Refuge Journal 72

Feb 26 2020

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” – Andrew Wyeth

The American Roots Sound Lab At Lawrence University

“The freedom of collaboration and expression has reminded me of how joyful and healing music can be.” – Henry McCammond-Watts, Lawrence Student

The American Roots Sound Lab course was developed by Cory Chisel and Lawrence University Conservatory Dean, Brian Pertl and Professor Leila Ramagopal Pertl. The course was launched for the Fall 2018 academic term, and offered again for the Fall 2019 term. While it sets the abstract and creative goals of identifying one’s own musical roots and engaging in musical collaboration with other students, it also has a practical aspiration- helping to prepare students to navigate the unknowns of the post-college musical and artistic world.

 “It’s one of the safest spaces on campus, and it gets people from all parts of the school with a variety of musical backgrounds to come together and write and record music, which is such an amazing opportunity that isn’t always accessible to everyone. This class helped me survive this term and if I could take it every term I would.” – Bea McManus, Lawrence Student

The first stage of the course is held on the Lawrence campus and includes critical listening, identifying one’s own musical influences, and creating lyrics and original songs together. For the second stage, the recording process is the focus. All completed songs are recorded over several sessions at the Refuge. The third and final stage of the course consists of preparing and presenting a public performance of their songs at the Feather and Bone gallery at The Draw in Appleton. Significantly, the collaboration also provides opportunities for students to interact with visiting musicians and music industry professionals.

“Having had the chance to learn about Cory’s experiences in the music business gave me a better understanding of how the real world operates. This course also has taught me to appreciate the imperfections of the world and the music that I make. Being classically trained, it was always implied that perfection is the only way I’ll ever be enough. In reality, it’s nice to set such a high bar for myself, but it’s physically impossible to have a “perfect” performance, or write the “perfect” piece. Cory, Leila, and Brian have shown me through recordings and music history that some of the best received music (and art in general) have imperfections in them. The things that have shaped our world the most stemmed from individuals who didn’t have flawless technique, but those who felt the music within themselves and released it in whatever capacity they could. By reinforcing students with this concept, as well as hearing about Refuge Foundation’s mission, this course helps us appreciate the process of how things are done more than the outcome. Thank you for everything!” – Alex Quade, Lawrence Student

We are deeply grateful to Lawrence University, the Conservatory, students and individuals who have contributed to or supported the American Roots Sound Lab and we look forward to more meaningful collaborations in the years ahead.

Check out the University’s article on the course here.

Photos below by Brian Pertl. Photo in header by Justus Poehls.

A Note From Cory:

Hello and hvordan har du det from Norway! I’m currently sitting on a train from Oslo to Bergen, listening to new music we’ve been writing with my dear friend Adam Douglas. We’ll be bringing this American/Norwegian legend back stateside this summer to record this project at The Refuge! Songs and stories have such transformative power, and I cannot wait to deepen the relationship between our community and the beautiful people of Norway through this music!

The Appleton Historical Society kindly shared this wonderful photo of our main building being built in 1934. The stones were carted up the bluff by horse. The building is constructed of Lannon stone from Waukesha county which can be found in other structures throughout the Fox Valley. The trim is made of Indiana limestone, or more specifically, dolomite. The cornerstone is Bedford stone from Bedford, Indiana. It’s incredible to consider the craftsmanship and care that went into the creation of this space and we are honored to care for it now.

Recent Features

WFRV Story on Appleton’s New Signs

My First Band Podcast feat. Cory Chisel


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