Warren DeFever's "Cloud Bridge" to Connect Detroit-New York Musicians

Detroit musician Warren DeFever, best known for his two-decade plus run as the leader of the band “His Name is Alive”, is branching out and bringing some New York musicians to town to perform a newly composed classical piece, this weekend. WDET’s Rob St. Mary explains.

(click the audio link above to hear the story)

Earlier this year Warren DeFever celebrated “20 years” of “His Name is Alive”, although the group was founded in 1990. But, putting aside DeFever’s cheeky comment about forgetting a really bad year during the band’s history, hence 20 years.

2011 is shaping up to be a great year of growth and new work for the Livonia native. DeFever recently released his “Raccoons” album, a musical piece featuring the sounds of baby raccoons found in the chimney of his childhood home. This year also marked the 17th anniversary of “Noise Camp”, an annual event featuring DeFever and friends making all manner of ruckus. This weekend, his latest work, a classical piece entitled “Cloud Bridge” will be performed with the help of the Anti-Social Music chamber group of New York.

Anti-Social Music has been around for about a decade and is a patchwork of musicians and composers who foster new contemporary works to perform. DeFever says he’s worked with the group previously.

“What they do is… they apply for a grant and then I write a proposal based on what the music will be and they apply for it and then they commission me for a new piece and I’ve done two before in New York City… and now that Detroit is an art hot spot they want to come and see what it’s all about.”

The title of DeFever’s new piece is a reference to the sky blue painted overpass featuring puffy white clouds on West Grand Boulevard near Michigan Avenue in Southwest Detroit. The painting is collaboration between artists Davin Brainard and Dion Fischer and was commissioned as part of a neighborhood beautification project. As for the use of clouds, Brainard says they started showing up in his work years ago and have kind of taken over.

“I used them as a compositional device. I think it’s kind of like cheating. You can fix any composition by throwing a cloud in it. And so, people would just always talk about the clouds… so then I took everything else away. So, now all we have is the cloud.”

DeFever says the real “Cloud Bridge”, created in part by some of his “Noise Camp” friends and collaborators, is a beautiful piece of community art.

“It’s such a glowing, positive, friendly, meaningless statement in the middle of Detroit… and you know I’ve been living here a couple months now… and it’s so strange to see. And my friends did it, so I’m stealing their ideas.”

Jean Cook is a violinist with the Anti-Social Music group. She says she’s been very impressed with the previous collaborations DeFever has had with her group in New York City and his ideas as an artist. Cook says DeFever’s work often seeks to create an “in the moment” experience.

“We are very interested in his perception of time and space… which is fairly unique. He also has a very strong sense of… a very strong sense of creating these moments. How do I say this? He’s able to create these really beautiful pieces that are ephemeral, they happen in that one moment in time.”

To make it happen, Cook says Anti-Social Music applied for a grant from the “Meet the Composer” program and added some of its own funding to the mix. In total, about five-thousand dollars is being granted to DeFever to create, write and stage “Cloud Bridge”. From a sonic standpoint, the piece will feature accordion, percussion, two violins, a cello, a viola and possible tape loops. While the music is important, DeFever says the mood that’s created during the three performances is just as critical.

“What are you smelling? Who are you seeing? How’s bumping into you? Is there a fog machine? Is there a bright light shining in my eyes? And it’s all part of the overall picture.”

DeFever says “Cloud Bridge” explores “the uneasy co-mingling of nature, performance, werewolves, over-amplified sound, meditation, painkillers, spray paint, and Buddhist scriptural names for commonplace things”.

DeFever says no matter if it’s his ethereal sounds through “His Name is Alive” or his latest classical piece… the creation process is the same.

“I’ve got ideas and the goal is to try and get other people to do them and this one is like they called me and said “we want to do your stuff…tell us what to do. Just try to write it down first.” Because normally, I’m just yelling at people. “You’re doing it wrong!”… and now it’ll be like “you’re reading it wrong! (laughs)."

Warren DeFever’s “Cloud Bridge” premieres Friday night at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit with additional performances in Corktown Saturday and Sunday.

I’m Rob St. Mary – WDET News.

Cloud Bridge will be presented:

Friday October 14th - 8:30 pm Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (4454 Woodward)

Saturday October 15th - 7pm to 9pm PJ's Lager House (1254 Michigan Avenue)

Sunday October 16th - 7am Rooftop & Garden Sunrise (2000 Brooklyn)

For more information on the event:

For more on Warren DeFever:

For more on Anti-Social Music:

For more on Davin Brainard:

Previous related stories:

His Name is Alive Celebrates "20" Years:

Noise Camp Celebrates a Raucous 17th Anniversary: