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Three Beats: Bassoonist Katherine Young returns to Chicago with Pretty Monsters

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EXPERIMENTAL | Peter Margasak

Pretty Monsters - PETER GANNUSHKIN

Bassoonist and composer Katherine Young left Chicago in 2006 for Middletown, Connecticut, where she studied with Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan and earned a master's in composition. In the fall she moved back to pursue a doctorate at Northwestern, and on Sunday she'll present her own music for the first time since her return.

Young first came here in 2003, upon graduating from Oberlin; she soon got a job at the Reader and started several projects to explore the intersection of improvisation and composition, including chamber group Till by Turning and a free-improv duo with violist Amy Cimini (a fellow Oberlin grad) called Architeuthis Walks on Land.

Young moved to New York after finishing at Wesleyan in 2008 and promptly shifted into high gear. She continued with Till by Turning and Architeuthis Walks on Land, played in various Braxton projects—including the Diamond Curtain Wall Quartet and the Tri-Centric Orchestra, which performed his opera Trillium E—and joined indie-pop band the Fancy, as well as developing a stunning repertoire of solo bassoon music, some of which appears on her 2009 album Further Secret Origins (Porter). Throughout this time her interest in composition grew. "Composing is really challenging, and I felt like I had certain gaps in my abilities," says Young. "I loved that there was more stuff for me to learn, but I felt like I could learn more in a focused, concentrated program." (Wesleyan's program, she says, is relatively intuitive and loose.) She continued to study composition in New York, taking classes here and there, but she also had to keep up with a constant whirlwind of gigs and day jobs just to pay her bills.

"I felt like I had to pull back and assess things," says Young, and because Chicago is slower paced and less competitive, she figured living here would help. She's played out a few times since moving back, and Sun 1/22 at the Whistler she'll lead a Chicago version of her quartet Pretty Monsters, with guitarist Jeff Parker, drummer Tim Daisy, and Cincinnati violinist Erica Dicker (who also plays in Till by Turning). She founded the group a couple years ago to play ensemble versions of the solo pieces on Further Secret Origins, and since then she's started writing for it specifically. Pretty Monsters' debut album, due in May from Public Eyesore Records, was recorded by the New York version of the band: Dicker, drummer Mike Pride, and guitarist Owen Stewart-Robertson.

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