” and the San Francisco Chronicle as “ferociously virtuosic,” pianist Paul Barnes has electrified audiences with his intensely expressive playing and cutting-edge programming. He has been featured seven times on APM’s Performance Today and on the cover of Clavier Magazine with his recordings streamed worldwide.
Celebrating his twenty-five-year collaboration with Philip Glass, Barnes commissioned and gave the world premiere of Glass’s Piano Quintet “Annunciation.” The work is Glass’s first piano quintet and first work based on Greek Orthodox chant. Barnes recording of the quintet with string quartet superstars Brooklyn Rider was released in October of 2019 to critical acclaim. ResMusica in Paris wrote: “Paul Barnes, whose pianistic lines are always clear, is a marvel of dialogue with Brooklyn Rider.” <
Barnes twelfth CD New Generations: The New Etudes of Philip Glass and Music of the Next Generation has also received rave reviews. Gramophone Magazine wrote, “Pianists of Barnes’s great technique and musicality are a boon to new music.” And American Record Guide commented, “This disc provides further proof of Barnes’s ability to communicate new music with flair and passion.” Produced by Orange Mountain Music, the recording features the world-premiere recording of Dreaming Awake, a selection of Glass’s etudes and works by N. Lincoln Hanks, Lucas Floyd, Jason Bahr, Zack Stanton, Ivan Moody, and Jonah Gallagher.
Barnes is Marguerite Scribante Professor of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Glenn Korff School of Music. He was recently appointed Artistic Director of the Lied Center Piano Academy which welcomes several high-school pianists to Lincoln each summer for an intensive week of piano, composition, improvisation and collaboration. He also teaches during the summer at the Vienna International Piano Academy and the Amalfi Coast Music Festival. In great demand as a pedagogue and clinician, Barnes has served as convention artist at several state MTNA conventions, most recently at Virginia and was recently named “Teacher of the Year” by the Nebraska Music Teachers Association.
Barnes latest recital Illumination features a contemplative and cathartic program of piano works inspired by the mystical world of chant. Barnes, also a Greek Orthodox chanter, has collaborated most recently with Philip Glass and Victoria Bond to create piano works based on ancient byzantine and Jewish chant. New chant-based works by Native flutist Ron Warren and David von Kampen are also given their premiere performances. Barnes gave the world premiere of Victoria Bond’s Illumination on Byzantine Chant at New York’s Symphony Space in April of 2021. Barnes will release his fourteenth recording this fall on Albany Records entitled Illumination: The Piano Works of Victoria Bond including the world-premiere recording of Illuminations on Byzantine Chant.
Barnes’ recordings are available on Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Apple Music, YouTube, and Amazon. LEARN MORE
About the Generator Series: Presented by KANEKO and Omaha Under the Radar, the Generator Series will present events that investigate music’s relationship to our physical world, seeking the connections between sound and architecture, sound and natural landscapes, sound, and the human body, and more. Focusing on music by living composers, including sound improvisation and experimental composition, the Generator Series will be an outlet for non-commercial music that asks questions about how we listen, and how we interact with sound in the 21st century.
About Omaha Under the Radar: Omaha Under the Radar is an annual experimental performance festival in the Midwest. We celebrate cultural innovators with performances throughout the city of Omaha. The festival emerged from a desire to support innovative performers and creators living and working in the Midwest, and to connect this community to other performance communities throughout the United States.
Since the first festival, held in 2014, Omaha Under the Radar has presented over 200 artists from more than one dozen cities throughout the United States. We work to present a multiplicity of genres, ideas, and identities through performances, talks, group discussions, and educational opportunities. Omaha Under the Radar is a 501(c)3 Nonprofit Organization. To make a tax-deductible donation in support of our programming efforts, visit our SUPPORT page.
Please be aware that face masks are required to attend this event. Guests acknowledge that attending this event includes a risk of contracting COVID-19 and that KANEKO is in no way responsible.
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