Alexa Dexa is a xXgrandmacoreXx, queer, femme non-binary, and Disabled toychestral electroacoustic composer-performer and sound witch creating crip* rituals that honor Disabled brilliance and belonging. Alexa is a crafter and caster of songspells, a term coined by Alexa to describe intentions holding space for dream possibilities that manifest transformation as we listen. A songspell is a seed of self-care. Its magic blooms from the truth that what we give our attention to grows. Alexa’s songspells focus on deconstructing the messaging of systemic oppression that says our Disabled body-minds are less than/disposable. They replace that messaging with recognition of our inherent value and serious self-trust.
To craft songspells, Alexa translates the words of a given intention into music with their own chance-based procedures. Using music as a tool of transformative care, they cast songspells with their voice, their beloved toychestra to rival a playpen, pre-programmed electronic sequences, live electronic processing in MaxMSP, and live coding in TidalCycles. Alexa’s musical readings with their self-published SACROSANCT ORACLE//COMPOSITION DECK, which shares a collection of resource-based oracle messages that double as indeterminate graphic scores, offer space to assess, access, cultivate, claim, and share resources to uphold us through trauma as we forge our own paths forward.
Alexa Dexa is a Creatives Rebuild New York Artist Employment Program Recipient. From July 2022 – July 2024 Alexa will be collaborating with Experiments in Opera to share a series of online accessibility-centered crip rituals and creative workshops for the Deaf and Disabled community. This accessible remote creative community programming is a love letter to Disabled folx promising we won’t leave each other behind as national and local safety guidelines cease to protect Disabled folx at high risk for Covid-19.
Noted as “an example of pure charm and whimsy” by The New York Times and “unarguably personifying DIY for the millennium” by Creative Loafing Atlanta, Alexa Dexa is best known for their “electrifying and lyrically brutal” toychestral electronic pop solo project which offers agency in femme voices where deference is expected. Their operatic works include BEWITCH YOURSELF, a virtual and interactive electroacoustic toy opera for resourcing ourselves and sharing our resources for which Alexa was awarded a 2020 NYSCA Creative Individuals Grant, and BE A DOLL, an electroacoustic toy opera exploring how toys shape gender identity and affect mental health for which Alexa was awarded a 2018 Discovery Grant as part of OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program. Alexa has also been awarded a 2015 NYSCA Creative Individuals Grant for their toychestral electronic pop album YEAR OF ABANDON and a 2014 Puffin Foundation Grant for WHALE BONES AND THE BOUNDARY OF A FISH, an album of field recordings highlighting issues of social justice tied to each landscape that produced the sounds. Aleatoric, indeterminate, improvisatory, and fixed electroacoustic works for voice, toy ensembles, sound installation, site-specific performance, theater, and opera comprise their self-released discography.
An adventurer at heart, Alexa Dexa spent 4-6 months out of the year touring the world pre-pandemic with a strong do-it-yourself ethos. Their 14 previous self-booked tour itineraries from 2012 through 2019 have taken them throughout North America, Europe, Oceania, and Asia. They have performed their compositions as part of Omaha Under the Radar’s Generator Series (2019), National Sawdust’s Summer Labs Series (2018), at Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (2017), and at Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science (2016). Festival appearances include Detroit’s Allied Media Conference (2022), New Music Gathering (2021); NYC Electroacousitc Music Festival (2021); NYC Electroacoustic Improvisation Summit (2021); London’s Tete a Tete Opera Festival (2019); Burning Man (2019 & 2015); Omaha Under the Radar (2018); NYC’s UnCaged Toy Piano Festival (2017 & 2013) curated by Margaret Leng Tan and Phyllis Chen; Omaha’s BFF Femme Fest (2017); New Zealand’s Future City Festival (2017); Croatia’s Fairy Tale Festival (2016); the Florida International Toy Piano Festival (2016); Germany’s Fusion Festival (2014); Detroit’s Sidewalk Festival of Performing Arts (2013-2015) for which Alexa Dexa and Kevin McCoy co-created and performed with sound sculptures as part of their site-specific sound installation CHORALE CORRAL: A LIVING SOUND LIBRARY, a collection of found objects that invite public participation in cataloguing and fulfilling their potential as sound-makers; and Make Music New York (2010-2015) for which Alexa Dexa composed and organized mass appeal performances for both toy piano and theremini. Alexa’s solo toy piano work has been performed by Xenia Pestova as part of Philharmonie Luxembourg’s Rainy Days Festival (2019). Their soundscapes for the Off-Off-Broadway production of SOMEONE’S TRYING TO KILL ME, for which Alexa took on the role of Sound Designer, premiered at NYC’s HERE Arts Center (2011). Alexa Dexa places priority on performances that honor accessibility and access intimacy in non-discriminatory and free or donation-based DIY/DIT community safe spaces.
