Milwaukee artist and blues guitarist Misha Siegfried is used to performing for crowds large and small. However, after more than 15 years on stage, Siegfried has decided to switch gears.
The installation melds ambient music and visual effects, using desktop computers and programs including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier, and After Effects.
“This is completely virgin territory for me, so I’m making this up as I go,” Siegfried says.
The artist and musician says the idea for The Moments Before Dark was conceived in the summer of 2015, when his now-wife Tracy Hrajnoha was undergoing cancer treatments and he was helping care for her. Siegfried, who suffered bouts of insomnia, says he would lie awake at night and contemplate the state of music today.
“I thought, ‘What if music was a place?’ I knew I wanted to do this project, but I didn’t know where to start.”
To learn how to use Photoshop and other software programs, Siegfried decided to enroll in Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Graphic Design program in January 2016—a decision he feels changed his life. He graduated with an associate’s degree in December 2017.
“[MATC] sort of became an incubator for this project,” Siegfried says. “No musician I know has thought of doing something like this.”
Siegfried’s artistic and technical team of 13 includes Hrajnoha (set design), Cory Schultz, (music production), and several MATC alumni.
“We’re creating a space to experience the music in, giving you an escape where you can walk into the music,” Siegfried says.
The artist, who moved to Milwaukee from St. Paul in 2002, spent close to two decades playing in bars, clubs, and festivals locally and nationally, often with bands, including Reverend Raven & The Chain-Smoking Alter Boys, The Charles Walker Band, and Fire On Your Sleeve.
“I was a hired gun,” Siegfried says. In 2010, he formed his own band, which lasted about three years.
While he appreciates and understands the value of musicians performing traditional blues music, Siegfried, who prefers to play more free-form, said he feels limited as a musician by the bar scene.
“I want to make music I like, but as a professional musician, you have to entertain the audience,” he says. “But I’m not a clown.”
On top of his years of live performance, Siegfried has been experimenting with jazz and other musical genres.
Recorded at Summerfest by Steve Hamilton of Makin’ Sausage Music in 2014, “Chaos,” showcases Siegfried and his band’s improvisational chops. The recording, inspired by Miles Davis arranger Teo Macero, consists of three parts of the show edited together.
Siegfried feels that the Jazz Gallery is an ideal place to hold his first installation. He looks forward to more creative experimentation in the future.
“I’m finally coming into who I am as a person. I’m going where I fit in better,” Siegfried says. “If I wanted a career as a blues musician, that’s what I would have done. This is more interesting to me.”
Tickets for The Moments Before Dark are $10 at the door. The August 29 event kicks off at 8 p.m. No digital or physical recordings of the show are available, although, according to Siegfried’s website, the team is “currently in development for a digital release of the show as a headset-based experience.”