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SEXING SOUND: Mark Barden / Alex Temple

Lately, feminist and queer theories have begun to examine music and sound art, and Sexing Sound: Gender Sound Music is an attempt to concentrate and mobilize some of this discourse by lending a gendered ear to these vibrant and complex cultural practices. The program seeks to do this by presenting artists who approach sound and music from a variety of aesthetic, cultural, and historical positions, and who foreground gender in their work.

Dark Room

Mark Barden

This installation aims to reveal the unique beauty of the sounds male bodies produce involuntarily when engaged in sexual acts, especially in contexts that may initially appear 'dirty', unemotional, or otherwise hostile to intimacy. Experienced by a sole listener in complete darkness, the work collides the public with the private, musicalizing sexual material and sexualizing musical material.


Mark Barden, born in 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA studied composition with Lewis Nielson and piano with Monique Duphil at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 2003, he spent a year travelling around Europe as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow researching the work of Alfred Schnittke.

From 2005 to 2007 he studied composition privately with Rebecca Saunders in Berlin. As an Oscar and Vera Ritter Foundation Fellow, he earned a master’s diploma in 2010 from the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, Germany, studying with Mathias Spahlinger and Jörg Widmann. He received a PhD in Composition from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2015 for his doctoral thesis "Composing in and through the Body".

Barden's compositional works have won numerous international prizes including a Scholarship Prize from the Darmstadt Summer Courses, a composer residency at the Berlin Academy of the Arts, and a Composer's Prize from the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation.

His concert works have been performed by leading ensembles such as Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Ensemble Recherche, Mivos Quartet, KNM Berlin, and Ensemble Mosaik at renowned festivals for contemporary music such as the Donaueschingen Festival, Wien Modern, and the Witten Festival for New Chamber Music. A portrait CD will be released on the col legno label in late 2015.

Mark Barden lives in Berlin.

Travels of E.C. Dumonde

Alex Temple

American history is filled with legends and tall tales. As a culture, we’ve long been fascinated by the idea that strange, secret and inexplicable things lurk in our deserts, mountains and isolated small towns. As more and more people move to the cities and suburbs, the mystery of remote places only gets stronger. Described by an audience member as “This American Life on acid,” The Travels of E.C. Dumonde is a live “radio drama” that presents four newly-invented tall tales: a ghostly riverboat in Batno, Mississippi; a town in California filled with nothing but advertisements; a tree with strange optical effects in Black Forest, Washington; and a cornfield in the middle of Oklahoma that somehow seems to be both a wooden rail and an ocean. The music draws on a wide variety of influences — musique concrète, 1950s advertising, spoken-word performance art, atonal prog rock, American folk music, and underground hip-hop.

A sound can evoke a time, a place, a cultural moment, or a worldview. Alex Temple (b. 1983) writes music that distorts and combines iconic sounds to create new meanings, often in service of surreal, cryptic, or fantastical stories. She’s particularly interested in reclaiming socially disapproved-of (“cheesy”) sounds, playing with the boundary between funny and frightening, and investigating lost memories and secret histories.

In addition to performing her own works for voice and electronics, she has collaborated with performers and ensembles such as Mellissa Hughes, Timothy Andres, the American Composers Orchestre, Fifth House Ensemble, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, and Spektral Quartet. She has also played keyboards with the chamber-rock group The Sissy-Eared Mollycoddles, and made sounds using her voice, synthesizers and various household objects with a·pe·ri·od·ic.

Alex got her BA from Yale University in 2005, and her MA from the University of Michigan in 2007. After leaving Ann Arbor, she spent two years in New York working for the New York Youth Symphony’s Making Score program for young composers. She’s currently pursuing a DMA at Northwestern University and working on a podcast-opera about TV production company logos and the end of the world.

Sexing Sound is co-sponsored by Goethe-Institut Chicago, Experimental Sound Studio, the Sound Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, and Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music, Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, and Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.