[intro-text size=”25px”]The host of 89.3’s The Mysterious Black Box[/intro-text]
“I dreamt of being a college radio DJ since I was 18.”
There were no half-measures offered when 89.3 WCSB’s Experimental Music Director and host of the Mysterious Black Box radio show, Lisa Miralia, spoke with PressureLife. Miralia is as encyclopedic on everything aurally weird and wild as she is prophetic. Currently one of Cleveland’s most devoted disciples of the underground, she recounted her formative years as Saul would his road to Damascus. “I spent a good deal of my life having no exposure. Once I was able to, it changed my life. Everything that I do now came from that initial first-time exposure.”
Serving as The Land’s sonic Bodhisattva every Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m., Miralia’s current focus is bringing other wayward dial-shifters to the light. “To be able to give that random person who’s driving around the street in their car flipping around the radio stations,” she explains with pride, “if they hit on my show they may hear something they may never have had the chance to hear before in their life.” It was clear moments into talking with Lisa Miralia that she is not one to take her presence on the airwaves for granted. “My mission [for Black Box] is to provide exposure to experimental sound artists of all varieties, to provide that exposure to the general listening audience online and on the radio.” To that end, Black Box focuses on new releases and bands coming through town on tour with an emphasis on local acts.
Since 2010, Miralia has gone beyond just being another disembodied voice on the radio and begun promoting and booking wildly-diverse and engaging musical acts across the city. “Northeast Ohio is known internationally as being a hotbed of experimental sound,” she insists, but it hasn’t been easy. “It’s not mainstream stuff, so it’s not on a lot of people’s radar. Due to that, there are a tremendous number of performers and composers.” But as she went on to explain, “In the experimental circles the crowds are always smaller. … There just aren’t enough venues for the sheer amount of acts that come through here.”
While she still books smaller house shows, that hasn’t stopped other, larger venues from getting in on the action. At the time of our interview, Miralia was in the midst of final preparations for an ambitious show she will co-curate for the second year in a row alongside Craig Chojnicki at Spaces Art Gallery on August 6. Expeditions Spaces II is a “series of performers in different styles,” she explained. “You could have a video performer. You could have a spoken word person, movement artists, electronic sound artists, acoustic sound artists—a real variety kind of event on inter-media.” Patrons will be encouraged to travel the lengths of the gallery on their “expedition,” taking in the performers staged throughout.
If she wasn’t busy enough this summer, the Museum of Contemporary Art has also reached out to her, eager to get into the mix. Miralia will curate a recurring free event the Fridays of Aug. 12, 19, 26 called Loaded. “I’m very excited to be working with MoCa. It’s going to be really, really special,” she gushed, excited to finally work with a budget. The experimental shows she will be putting together will take place along the back “loading” docks in compliment to the ongoing Mark Mothersbaugh exhibition within the museum.
College radio has often proven to be the last bastion against this bland, marketable status quo for decades. “It’s an alternative to mainstream media,” she professed, “and a place where people can hear things that they’re not going to be able to hear anywhere else.” Through her dedicated work with Black Box and the live shows that she curates, Lisa Miralia has cemented her legacy as the latest in a line of Cleveland underground tastemakers.
Black Box Favorites
While hard-pressed to narrow down her favorites, here are some of the top acts Lisa recommended during our chat.
Horse Lords: “It’s a band I’ve been getting into for a while now. They’re on the Northern Spy label now. They have a more accessible sound, but it’s still really creatively done.”
Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman: “[Ryan Kuehn] works with a variety of different kind of electronic devices, modular synths, other synths. He also does a radio show on WCSB that’s one of my favorite called The Record Exchange. People come down to jam at 2 o’clock in the morning because he’s just that good.”
Lionel Marcheti: “He’s a long-time known minimalist and composer. He’s just now released an archive of his works from 1997 to 2010 or something. It’s outstanding.”
Steve Lull: “His project is called Dead Corporate Eyes. He is outstanding as a composer and recording artist. He’s an unsung hero, really. Mostly studio projects, but when he does collaboration work in a live setting he brings something really special. He always enhances whatever collaboration he is in.”
Jeremy Bible: “He operates out of Kent and he’s started working on multi-channel sound installations. It’s conceptual work. Very high-brow, very conceptual.”