Program Type: 
Vak: Song of Becoming

by Ann Dyer

September 20, 2013 - September 21, 2013
YBCA Forum


Sound & Self: A Weekend Immersion with Ann Dyer More info »

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Vak: Song of Becoming by Ann Dyer. Pictured: Harsha Jaisinghani. Photo credit: Zubin Shroff

Ann Dyer: Vak: Song of Becoming
Fri-Sat, Sep 20-21, 8 PM
YBCA Forum
General: $30 in Advance / $35 at the Door
Student, Senior, Teacher: $25 in Advance / $30 at the Door
YBCA Members: $25

Inspired by the ancient Indian goddess Vak, who creates the world through sound vibration, Vak: Song of Becoming calls on ancient yoga philosophies to create an immersive sonic experience. The new work, commissioned by YBCA, comes out of a period in which Dyer withdrew from a successful recording and performing career as a jazz vocalist to explore her personal relationship to voice and self through the study of Indian sound practices. In the piece, Dyer experiments with these ancient principles in a new, contemporary context, creating a monumental work at a new intersection of art and mindfulness.

Composed by Dyer and Tim Volpicella with choreography by Erika Chong Shuch, the piece brings together Dyer’s close collaborators over the last twenty years— John Shifflett on bass, Jason Lewis on drums, co-composer Tim Volpicella on guitar, and featured soloist Hafez Modirzadeh on saxophones—with the recently created Vak Choir of “every day” voices. The Vak Choir's voices represent all ages, backgrounds, and abilities, and are encouraged to find unity in diversity.

Vak: Song of Becoming challenges assumptions about voice, listening, and the role of performance in a modern musical awakening.

For more information visit

Vak: Song of Becoming
by Ann Dyer
Composed by Ann Dyer and Tim Volpicella
Choreography by Erika Chong Shuch
Featuring Ann Dyer and the Vak Choir with The Vak Instrumental Ensemble featuring saxophonoist Hafez Modirzadeh

Ann Dyer, vocals
Hafez Modirzadeh, saxophones, ney
Tim Volpicella, guitar
John Shifflett, acoustic bass
Jason Lewis, drums
The Vak Vocal Ensemble
The Vak Choir

Allen Willner, Lighting Design and Production Management
Greg Kuhn, Sound Engineering
Heather Normandale, Production Assistant and Oakland Choir Manager
Scott Snyder, San Francisco Choir Manager
Lori Zook, Grant Writer
Loren Robertson, Video Documentation

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  • Vak: Song of Becoming
    Sep 20, 2013 7:00pm
    Sep 21, 2013 7:00pm
    YBCA Forum

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Related Programs

August 3, 2013 - August 4, 2013
YBCA Forum

Sound & Self is a weekend of workshops that connect us to the power of resonance.

September 20, 2013

If a YBCA performance is dinner, then Smart Night Out is the appetizer and the dessert. Smart Night Out is part workshop, part happy-hour date, and part backstage sneak peek.

September 22, 2013 - 2:00pm
Screening Room

In conjunction with her performances of Vak: Song of Becoming (Sep 20-21 in the YBCA Forum), Ann Dyer presents this special screening of Touch the Sound: A Sound Journey with Evelyn Glennie.

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Artist Bio

Ann Dyer
After a successful recording and performing career as a jazz and beyond vocalist with her ensemble of over fifteen years (including critical recognition and awards from the Bammies / California Music Awards, Down Beat International, The New York Times and Village Voice) Ann Dyer took a hiatus to explore a different aspect of music-making, namely the practice of Nada Brahma, or the yoga of sound. This practice represents the intersection of her two passions: music and metaphysical musings. Her current project Vak: The Song of Becoming is an expression of her many years of study and exploration in the use of sound within the yogic tradition and her desire to bring the beauty of these teachings to the public.

Ann is the founder and director of The Vak Project, a creative presenting, performing and educational initiative committed to awakening the public's relationship to sound and voice. Ann has been invited to share her thoughts on sound, silence and self in the recording of TedTalk this October.

Tim Volpicella
Jazz guitarist Tim Volpicella has been a featured artist in the bands of both Ann Dyer and Hafez Modirzadeh over the last twenty-five years. Volpicella is one of the founders of Open Path Music Recording Studios and has scored and performed music for movies, poets, artists, vocalist, and musicians, and received a Grammy nomination for his work on his 2011 release, Are We There Yet? He learned his tools of the trade at the Berkeley School of Music, where he studied with such well-respected artists as John Abercrombie, John Scofield, David Liebman, and John Stowell. Since graduation, Volpicella has played with other artists, including the John Carlton Orchestra, bassist Chuck Israels, Chet Baker, Larry Schneider (Bill Evans), Duke Jethro (BB King), and Russell Ferrante (Yellow Jackets). In addition to issuing his own recordings (Unspoken Words), Volpicella has been a clinician/teacher for Stanford University, the Jazzschool in Berkeley and San Jose Jazz Society.

