Faye MacCalman

Faye MacCalman is a performer, composer-songwriter and improviser on saxophone, clarinet, voice and electronics.

Faye fuses experimental songwriting with hypnotic melodies and elemental rhythms drawing on jazz, abstract imagery, folk and art-pop. Inspired by under the surface and hidden emotional worlds, Faye’s music merges playful surrealism with raw social realities of loss and inequality; in particular the taboos of being a woman, mental illness and class.

As a solo artist Faye is creating her debut solo album, with her music described as “captivating” (NARC Magazine) and ’moving…I lost myself’ (Huw Stephens, BB6). Faye is also bandleader of critically acclaimed jazz-art-rock adventurers Archipelago, nominated for UK Jazz Act of the Year in the 2021 Jazz FM Awards. As a collaborator and performer, Faye has recorded/performed with Maximo Park, Zoe Rahman, Arun Ghosh, The Unthanks and is a current member of Unthank:Smith, David Brewis’s ’Soft Struggles Orchestra’, ’Me Lost Me’ and the John Pope Quintet.

In 2022 Faye debuted her audiovisual installation-performance Invisible Real at Cheltenham Jazz Festival with support from a Jerwood Jazz Encounters Fellowship. Invisible Real illuminated anonymous experiences of mental illness and hidden inner worlds through projections and live music, featuring projections by Rhian Cooke, spatialised sound by Nikki Sheth and live performances by Faye in a subconscious dream-zone, inspired by the loss of her close friend to suicide.

The Jerwood New Work Fund will allow Faye to adventurously expand this work to include a new ensemble of live musicians with interactive improvisation, extended visuals and new music presented in a 4 hour durational performance as part of Faye’s artist in residency show at Sage Gateshead in June 2024.

When asked what she’s looking forward to about her Jerwood New Work Fund project, Faye said,

I am really excited to be receiving mentoring from and collaborating with the brilliant visual artist Rhian Cooke to learn how to bring my visual ideas to life and to work with her on creating this new ambitious reworking of Invisible Real, which will inspire me to find new ways and tools to weave my musical and visual ideas together for Invisible Real and beyond. I am also looking forward to the challenge of writing for a new ensemble and seeing vulnerable and spontaneous interaction between audiences and musicians, which is new territory for me.

Faye MacCalman, image by Victoria Wai