Funded! This project was successfully funded on November 23, 2012.


A multimedia meditation on America’s relationship with the environment, inspired by 1970s photography and 21st-century composers.


"I am eager to see what the ever-adventurous ETHEL, now in residence at the Met’s Balcony Bar, will produce with their ETHEL's Documerica project. Between their collective poetic and imaginative creativity and the team they have assembled, it is bound to be remarkable." Limor Tomer, General Manager, Concerts and Lectures, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

Thank you, dear friends, for supporting ETHEL's work.

ETHEL is thrilled, astonished, inspired, and so very grateful for the outpouring of support our Kickstarter campaign has received. Now that we have reached our fundraising goal, we want everyone to know what our next steps will be.

After its Park Avenue Armory residency, ETHEL’S Documerica will continue on to a nationwide tour. With additional Kickstarter backing, ETHEL will augment its production with input from a producer/director, additional projection and lighting design, audio/video recording, and playback computer programming to make the project “portable.”  A polished version of the project will be crucial to marketing the tour.

Please continue to spread the word, and again, our most heartfelt thanks.

ETHEL’s Documerica is…

a landmark work of breathtaking musical and multi-projection art featuring new music by four of today’s most compelling composers and unique projections by a remarkable designer.

ETHEL’s Documerica is…

a transcendent reflection of our nation’s collective soul that fuses 1970s photography and contemporary music.

ETHEL’s Documerica is

transforming Project Documerica, a massive “snapshot” of America, showcased in an astonishing visual archive of stunning and emotionally charged images captured in the tumultuous 1970s.

 Why ETHEL Needs Your Help…

You may ask, “Why does the critically acclaimed post-modern string quartet ETHEL need Kickstarter funding? I thought you guys had it made: you’ve played the Sydney Opera House and the Venice Biennale; you've performed at TED multiple times; and collaborated with David Byrne, Andrew Bird, Todd Rundgren, Kaki King—the list goes on. And I see you in the New York Times all the time. Why a Kickstarter campaign and why should I help?”

First off, the world of contemporary concert music doesn’t exactly kick out rock-star lifestyles or budgets. As public funding of the arts continues to dwindle, generating alternate resources for ambitious projects is even more essential.

(Reward #4: Print of ETHEL Headlamp Poster)
(Reward #4: Print of ETHEL Headlamp Poster)
(Reward: Digital Copy of ETHEL's latest album "Heavy")
(Reward: Digital Copy of ETHEL's latest album "Heavy")

But more importantly, we want to create something truly spectacular—nothing short of a gift to our nation—a musical and visual meditation on America’s relationship to nature and the environment. This isn’t about patriotism. It’s about reflection and expression, challenge and beauty.

Your generous Kickstarter funds will be used to create ETHEL’s Documerica and continue development prior to national and international touring. The project will be the focus of a week of workshops and informal presentations culminating in a debut “Under Construction” performance Sunday, December 2, 2012 at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. ETHEL will then work with a producer/director to finalize the program prior to touring in the 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons. If we are incredibly lucky and exceed our goal, funds will be used for additional technical enhancements to make the program portable for touring.

Documerica In-Depth…

The star of this ambitious project is the archive of photos called Documerica. In 1972, the newly created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began Project Documerica, an initiative that sent professional photographers across America to photograph environmental issues and their impact on society. Over nearly a decade, these artists submitted more than 80,000 images of subjects that ranged from urban to rural and pastoral to gritty.

IMAGES: The Project Documerica archive of images provides a compelling view of a tumultuous era, creating a literal “snapshot” of the 1970s that still powerfully connects to today’s environmental and social issues. Yet Documerica has been largely forgotten and unavailable until recent digitalization. Forty years after its advent, the evocative potential of this massive national artistic project spurred ETHEL to create an evening-length meditation on America’s relationship to our land, our resources and ourselves. This reflection will tour America and the world.

VIDEO PROJECTION: ETHEL has enlisted some of the most original artistic voices in America for this ambitious collaboration. First up is acclaimed projection artist Deborah Johnson, who has designed performance visuals for musicians such as Sufjan Stevens, M. Ward, and Wilco. She is creating a transcendent environment using layered, panoramic video projections drawn from Documerica archive photos. The images will respond and evolve with the music.

 “I love archival imagery; the history it has as an object, it’s crystallization of time, place and emotion. How best to use imagery of such importance—giving it a voice, physical presence, beauty and urgency—is very exciting.” — DJ

MUSIC: ETHEL has also commissioned music by four composers who have been inspired by the images of Documerica: Mary Ellen Childs, Ulysses Owens, Jr., Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate and James “Kimo” Williams. ETHEL, working in collaboration with the composers, will employ its own original music and repertoire to interlace the compositions. The music will explore a range of American styles, genres and techniques—blues, jazz, Native American traditional, bluegrass, and old-time string band—filtered through a distinctly 21st-century lens. Here’s a bit more about the composers and projection artist commissioned for this exciting project:

  • Mary Ellen Childs, a 2011 USA Friends Fellow, composes concert work, often with strong visual elements, and boasts a list of impressive commissions.
    “ETHEL is a composer’s dream: powerhouse musicians and consummate artists. How appropriate that Documerica will reach audiences across America with the ETHEL tour. “ — MEC
  • Ulysses Owens, Jr. is a 2010 Grammy Award winner and the drummer for Kurt Elling and Christian McBride, as well as a formidable jazz-influenced composer.
    “It’s inspiring to find imagery and then connect it to sound, so that people will listen and connect the music to something in their own lives.” — UO
  • Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation who is dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition.
    “Armed with fantastic classical training and a rich cosmopolitan experience, ETHEL delivers unique musicianship that has profound relevance to our modern American culture. I am thrilled to compose new music for them.” — JT
  • James “Kimo” Williams is a producer/composer and a Vietnam Veteran. A 2007 Fulbright Specialist and has produced his compositions with major artists to include, Vinnie Colauita, Mike Stern, Michael Brecker, Victor Bailey and many others.
    “I hope to meld the concepts of environmental sustainability with an artistic expression that will move people to act as environmental citizens.” —JKW

Please join us in creating something truly magnificent!!


