alexa dexa is a queer, non-binary, Sick, Mad, and Disabled toychestral electroacoustic composer-performer and crip* xXgrandmacoreXx sound witch creating rituals that honor Disabled brilliance and belonging. Using sound as a source for shaping change, they dream and manifest aleatoric, indeterminate, and improvisatory works for voice, an ever-expanding collection of toy instruments to rival a playpen, found sounds, pre-programmed electronic sequences, live electronic processing, and live coding.
alexa is a crafter + caster of songspells, a term alexa coined to describe intentions holding space for dream possibilities that manifest transformation as we listen deeply to ourselves. Whole-heartedly discarding the notion that our Disabled body-minds are less than/disposable, alexa’s songspells + crip rituals validate and uplift our inherent crip wisdom and value. The originator of divinatory oracle cards that double as indeterminate graphic musical scores, alexa’s rituals + readings with their self-published sacrosanct oracle//composition deck and dreaming our futures + embodying our dreams oracle//composition deck offer portals for resourcing ourselves + sharing our resources and for dreaming our most glorious dreams into existence as we shape + reshape our own nonlinear paths.
A Creatives Rebuild New York Artist Employment Program Recipient, from July 2022 – July 2024 alexa dexa is collaborating with Experiments in Opera to share a series of online, accessibility-centered crip rituals and creative workshops + work shares for the Deaf and Disabled community. This accessible remote creative community programming is a love letter to Disabled folks promising we won’t leave each other behind as national and local safety guidelines cease to protect Disabled folks at high risk for Covid-19. Equally, this work is a testament to the power of our Disabled stories to shape real and needed social change.
In year 1 of the CRNY Artist Employment Program, alexa dexa held virtual performances of Bewitch Yourself, their interactive opera for an audience of one. Bewitch Yourself participants tell and affirm their own stories as they co-create a libretto in conversation with alexa, culminating in a bespoke performance with alexa’s voice, toychestra, and live electronic processing in MaxMSP. alexa also created and led the Creating Access Series, accessibility workshops sharing frameworks for understanding and implementing access features in our projects and gatherings, and Shaping Sound Worlds, a series of 8 online workshops + work shares for tuning into our creative power to shape and be shaped by sound. In year 2, alexa dexa is developing their bathtub opera, soak, which offers a crip ritual for nourishing our sick + mad + disabled bodyminds, for sinking into ease and effortlessness, for soaking until the ache dissipates into lull. Experiments in Opera will premiere soak in 2024.
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/trans 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 impressive self-released discography.
*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.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, I spent 8 years DIY touring domestically and internationally, 4 – 6 months out of every year riding public transit with a hiking backpack and my 18-key baby grand toy piano in my arms. I spent my time in community – meeting people, sharing my experiences through my performances and through so many intimate conversations with strangers-turned-friends. When the pandemic began, I knew I wouldn’t be touring for the foreseeable future. I can’t imagine being on a crowded Megabus, sleeping with my face buried in the scratchy cloth seats confined among the unfiltered air of many. I can’t imagine couchsurfing and being away from my medical care. I can’t imagine being unmasked in public. I can’t imagine putting my community at risk by organizing nonessential in person performances and gatherings when so many are still disabled and dying from Covid.
So I began to reimagine my opera-making for the digital realm. As I dreamed on possibilities for remote access operas, what I knew more than anything was that I wanted to hold space for the kind of intimacy and magic that I experienced by meeting new people by chance at my shows and in the wild. It is so important to me to be able to make these connections and continue to be in community with those who I may not yet know, and for that to be part of the art taking place. So I reimagined my opera-making as a site of transformative collective and personal care. Something we do together, not at each other. Not a replay through a screen that holds the distance and disconnect of a television set where you will never be part of what happens, but a living conversation and co-creation space where we come together to share ourselves and to make music together, for each other. That feels really special to me, that is what I want to experience and what I endeavor to give to my community.
Curious about how to format your sound-making for online performances? Share your dreams for virtual sonic explorations with alexa and together, we’ll brainstorm potential pathways, programs, and people to help make your dream a digital reality! alexa is over the moon about shepherding live virtual sound events into existence and looks forward to connecting you with the current technologies for bringing sounds and people together across great distances.
For creative and technological consultations to reimagine your projects and gatherings for interactive remote settings, email alexa dexa at [email protected].
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, a hiking backpack, their 18-key baby grand Schoenhut toy piano in their arms, and the support of public transport and the Couchsurfing community. 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 Opera Philadelphia’s Festival O: Opera On Film (2022), 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 robust creative practice, alexa dexa creates, organizes, and leads a variety of creative community workshops geared towards musicians and nonmusicians alike.
Shaping Sound Worlds is a series of online workshops + work shares created and led by alexa dexa offering joy-centered space for being in community, learning from each other, and cheering each other on as we tune into our creative power to shape and be shaped by sound.
