For this episode of Conversations Jack Livingston interviews musician and composer Anne Watts.
Anne Watts is a longtime member of Baltimore’s music, theater, and arts scene. She is best known for her work with her band, Boister. Since forming in 1997 the Baltimore band has released eight acclaimed discs—two of them produced by the legendary Jim Dickinson. The band is also renowned for its dynamic film scores played live for silent classics by D.W. Griffith, Buster Keaton and others.
”Boister’s relentlessly listenable songs of sorrow and pity, of sin and salvation, deftly stitch together musical swatches of pre-Weimar Germany, jazz-age Paris, and post-modern America to form a strong, seamless, 100 percent natural sound fabric.” –Michael Yockel, New York Times.
Anne Watts with Boister – 2011.
Boister – “Cast A Net” – 2015
Anne was born in Baltimore MD in 1962. She grew up in Baltimore then attended Hampshire College in Amherst, MA where she studied with Art Matthews. Her mentor was Roland Wiggins who passed on his knowledge of theory to the likes of Miles Davis and Sonny Fortune. She also studied independently with pianist Monica Jakuc, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lew Spratlan, and John Sessions. She went on to study with German Piano pedagogue Konrad Wolff.
In 1984, she returned to her roots in the theater and composed scores for productions such as Industrial Strength Theater’s adaptation of Heinrich Boll’s “My Sad Face” and Heiner Muller’s “Hamlet Machine.” She also collaborated with performance artist Lucio Pozzi and choreographer Louise Steinman.
In 1988 Anne co-founded Opus B, an arts cooperative working with the elderly, the mentally impaired, and at-risk youth. In a South Baltimore nursing home, she met John Englehart, an 81-year-old schizophrenic. Their close collaboration lasted until his death in 1992. During this time he developed his innate skills as a painter. Their work together culminated in a celebrated solo exhibition of his work and her song cycle Melee Au Soleil, recorded the week of his death.
Anne Watts with John Englehart at his opening at the Bauhouse.
Anne currently lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she lives with her husband, writer and curator John Lewis, and their two children, Posie and Levi. She is involved in the development of a performing arts venue and teaches piano, voice, and composition. Boister’s latest disc, Cast A Net, was released on October 23, 2015.
This episode of Conversations was recorded in the musician’s mothers home in Roland Park in the Summer of 2015.