A Conversation at Trial's

from by Cellista

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  • "Finding San José" Limited Edition Compact Disc
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    Limited Edition Compact Disc with artwork by Tulio Flores and poetry from philosopher Frank Seebuger, poet David Perez, and Cellista.

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This track was a true collaboration between myself, the Santa Clara Poet Laureate Emeritus David Perez, visual artist Tulio Flores, and the community of downtown San Jose.

The poem is a found poem in nature, although David Perez gave the vital curation and body to it from prompts I gave him. He placed within it the narrative of shared experiences and observations that give it meaning.

Some prompts came from shared memories that were written on scraps of paper and tied to my 2014 subZERO art installation which I created with Tulio Flores. Others were prompts that I originally told David came from the same installation but were in fact private notes from my journal. I wanted someone to see these thoughts I was having. To have someone else put my words and emotions into a different context so that I might better understand myself.

After receiving the poem from David, I had a profound emotional experience in reading it. Without telling him much, he put into context some of my innermost thoughts.

He did this by simply placing my words and thoughts, along with the other prompts into a setting that takes place at "Trials," our local watering hole. This, "A Conversation at Trial's" is a conversation everyone is welcome to join.

About the recording process:

I originally brought the poem to Maryam Qudus, my co-engineer on this track, telling her I thought this would be best as a spoken word track, placed over cello loops. Maryam instantly suggested that we record the poem with two tracks, staggering the voices and panning them left and right for a more experimental sound.

From there, I went on to cast my narrators. I instantly thought of Rykarda Parasol, who has been a long time musical hero to me. Luckily she agreed to be a part of this track. I need a second narrator and I knew I wanted a male voice.
That's when I brought in one of the first friends I made in CA, Alvin Rivera to record the second part. Alvin is a native San Franciscan. We have spent countless evenings at Vesuvio Cafe outside of City Lights drinking beer and hoping hoping that we will run into Ferlinghetti. Over those beers, Alvin has shared stories with me of witnessing the changes gentrification has brought to the Mission District where he has lived his entire life.

We recorded this track at Tiny Telephone, with Shawn Alpay in the captain's chair and Maryam co-producing. I was thrilled to bring in long-time collaborator and colleague Emcee Infinite (Carlos Aguirre) to beatbox. Since working with Emcee Infinite, I have had a strict beatbox only policy when it comes to recording percussion on any of my original music.

This track is the truest form of collaboration and a expression of my own process.


Curated and written by David Perez
Creative prompts by Cellista

It was the hour where the night is golden, and we were sitting at the pub
talking about art and faith, but really just making jokes about moxie.
The whole time we were thinking of reasons not to quit,
hoping none sounded too convincing.

Little is worthy of perfection—
the leaf bed of a garden hiding place, sleeping with eyes open,
and the resonance of spruce and maple
to name a few things.

Somehow free beers kept coming: a sovereign and uncomplicated good.
Our faces were Christmas red and got redder as we laughed
at imagined pick-up lines from American men with Celtic knotwork tattoos.

Suddenly the place felt like home, which is to say we felt captive in it.
The mahogany slanting inward and the second-hand smoke
that moments ago an aging marine held tightly inside him.
A beacon in the crowd. Here it seemed okay to hate yourself
as long as you did not say so, as long as you chose
some pieces to tear and did it quietly.

One of us said something (or maybe just thought something)
about truths we cannot repeat or un-see. And we played the game
where you flip the coaster and catch it, mid air, still talking
about trauma and risk and whether feeling whole is a prize in a case
or something that breaks the fall when you let go.

The marine seemed to be listening. He was famous of course,
for his unwanted advances, but the cigarette cloud around him shimmered
in an Irish stained glass sort of way. And the openings in the gutters
and the black of the alcoves appeared to widen as if making a confession
in a language we had forgotten.


from Finding San José, released September 21, 2016
Lyrics: David Perez/Cellista/Community of San Jose
Production: Cellista
Co-Production: Maryam Qudus
Engineering: Shawn Alpay
Mix: Maryam Qudus
Vocals: Rykarda Parasol, Alvin Rivera
Cello arrangment and performance: Cellista
Beatboxing: Emcee Infinite (Carlose Aguirre)
Lyrics: David Perez/Cellista
Mastering: Beau Sorenson

Recorded at Tiny Telephone SF


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Cellista San Jose, California

Cellista's penchant for performing music in unconventional spaces, and her devotion to collaborating with artists across mediums has led her to create unique performances that incorporate elements of classical music, improvisation, and visual art.


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