We of Fonema Consort hold a special place in our heart for the young NYC concert series Permutations. Both Fonema Consort and Permutations were founded around the same time, and it has been a mutual joy to watch each other "permute" in these formative years.
Nina Dante : Attending a performance on the Permutations series is more of an experience than a traditional concert. Set the scene for us, if you will: what is the concept of Permutations?
Ravi Kittappa : Permutations is meant to be a few things: a performance series, a fundraiser, and a party. All three equally. Each permutations is the same format but a different experience, hence the name of the series. The basic idea is that artists can use the event to present something a little different and more intimate than their usual shows while connecting more directly with their audience, raising some money, and having a party with their friends and supporters.
ND : Can you tell us the inspiration behind the creation of Permutations, and its history up to today?
RK : The first Permutations was a little over a year ago - permutations040612, featured the Color Field Ensemble, which came full circle at the last Permutations (permutations032913) which featured members of Color Field performing virtuosic soli. Since the first Permutations I would estimate that the events have raised over $8000 for the various ensembles and artists who've presented their work. We've had performers from NYC and from throughout the US as well as performers from Germany and France. The money raised from Permutations has gone to funding music festivals, producing a radio-play, making recordings, funding tours, and keeping a German performer in NYC!
Around the time that Permutations started, I was keenly aware of NYC musicians that would perform to small crowds of 30 or so people and either have to pay to do so or get something paltry at the end of the night. They would feel that these performances were successful (and they were!) but would be in the hole monetarily afterwards. It's a discouraging thing. From my experience in my younger days in punk rock and the rave scene, I knew the remedy was just a little of the DIY ethic. Along with getting the musicians paid in order to allow them to keep producing and performing, Permutations had to be a fun, community building party. Our hope is that people come to Permutations even when they are unaware of the performer or the music, because they want to experience something new, support the artists, and have a drink and some fun afterwards. I think at each successive Permutations event there are more and more folks like that.
ND : We loved performing at Permutations last year- the series has such a unique vibe, which I think has partially to do with the atmospheric venue in which the concerts take place. Can you tell us a little about the venue, and what role it played in the creation of the series? How do you think the venue lends itself to performances of new music?
RK : The venue is kindly donated to us by Jake and Heather Boritt, patrons of the arts and more specifically, arts and culture in Harlem. I can't thank them enough. Jake had told me of the space after some of the renovations were complete and I specifically had heard about a Highlands Dinner Club event that had happened soon after. Once I saw the space I knew I wanted to do Permutations.
The speakeasy nature of the event as well as being in Harlem, give the night a lot of character. Of course, the performers really interact with the space, deciding how exactly it will work best for them. All the performers are aware of the city soundscape that can sometimes interfere with the proceedings, but it has always worked.
ND : Permutations takes place in NYC, a city whose new music scene is quite mature. Can you tell us what role you would like Permutations to play in this scene?
RK : My humble answer is that Permutations attempts to make NYC more accessible and more of a viable venture for performers and groups. In general, Permutations is a lot of fun too, which often only happens at the bar after a typical NYC new music performance. So there's a hope for community building as well. Permutations is about empowering the performer. We haven't taken one cent from any of the performers who've played . All the money goes to the performers. I'd love to see someone sell out a Permutations at $200 and put on a crazy show and put that money towards a project that would be difficult to fund in another way.
ND : We of Fonema Consort are so happy to be a part of Permutations in these exciting early years of its growth. We are so curious to see what the series becomes in the next few years- what is your vision for the future of Permutations?
RK : Ahhh. Well I don't want to give anything away, but as you know, I no longer live in NYC. The virtuoso pianist and my friend, Karl Larson, has been running NYC Permutations events since September. We are looking to start Permutations West in San Francisco and are hoping to help facilitate performers playing the east and west coast. Groups could plan their tours based around the funds they raise in NYC and SF permutations. We have some other things cooking as well, but I can't divulge that info just yet.