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Meet Jodie Landau

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jodie Landau.

Jodie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and bred in Los Angeles, within a community surrounded by music, movies, performance, and theater. I was always a performer, from 1st grade jitterbugging to my parents having me perform for family friends that came over: singing and dancing to Backstreet Boys or the entire soundtrack to the musical Chicago, or whatever was my latest fixation. I was thrust into plays my aunt would write and throw together for my cousins’ birthday parties or holiday gatherings and was fortunate to have the family and education that fostered my performance, creativity, and musicality.

For most-of-elementary through high school, I went to Oakwood School in North Hollywood, including its summer arts program, Academy of Creative Education (ACE). I give them both endless thanks for shaping the human and musician that I am. Both in and outside of school and summer arts camp, I was pushed to think outside the box and given incredible opportunities to study with, play with, and write for extraordinary musicians in LA, often CalArts alum, students, or faculty; and many of whom became collaborators, mentors and friends that I’ve worked with ever since.

I later attended CalArts as a percussionist and then in the performer-composer program, after a brief semester in the composition program at USC. While at CalArts, I played in numerous concerts and festivals at REDCAT, I performed in Invisible Cities, Christopher Cerrone and The Industry’s invisible opera for wireless headphones at Union Station, began my collaborations with wild Up, and wrote a live score for Ate9 dANCEcOMPANY’s “mouth to mouth”.

In 2014, I traveled to Reykjavik to perform and record with the Icelandic female choir: Graduale Nobili. I met them the year prior during their residency in LA performing with Bjork on her tour for Biophilia. The moment they began singing, opening with an Icelandic choral piece, I was immediately brought to tears. I’m so grateful to have met and befriended the choir after the numerous shows. We even had a lovely BBQ and pool party at a friend’s house where, in addition to eating the best lamb I’ve ever had and cooling off in the pool, we sang for each other.

After this, I knew I had to work with them. So I reached out to a few of the singers on Facebook, who wonderfully entertained this idea. When I told my friend and collaborator Christopher Rountree, artistic director and founder of wild Up, he was eager to conduct and we later decided to add wild Up to our expanding project, in addition to my own music have several other composers and close collaborators write music, and we raised the necessary funds to make this all happen through an Indiegogo campaign.

Our first thought of a place to record in Iceland was, of course, Greenhouse Studios, to work with Valgeir Sigurðsson, a magnificent producer, mixer, sound engineer, and composer. We were so delighted that he and the studio were available and little did we expect that Valgeir would later want to release our culminating album on his label, Bedroom Community.

Since joining the label, I sang on tour with Ballet National de Marseille and ICKamsterdam performing the premiere of Emio Greco and Pieter C. Scholten’s “Extremalism” with music composed by Valgier, which premiered at the Holland Festival and Montpellier Danse; I’ve performed nearly annually off-venue and on-venue shows at Iceland Airwaves; I joined for Bedroom Community’s Whale Watching Tour throughout Europe, including a performance with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, with an additional US show at Walt Disney Concert Hall as part of the LA Phil’s Reykjavik Festival.

I’ve also continued to collaborate, perform, and tour with wild Up as a percussionist, vocalist, arranger, production coordinator, often painter of our large muslin programs, etc. Additionally, I work as a copyist, making scores and parts look pretty and playable, mainly for my close collaborators. I’ve worked with theater/opera companies like The Industry, Beth Morrison Projects, Source Material, and Four Larks. Recently, I’ve been collaborating with composer, producer, and musician Jherek Bischoff, as well as the wonderful poet Mandy Kahn.

Currently, I’m writing my next big project: a concert/theatrical performance piece, produced by Beth Morrison Projects. The piece will weave its way through songs and stories about gender, sexuality, queerness, [online] dating, choice, consent, attraction, desire, expectations, conforming to someone’s needs vs. self-preservation, language and communication, dance, drag, costume, and performance of self. We’re developing it throughout the next year and with the premiere and additional performance dates to come in the 2019/2020 season.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
First off, I must acknowledge that I have lead quite a smooth, privileged, and supported life. I’m fortunate at the moment to be living at home, in the house I grew up in, which certainly alleviates some of the pressures to take on work that doesn’t necessarily directly inform or fuel my artistic career or personal growth. I feel so lucky to have grown up in LA where I was exposed to and welcomed into such a wonderful artistic community at such an early age.

I can’t imagine what my life would be and where my career might be had I grown up somewhere else, or even had I left. I wouldn’t quite call them struggles, but it can certainly be exciting and challenging to move through all the different musical, creative, and administrative roles that I play and to navigate their varying power dynamics, responsibilities, and energies. On a given day, I may be setting up chairs and equipment for a performance, hanging banners outside the concert hall, playing percussion in the back of the ensemble, singing in the front, bringing in a new composition/arrangement, conducting a choir of singers recruited from the audience, playing handmade bells in the lobby, so on and so forth.

Particularly in work that is not my own, I’m always working on how much of myself to give and trying to remind myself of which hat(s) I’m wearing at the given moment, as to best respect the positions and opinions of my collaborators. As I feel many artists do, I tend to struggle with the ever-fluctuating life schedule that is being an artist and freelance musician. Periods of intense busyness and travel give way to the occasional wide-open schedule.

Especially when I find myself back home with more time on my hands, I juggle between writing, planning, and developing new material, focusing on self care, and wanting to take advantage of my free time to be with people and focus on personal relationships whether that be through playing board games and D&D, rock climbing, going out dancing, taking in the music and art Los Angeles has to offer, meeting new people, and/or staying up til 4am chatting about life, love, relationships, art, communication, etc. Relationships of any kind can be hard to maintain, particularly in a city where we’re all so spread out and many artists are busy and/or traveling at various times. It’s funny how often I start to become close with someone new just before leaving town for 6 weeks.

