How does an artist of any discipline tackle their role in an infinite universe? Specificity can make all the difference; writers speak of the terror that strikes when facing the blank page, likewise the painter and the canvas. That's why a clear trajectory is important, and while some people shy away from setting parameters for themselves, guidelines for art can often act as a springboard to more boundless creative avenues that might not have been considered otherwise. This seems to be the case with Santa Fe's Laurianne Fiorentino and her ongoing series of Elemental Concerts, hosted at the San Miguel Chapel.
Fiorentino, or Lauria as she bills herself, is a singer-songwriter with over 20 years of experience writing and recording original material. While her music touches on the familiar territory of American folk, it also has a more thoughtful, composed quality thanks to collaborators such as cellist Michael Kott, with whom she presents the series. She describes the music as "Americana soul," which feels fairly accurate. Her songs are lyric-driven and allow for her dynamic and emotive singing style to take the forefront.
Each concert is curated according to one element from the periodic table. This allows Fiorentino to collect material from her vast catalogue that reflects, or sometimes challenges, the properties of the chosen element. It's a simple concept at first glance, but one that leads to new ways of looking at our world from both scientific and emotional perspectives. Audience members receive a onesheet of basic facts about the element upon arrival, a light introduction that Fiorentino says can help to ground them as to what their relationship is with that element.
"It's very broad," she tells SFR. "I've developed a series of questions now rather than statements that relate a human being to the qualities of the element."
The questions address color, volatility, density and other abstractions that lead to song choices and a more personal connection to the periodic table outside of the more familiar academic setting.
Fiorentino's preferred setting is the so-called oldest church, where she hosts each of the performances.
"I did a show with Michael in that venue and just loved being in there," says Fiorentino, whose inspiration for the series first came from simply wanting to play in that space more frequently.
Originally conceptualized as a more general elemental series—earth, wind, fire and water—Kott suggested using the atomic elements instead. Since it began in June 2018, the program has included lectures from archaeologist Alysia Abbot, as well as performances by other musicians including singers such as Felicia Ford, Busy McCarroll and Martha Reich.
"It's ended up being a little community, bringing people together in that historic building which has served as a gathering space for human beings under various conditions of conflict and resolution and oppression and community," says Fiorentino.
This iteration of the series focuses on strontium, which for many can conjure up the isotope strontium-90, the toxic consequence of disasters such as the nuclear power plant meltdowns in Chernobyl and Fukushima. Fiorentino is quick, however, to describe the many benefits of the element.
"What's poisoning our earth right now is strontium-90, but it's also used for fireworks and glow-in-the-dark toys," she explains. "It's used in the manufacturing of magnets, toothpaste for sensitive teeth. It's an interesting contrast: When you have pure strontium that comes out of the Earth you have this beneficial, interesting, rather benign, non-harmful thing. But when you mess with it at the atomic level it turns into the most toxic thing on the planet."
Even with the weighted history surrounding the element, Fiorentino's drive is not to make a statement but rather to inspire curiosity which she says is the "nature of a human mind and heart."
"It's an alchemical, intuitive journey through not the tiniest building blocks of our material world, but the tiniest gathering of atoms into specific and unique combinations that we call elements," she muses. "We are made up of all this stuff. Music is vibration and atoms vibrate. It's so big."
Lauria & Kott: Strontium
6:30 pm Saturday Feb. 2. $20.
San Miguel Chapel,
401 Old Santa Fe Trail,