We had the good fortune of connecting with Litha Ashforth and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Litha, how do you define success?
I think of success as a minute series of choices, that ultimately equal the experience of your life. Noting the leaves as they fall from trees, or seeing a smile of a friend, feeling that warmth of being. These things come from a place of peace, when we feel at ease with our choices. A metaphor I think to for a blueprint in making choices is surfing. The choice to trust the water, to listen quietly to the rhythm of the waves, and make small decisions, like whether this wave is for me, or whether to wait for a bigger one, a riskier one. Truly there is no wrong choice because each wave teaches you something about your form. You notice your muscles, and tensions. Even when you slip, lose your breath under the water, and can’t determine what is up or down. There is fear here, and that is something to notice, along with the triumph of standing up longer than the day before. To distill success down to its essence, it is the result of trusting oneself.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a classical singer, improviser and composer. I consider singing a total immersion of body and mind into voice. To me, it is beyond simply making sound, it is ritual. I’d like to speak about a painful moment in my life which clarified my need to sing. My best friend Alex took her own life in the loft we shared in Downtown LA, two years ago. This happened during a period of my life I had walked away from singing, I felt if I couldn’t make it perfect, it wasn’t worth doing at all. One day in a moment of love for Alex, I sang to her the song Frühlingsglaube, a German Lied by Schubert. The words in English mean, “oh fresh scent, oh new sound, now poor dear, fear not, now everything, everything must change.” I sang to her and she held me. The following week she took her life. After the officers had left, and the loft was quiet, I began to sing Frühlingsglaube, to the walls, to her. She sang back, the sound bouncing off the cement around me seemed to hug me, hold me. Several weeks later, I found myself in the company of artists and creators at Slauson Rec, in South Central LA, where I met Shelley Mitchell. We performed a devised theatre piece about an obituary, and found that Shelley and I happened to wear a similar outfit, she 50 years my senior, we seemed to represent the passing of time. Instead of the words of the piece, I began to sing Frühlingsglaube, as we sat across each other holding a candle between us. People who gathered there approached and said they had never heard this music before, and how it had moved them. I realized then that singing isn’t necessarily from a specific place or time, rather it is an ancient story of the body, like the instinct of a mother singing to her baby, or a shriek in fear when a bear is chasing you. I believe in the power of our stories, of our pain and questions. Grief seems to carve out a deeper space for joy to fill. Music and art can be the vessel, for us to begin to understand the thread of mystery which ties us all to the same questions. Singing is like putting a megaphone to all of your humanity, a ritual that engages our body, our voice, our questions, and our stories.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
For your day: Venice Beach, Getty Museum, Drive up PCH, Silverlake Park Lunch: Gjusta in Venice, Yellow House Cafe in Ktown For your sunset: Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Forever Cemetery Dinner: Myeong Dong Sulung Tang, Kobawoo Late nights: Tenants of the Trees in Silverlake, Recital Karaoke, Mama Lion, 265 Cafe, Apartment 305, Cafe Bleu Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My family who I am blessed with in this life. Those who have guided me with their wisdom through mentorship: Dauri Kennedy, Carole Haber, Shelley Mitchell, Stacie Dunlop, Carla Kihlstedt, Hankus Netsky, Anne Marie Charest, Nima Janmohammadi New England Conservatory, my safe place to land and create And, the works of Hildegard Von Bingen
IG: @jaieart @m_odonohue