Henna Chou is the consummate collaborator.
The Austin-based cellist, guitarist, keyboardist, arranger and sound artist is the featured musician at the July 17 New Music Mixer, the monthly meet-up co-sponsored by Sightlines and KMFA 89.5.
The New Music Mixer is 5 to 7 p.m. at Friends & Allies Brewing, 979 Springdale Road. The event free; pints are $1 off. The program begins at 6 p.m.
Chou is seemingly ominipresent in Austin’s arts scene, performing with progressive theater and dance groups as well as touring ensembles. She’s been an integral part of Steve Parker‘s sprawling, adventurous “Soundspace” music program at the Blanton Museum of Art. She’s created string arrangements for bands and improvisations for film. And with her Aux Aux ensemble Chou’s created installation-based sound art pieces. She’s even performed an ensemble improvisation with cats at Austin Animal Shelter.
As managing director of COTFG, a community organization dedicated to the proliferation of alt music and sound, Chou is a co-curator of New Media Art and Sound Summit, a three-day fest now in its tenth year.
Chou points to her multi-lingual upbringing with parents who spoke Chinese at home as perhaps the origin of skill with artistic collaboration and musical improvisation.
“I have English as a second language and I think for a long time when I was younger verbally communicating with people was very difficult for me,” she says. “When you are always listening and speaking in a mix of languages the way you interpret context and nuance can be confusing. But in some ways that made me a good listener as an ensemble player because I am trying to sense my place in what is going on and sort of telepathically respond to how others are playing or what they are feeling.”
And it’s the possibilities and surprises that arise in collaborating that are the most artistically rewarding.
“It is really fun when you play with people and feel like whatever sound just happened is the sound that is supposed to be,” Chou says.
Openness is key, and not just for trained artists too.
“I think that the more we can engage everyone in (the arts), the less divided society will be by race/gender/socioeconomic division lines,” Chou says. “For the immigrant generation especially it is also great when you finally come into a chosen family of diverse types of people and feel accepted and welcomed ”
“Your imagination is a powerful thing and what you create from it is something no one can take away from you.”