This fall marked the first-ever performance of John Gibson’s “Uncanny Valley“ from Oni Buchanan and poet Jon Woodward! The work, detailed here and here, sets to piano and electronics shards of Woodward’s fractured, serial, and apocalyptic work of the same name. The two traveled to the University of Michigan to perform the piece as part of the school’s Zell Visiting Writers Series. Gibson was also in attendance, and all three took questions in a short Q&A after the performance.
While in Ann Arbor, Jon and Oni also gave a poetry reading with Benjamin Paloff at METAL (a working metal shop and art space) as part of One Pause Poetry. The next morning, they took part in a roundtable discussion along with poets Paloff and Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith, set among the plants of Pot & Box garden shop. Other highlights of Ann Arbor included patronizing restaurants with alternating consonant/vowel patterns (Seva’s, Lena’s, and Sava’s, in particular), and meeting the goats at White Lotus Farms.
In Holland, Mich., home of Hope College and De Zwaan, they visited a working Dutch windmill which they were fortunate enough to tour with organist and fellow Ariel Artist roster member Rhonda Sider Edgington and her two-year-old daughter, Esther, who did a fabulous impromptu dance to the street organ music. Jon and Oni performed “Uncanny Valley” in the Knickerbocker Theater, whose marquee welcomed them to town as they rolled in on Main Street.
At Hope, Jon and Oni also took part in Q&A sessions and lectures and enjoyed both formal and informal discussions with students, including a run-down of the vast Tulip Time festival as well as the ever-evolving law enforcement strategies and fines concerning picking or accidentally knocking over tulips during Tulip Time.
After their fascinating time in Holland, Oni and Jon continued onward to Saginaw Valley State University, where they visited an advanced poetry class and performed the next night in the Founders Hall, again with the performance followed by a Q&A where the audience offered both their questions and their responses to the performance.
All in all, it was an extremely fun world premiere tour. They’re looking forward to going back out on the road from January through April, taking “Uncanny Valley” to Illinois (in a quickly approaching residency at Wheaton College), Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, California, and Nebraska, as well as into the recording studio.