Catch the unfolding saga of ‘Monduna’ live on stage

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Lily Maase has one week to learn several pieces of new music before she hits the road for a month for a lecture tour and a few concerts with her band. With the first installment of their graphic novel performance work, “Monduna,” completed, Maase and producer Drayton Hiers are contemplating future chapters before her trip to the southwest.

“We’re using it as a vehicle to get underappreciated but really amazing music heard,” Maase said. “The [jazz] club scene is flailing and really unpleasant. It’s an attitude around the music which is causing audiences to dwindle.”

Originally from Albuquerque, N.M., Maase grew up in a musician’s household, learning how to play the guitar from her father at the age of seven.

“I grew up sitting backstage, in the control room at his concerts,” Maase said. “He’s such a wonderful teacher and person and tries to do things for the right reasons philosophically all the time. That’s the reason I’m a musician.”

After studying music composition in the University of North Texas and playing music with avant garde and indie rock bands in Denton, Texas, Maase moved to New York two years ago to pursue a career in jazz. She met a number of like-minded musicians and artists in Brooklyn, but found few opportunities to perform and compose in established music venues. Maase also discovered something else about her work.

“I have a lot more in common with a number of visual artists,” Maase said. “Playing improvised music is not to play fancy notes and chores but to tell a story. I found that as I was exploring a group of notes, a certain person came to mind, and music became a vehicle for my storytelli­ng.”

Maase pursued this form of narrative music storytelling by organizing musicians she met in Brooklyn or recently moved to the city from Texas. In late 2005, Maase helped form Addtract, which was a composition collective that produced concert series in Fort Greene and later in the Bushwick Public Works, a loft space where Maase currently lives and works. The concerts began attracting visual artists in Gowanus and Bushwick, as well as actors, theater producers, playwrights, and designers, who wanted to participate in the shows.

“Nothing linear ever works for me,” Maase said. “It’s important to not look at everybody else in the city and see what they’re doing. It’s your experience here and you can only do what’s in your own nature to do. I try to find people with similar natures and build that into something where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

Maase began collaborating with her fellow musicians and neighborhood writers and producers, including playwright and theater producer Drayton Hiers, who showed an interest in her work. She sought to create an experimental music performance where audience members and performers could interact with each other while coming together for parties at the Bushwick Public Works.

“I thought, for a whole season, let’s have a weird story where everybody has a character and the story unfolds like a graphic novel over the whole season,” Maase said.

Last year, Maase and other members of the Addtract Consortium began writing “Monduna,” a graphic novel performance that takes place in a post-apocalyptic Mad Max version of Bushwick. The story centers on a woman who lives in a desert streetscape and starts collecting people she meets in a large tower to protect them against evil sandstorms, which destroy human technological innovation.

“A mysterious third character will emerge at the next party,” Maase said. “That’s what we’re thinking about now

Updated 3:47 pm, October 19, 2011
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