5 Questions for Composer-Performer Alexa Dexa

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Alexa Dexa is a multifaceted artist with footholds in composition, electronic sound design, and performance. Her toychestral electronic pop solo project parades her floating vocals, handcrafted soundscapes, and enough instruments made with children in mind to rival a playpen. Among her growing collection are her beloved toy pianos, pitched desk bells, and typatune.

Described as a soulful girl with bells and bubbles, Alexa embodies a freedom of spirit and devotes herself to the formation of evocative tunes and unconventional performance. There is a striking duality between the innate childish affability of her toys and the maturity of her lyrical content and compositional means. She finds a place of unconditioned wonder to weave into songs touching on a range of subjects from heartache to physics. With her fanciful stage presence and occasional accompanying art installations, Alexa creates ethereal atmospheres that melt away the edges of perception.

An adventurer at heart, Alexa has journeyed on six DIY tours and has a multitude of tour itineraries in the works for the future. By compacting her toychestra with concise musical necessity in mind, Alexa is able to traverse the map with ease during her extended months of touring. With a 40 liter Deuter backpack, 7 of her desk bells, an alarm clock, her smallest 18-key Schoenhut baby grand toy piano and an iPhone housing her beats, Alexa migrates throughout the United States and Europe favoring use of public transportation. Alexa handles all of her own booking and tour planning.

A graduate of Berklee College of Music (2011), member of the Schoenhut Artist Roster, and volunteer artist for Sing for Hope, Alexa consistently receives praise for her originality and musical prowess. She was awarded the 2015 Creative Individuals Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts for her album “Year of Abandon” and a 2014 Puffin Foundation grant for her album “Whale Bones and the Boundary of a Fish”. Alexa’s festival appearances include Burning Man (2015), Fusion Festival (2014) on a former Russian military airfield in Germany, the UnCaged Toy Piano Festival (2013) in NYC curated by toy piano legends Margaret Leng Tan and Phyllis Chen, Detroit’sSidewalk Festival of Performing Arts (2013-2015) for which Alexa created and performed with site-specific sound installations including her Living Sound Library, and Make Music New York (2010-2015), for which Alexa composed and organized mass appeal performances for toy piano and theremini. Her past projects include taking on the capacity of Sound Designer for the Off-Off-Broadway production of “Someone’s Trying to Kill Me” at NYC’s HERE theater (2011).

Rawhide Records is Alexa Dexa’s humble recording studio on Long Island. It is where she records all of her albums, as well as the albums of other musicians for whom she acts as an audio engineer and producer. Her beat-making workstation also resides there. With the aid of her little oxygen 8 keyboard, Alexa architects aural surroundings using Digital Performer, Logic, Reason, & sample libraries from Native Instruments. Contact Alexa to book studio time or inquire about purchasing a custom beat.

Dexa is Alexa’s middle name, after her paternal granny. Always a playful girl enchanted with miniatures and sonically drawn to resonant bell tones, it is not much of a surprise that upon first discovering the realm of toy instruments, Alexa fell head over heels instantly and immediately began to seek out the toys she now uses to self-accompany and that continue to shape the contours of her compositions and musical sensibilities. alexadexa.com

Alexa Dexa will join colleagues from across the globe at the 2016 Florida International Toy Piano Festival in January 2016 presented by The New Music Conflagration, Inc.

1) How did you first become interested in the toy piano as a concert instrument?
Some people guess that I started out young on a toy piano and just rekindled my love for it later on in life, but I actually started out on a real piano and only discovered the toy piano at age 20 when I was at Berklee College of Music starting to define the parameters of my solo musical project. I realized that my bulky MIDI keyboard wasn’t exciting for me sonically or performatively so I started to actively seek out other keyboard-based, acoustic instruments to self-accompany with. I found a video of Margaret Leng Tan playing the toy piano and a sand block and it was instant love. I’ve always been a huge fan of miniatures and I’ve always been drawn to resonant bell tones. For me, the toy piano was a perfect combination of each and had just enough quirk to stay interesting for me.

 

2) What influenced you to come to the festival?
As an avid toy instrument collector and composer, I flock to any gathering where I’m sure to encounter new toys and new toy-related music to fawn over. It’s a really special experience to hear what other composers are doing with nontraditional instrumentation and the camaraderie I’ve found among the underground of toy pianists has been an overwhelming source of inspiration and support for me.

 

3) Who is your favorite toy piano composer and why?
It’s a hard question; there are a handful of wonderful composers writing for toy piano and all of it is unique and lovely to listen to. Phyllis Chen, Angélica Negrón, Monica Pearce, and of course John Cage come to mind.

 

4) What do you see as the future of toy piano?
Right now I see a lot of toy piano festivals cropping up and I hear a lot more toy piano in contemporary music and in music for commercials. But I feel that the instrument will always attract people that are more inclined to the unusual and I look forward to hearing what sounds these nonconformist minds will create with it in the future!

 

5) What local place or thing are you most excited to experience during your visit to the Tampa Bay Area for the festival?
My favorite part of touring somewhere new is having the opportunity to explore the city and spontaneously come across whatever I come across. Oftentimes my curiosity and chance occurrences turn out to be very rewarding. The only thing I like to plan ahead for is how I’m getting to and from the city, which friend I’m staying with, and what time I’m performing. Everything else is a bonus!

Check out this new album by Alexa Dexa and meet her in January at the 2016 Florida International Toy Piano Festival!

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