The Invisible Comes to Us is a new album from the pioneering partnership of Anna & Elizabeth. Released on the significant Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the record is a spellbinding reconfiguration of ancient folk ballads that sees the duo’s immersion in Appalachian music move to a place of boundless experimentation. They combine two powerful and very distinct voices. Elizabeth LaPrelle was raised in rural Virginia and is frequently lauded as the finest traditional singer of her generation. Anna Roberts-Gevalt is a multi-instrumentalist whose musical curiosity has taken her from old time fiddling in Kentucky to a more recent immersion in Brooklyn’s avant-garde community. Together they find new ways to tell old stories of love, loss and intrigue, while relishing the tension that arises between their very different backgrounds and orthodoxies; holding firm to the roots of the music while removing the limits of how that music can be played and presented.
1: Ballad collector Helen Hartness Flanders made 4,066 aluminum cylinder recordings of New Englanders singing old songs, in the 1940s.
2: Anna is a cancer, Elizabeth is a libra.
3: Addicted to detective stories, tv or books.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
This project has always been deeply inspired by our love of these old traditional songs, and the people who sang them, especially the women. We’ve met some of their descendants, and their friendship, hospitality, and dedication (or obsession) with hanging on to old things is something we really admire (and relate to). Recently, I think the wells of inspiration have shifted to the interior and personal; getting inspired by other artists’, and now my own personal journey to find my own expressive languages.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I started playing violin in third grade at a waldorf school, and played classical music for a long time (my great uncle was a concert pianist) until I stumbled on folk music; Elizabeth grew up in rural Virginia – her whole family plays and she grew up going to fiddlers conventions!
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
It rotates, but current favorites are
Laurie Anderson – Big Science
Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love
My great uncle Frank Glazer’s recordings of Satie’s piano music
Meredith Monk – Dolmen Music
Skúli Sverrisson & Óskar Guðjónsson – The Box Tree
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
I have never been! I associate it with a sense of creative freedom.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
I live in Brooklyn/honestly, my favorite place is my room, right now, which is mostly an art studio with a bed in it. I’ve been making a lot of paintings and videos in there, recently.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I would be a visual artist and a writer; that’s probably true for Elizabeth, too.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
I just bought John McCowen’s new record Mundana’s I-V/I met him last year through mutual friends, who have been introducing me into planets of really intricately practiced droney music, with beautiful overtones. It is so mesmerizing/ornate and punk at the same time, it makes me think of all these threads making a rope, it’s so insistent and delicate. I have such admiration for that kind of focus – both in creating music like that, but also in the focus that it offers the listener. My life and music, and this project with Elizabeth, feels more like collage, drawing together lots of things from many places, a sort of layered approach.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Laurie Anderson, Joan Jonas, William Kentridge or Ann Hamilton.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Getting to see meredith monk. What a tremendous generous force.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
Increasingly important – this last record was a studio beast, and it’s been a fun challenge to figure out how to translate that to the stage; but I’d say, compared to most, our band thrives on being mostly luddites.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have two siblings, both went to art school; my sister runs a tattoo parlor in Brooklyn with her girlfriend, my brother art directs ad campaigns, in Oregon. They are very supportive of me, and are always the first to remind me to chill out and not work too hard. I couldn’t do it without them!
Anna & Elizabeth perform at the Kiezsalon on Wednesday, 24th April along Portland, Oregon resident Mary Sutton’s solo project Saloli!
Photo © John Cohen