studio grand outside

Friday night in Oakland with Annie Lewandowski & Theresa Wong

Pre-hookah with a good friend, we stopped into

Studio Grand.


While writing up How to Friday Oakland Style: Get Fancy earlier in the week, I found Annie Lewandowski and Theresa Wong’s event. Their musical approach is described on Studio Grand’s website as “music at the collision point of song forms and free improvisation.” A sucker for words and always interested in the transition point of forms and making connections with other creative women in the community, I decided to check out this female musical duo.

Having gone to Mills and attended the weekly music showcases, anything labeled “experimental” brings to mind the image of someone placing sticks in a piano and making a movement like the swift, purposeful jerking off of the smallest musical penis.  I damned those musicians silently for their connection to me, as often, my own writing is labeled similarly. Additionally, the music scene is still so swamped with men, especially the “experimental” scene, so even if I ended up not liking what these women were doing, I support them doing it.

We planted ourselves up front and agreed to communicate via eye language.

I had coffee too late in the day, so I sat there narrating the entirety of their performance feverishly in my friend’s notebook, because I had forgotten mine, along with the cash I told myself to bring: Annie and Theresa have a long distance collaboration… Annie lives in Ithaca, New York…Annie starts singing in a soft voice “in light of changes, you whisper softly.. the heart is strangest…” Theresa makes a circular motion with her bow, adding effects. Annie contributes digital sounds on the keyboard…..

I went on like this for over an hour. I made note of the clash of the paintings on the walls, depictions of Cuban dance, and the philosophical inquiry filling the space in sounds. Then I decided they didn’t clash at all- that they were in conversation.


studio grand minglersI will spare you the entire breakdown, as hearing the actual piece would be much more enjoyable. In essence, Annie and Theresa kicked ass. They incorporated both of their voices, one soft and Regina Spektor-esqe, the other deeper, beautifully haunting, with the electric sound effects of the keyboard and the created sound effects of the cello, to tell a story.  Annie’s lyrics had an emotional trajectory and Theresa’s focused on a tangible, environmental narrative. The sounds they used created audible scenes.  There were animal sounds, noises and patterns found outdoors, and the language of computers and electronics. In the sadness and nakedness of the lyrics, presented fact-like and daunting, such as Wong’s line “meteorites falling, a dozen an hour” and the repetition of Annie’s “you can make me feel bad if you want to” was a sort of rebellion; They seemed to be declarations of okay-ness despite the powerlessness of both of the statements. There was this funny juxtaposition throughout the entire piece. They reminded me, in this contrast of serious and bold, playful and love-desperate, of Miranda July’s sensibility in Me, You and Everyone We Know. All experimental sound masturbation aside, my Friday night intuition led me in the right direction.

studiogrand oakland

As we walked out of Wing Stop with way too  many wings, before making our way to the hookah spot, my friend said to me “it can be easy.  I forgot. With you it can just be easy.” She was referring to my happiness at salty wings, since they were one of the few spots still open after the show ended, and then my giddiness at the prospect of hookah down the road, as well as getting lost as many times as we will get lost, being that she is not good with directions. With good company, new and hidden artists and talent in every nook and corner, in Oakland it can be easy.

annielewandowski and theresawong