Erika Chong Shuch
Erika Chong Shuch is a choreographer and director from San Francisco with whom Ann Dyer first worked in 2001. Her work has become known for presenting bizarre and endearing philosophical quandaries through movement, text, music, and imagery. An aesthetically driven artist who flirts with everything from needlecrafts to ceramics to music-making, Shuch’s interdisciplinary performance work reflects her passion for layered creative expression. In addition to her work with her company, Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project, she works regularly as a choreographer for Cal Shakes and other companies. Her work has been commissioned by YBCA and Dancers’ Group’s ONSITE program. A recipient of the Gerbode Foundation’s Emerging Choreographer’s award and Goldie Award, Shuch’s work has been supported by residencies at Headlands Center for the Arts, Djerassi Residency Program, ODC, and Mullae Art Space in Seoul, Korea.

Hafez Modirzadeh
Saxophonist/theorist Hafez Modirzadeh has performed, recorded, published, and lectured internationally on original cross-cultural musical concepts. His Post-Chromodal Out! on Pi Records is his latest release in a long list of genre-bending releases including Convergence Liberation (in Critical Studies in Improvisation, 2011), Compost Music (in Leonardo, 2009), Aural Archetypes (in Black Music Research, 2001), as well as Chromodality (for Wesleyan University, 1992). Twice an NEA Jazz Fellow, in 2006, Dr. Modirzadeh was granted a Senior Fulbright Award to work with Flamenco and Gnawan traditions in Andalucia and Morocco, and is currently a professor of world cultures in music at San Francisco State University. He began performing with the Ann Dyer Ensemble in 1994 and appears on the ensembles’ recordings Ann Dyer & No Good Time Fairies featuring Hafez Modirzadeh and Revolver: A New Spin.

Jason Lewis
Jason Lewis has been a member of the Ann Dyer Ensemble since 1993 and together with John Shifflett forms the nucleus of the ensemble. He graduated from the classical percussion program at San Jose State University, under the direction of Tony Cirone of the San Francisco Symphony, with a BA in music. He has performed with: John Stowell, Gary Burton, Gil Goldstein, Bob Sheppard, Steve Rodby, and Paul McCandles, among others. He has toured and recorded with Boz Scaggs, Michael Brook, Djivan Gasparyan, and has performed on many recordings, television (PBS’ Spark), video game, and movie soundtracks (Affliction, Albino Alligator, Ratatouille).

John Shifflett
Bass player John Shifflett is an original, core member of the Ann Dyer Ensemble and has been featured on all the ensembles recordings. He has done countless studio sessions; played in many pit orchestras; toured with Dave Liebman, Boz Scaggs, Taylor Eigsti, Madeline Peyroux, Scott Amendola Band, and John Stowell; and performed with Red Holloway, John Zorn, Bobby Hutcherson, Norma Winstone, Ernie Watts, Smith Dobson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Harold Land, Kurt Elling, and countless others. While studying for an MA in music at the University of Iowa, he taught theory and jazz studies and directed big bands. Shifflett currently teaches jazz history, bass, and small ensembles at San Jose State University. He is a member of the faculty and artist-in-residence at the Jazzschool Institute (Berkeley).

Artist Statement

Vak: Song of Becoming is the result of many years of personal exploration into Indian yogic ideas on sound and its affect on our experience of self. Vak, the Goddess of Sound, first appears in the Rig Veda about 3000 years ago, yet I have found the yogic teachings about Vak still hold great value today. At the time I was approached by the YBCA about creating a concert rooted in yogic sound philosophies I had been teaching the subject to large groups of people, often returning home in a state of awe at the beauty of the untrained voice, and the powerful experiences people had when singing. It seems that something once central to being human has been all but lost. Even young mothers ask me for CD recommendations for their babies, not knowing that their voice is the only voice that their baby wants to hear! Vak: Song of Becoming is meant to reconnect us with the very human, experiential nature of sound so beautifully articulated in the ancient texts of India. I feel especially inspired to do this project as we move into a technological era, a time when the sense of hearing is giving way to the predominance of sight, and technological progress challenges us to find ways to remain connected to our humanity.

YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
Koret Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is grateful to the City of San Francisco for its ongoing support.

YBCA Performance 13-14 is made possible in part by:
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Additional Funding for YBCA Performance 13-14:
Zellerbach Family Foundation
Panta Rhea Foundation
New England Foundation for the Arts
and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

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SF Weekly