The year 2020 presented stressors which many people in North America had never experienced before. In response to this incredibly difficult year, Montreal based artist naakita feldman kiss brought to life the idea of a modern day lullaby. Lullabies are generally understood to be something between song and story, intended to soothe infants or toddlers prior to bedtime. The lullabies presented in naakita feldman kiss’s 2020 project offer a soothing auditory experience for people of all ages.
Jordan King interviewed naakita via email to learn more.
Hi naakita. What can you share with readers about the project?
“Tell Me Again” is a series of audio artworks that retell fairy tales and folklore stories set to original musical scores. Each piece comes together as something resembling a contemporary lullaby, ones created to be enjoyed by any demographic. The project aims to emphasize the historical and cultural importance of folklore and the stories selected for retelling, while evoking childhood nostalgia.
Produced to be somewhere between sleep aid and sound art, each piece I made in collaboration with and scored by an emerging Canadian musician. Pulling inspiration from guided meditations, ASMR, and the oral transmission of folklore itself, the series aims to help the listener lean into relaxation. Especially since COVID has had a deep impact on so many of our sleeping habits.
What sparked the idea for this?
“Tell Me Again” is something that I’ve been wanting to make for many years! I’ve always had a deep love of folklore and fairytale–for how these stories are used as vehicles for understanding the world and each other, and for how they’ve been used to chart history and keep memory. I think there’s sometimes a perception that folklore is a static medium, but it’s very much alive. Always active and always evolving. One that has new life is breathed into it with each retelling, adapting with every passing generation.
Storytelling and oral history are big areas of inspiration for me, and have been incorporated into pretty much every artwork I’ve made. I’ve always been fascinated with how time and memory changes the stories we tell, and how over telling and retelling, these stories change and mutate in ways that continuously activate them.
You mention in your introduction episode that this series will include diverse Canadian musical talents. Who has contributed to this project so far? Any hints on who will be involved in the future?
I did a call out for emerging musicians back in the summer and received an overwhelming amount of submissions from talented artists with extremely varied practices from all across the country! The first piece, “My Very Favourite” was made in collaboration with Devon Hansen, who is also the project’s audio engineer. The next one was made with Avalon Tassonyi and will be released in early May. I also have collaborations with Ashley Bowa, R.Flex, Sami Anguaya, Janette King, and Arif Mirbaghi in the mix. There are a few others as well but we’re not as far along in the production process so I’ll leave them to be a surprise as the project rolls out! I’ll be releasing them slowly, one every month or so.
As you comment in the introduction episode, ASMR and podcasts have increased exponentially in popularity and availability since COVID19 began. What do you hope people experience when listening to these lullabies?
I wanted to build something from the ground up, where every element was created with the specific and intentional purpose of being a contemporary lullaby. There’s a lot of this type of project out there (right now especially), but I often find the musical components are uninspired. To me, the musical scores are the most special parts of “Tell Me Again”.
I hope that the pieces share new stories with the listeners, and help them discover some really wonderful musicians. I want each piece to feel familiar but new, to sound unique and be engaging while creating a moment for calmness and restfulness. And I honestly hope that people are asleep before the end of each piece, which feels funny to say, but that’s definitely my goal!
I’ve been dealing with insomnia on and off most of my life. I’ve come up with so many sleep aids and sleep hacks but I find being read to is the surest thing to lull me to sleep. I think it’s a really sweet gesture that’s embedded with so much care.
Fairy tales can vary quite a bit in different parts of the world. Is there a particular region or world of fairy tales you plan to draw from with this series?
I’m trying to pull works from all over the world and to find stories that both the artists and myself connect with. Everything selected for retelling is in the public domain but so many folklore anthologies are. The global proliferation of fairy tales and folklore came largely through anthropological practices of the 19th and 20th century, so many of the stories we’re familiar with are part of a colonial history. I’m trying to be conscious and recuperative as I develop each piece, sharing the stories of how certain texts came into print and finding stories that were written by people from their cultures of origin.
The texts featured in “Tell Me Again” have been selected through discussions with each musician. In pre-production, we often talk about stories from childhood, stories tied to cultural experience, and stories that relate to themes shared across our practices. Some of the stories we’ve picked are fairy tales or folklore in a classical sense, while others are poems or more contemporary stories.
The project can be found at www.tellmeagain.ca, or wherever you get your podcasts.