Varispeed is a collective of composer-performers that creates site-specific, sometimes-participatory, oftentimes-durational, forevermore-experimental events. Founded by Aliza Simons, Dave Ruder, Paul Pinto, Brian McCorkle, and Gelsey Bell, Varispeed came together in June 2011 to perform Perfect Lives Brooklyn, a 12-hour celebration of Robert Ashley’s landmark opera. Subsequently, they were invited to perform a new arrangement of Perfect Lives across the river as part of Performa ’11. This version, Perfect Lives Manhattan, made Time Out New York and New York Times’ critic Steve Smith’s “Best of 2011” list. Varispeed have subsequently performed updated arrangements of Perfect Lives in the Catskills, presented by Mount Tremper Arts, in August 2013, in Pittsburgh, presented by Alia Musica and the Pittsburgh Festival on New Music, in May 2014, and in Jersey City, NJ, presented by Con Vivo Music, in September 2015.
In August 2012, Varispeed presented their second full scale project, an overnight arrangement of John Cage’s Empty Words, which was performed at Roulette, Exapno, and across the Brooklyn Bridge. In August of 2013, Varispeed created an arrangement of Arthur Jarvinen’s Adult Party Games, a collection of conceptual scores, during a residency at Mount Tremper Arts. Varispeed has also performed for Cage’s centenary at The Stone (September 2012), presented their work on Perfect Lives at Performers Forum (December 2011), and released a series of 1-minute opera recordings. Since 2011, the members of Varispeed have delved deeply into the work of Robert Ashley, performing not only Perfect Lives but premiering the composer’s final piece, Crash, at the Whitney Biennial 2014 (reprised at Roulette in 2015 and at Wesleyan University in 2018), performing in the restaging of That Morning Thing (November 2011), arranging a trio version of Love is a Good Example (May 2014), and creating their own arrangement of Public Opinion Descends Upon the Demonstrators (March 2013).
Varispeed’s members regularly perform together as members of Panoply Performance Laboratory, thingNY, and the band Why Lie?, as well as under their own names.
Gelsey Bell is a singer, songwriter, and scholar. She has released five albums of original music. Her most recent song cycle was commissioned by Roulette and the Jerome Foundation. She was awarded the 2012 Stefanos Tsigrimanis Artistic Scholar Award and a 2013 fellowship from VCCA. Her work has been presented in the Vital Vox festival, the BEAT festival, and the SITE festival. Gelsey is a core member of thingNY and Varispeed. She has worked with numerous others as a performer and collaborator, including Robert Ashley, Jonathan Bepler, Matthew Barney, Yasuko Yokoshi, Kimberly Bartosik, Chris Cochrane and Fast Forward (as the Chutneys), Dave Malloy, Rachel Chavkin, and John King. gelseybell.com
Brian McCorkle is a composer, musician, and performer. In addition to his work as What Color is Your Machine Gun? and with the composer’s collective Varispeed, he is the Co-Director of the Panoply Performance Laboratory (PPL) with Esther Neff. PPL makes large scale performance art operas in addition to duo and small group performances around the world. PPL also operates a space for experimental music and performance in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. PPL is currently developing a new piece, Embarrassed of the Whole. panoplylab.org/brianmccorkle
Paul Pinto creates and produces experimental music and theatrical works, is a founding member of Varispeed and thingNY. His music has been performed in the International Istanbul Film Festival, Glasgow’s Shakespeare in the City Festival, and by performers such as Joan La Barbara, Pauline Oliveros, the BBC Scottish Symphony, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, loadbang, and IKTUS Percussion. His recent work has focused on new experimental opera, and has been praised in the New York Times, NewMusicBox and on Time Out New York’s “Best of 2011” List. Paul has chosen to work equally with traditional instruments, unconventional sound-makers and amateur musicians, has recorded four albums and his scores are published by Deep Listening Institute. pfpinto.com
Dave Ruder is a Brooklyn-based vocalist, clarinetist, guitarist, electronicist, composer, songwriter, writer/librettist, interdisciplinary collaborator, etc. Dave is a member of thingNY, Varispeed, and Reps. Since 2013, Dave has been the driving force behind Gold Bolus Recordings, where he has released numerous solo albums. As a composer, Dave wrote The Gentleman Rests, a meditation on the certification of the 2000 presidential election, with a commission from the Jerome Foundation and Roulette in 2014. Dave holds degrees from Wesleyan University and Brooklyn College. daveruder.com
Aliza Simons works as a transmission artist, ceramicist, musician, songwriter, prop & craft stylist and occasional ukulele teacher. She performs as a member of the song-based band Why Lie?, with Dave Ruder, and Dr. Zizmor, a homemade-electronic-instruments duo with Ian Munro. She first discovered Perfect Lives (Private Parts) in her father’s cassette tape collection in middle school and was forever changed.