Louisville native brings her vagabond life and music to Cleveland
The strange, beautiful world of a performance from Cher Von, the nom de plume of Chervon Koeune, mixes reveries of otherworldly, breathtaking wordless vocals and sounds made from found materials, with an added dimension of free movement, expanding upon influences such as Japanese Butoh dance and iconoclastic and innovative vocalists Meredith Monk, Björk, Patty Waters, Bobby McFerrin and Shelley Hirsch.
Last month, Cher Von made a decision to become a “performing vagabond” and reduce all of her belongings to a single bag; she left her home base of Louisville to travel and perform in venues, houses and street corners across the nation.
“Thus far it’s been incredible, and I haven’t even ventured too far out of my comfort zone,” said Cher Von, via email in advance of her Friday night show at Grey House Red Door in nearby Cleveland. “It’s definitely the kind of decision that yields a lot of growth one way or another, whether you’re ready for it or not, and that part really excites me.
“Trying to shift my view of what ‘home’ means has been interesting,” she laughs. “Seeing wherever I am at the moment as home has made it easier for me to adapt to things and feel comfortable in more settings than I usually would.
“Creatively, I’m more inspired than ever. A big part of the decision to live and travel this way came from how much emotional change would likely take place, and that always impacts my creative direction. My head is swimming with ideas, and now is the very best time to get them out.”
An eager collaborator, Cher Von has performed and recorded with kindred musical spirits including Joshua Kruer (Nature Was Here) and keyboardist Jonathan Glen Wood, and one of the aims of her new status as an itinerant musician is to meet, challenge, and connect with new collaborators.
“I love improvisation, and the exciting part is just jumping in and letting people give what they have,” said Cher Von, responding to a question regarding how she approaches collaborations. “You can take it or leave it, but seeing what people naturally want to do without any direction is the way I prefer. I often hear people say they play an instrument and immediately say ‘Let’s play some music.’”
While Cher Von’s previous material was often based on vocal loops using effects pedals, currently her stream-of-consciousness improvisations depend less on electronics and amplification, going for a more minimal approach that relies upon a careful use of space and silence.
Her musical inspirations come not only from the European/American avant-garde but also from more obscure sources, including Japanese Shamisen music.
“There are so many influences, and as someone who is geographically challenged, it helps that I don’t really notice exactly what part of the world they come from. I just take them,” said Cher Von, about non-Western world sources. “I have really taken a liking to Shamisen music, yes, and lately more African music…specifically Moorish music. But there is some music that I have no clue where it comes from, who makes it, or how to find it again, and those are the best ones.”
Much has been said about how normative standards are most commonly used to judge physical beauty, and when translated into the artistic and musical realms, the same is true. However, one striking thing about Cher Von’s work is how it is often unusual sounding but not alienating or inaccessible, breaking past normative ideas of beauty.
“My aim is to make music. If it comes out beautiful, I love that! If it comes out bizarre, I love that!” said Cher Von, when asked about her aim, in this context. “Any way you want to receive the music, that’s how I intend it. I think beautiful music is that which stirs you.”
Cher Von’s Friday performance in Cleveland is a house show, open to the public, which can offer a different experience than one in a commercial venue.
“Setting is everything, and I love playing in living rooms and basements. I love smaller venues in general because it feels like less separation between performer and audience,” said Cher Von. “It’s easier to get where I need to mentally be when in a more intimate venue, and in turn my shows are better!”
What’s next for Cher Von?
“Everything is next.”
Cher Von with Holy Gallows, The Flesh Void, Jesus Wept, Red Okra King and Torschlusspanik
Friday, April 22
Grey House Red Door