1. Sounds! + Where to Find Them
2. Words! + Ways to Form Them
3. Making + Reading Graphic Scores
4. Recording Audio Here + Now
5. Algorithmic Music-Making
6. Describing Our Sounds as a Form of Accessibility
7. Reimagining Sharing Live Sound in the Digital Realm
8. Sharing Our Sound Worlds – A Party!
Structured as both a Workshop + a Work Share, each session holds spaces for us to be in process together as we delve into creative concepts and methodologies and share our resulting experimentations. By the end of the series, we will all have a new sound world to cozy on up into, new friends to share it with, and the radical imaginaries, technologies, and agency to continue shaping many more sound worlds to come.
Creating Access is a series of remote accessibility workshops created and led by alexa dexa. Geared towards creators and organizations, Creating Access centers Disability Justice principles and shares frameworks for understanding and implementing access features in our projects and gatherings as a critical step towards creating radical inclusivity in our communities.
1. Disability Justice & Accessibility Basics
2. Making Our Social Media More Accessible
3. Reimagining Our Projects & Gatherings Towards Radical Inclusivity
To book alexa dexa for a public or private workshop, contact alexa at [email protected].
“If you are not intentionally creating cultures of inclusion, then by default, you are creating cultures of exclusion.” – Dr. Burrs
I love this quote because to me, it really highlights how each of us can shape a more accessible and inclusive world with our own intentional creative power. I feel an immediate shift when I read these words, a shift away from relying on larger systems at play to make decisions and policies regarding bare-bones access accommodations and a shift towards appreciating and making use of my personal agency to reimagine my practices and norms to learn about, consider, and care for the access needs of others and myself. (I say this not in any way to allow larger systems off the hook for providing accessibility – as they absolutely should and must be doing, but as a way of choosing not to wait for something that may not come – instead leaning into supporting and encouraging accessibility however I’m able because access cannot wait.) I dream of and move in alignment with an increased radical inclusivity and interdependence that aims to leave none of us behind and that acknowledges that we each have our own brilliance to share and that our safety is intertwined.
All of my access work is rooted in #AccessIsLove. Created and led by Sandy Ho, Mia Mingus, and Alice Wong, Access Is Love aims to help build a world where accessibility is understood as an act of love, instead of a burden or an after-thought. It is an initiative to raise awareness about accessibility and encourage people to incorporate access in their everyday practices and lives.
For Accessibility Consultations with alexa dexa designed to assess and increase the accessibility of your presence, projects, and events, contact alexa at [email protected].
Sound Description is a form of accessibility that shares the mood, feeling, physicality, instrumentation, structure, and melodic/harmonic content of music and sounds through text-based written descriptions.
As a Sound Describer, I intertwine both literal translations that share the approximation of the sound world and also more personal insights that add context to the sounds through sensory associations, memories, and poetries that deepen the connection between the sound world and where it can lead you. My Sound Descriptions become an added dimension of world building, a gorgeous layer that shares access to general information and more intimate musings, an extra level of connectivity with the music and with the people sharing it.
To work with alexa dexa to compose sound descriptions for your compositions, contact alexa at [email protected].
As an access doula, I help to monitor remote gatherings, looking for ways to enhance accessibility and provide support to both facilitators and attendees.
To hire alexa dexa as an access doula for your remote projects and gatherings, contact alexa at [email protected].
Rawhide Records is alexa dexa’s humble recording studio located on the unceded territory of the Massapequas. It is where they craft their sound worlds, record and edit their vocals and toychestra, and produce their beats and pre-programmed electronic sequences. With the aid of their MIDI keyboard, alexa architects aural surroundings using Digital Performer, Logic, Reason, Pro Tools, Reaper, MaxMSP, Pure Data, Tidal Cycles, Python, & sample libraries from Native Instruments and personal field recordings.
Commission alexa dexa for a custom songspell, dreamscape, opera, composition, beat, or MaxMSP/Pure Data patch. Share your dream vision with alexa at [email protected].
Toychestra is my fond name for my ever-expanding orchestra of toy instruments to rival a playpen.
My toychestra lovingly includes a variety of gorgeous and well-adored toy pianos (including an antique Schoenhut from the 1890s replete with cast iron candle holders and claw feet, wooden keys, and steel bars for striking), a full set of 20 chromatic desk bells, hand bells, toy harp, toy glockenspiel, toy chimes, typatune, alto xylophone, toy vibraphone, rolling chime bear, toy banjo, large and small tap-a-tune xylo-keyboards, a purple pianosaurus, toy organ, toy zithers, melodica, keymonica, trombone kazoo, kalimba, vintage noisemakers, toy record player with custom 3D printed toy records, and hand-cranked music box with custom hand-punched music scrolls.
dexa is my middle name, after my 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, I fell head over heels instantly and immediately began to seek out the toys that shape the contours of my compositions and sonic sensibilities.
Email: [email protected]
For tender invitations to future creative remote crip rituals, join alexa dexa’s Crip Ritual Invite List.
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.”
Michaela D. Jordan, Left Bank Magazine “Innovative as hell.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Philippe Perez, The Taleteller Podcast “[Alexa Dexa’s] music is a wonderful combination of oddness and beauty, which makes for a curious listening experience.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”