Debuted at the 2015 New Directions Cello Festival, The Plenary Art Ensemble is a consortium of three cellists, and one time-based visual artist. The work of the Plenary — a meeting place of artists — is an ongoing conversation moving towards becoming complete; allowing the artistry of each member to defy genre classification and, in doing so, cohere into a fullness of expression that creates an extraordinary chamber experience.
The concert format of The Plenary Art Ensemble explores chamber art music as a medium itself, enlivening the conversation between visual and sonic elements through conventional concert music performance. It’s at the point of interaction between musician and visual artist where The Plenary innovates these conventions by responding to one another in the live performance, using ‘chamber music’ as a tool of cross-disciplinary artistic communication. The result is a unique and unexpected live-art concert experience.
Cellists and multi-instrumentalists, Kenneth, Michael and Lauren make up the musical core of the Plenary. Although having played together for nearly ten years, the solo careers of each member has diverged from classical music into various other indie genres. Similarly, the work of the resident artist sarah goetz dances between the traditions of art-house cinema and site-specific sculptural installation and the emerging practices of contemporary performance art and new-media interactive interventions. Together, the four artists of The Plenary Art Ensemble cultivate a platform of artistic exploration in which tradition, genre, and technological innovation are relied upon, but not taken for granted.
The music often dissolves into the outer edges of compositional rigor and improvisational expanses filtered through the intersection of long-form Feldman-esque manipulations of extended instrumental timbre, the found-sound aesthetic of the musique concrète and the familiar diatonic soundscapes akin to current trends of contemporary ambient electronic music.
Cathedral Sessions, their June 2015 album debut, was recorded inside the ailing St. Elizabeth’s cathedral in Norwood, OH.
Michael G. Ronstadt - Cello, Guitar, Bass, Voice
Kenneth D. Stewart - Electronics, Cello, Guitar, Bass, Voice
Lauren K. Jones - Electric Cello, Bass, Voice
Sarah V. Goetz - Moving Image, Visual Media
Sarah Goetz, the newest member of the Plenary Art Ensemble, is a time-based artist who merges her roots in experimental film and sculptural installation with ephemeral object performance and literature. After completing her undergraduate degree at Duke University in 2011 with Highest Distinction and numerous art awards, goetz worked with both emerging and established organizations such at The Carrack Modern Art, Manbites Dog Theatre, The Durham Arts Council, The Durham Storefront Project, Windows on Chapel Hill, The Arts Center, The Visual Art Exchange, The Strange Beauty Film Festival, and the Mercury Studios, to bring large-scale site-specific installation and hand-crafted moving-image into downtown Durham and the Triangle. Her first performance of real-time animation of moving-image, Just When You Weren’t Looking, premiered at Duke University in 2012 in collaboration with Kenneth D. Stewart. Other live works include The Audience is Present at The Carrack Modern Art and Flowers Thirsty in collaboration with Austin, TX based musical group Twigs & Yarn. NC-based artist currently pursuing a graduate degree at The Ohio State University, where she has been working on a new series of ice works - which strive to communicate the rhythm, movement, and temperature of human emotional states on a societal level to the relation to the rhythm, movement, and temperature of objects’ physical states on a molecular level.sarahgoetz.com
For two decades, Michael G. Ronstadt has entertained audiences throughout North America on cello. An exceptional musician-composer conversant with a wide range of styles, he not only executes captivating solo performances, but participates regularly in duo and trio situations with a diverse camp of young, innovative musician-songwriters including Lisa Biales, Serenity Fisher and David Trotta. His versatile talents have been tapped for concert and studio work by such artists as David Bromberg, Linda Ronstadt, Muriel Anderson and Craig Bickhardt. As a core member of Ronstadt Generations, Michael G. displays genre-blending explorations on cello and guitar in complement to thought-provoking lyrics. To say his originals are unusual is an understatement. They set the bar at Olympian heights in their depth and breadth. In addition to his solo recordings as well as those with Ronstadt Generations, Michael G. is a much sought-after studio musician, who has appeared on more than 70 albums in the last dozen years. Michael has also premiered many new compositions, the most recent being Norwegian composer Bjorn Bolstad Skjelbred’s, ConVergEnce for Accordion and Cello with Rocco Jerry in Vermont. Dan Buckley writing for The Tucson Citizen noted his “amazing command of the typical and exotic sounds of the cello, a true virtuoso and a man of instinctive musicality.” Michael holds both a Master and Bachelor of Music in Cello Performance and studied under esteemed pedagogues Yehuda Hanani, Nancy Green and Dr. Gordon Epperson.www.michaelronstadt.com
Lauren K. Jones’ love of music started at a young age when she would sing with her favorite artists while diving in to her parents' vinyl collection. As far back as middle school, Lauren was interested in the idea of using the cello to fuse rock with experimental music.. Having been inspired by such cello groups as Apocalyptica, her first electric cello experience was when she hooked a specially designed cello pick-up to her bridge and played it through a guitar amp with a wah pedal and performed The Star Spangled Banner Jimi Hendrix style for a church rock concert. After leaving university where she studied cello and music education, Lauren developed her signature sound with an unusual 6-string electric cello (with a larger range in both the high and low ends). This also allows her to be able to stand while performing. As a founding member of the progressive rock band PoorWater, they performed at various venues around Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, and Scottsdale and opening for national acts such as Smile Empty Soul and 10 Years. In early 2013, Lauren joined the electronic rock project Don't Panic. They released their first E.P., Dos Robot Circus, in December 2014. She is currently playing with the ambient alternative rock project Ghostwalk. They are writing their debut full-length album and performing in the Phoenix area. Lauren attended music school at the University of Arizona. While there, she studied cello under Nancy Green, Nelzimar Neves, and Mark Votapek. She graduated with a Bachelor's of Arts Degree in Music Education in 2008.www.laurenkjonescello.com
Kenneth D. Stewart (BMI) is a bit of a Renaissance man. Overall his work touches on many areas including composition, musical/theatric performance, and various technological research interests engaging with the digital humanities. Scored for a range of instrumental forces, Kenneth’s compositions often weave together live instruments, voice, physical interfaces and sound processing into works with rich, melodious textures and an underpinning of the ambient electronic avant-garde. His musical research engages concepts of instrument modification and design and his non-compositional creative work of signal processing (linear and digital) and the hacking and modifications of electronic and acoustic musical instruments and their electronic effects. In 2008, Kenneth's work, 'Divergence' won the ASCAP Foundation's Morton Gould Young Composer Award. 'Fallen Soldier', his composition for solo cello, has been performed and featured on PRI (Public Radio International). The piece 'Thetastate' was given a studio recording by the jazz trio The Bad Plus and was released online by Duke University in conjunction with Duke Performances. Other ensembles that have recorded/performed his music include Speculum Musicae, the Duke New Music Ensemble, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and the Wet Ink Ensemble. In addition to being Ph.D., ABD in Music Composition at Duke University, he holds additional degrees from Duke, Rice University, The University of Arizona and Pima Community College. An avid collaborator, Kenneth is active in researcher in performance technology innovation as a member of the Slippage Lab at Duke University under the choreographer Thomas DeFrantz.kennethdavidstewart.com
Some music dropping today. We're excited ahead of our #Ithaca NY show on Thursday at 7 at the Community Arts School 3rd floor hall.— Plenary Art Ensemble (@ThePlenaryMusic) June 9, 2015