Kaki King

2022-23 Commission Club

Composer and musician Kaki King is considered one of the world’s greatest living guitarists, known both for her technical mastery and for her constant quest to push the boundaries of the instrument. Hailed by Rolling Stone as “a genre unto herself,” Kaki has released 9 albums and toured extensively, presenting in such prestigious arts centers as the Kennedy Center, MoMA, LACMA, The Met and Smithsonian Design Museum. She has created music for numerous film and TV soundtracks, including “August Rush” and “Into the Wild”, for which received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score. She has performed with symphonies and chamber ensembles, and recorded an album in collaboration with the Porta Girevole Chamber Orchestra commissioned by the Berklee College of Music. Read More

The Work

Modern Yesterdays is a suite for guitar & orchestra drawn from musical material from Kaki’s album of the same name, paired with projection mapping, which ACO will premiere on March 16, 2023 at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall.

Artist Statement

Initially, my solo shows had a very stark look so the audience would focus on my fingers. A colleague’s advice inspired me to think about a lightshow that would be enticing to non-musicians. Many of the examples I found in my initial research were really big. I started asking whether I could create something that was smaller and more intimate. The projection mapping system I created became a process of experimenting on the technical level, and then about what we wanted to say with it. 

The Neck is a Bridge to a Body was the first time I worked in multi-media, triggering visuals with the guitar. Over the years, I added a drum trigger that connects everything. If I play a note on the guitar, I can send that note into my computer and then have the computer do any number of things that I want: trigger a spiral visual that comes up on the guitar; or connect to audio of a human voice that’s subtitled on the guitar. Some of these elements are pre-rendered, but most of the performance is improvised live including my control of visuals and audio. 

For this project, I will create projections for the guitar & a scrim behind the orchestra. This piece will be a reflection into itself, abstract, without narrative. Disintegration: insects chomping on a leaf until it’s gone. Kinetic sand. The overwhelming theme is beaches, oceans, space & entropy. The detritus of our lives. Reflecting the truth of the universe. With this, my 1st orchestral work with projection mapped visuals, I want to take the orchestra and deconstruct it visually; a trumpet floating down a dirty river. I will incorporate images that connect to NYC, the intended audience. The themes, music, and visuals all relate to the slow and subtle passage of time.

Musically, Modern Yesterdays includes several songs from a show I’ve been creating called Data Not Found. The sound is more processed than in my previous work. I use a pressure pedal for much of the processing. The video effects are not on/off, they will be gentle transitions in and out, mirroring gradual shifts. In performance, I try to have the music match the visual changes. I want to sample other instruments of the orchestra that I can trigger during the show.

Modern Yesterdays is meant to reflect the zeitgeist of now. It’s nimble. It’s meant to be amended and updated. Media can be very strict and structured, but the tools I created let what happened that morning be seen that night in the performance. Spontaneity and reflectiveness are important to me. 

Recent Work