As part of their creative practice, Alexa crafts and facilitates workshops geared towards musicians and nonmusicians alike. BEWITCH YOURSELF: FINDING YOUR SOUND explores the sound worlds contained within our environment, found objects, and ourselves. BEWITCH YOURSELF: CO-CRAFTING AND CASTING SONGSPELLS offers suggestions for setting intentions as lyrics, translating your lyrics into graphic musical notation, and performing your resulting songspell. BEWITCH YOURSELF: ALGORITHMIC SONGSPELL CASTING details audio recording and editing basics in Reaper and live coding with personal audio in TidalCycles. PURSUING INDIE MUSIC PROFESSIONALLY shares do-it-yourself methodologies for music-making and navigating the music industry. ACCESSIBILITY TEACH-IN, which was co-crafted with Anna RG, provides Disability Justice tools and resources for creating accessible concerts and live events. Contact Alexa to inquire about booking a public or private workshop.
Rawhide Records is Alexa Dexa’s humble recording studio located on unceded and violently stolen Massapequas territory. It is where they craft their sound worlds, record and edit their vocals and toy instruments, and produce their beats. With the aid of their MIDI keyboard, Alexa architects aural surroundings using Digital Performer, Logic, Reason, Pro Tools, Reaper, MaxMSP, Pure Data, TidalCycles, Python, & sample libraries from Native Instruments and personal field recordings. Contact Alexa to inquire about commissioning a custom beat, composition, soundscape, or MaxMSP/Pure Data patch.
Dexa is Alexa’s middle name, after their paternal granny. Always a playful child enchanted with miniatures and sonically drawn to resonant bell tones, it is not much of a surprise that upon first discovering the realm of toy instruments, Alexa Dexa fell head over heels instantly and immediately began to seek out the toys they now use to self-accompany and that continue to shape the contours of their compositions and musical sensibilities. Among Alexa’s ever-growing collection are their beloved toy pianos, pitched desk bells, and typatune.
*Alexa uses the term “crip” to describe their Disabled identity/culture. Crip is a reclaiming of the ableist slur “cripple”. Some, but not all, members of the Disability community choose to reclaim this word as a form of Disabled pride.
Steve Smith, The New York Times “Examples of pure charm and whimsy came in a six-song set by Alexa Dexa, who accompanied her hearty, flexible voice with toy piano, desk bells and other gadgets.”
Phyllis Chen, I Care If You Listen “What [Alexa Dexa] does is really special and adds another perspective to the toy piano.”
Sean Zearfoss, Creative Loafing Atlanta “There is little that’s conventional about Alexa Dexa. She’s self-booked, self-recorded, and self-promoted. Her tours cost as little as $36 to complete. Unarguably, she personifies DIY for the millennium.”
Joey Mulock, Moon Glow Radio “Although early releases like 2019’s Instructions for Construction Paper Cut Outs relied on more straight forward pop structures and bellowing vocals, Dexa seems now to be more interested in deconstructing our traditional understanding of how to create a piece of music.”
Jeff Milo, Playground Detroit “Alexa Dexa’s musical manifestations evoke a dream-like quality. The way she renders a familiarity to strangeness with the tones she tills from her ‘toychestra,’ can cause an imagery of the innocent, the impossible, and the sublime.”
Philippe Perez, The Taleteller Podcast “[Alexa Dexa’s] music is a wonderful combination of oddness and beauty, which makes for a curious listening experience.”
Dingus “WHILE MUCH OF a symphony of band-aids for the visionary wound IS SCORED OUT ON TOY INSTRUMENTS, THE THOUGHT PROCESS IS THAT OF ANY MAJOR ALBUM RELEASE. TOPPED OFF BY THE POWERFUL VOICE OF ALEXA DEXA, THIS IS AN ALBUM THAT CANNOT BE GRASPED FULLY UPON FIRST LISTEN AND IS SURELY FOR THE SELECTIVE AND INTROSPECTIVE.”
Anna Chandler, Connect Savannah “The way tinny keys plunk over ambient electronic layers feels like being wrapped up in a jazz club music box: Dexa’s a marvelous vocalist, boasting a velvety, jazz-styled croon that meanders, wavers, and pushes itself to warm lilts. Don’t come expecting precious twee-pop: there’s a brooding underbelly set to sensual beats and reflective lyrics.”
