“I THINK OF ME and my work as a bridge,” says soprano, composer, filmmaker and visual artist Misha Penton, who relishes bringing together distant collaborators to make her futuristic art songs. His new project, radiant poison (available February 18 on Bandcamp), is a three-part digital and video EP featuring Penton’s multitrack vocals and original lyrics.
The music is unmistakably unclassifiable, drawing inspiration from electronica and contemporary opera, with contributions from Houston composers George Heathco (electric guitar) and Chris Becker (rhythms and ambience). As a bonus, each track is accompanied by a music video directed by and featuring Penton, whose penchant for flowing fabrics and theatrical gestures are perfectly suited to the medium. “I’m a very visual person,” Penton says, “so that’s another part of my practice.”
Penton, who has performed live at Rothko Chapel and MFAH, produced her first music video in 2013 and made her directorial debut in 2019 with HGO, directing the opera online A rose. The video for radiant poison second track, Coastal pines and spider silk,captures Penton the visual artist in a sort of performative trance as she covers a scroll of paper with calligraphic swirls, creating an eerie graphic score for the song’s thunderous rhythms, ringing guitar chords and poetic lyrics describing the “golden beetles” and “little spiders” in a starry, moss-covered garden.
“I love micro-worlds,” says Penton, who admits she’s wary of bugs and acknowledges her husband is the green-fingered one. “But I follow a lot of nature photographers on social media, and it’s amazing what you can see now.”
Penton, her husband, and an ever-changing number of cats have lived in Woodland Heights for over a decade. During the pandemic, as she began to collaborate more virtually, Penton decided to take over the first level of their home, where a small grand piano was already in place, and turn it into a cozy recording studio and a video editing suite. With radiant poisonmusic and videos in the box, Penton looks forward to using all of these tools to initiate more remote collaborations and explore the creative potential of “happy accidents and indeterminacy.”
“I’m still hopeful for the new year,” says Penton. “I’m just kind of gripped by the possibility. I don’t think you can be an artist if you’re not idealistic.
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