Why Anna Luisa Petrisko says friendship matters in Redcat’s ‘All Time Stop Now’ – Press Enterprise
In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, L.A.-based musician and artist Anna Luisa Petrisko had long conversations with her best friend, Mel Pak, who at the time was living as a Buddhist nun in a Myanmar monastery.
“I was so curious what her life was like as somebody who had self-imposed, or chosen, isolation versus what I was going through, what the rest of the world was going through as well,” says Petrisko on a recent video call.
Recorded portions of these conversations about life, spirituality, healing and other topics form the backbone of Petrisko’s latest experimental opera, “All Time Stop Now,” which will be at Redcat on Sept. 29 and 30.
Petrisko’s opera about a “chosen family” that uses a spell to stop time unfolds through synthpop and house music. Video and innovative projection mapping techniques intersect with the live performance.
Petrisko, a multi-disciplinary artist, has previously melded the structure of opera with contemporary electronic music in projects like “Vibration Group” and “Body Ship.” For “All Time Stop Now,” she drew inspiration from her friendships. “That sustains me, my friendships, the close friendships that I have,” she says. “I think that the material is really grounded in that.”
She began composing the music in 2020 and first developed “All Time Stop Now” as a video project through a Coaxial Arts Foundation residency later that year. In 2021, Petrisko was invited to take part in Los Angeles Performance Practice’s LAX Festival and the work transformed into a stage production with the help of friends and collaborators.
Part of the process has been preparing the music to work in a live setting. Petrisko, who released “All Time Stop Now” as a solo album on Practical Records in July of this year, used her collection of vintage analog synthesizers for the music. However, those instruments are so cumbersome that she doesn’t rely on them for live performances. Instead, she samples the instruments and plays with much smaller samplers on stage. Live, she also plays a pentatonic scale metallophone, a type of percussion instrument.
“It’s honestly an instrument that’s marketed to yoga teachers for sound healing,” she says. “I came across one and I love the sound of it, so I wrote a lot of the music with that.”
The bigger challenge, though, is rearranging the vocal parts to suit four singers. Petrisko performs alongside Peter Hernández, Mark Golamco, and Josephine Shetty on stage. “That’s done very collaboratively with the other performers,” she explains. “We collectively decide who is singing what and how it’s done. They have a lot of creative input in that.”
It helps that Petrisko is performing alongside her friends. “The most life-affirming part of the work is making it and hanging out and rehearsing and spending time together and driving back and forth from rehearsals and getting to know each other,” she says.
Friendship is at the core of “All Time Stop Now,” but so is a reflection on general spirituality that goes back to her conversations with Pak.
“My friend is a Buddhist, but I don’t necessarily identify myself as a Buddhist and I don’t think that the piece is about Buddhism, but it’s rooted in a lot of the conversations around practices that come from various spiritual practices,” says Petrisko, “including ones that we invent or develop on our own, through ritual or through community.”
Moreover, it’s a story about “rejecting the scarcity of time,” says Petrisko.
“There’s this kind of collective change around our view of time,” she explains. “I think that this is not the first time it’s happened in culture and society. I think it’s happening all the time and different cultures view time differently.”
In the years spent working on “All Time Stop Now,” Petrisko attended silent retreats. She recalls one such retreat where the meaning of the song “All Time Stop Now” became clearer to her as her own sense of time changed. “I get what I was talking about; even though I wrote that song two years ago, now its deeper meaning is starting to be unveiled to me,” she says.
Petrisko worked with projection mapping and interactivity designer Ana Carolina Estarita-Guerrero to develop visual effects that reflect alternate understandings of time. “The best way I can describe them is like when you’re playing guitar and then it sounds clean and you plug it into a distortion pedal or a delay pedal,” says Petrisko of the effects. “We’re basically doing the same thing, but with video. We’re taking a camera feed and we’re plugging it into a delay so that you see a delayed image or a time-warped image.”
A poignant moment in the performance comes via a recording of one of Petrisko’s conversations with Pak, who talks about desires to accumulate more in life.
“The irony of it is that we set these parameters of happiness,” says Petrisko. “As soon as I get this, I will be happy. As soon as I eat ice cream after dinner, I will feel good – until you get hungry again and the cravings come back.”
Petrisko was moved by the conversation. “I think it’s a really deep, profound wisdom, but it was also a really beautiful moment to talk about it with my friend and not necessarily have a solution,” she says. “Just to acknowledge it. And also to laugh at our human condition,” she says.
Petrisko adds, “We’re out here trying our best, but at the end of the day we’re still working with these really deep flaws and fears and doubts. We’re just doing our best, trying to figure it out.”
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