San Francisco-based performance artist Jill Tracy has been around the musical block; as a singer, songwriter, poet and composer, she has worked on movie soundtracks, voiceovers, full musical albums, and been published in numerous magazines. Her performance at the MÃ¼tter Museum this past week added another feather to her cap: she is the first musician to receive the Wood grant, which will give her the opportunity to compose music in the museum itself, with the objects (or people, depending on how you define it) there for inspiration.
To back up, the MÃ¼tter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a medical research museum, and at this most recent event, Tracy performed for a smallish audience who were decked out in 1920s fashion. Looking like a (somewhat gothed out) lounge singer herself, Tracy's breathy vocals, haunting piano music and mournful lyrics fit the speakeasy atmosphere well. As polished as her set was, the most intriguing part of the evening was her encore performance, where she gathered the audience to the front of the stage and performed one of her signature acts, termed 'spontaneous musical combustion.' She asks the audience to share the history of something of sentimental value (grandmother's ring, in this case) present that night, and compose an improved piece then and there.
Listening to her just-composed piano solo and the hushed conversation of the audience around me was a unique moment - the best was certainly saved for last. Looking forward, it will be interesting to see what comes out of her time at the museum.