At the moment, the new material I’m making is very personal. I’m sorting through how direct to be in telling the stories from my life, breaking down my own narratives within my work, and what it means to perform myself. I’m grateful to have an extraordinary group of friends and collaborators, [and a wonderful therapist] with whom to work through all this. Specifically, gender and sexuality are heavily weighted and fascinating topics in my life both by choice and by circumstance.

I am queer. And I choose to identify as so as certain other words just don’t sit quite right, and queer lends itself more to questions instead of definitions, though it also may lead and certainly has lead to assumptions and complications. I am sperm once spun in the hopes of conceiving a daughter. A son was given a gender-ambiguous name, whose mother later asked, “Why do you care so much about gender?” Or so begins the stories I tell about myself.

Exploring queer identity in my life and in my work is incredibly rewarding and challenging. I always want to remember the immense privileges of my life as a white, (Jewish), LA-bread, male-bodied, and well-supported person. This privilege can certainly make me hesitant and question the value of presenting my own narrative as opposed to that of others, and I want to continue to support and be a part of presenting and performing other such narratives.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I am a vocalist, composer, and percussionist. I also work as a music copyist, arranger, conductor, teacher, production coordinator, etc. As often as I can I work with choirs and chamber ensembles of various sizes. The music I make finds its influences within contemporary classical, indie rock, jazz, electronic music, etc. In addition to my own music, I perform works by Emily Hall, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Ellen Reid, Marc Lowenstein, Jherek Bischoff, Andrew Tholl, Christopher Rountree, and more, and enjoy arranging music by Joanna Newsom, Bjork, Sasha Siem, Reggie Watts, and My Brightest Diamond.

I guess a few things I may be known for would be my voice, which often resides in my upper register, for my theatrics and performativity, for singing and playing vibraphone/marimba at the same time, and, I would hope, for working well with others as a collaborative artist. As I’ve mentioned, my primary collaborators are wild Up and Bedroom Community. Wild Up is a modern music collective – a group of Los Angeles-based musicians committed to creating visceral, thought-provoking happenings. Our programs are eclectic studies of people, places, and ideas that we find interesting.

The group believes that music is a catalyst for shared experiences and that the concert venue is a place for challenging, exciting, and igniting the community around us. I’m particularly proud and fond of wild Up’s show Future Folk, which we’ve been touring and performing a lot this past year, in which we blur the lines between audience and performers. It has been an incredible way of connecting directly and musically with people all over the country.

Bedroom Community is an Icelandic record label/collective formed in 2006 by Valgeir Sigurðsson with Nico Muhly and Ben Frost, later adding Sam Amidon, Daníel Bjarnason, Puzzle Muteson, Paul Corley, Nadia Sirota, and James McVinnie to the intimate roster. In 2015 they added new members to the family, Emily Hall, and Jodie Landau & wild Up.

Like-minded, yet diverse individuals from different corners of the globe all creatively orbit around an inconspicuous building and its inhabitants on the outskirts of Reykjavik, Iceland – Greenhouse Studios – where the music is mostly created.

Who else deserves credit – have you had mentors, supporters, cheerleaders, advocates, clients or teammates that have played a big role in your success or the success of the business? If so – who are they and what role did they plan / how did they help.
Ah! So many people!! Probably too many to mention, and I may feel slightly guilty forgetting a few or leaving anyone out.

But first: my family. I wouldn’t be anywhere without their support, advice, pride, inspiration, love, and all the opportunities they’ve given me to experience and pursue music and the world.

Then there is, of course, Oakwood School/Academy of Creative Education (ACE) and CalArts that I’ve already mentioned played pivotal roles. In particular, Ivan Johnson, who founded ACE, was a key teacher and mentor throughout high school who pushed my music and me outside of the box. He taught my jazz bands and new music ensembles and guided me through my college composition audition recordings and my first several ambitious concerts. To this day he remains a close friend and collaborator, and the father of my godchild.

David Johnson, (Ivan’s father) was also my percussion teacher/mentor while at CalArts, who helped me transfer there mid-year. David was so supportive of all my pursuits and heavily shaped the percussionist and musician that I am. I’ve always related to and been informed by his ideas about composing as if you’re improvising and improvising as if you’re composing, which I think is very present in my music.

Marc Lowenstein, teacher, composer, and music director for The Industry, has been my composition teacher/mentor since I was fifteen. He has always been the most helpful ears and eyes in all my compositions. He has endlessly informed and inspired my music and my teaching. I also attend his Shabbat dinners as often as I can.

Kate Conklin is my voice and Alexander Technique teacher who I’ve been studying with for the past 8+ years. I am the vocalist, performer, mover, thinker, teacher, student, and human being that I am today, in so many ways thanks to my time and continued study and play spent with Kate.

Also deserving of credit and my endless gratitude is the community of musicians in Los Angeles and Iceland that have continually played and developed my music over the years, especially between Christopher Rountree and wild Up, and Vagleir Sigurðsson and Bedroom Community. I often think back to when I was 18 years old and one of my favorite musicians in the world, clarinetist Brian Walsh, said to me, “If you write it, we will come.”

I’m so lucky that this sentiment has been shared amongst so many musicians that I admire and continue to learn from who have always been so supportive of and enthusiastic about my music and me. I would be nowhere without them.

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Image Credit:
Julie Roland, Hörður Sveinsson

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