(HERE Artist Residency Program)

ThisTree Leah Coloff

Show Description

ThisTree is a multi-media performance ritual exploring family and remembrance while contemplating the circumstance of leaving no genetic legacy. It is anchored in songs written by cellist/singer Leah Coloff and amplified by personal stories where pioneer spirit meets immigrant dreams in the Pacific Northwest. ThisTree takes place in the forest. In this forest is a clearing where intimate visions created by super 8 home movie footage, handmade objects and personal talismanic props serve to investigate and propagate new meaning for identity and inheritance. 

Main image: Nobel Fir by Robert Lucy, Headshot by Natasha Gornick

Artist Bio

Leah Coloff is a cellist and singer/songwriter. Raised in the Pacific Northwest, her classical roots collide with 70’s rock and a pioneer spirit. Creating songs and arrangements that are honest, sensual, funny, brutal, pissed-off, beautiful and chilly sweet, her voice and virtuoso cello playing distinguish her own and other composer’s work.

Leah’s first self-released record Dark Sweet Heart, is a collection of loud, soft, punk, rock, pretty, crazy songs. It is the epitome of her self-identified style CLUNK, classical meets punk. Selections from this record were performed at the first 21c Liederabend Festival produced by Beth Morrison Projects, voted one of the best classical performances of 2009 by Time Out New York.

Her band Lucibel Crater, described by Tony Visconti as being “a breath of fresh air with compelling melodies and an evocative hybrid organic/electro sound,” created The Family Album, with guest guitar by Lou Reed. It was featured in Vogue Italia and Italian Urban Magazine. Lucibel toured Italy and Germany and played the Jazz Welten Festival in Dresden.

Leah was instrumental in the creation of (Gr)albums, a multi media app for ipad/iphone combining music with art, graphics, moving images and storytelling. For the first (Gr)album, Book Of Sarth, Leah executive produced and was the graphic designer of pages, typography and animating text.

In the classical realm, Leah centers on contemporary music, working with living composers including Philip Glass, Ted Hearne, Joel Thome, Sean Friar and Michael Gordon. She was the cellist for The Source, an oratorio by Ted Hearne premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival in a Beth Morrison Production. It was named one of the 15 best classical vocal performances of 2014 by The New York Times.

Leah is cellist and contributing vocalist in Ted Hearne’s art rock project Delusion Story. Their performance at Present Music’s 2013 season finale evoked Express Milwaukee to pronounce, “The greatest, most unforgettable performances of the night were by Leah Coloff, who sang Hearne's most searing songs while ferociously playing the cello part.”

Leah played cello and portrayed an Emily for Lightning at our feet, Ridge Theater’s multimedia song cycle inspired by the poems of Emily Dickinson with songs by composer Michael Gordon, performed at the BAM Next Wave Festival.

Leah is cellist and vocalist with Scorchio, an electro-acoustic string quartet, resident string quartet for the Tibet House Benefit Concert produced by Philip Glass since 2001. This past summer they accompanied Damon Albarn in support of his solo CD, Everyday Robots for radio, t.v. and festivals in the U.S.. Scorchio recorded Trey Anastasio and the Scorchio Quintet: Live from Princeton, during the 2010 sold out show at Richardson Auditorium. They have performed with many prominent artists including Bowie, Philip Glass, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, Vampire Weekend, Regina Spektor, Michael Riesman, David Byrne, Ziggy Marley, and Rufus Wainwright, among others.

Leah is a regular performer at the Obie award winning The Secret City and is a member of The Secret City band.
Leah holds a BM in cello performance from The San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She studied cello with Irene Sharp, Bernard Greenhouse and Ray Davis.  

Artist Statement

My inspiration to create a multi media performance piece began with a reverie that when I needed to, I could pull up my creative path and wrap myself in it like a cape for comfort and warmth. I am creating a ceremonial Cape/Path out of cast off jeans for a performance ritual of self-liberation and an exploration of inheritance, memory and biography. I have been collecting these jeans for years from fences in my Brooklyn neighborhood. I love how personal jeans become; how they hold the memory of their wearer. I love their secret biographies. I wanted to make something from them.Their histories will be sewn into my Cape/Path.

Since I was young I have made things by hand, crafts using textiles and traditional techniques such as quilting. I enjoy the tactile pleasure of the materials in hand and the improvisational way that I allow for these things to coalesce.

My favorite aspect of songwriting has always been lyrics- this is where I start, the storytelling. ThisTree will tell stories between songs that will delve into my family history emerging from the marriage of Bulgarian immigrants on my father’s side, pioneer cowboys on my mother’s side, immediate family memories and the end to this branch of my family tree.

Pondering these songs and the Cape/Path, I have come up with some concepts that inspire me, epigenetics and the biography/identity of people and things. I am fascinated with epigenetic inheritance; that a parent's experiences can be passed down to future generations, often rapidly in response to the environment. Can art literally, physically change future generations, not just cultural legacy? Also, do objects hold meaning or memory assigned only by their owner or culture? How does the cultural biography of things intersect with and affect personal identity?


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