Tim McMahan, The Reader “An altogether unique musical / performance art experience with the charm of early Purity Ring or Bjork crossed with Philip Glass but played on tiny toy instruments.”
Schoenhut Piano Company “There are many words to describe the multifaceted toychestra composer and electronic sound designer, Alexa Dexa. But the first thing that comes to our mind is: Little piano, huge talent.”
Ian Anthony Aiello, Live at O’Leaver’s Alexa Dexa‘s massive and soaring productions are brought back to earth by tiny instruments. With a huge vocal range that navigates descriptors like pop diva, indie songstress and veteran soul singer, Alexa manages to blend several genres into one. Hers. Electrifying and and lyrically brutal, add her to your “Angrily Walking Home Past The Old House You Shared With Ex” playlist.
Bruce “Allone” Pandolfo “Alexa has the special and unique capability to be invitingly vulnerable with her voice while simultaneously intimating strength and command. It is a complexity she controls deftly and appropriately, using her talent only when an idea asks it of her, never unnecessarily boastfully, yet still we are always impressed.”
WMSE Music News “New York resident Alexa Dexa takes a unique approach on soulful pop and dance ditties. A childlike sensibility adds an air of playfulness to Dexa’s already playful music and spirit.”
Michaela D. Jordan, Left Bank Magazine “Innovative as hell.”
Ju-Ping Song, NewMusicBox“Several younger toy pianists/composers, having dedicated most of their creativity to the toy piano, are performing/composing really exciting works for the instrument, developing the field in interesting directions. Among them, Xenia Pestova, Isabel Ettenauer, Alexa Dexa, Scott Paulson, Elizabeth Baker, Jennifer Hymer, and Phyllis Chen.”
Yaz Lancaster, I Care If You Listen “An adventurous electroacoustic composer, facilitator of sound-based meditation, and radical queer dreamer, Alexa Dexa is using music as a tool for manifesting change. As a disabled artist based in a strong DIY-ethos, community is centered in their work. Their love of play and positive self-transformation gave way to Bewitch Yourself, a virtual workshop using Alexa’s Sacrosanct Oracle//Composition Deck, a collection of oracle card-graphic scores, in an attempt to offer an inclusive and accessible digital space that combats oppressive forces.”
Nigel Newton of Skinny Cooks “[Year of Abandon] has a rather unique appeal, with beats that groove and synths that move, punctuated by deliciously arranged, perfectly noisy toys, all dancing beneath [Alexa’s] soul-suede voice.”
William Helms, The Joy of Violent Movement “Her material struck me and captured my attention – it was eerie and ethereal in a way that I hadn’t quite heard before and Alexa Dexa’s voice was amazing. It seemed to be a uniquely singular and oddly childish artistic vision.”
Leah Pape, Common Courtesy Collective “Playing a Schoenhut toy piano, atop which sit a set of those little colored concierge desk-style bells, has her seated humbly before you on the floor, but her powerful voice and dance-worthy beats (played through her iPhone) lift her up to meet everyone’s attention.”
Isthmus, Newspaper “With a barrage of toy instruments (bike bell, seed-pod shaker, baby rattle), a whimsical approach and powerful pipes, Dexa’s electro-pop illustrates why the verb that goes with “music” is “play.””
Erika Delgado, The Bay Abridged “Creative, emotionally real, colorful, and unique.”
SPARKBOOM “Her inventive creativity is what makes Alexa stand out in the areas of music, performance, and visual art as she blends these boundaries so seamlessly.”
William Helms, The Joy of Violent Movement “Musically Alexa’s childlike air is quite deceptive because her material covers more adult territory – with its eerie, minimalist feel, she croons and coos seductively while simultaneously sounding as though she were a woman teetering on the tightrope of her own sanity.”
Z., Hipster, Please! “Something about Alexa Dexa’s voice made me question every decision I’ve ever made. And I could listen to it forever.”
William Helms, The Joy of Violent Movement “The ‘Leave’ official video continues the young singer/songwriter’s reputation for striking dichotomy, evoking a dream-like logic which helps further heighten the song’s ethereal, fever-dream like feel.”
Jason Fitzgerald, Backstage “[Someone’s Trying To Kill Me] is disorienting and at times frightening, as Alexa Dexa’s elaborate sound design creates the sense that something is about to leap out of every corner.”