Meg Mulhearn is a classically trained violinist but her approach to music is far from it. She’s creating experimental compositions, pursuing artistic collaborations, plays some heavy metal on the side, and helped establish Girls Rock Asheville – a non-profit camp that empowers girls and trans youth to find their voices through music. So, she’s basically an all around bad-ass. Here’s a discussion with one of her collaborators, Sara Baird (choreographer), about where she is, what she’s been up to, and who she’s listening to these days.
Meg Mulhearn – MAP Artist Profile
with Sara Baird
What’s your background and main musical influences? How does this affect your compositional approach? My background is really all over the place- experimental, heavy music, classical. All of these influences come into play when I’m composing. Since I have a wide palette, and couldn’t care less about how my music is categorized, I’m able to take the music wherever it needs to go.
How do you create your work? And, how has your practice change over time? What themes are you pursuing? I’ve realized that productivity and creativity are different and I need to think of them differently. This realization has really affected the way I work now, and is definitely much different than the way that I used to work. I’ve realized that to be truly creative, I actually need down time. To be productive, I need to be able to access that space where I can be completely absorbed in the project in the moment. As far as themes, I’m currently obsessed with one-note rhythms within rhythms.
This spring, you premiered an incredible new piece at Interlude. Can you tell us about that project? The Void Ensemble came to being because I was fascinated with the concept of void- everything and nothing. 2014 and 2015 were spent touring much of the time, and I found myself gravitating toward playing with artists that shared a strong sense of humility. I asked these selected artists who had inhabited this liminal space with me to send me tracks, with little or no direction besides concept and key, based on two drones, and I mixed these tracks together. I gave it back to these artists to recreate live. The Void is essentially an exploration of the loss of ego- terrifying and beautiful and ultimately requiring submission.
You’ve been involved with Girls Rock Asheville. what can you tell us the camp, the mission of that organization and what they bring to our community? Girls Rock Asheville is such a wonderful organization, and I am honored to have been involved. The non-profit camp empowers girls and trans youth to find their voices through music, and campers form bands and perform in a showcase all in one week! No one is turned away due to lack of funds, and they provide the instruments. At camp, girls explore working collaboratively, self-defense, music herstory, attend lunchtime concerts by local artists, and receive instrument instruction. Campers leave the camp with enhanced confidence; they are our next leaders, and this kind of impact is immeasurable. It makes for happier and healthier girls, and is a wonderful way for the entire community to come together in support of our girls and the arts. Since I’ve been involved, It has inspired me to recommit to promoting and connecting with other female musicians.
Besides music and composition, what other type of art or artists do you most identify with? I’m a huge reader, and was a creative writing major in school, so writing is close to my heart. I also love puppets and creatures, handmade by humans! With the help of some very talented sewing and crafty friends, I was able to construct a creature for a music video a few years back, and I’d like to do more of that.
What artists, bands, or style of music are you listening to these days? Honestly I’m listening a lot to my friends, who are all over the map as far as styles, and who have been tremendously productive as of late!
What’s your favorite place to hear music in Asheville? The Mothlight is a great room, as well as the mainstay The Grey Eagle. I played a show with Elisa Faires the other day at Battlecat, and that was the sweetest, most relaxing show. Downtown Books and News and The Crow and Quill are great environments for more stripped-down shows.
What’s the last show that surprised you? Why? A few shows stand out: One was the Brewster house concert where I heard my friend (and Void Ensemble member) Kima do an incredibly realized sound painting- you really had the sense that he was articulating perfectly, that he knew exactly what he was trying to express and executing it flawlessly. It was stunning. Another was my friend Sarah Louise accompanied on drums by Thom Nguyen in Tashi’s basement- it was like being on the edge of a thunderstorm- so evocative of the natural world, which I know is a huge influence of hers.