May 7th, 2002
2002 to resound with strange Baltimore sounds
This years Artscape (July 26th-29th) will feature two overlapping music-related exhibitions by Baltimore musician John Berndt in the central Decker galleries of the Maryland Institute College of Art's Station Building on Mount Royal Avenue. Berndt, who founded the highly successful and ongoing Red Room performance space (www.redroom.org) and High Zero festival of Experimental Improvised Music (www.highzero.org), has been a key figure in establishing the city as a center for a variety of kinds of "experimental" music, with a strong audience for unusual sounds. The two exhibitions showcase different sides of an international subculture that Berndt says "is dedicated to the exploration of music and sound outside of any identifiable convention."
The first show, "Oddstruments," will focus on inventors who design their own instruments, in the form of a gallery show with audio documentation. The second, "Sound/Shift," will bring together over 50 improvising musicians from across the country to form an sprawling ensemble that will act in shifts to play a continuously changing "piece" of experimental music for 12 hours each day of Artscape, with highly varied instrumentation and intentions. Very far from "random," both exhibits stress the infinite range of fascinating and nuanced possibilities that exist outside of what people usually think of as music, and the culture and creativity of the musicians who pursue the path less often taken.
The Oddstruments show will feature a mix of local and national instrument inventors, most prominently including local "Sound Mechanic" Neil Feather, who has recently received international attention for his orchestra of incredibly original instruments that recall an alien culture. Other featured Baltimore artists will include Catherine Pancake (dry ice music), Andy Hayleck (amplified gong/wire combinations and hydrophones), and Dan Conrad (Chromachord Light Organ and Wild Waves instrument). Other out-of-towners will include Eric Leonardsen (Chicago's king of springs), Circuit-Bending guru Reed Ghazala, and New York inventors Ricardo Arias (balloons) and Bradford Reed (computer instruments and Pencillina).
Sound/Shift features too many musicians to list here, playing continuously each day of Artscape in 12-14 hour long uninterrupted pieces of improvised music, with continuously a changing cast of musicians. Among those performing are many from the Oddstruments show; well known local improvisers John Dierker, Lafayette Gilchrist, Tom Boram, and Michael Barker; plus many out of town improvisers including Lukas Ligeti, Alberto Gaitán, Charles Cohen, Ernesto Infante-Diaz, Blaise Siwula, and many many others. At any given time, the density of players may vary from a solo to a big band. The event may be the largest confluence of free improvisation musicians brought together in North America so far.