American Composers Forum’s McKnight Composer Fellows Concert
Featuring Mychal “MMYYKK” Fisher, deVon Russell Gray, LaAerial, and Troy Rogers (aka Robot Rickshaw)
Wed, Jan 31, 7:30–9:30 pm
Cedar Cultural Center
The Great Northern joins forces with American Composers Forum (ACF) to showcase ACF’s most recent cohort of Minnesota-based McKnight Composer Fellows: Mychal “MMYYKK” Fisher, deVon Russell Gray, LaAerial, and Troy Rogers (aka Robot Rickshaw). Each visionary artist will present 20 minutes of new music (to be announced).
Copresented with American Composers Forum.
About the Artists
Mychal “MMYYKK” Fisher (he/him)
MMYYKK (pronounced “Mike”) is a visionary multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and producer based in Minneapolis, MN. With an eclectic sound at the intersections of soul, jazz, electro, and R&B, his music blends analog synthesis with neck-breaking rhythms, resulting in mesmerizing sonic alchemy. Recognized as the new high priest of neo-soul, MMYYKK’s understated tunes evoke D’Angelo strapped to a spaceship, drawing inspiration from the cosmic funk of Thundercat and Flying Lotus, and the finesse of Anderson .Paak and Stevie Wonder. His forthcoming project, “Midst of Things,” challenges societal norms, questioning American values, exploring the impact of technology and globalization, and addressing personal experiences of trauma and the resilience of the black community. MMYYKK aims to provoke conversation and engage listeners, using his voice as an instrument to create an inspiring and thought-provoking sonic journey.
deVon Russell Gray (he/him)
Who is deVon Russell Gray? A divinely guided multi-media social justice activist or a pantheistic audial alchemist? Central to his creative practice is the fundamental belief of starting from a place of “I know nothing” when approaching any new composition, performance, or creative endeavor. Embracing the idea that empty vessels receive new knowledge more efficiently, he constantly seeks a transformative death/rebirth process to expand his artistic horizons. Among other known knowns about this artist, Gray absorbs tremendous inspiration from the natural world, finding solace and reflection in the great outdoors. He cherishes moments of indulgence in eating, drinking, and merriment, and he possesses a deep appreciation for activities such as moon gazing, leaf peeping, and immersing himself in the world of cinema. In his downtime, he reluctantly participates in the commonplace mixed economy, feeling frustrated by its limitations and yearning for something different. In his uptime, he creates exceptional art while also taking every opportunity to integrate himself in tent camping adventures.
Drawing inspiration from the depths of her soul and experiences, LaAerial calls herself a Purveyor of All Things Creative. Her multidisciplinary work dances across music, poetry, audio-visuals, and prose. She is a scholar holding three distinguished degrees in creative fields and has a body of work that stretches back to the 2000’s. Her career has included touring as a supporting vocalist and morphed into performance residencies in Asia. She has since found her voice as an independent creative. LaAerial is passionate about writing, lyricism, and visual art as an extension of musical expression. She has independently produced/composed four music projects to date and is a fan of concept albums. Her fifth release: ‘Some Come to Destroy’ will explore a range of topics, including addiction, colonization, and heartache. In addition to these works, LaAerial has self-published two books of poetry and is working on a memoir based on her life and travels.
Troy Rogers (aka Robot Rickshaw) (he/him)
Troy Rogers is deeply involved in the creation, performance, and dissemination of early 21st-century semi-nomadic robot herder’s music. His Robot Rickshaw was a human-driven cart full of musical robots designed for all-terrain performance scenarios ranging from guerrilla drive-by rapid-fire black-MIDI-burst-spewing dadaist street interventions to extended duration post-human dronecore therapy sessions. His instruments and performances joyfully teeter between mind-bending wonder and catastrophic failure, underscoring both a skepticism for the chances of contemporary civilization surviving its technological adolescence, and yet an unwavering belief in the power and potential in humans as amplifiers of low probabilistic states.
About the McKnight Artist & Culture Bearer Fellowships Program
Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive, the McKnight Foundation’s Arts & Culture program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Support for individual working Minnesota artists has been a cornerstone of the program since it began in 1982. The McKnight Artist & Culture Bearer Fellowships Program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists in 15 different creative disciplines. Program partner organizations administer the fellowships and structure them to respond to the unique challenges of different disciplines. Currently, the foundation contributes about $2.5 million annually to its statewide fellowships. For more information, visit https://www.mcknight.org/programs/arts-culture/mcknight-artist-culture-bearer-fellowships/.
About the American Composers Forum
ACF supports and advocates for individuals and groups creating music today by demonstrating the vitality and relevance of their art. We connect artists with collaborators, organizations, audiences, and resources. Through storytelling, publications, recordings, hosted gatherings, and industry leadership, we activate equitable opportunities for artists. We provide direct funding and mentorship to a broad and diverse field of music creators, highlighting those who have been historically excluded from participation.
Founded in 1973 by composers Libby Larsen and Stephen Paulus as the Minnesota Composers Forum, the organization continues to invest in its Minnesota home while connecting artists and advocates across the United States, its territories, and beyond. ACF frames our work with a focus on racial equity and includes within that scope, but does not limit to: diverse gender identities, musical approaches and perspectives, religions, ages, (dis)abilities, cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and broad definitions of being “American.” Visit www.composersforum.org for more information.