INTERVIEW: Witch ‘N’ Monk | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Annemarie Sterian

Conducting the interview from the comfort of a Berlin coffee shop, there was an immediate candid charm that emanated from flautist Mauricio Velasierra and soprano and guitarist Heidi Heidelberg, aka Witch ‘n’ Monk. As conversation bounds off into discussions that equally balanced the whimsical and philosophical (covering everything from coffee, tiaras and smiling), it become quickly clear that everything the duo do is bound in the realm of the surreal and bizarre. 

This may seem like a trivial introduction to the band but it’s paramount in understanding the kinship and single-mindedness that encompasses the duo; an endless source of creativity that feels always evolving, expanding and entertaining.

Unravelling The Mind is the next step on their artistic voyage, a show that unites the existential with the exciting, questioning our understanding of entertainment and art, as well as the very nature of understanding itself. 

There must be intelligence beyond the parameters of however we’ve come to define it. That’s what the show is built on, amplifying the voices of these unheard intellects

They explain: “Humans place a huge emphasis on intelligence, that’s how we distribute a life’s importance. We put ourselves above those things we see as less intellectual. We see ourselves at the top of the food chain in that regard, but maybe we have a very limited knowledge of what intelligence is. Reading into the practices of indigenous tribes like the Ashaninka or the Kogi, learning how they communicate with the world around them, accurately harvesting specific plants for herbal remedies and knowing exactly how to treat each leaf in a way that produces the perfect medicine, simply by listening to the plant. We read into single cell organisms that are bizarrely intelligent, thwarting puzzles that have baffled humans for centuries. There must be intelligence beyond the parameters of however we’ve come to define it. That’s what the show is built on, amplifying the voices of these unheard intellects.”

The production, which comes to Sage Gateshead on Saturday 15th October, challenges the conventions of performance art; the duo deliver something beyond the limitations of the audible. Becoming a sensation that aims to involve the ears, the eyes and the nose, pushing the audience out of the comfortable confines of the usual experience and forcing us to connect on uncharted territory. “The live experience is building a space, building something that can’t be replicated. The live experience is people – being, doing, feeling. You can’t describe the taste of a mango, you just have to taste it and experience it. That’s what we’re wanting to provide. Something sensory and new. Exploring those deep sensory perceptions of intelligence is integral to the show’s themes, what can we learn through our body that we haven’t capitalised on yet, how can we communicate with the world around us?”

With the show originally based around contextualising the origins of jazz culture, the performance has found its own path and importantly has its own story to tell, though through the searing and incendiary shunning of Western norms, combined with free-flowing, improvised melodies, the innovative impetus of the genre is still alive throughout.

Witch ‘N’ Monk present Unravelling The Mind at Sage Gateshead on Saturday 15th October.

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