Sound artists Claire Rousay and Matchess explore the fringes of consciousness at Epsilon Spires

BRATTLEBORO — On Saturday, July 23, the sound artists Whitney Johnson, who performs as Matchess, and Claire Rousay will play live in the sanctuary of the multimedia arts venue Epsilon Spires in downtown Brattleboro.

Both Rousay and Johnson explore what a news release describes as “sounds on the margins of our consciousness.” For Rousay, this involves creating sound collages from the mundane sonic components of our daily lives, like the flick of a lighter or the chime of a text message, while Johnson's compositions incorporate specific frequencies that may subconsciously encourage mental states like relaxation or excitement.

“In sociology, people talk a lot about the demystification of life under modernity, making things more rationalized, more bureaucratic, or more scientific,” says Johnson, who holds a Ph.D. in the sociology of sound from the University of Chicago, in a profile of Matchess in the Chicago Reader. She explains that with her music, she's “trying to re-mystify life any way it can happen.”

Johnson conceived of the pieces on her most recent album, Sonescent, released by Drag City, while participating in a multi-day meditation retreat in Joshua Tree, Calif.

“I think focusing on the unknown is a good mental process - it's good for your spirit,” she says. “There's something relieving about it, that you don't have to have it all figured out. And there's something fun too -it's enchanting, and I like to let my mind wander away from the knowable.”

Rousay, who began touring as a musician at age 15, has created a prolific body of work centered around field recordings she makes of her everyday life combined with snippets of conversations, letters, and text messages over ambient instrumentation. “The resulting collages are intimate and atmospheric, with a human immediacy often lacking in electronic music compositions,” say organizers.

In an interview in The Quietus, Rousay talks about her fascination with meeting someone for the first time. “You don't know what the end might be. And then something gets in the way. Every time you think about that experience, the 'what if' element is always there,” she explains. “So you have the emotion but not the concrete experience. You know more about what you feel than what the actual experience was. I think my music is like that, too.”

Doors open for the show at 8 p.m., and the performance will begin shortly after 8:30 p.m. In order to avoid disrupting the program, audience members are advised to arrive within that window of time to enjoy a refreshment, view the Jude Danielson exhibit “Unseen Rhythms” in the gallery of Epsilon Spires, and choose their seats.

Tickets for the event are $20 each and can be purchased at

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