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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To Elizabeth Swados, the Badass Bird Woman

Thanks to archivist Sharon’s deep Google skills, we have a great video to follow up our earlier post about Peter Brook and the International Centre for Theatre Research, which inaugurated the newly remodeled Lepercq Space at BAM with workshops and  performances of The Conference of Birds in 1973. The video shows a 22-year-old Elizabeth Swados in a workshop, conducting an audience-generated piece of choral music. Not only is the piece (and Swados’ boundless energy) incredible, you can also clearly see the Lepercq, which now houses the BAMcafé. Swados, Brook, and the audience made fantastic use of the space. But don’t listen to us—hear for yourself.





In case you don’t know, Elizabeth Swados is pretty much the embodiment of Badass East Village Artist. She has worked at BAM several times since ’73. For the 1987 Next Wave Festival, she presented Swing, featuring a cast of 25 musicians between the ages of 9 and 18, all from different areas of New York City. Conducting them in a manner conceptually similar to her piece with Peter Brook, Swados found that her young orchestra from across bedraggled 1980s New York could relate to one another more easily through music than language. Referring to her youthful ensemble as a “body instrument,” Swados’ Swing stands as a profound piece of social sculpture which attempts to heal social ills and inequities through musical collaboration.

Swing. Photo: Linda Alaniz
Swing. Photo: Linda Alaniz
And here is a video of Swados performing the great, wordless “Bird Woman Song,” of which she says “the only thing you need to know about this bird woman is that half of her is on the ground and half of her is in the sky, and that’s a problem.”


I don’t think we’re alone in saying the real problem is that there isn’t more Elizabeth Swados in the world!

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