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ASU music professor releases album to support social change

Stefanie and Joshua Gardner.

January 15, 2021

Joshua Gardner, clinical associate professor in Arizona State University's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, and Stefanie Gardner recently released “Gone is Gone,” their debut album as the Égide Duo. The Égide Duo’s mission is to collaborate with composers to create and present music that addresses social change, including issues involving the environment/climate, animal and human rights, and equality.

“We wanted to do something to make a difference,” Joshua Gardner said. “We were tired of playing the same repertoire over and over and didn’t want to bring attention to ourselves, but rather to issues that are important to us. As musicians, we want to use our voices for good, inspire listeners to act, and raise money for organizations that are making a difference in the world.”

In addition to teaching at ASU for the last decade, Joshua Gardner also serves as director of the Performance Physiology Research Laboratory at ASU. Stefanie Gardner is on the faculty of Glendale Community College and Ottawa University. Both are Selmer Paris/Conn-Selmer and Silverstein Works performing artists on clarinet.

They have been performing together as a duo since 2006 and officially as Égide Duo since 2016. Gardner said the duo was born out of frustration with “ineffectual politics, the endless and reckless consumption of limited natural resources, the exploitation and industrialization of animals” and the overwhelming feeling of uselessness in the face of these injustices.

In order to fight the frustration, the Gardners decided to put their efforts and resources into music with a clear aim to make a difference in the world. They reached out to a few composer friends to gauge interest in the project and said they received an overwhelming show of support and encouragement to move forward.

They said they named the duo “égide,” which is French for aegis, since it means “the protection, backing or support of a particular person or organization.”

The duo’s logo, a waveform of the radio wave oscillations created by the Van Allen radiation belts, was inspired by a 2012 NASA article that included recordings of the audible-range oscillations of electromagnetic radio waves from Earth’s radiation belts, which protect the atmosphere and make life on Earth possible. They say the image reflects their commitment to finding ways to mitigate anthropogenic damage to ourselves, the food chain and our environment.

“Lost and Forgotten,” by Kurt Mehlenbacher, is about the Arizona environment and ecosystem and is one of Égide Duo’s first commissioned pieces on the new album.

For the album, they wanted to raise money for organizations making measurable differences in the world, so 100% of the proceeds will be donated to nonprofit organizations that support homeless populations, fight to achieve justice and equity, and protect the environment.

“It is our hope that pairing a musical soundscape to a cause may prompt action from our audiences by bringing awareness to the cause and eliciting an emotional response to the cause, much like how a musical score can manipulate a viewer’s emotional journey through a film,” Joshua Gardner said.

To select the pieces for the album, they collaborated with composers to choose causes they all felt strongly about supporting.

“We wanted to be certain that the composer is passionate about the topic, so we get a piece in which they are completely invested,” Joshua Gardner said. “Giving composers this freedom, we have received such amazing pieces.”

The album’s title was derived from the final movement of John Steinmetz’s “Coal Seams.” Steinmetz wrote the piece after learning that Joshua Gardner’s father, who worked in the mining industry in Kentucky, died from cancer likely caused by contact with coal dust and toxic chemicals when Joshua was only 8 years old.

The album can be purchased digitally on over 60 platforms including Apple iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify, Deezer, YouTube Music and Pandora, and in CD format through Soundset Recordings and Égide Duo.

The album was recorded at Tempest Recording on the Soundset Recordings label and made possible by funding from the School of Music, Dance and Theatre and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.

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