*Video Credit: Music by John King "Hardwood".*

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

ETHEL’s Documerica is the most ambitious and multi-faceted performing project of ETHEL’s career. The nine participating artists are working individually and as a team to compose, design and exchange program material. This is a complicated process logistically and artistically, even with the assistance of technology to bridge geographic distances. Kickstarter funds will enable the artists to meet for a week of collaboration and informal presentations that will culminate in a work-in-progress performance on December 2 at New York’s Park Avenue Armory. This weeklong residency will encompass an intense sharing of musical and artistic ideas to fuse the visual and musical components of the project.

It won’t be easy. Challenges will include defining a final framework for the program, including sequence, connecting material, flow and interaction with the projections. The ideas and assistance of a lighting designer provided by the Armory must also be integrated to prepare for the work-in-progress performance and to lay groundwork for a more polished touring program.

Work on ETHEL’S Documerica will continue after the Armory residency and will require the services of a producer/director to finalize the project prior to touring. Our goal is to have the project ready for presentation to performing venues to promote tour booking. Additional design development and computer programming will be necessary to make the project “portable” for touring. If we exceed our campaign goals, additional funds will be used for this work.


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

Ask a question
pledged of $10,000 goal
seconds to go
Project by

New York, NY

  • Pledge $10 or more
    You selected

    16 backers

    Reward #1: Digital download of ETHEL’s four-track EP, “Whose Room,” recorded live on our most recent tour.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $25 or more
    You selected

    22 backers

    Reward #2: Digital downloads of ETHEL’s critically acclaimed album, “Heavy,” and the “Whose Room” EP.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $45 or more
    You selected

    21 backers Limited (49 left of 70)

    Reward #3: A limited-edition T-shirt featuring an ETHEL’s Documerica image designed by artist Deborah Johnson (see video for examples of her stunning work), ETHEL temporary tattoos, and the digital riches of Reward #2.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $75 or more
    You selected

    6 backers Limited (24 left of 30)

    Reward #4: A limited-edition ETHEL “Headlamp” print, (see image below) created by Kip at the Grand Canyon, plus all the amazing awesomeness of Reward #3.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $125 or more
    You selected

    8 backers Limited (22 left of 30)

    Reward #5: Receive two passes to the New York City “Under Construction” dress rehearsal of ETHEL’s Documerica on December 1, 2012 and enjoy a "talk back" with the artists afterwards, plus all the bounty of Reward #3.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $175 or more
    You selected

    4 backers Limited (26 left of 30)

    Reward #6: A limited edition print (20”x24”) of a concert “visual” by artist Deborah Johnson (see video for examples of her stunning work) and an ETHEL-autographed original music score. Plus the digital bounty of Reward #2.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $225 or more
    You selected

    3 backers Limited (17 left of 20)

    Reward #7: NEW YORK SPECIAL/SNEAK PREVIEW: Invitation for two to an ETHEL rehearsal with at least one collaborating artist, plus two passes to ETHEL’s “Under Construction” dress rehearsal and artists' "talk back," December 1, 2012, at the Park Avenue Armory, plus the digital bounty of Reward #2.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $275 or more
    You selected

    2 backers Limited (3 left of 5)

    Reward #8: This reward is limited for a reason—because it is AMAZING! You get a personalized performance captured on downloadable video of ETHEL performing an original piece from ETHEL’s Documerica—dedicated to you or your loved one! Also included is an autographed original musical score by the ETHEL’S Documerica composer of your choice, and the digital bounty of Reward #2.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $500 or more
    You selected

    2 backers Limited (8 left of 10)

    Reward #9: Armory Performance Tickets! Two tickets for the sold out “Under Construction” Performance of ETHEL’s Documerica on December 2, 2012, followed by a reception with the artists. Collector’s items! An exclusive audio recording of the December 2 concert and an autographed original musical score by the ETHEL’S Documerica composer of your choice.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $1,000 or more
    You selected

    1 backer Limited (9 left of 10)

    Reward #10: With this reward you “commission” your very own piece of music! ETHEL will compose a short original piece based on an ETHEL’s Documerica image of your choice and record a performance of it dedicated to you. You will receive the original signed score and a DVD of your dedicated custom performance.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $2,200 or more
    You selected

    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    Reward #11: This reward is truly exclusive—and oh-so fantastic. You will receive a unique “Process Book” of the creation of ETHEL’s Documerica visual compositions by acclaimed artist Deborah Johnson. The process books include images, sketches, notes, mock-ups and selections from original scores. You will also receive the exclusive audio recording of the December 2 Park Avenue Armory performance.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $5,500 or more
    You selected

    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    Reward #12: Imagine an ETHEL concert in your very own home—amazing! ETHEL will perform a 90-minute concert of music from ETHEL’s Documerica and other pieces from their repertoire—live at your New York City metro-area home or event! (Approval required.)

    Estimated delivery:
Funding period

- (30 days)