Checking in with Philadelphia’s Joseph Hallman

Career: Composer, performer, educator
Home: Philly!
Relationship Status: Single
Spotted on a typical Saturday night: The Westburycheap and vast beer selection with Phillies game on the TV or at home watching some geeky series or movie.
Next Up: Transcriptions of Bjork songs for Art of Elan in San Diego, Oboe Concertino for the Principal Oboist of the Pittsburgh Symphony and a Philly artists mixtape. Also working on a few EPs with local singers, rappers, songwriters.

You have a commission coming up in the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts.
There were actually two commissions (through PIFA). One was centered on my residency at the Rosenbach Museum and the other based on my residency at the Traverse Arts Project. Both projects culminate in performances and exhibitions that begin April 9th.

Raving Beauty is inspired by Acosta’s relationships with women like Greta Garbo, Isadora Duncan and Rita Lydig. What drew you to Acosta?
Raving Beauty is the title of this new work. The De Acosta archives were assigned to me, by the Rosenbach Museum, as a point of departure. Mercedes was a habitual presence in Paris and we find her cavorting with the great artists of the time – Stravinsky, Diaghilev, etc.  What drew me in personally was this somewhat tragic tale of a woman- at once fierce, manipulative, timid and fey. Her love of the three women represent three types of relationships. With Greta Garbo, she was the unrequited lover, the puppy, the dejected and heartbroken girl. With Rita, her sister, we see the adoration of this woman she aspired to be. Finally, Isidora Duncan was her passionate lover. They were open with their relationship and gushingly expressive of their affection.

PIFA kicks off April 7th. Why do you think this is such an important festival?
This is a wonderful chance for Philadelphia to show off its cultural institutions and its world-class artists. The Festival is so diverse. There are so many great concerts, shows and the like. It’s like a World Fair for great artistic events.

What are you most excited about?
Fly City offers a chance people to try out trapeze artistry, in the middle of the city, on Broad and Locust. I’d love to give it a try! I am also excited about seeing the Benjamin Millepied’s (Natalie Portman’s husband and phenom choreographer) collaboration with the Pennsylvania Ballet. Basil Twist’s Petrushka looks really interesting as well.
PIFA’s programming pays homage to the artistic energy of Paris from 1910-1920.  Why do you think this was such an inspiring time?
This was a revolutionary time in the world of the arts in Paris. Picasso, Chagall, Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Matisse were just some of the artists living and working in Paris at the time. It was a magnet for artists and art-lovers from around the world. There is a great summary essay on the period here.

If we’re coming in from out of town, where should we stay?
Depends on your budget and taste, totally. If you want to go gay and cheapish, Alexander Inn. If you want to go gay and cheaper, The Inn at Uncles (above a bar). If you want to spend a little more, my favorite is the Palomar, a beautiful newish hotel with daily (free) wine hour and a great bar/lounge right near Rittenhouse Square (our mini-Central Park). If you’d like to go historic, there’s the Thomas Bond House, a cute B&B in Old City (Philly’s historic district).

I’m really excited about the Chagall exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Are there any other museums we should check out when we’re in town?
Absolutely. I have to plug the Rosenbach– as I am in residency there. This is a great museum and a great reflection of Philadelphia’s intellectual and cultural heritage. I would also recommend the Penn Museum (Archaeology) and the Mutter Museum (medical oddities, hoorah!).

How did you start working with the Traverse Arts Project?
I became the Composer-in-Residence at the bequest of the founder of the organization. We met at a volunteering event for a local gay philanthropic organization, DVLF. We found we shared similar values, interests and a dedication to the LGBTQ community and it’s lack of representation local and global arts communities.

You have a few pop singles coming out soon, don’t you?
This is the other side of my career as a musician. I work in production and remixing and love pop music. My sense of pop is perhaps a bit akilter and the collaboration I seek reflects this. I have been working with every genre of music and musician. This includes rappers (Drematic and John Morrison), a beautiful neo-soul/R & B singer (Tiffany (B.Fly) Belton), an adorable indie Philly princess (Attia Taylor), the electropsychadelic band Gemini Wolf and the singer in that band Megan (Pandar) Cauley. In the past few years I have worked with several house DJs on remixes of my pop work, including Philly favorites, DJ Carl Michaels and Jamie Johnson. I originally released the pop works under the moniker “gogreengo” and they are all on iTunes. I have since decided to release them all under my name – and why not? The three singles coming out in the next month or so are: “Summer” with Tiffany (B.Fly) Belton; “I Like” with Attia Taylor, and “Notice” with Megan (Pandar) Cauley.
What are your favorite bars in Philly?
Depends on my mood for sure! My go-to favorite is a sports pub kind of place – with a great beer selection and plenty of TV screens for Philly teams’ games, the Westbury. I love baseball and the Phillies are the best in the league. [Editor’s note: Actually, the Phillies were eliminated by the World Series champion San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series, four games to two.]
For Dancing before afterhours, I’d say Tavern on Camac: a tiny little dance floor that gets crowded and fun on Saturday nights. They also have a cabaret piano sing-along on the first floor. Fun for tourists – but I’m over it. If I have crazy friends along, who drag me, I will occasionally go to Voyeur for afterhours.

Dinner recommendations?
My all-time favorite is a gourmet Mexican spot called Xochitl. I dream about their soup. My most recent favorite is Barbuzzo, a Mediterranean resto in the gayborhood. You MUST have the budino (a pudding dessert that is to die for- trust me!). Parc, a Stephen Starr bistro on Rittenhouse Square, is delicious and serves great classic French drinks. Miga, a Korean resto, is one of my favorites as well.

PIFA aside, if someone’s in Philadelphia for 24 hours, what should they do?
Wake up early, do the tourist-y historic stuff in Old City (Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, etc.). Try and sneak a peak at all the local boutiques on North 2nd and 3rd Streets. Have an awesome lunch in Old City (Amada an amazing Spanish joint, or Stephen Starr’s Continental. Then take a leisurely stroll down Walnut Street (stopping at the shops along the way) over to Rittenhouse Square, grab a coffee at La Colombe. I’d veg for a little at the park and then hit up the Mutter Museum (medical oddities!!) and then head home for a brief disco nap. If you want to dance you’ll head to Woody’s or Tavern on Camac, after 10-11pm or so. If you are up for afterhours – which can be alternatively fun and messy – head to Voyeur (roughly 75 ft. away).

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