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Jul 122012

If you were lucky enough to attend last month’s John Butcher / Thomas Lehn show at the Downtown Presbyterian Church, you know how magical (dare I say holy?) a performance in the historic church’s chapel can be. On Friday, July 13th, prepare for another such experience.

Growing together as masters of the British free jazz scene in the ’70s, this duo disclosed the perfect emotional and performance synchronization of two masters who do not even need the hint of a glimpse to know where they are headed.” — Sara Villa on Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston’s performance at the 2011 Guelph Jazz Festival. ALL ABOUT JAZZ magazine, Oct 2011.

Rare are the moments when you get to hear true legends in a setting as intimate as the DPC chapel. Saxophonist Trevor Watts is co-founder of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, a loosely-knit group of free improvisers whose influence in the avant garde and free improv communities cannot be overstated. Saxophonist Evan Parker once said co-founder John Stevens had two rules:

(1) If you can’t hear another musician, you’re playing too loud

(2) if the music you’re producing doesn’t regularly relate to what you’re hearing others create, why be in the group?

Those simple instructions have trickled down the years of free improvisation and guided many hands. There are plenty of Theatre Intangible improvs where such ground rules would have improved the product.

In addition to his work in the SME, Trevor formed the groups Amalgam and Moiré Music ensemble and has performed with jazz greats such as Steve Lacy, Don Cherry, and Archie Shepp.

Pianist Veryan Weston performed with Trevor Watts in Moiré Music and on the duet album 6 Dialogues. He’s also played with the Eddie Prévost Quartet, Lol Coxhill, Phil Minton, and John Butcher. Seeing these two masters together on this side of the water is a-once-in-a lifetime opportunity. In short, don’t miss this!

Louisville-by-way-of-New-York drummer  Tim Barnes and Nashville guitarist William Tyler will open the evening. Jesse Jarnow at AllMusic writes,

The drummer Tim Barnes was important in three ways: as an expansive experimental percussionist (and producer/engineer on the side) who had one foot in the downtown New York avant-jazz community while contributing to more traditional indie rock projects; as the owner of the Quakebasket label, distributors of limited-edition and broader releases of work by contemporary experimenters as well as careful reissues; and, finally, via his day job, where he helped bridge the worlds of indie rock and music licensing for advertising.

Barnes emerged in the late 1990s, contributing to indie rock staples like the Silver Jews and the Elephant 6-affiliated Essex Green, as well as pop-fancying avant-garde mainstay Jim O’Rourke. . . He hovered on the edge of Sonic Youth‘s world, as well, joining the band for their deeply psychedelic Koncertas Stan Brakhage Prisiminimui release and serving as occasional member in Lee Ranaldo’s Text of Light.

William Tyler is the founder of the excellent local record label Sebastian Speaks , member of Lambchop and the Silver Jews, and a session guitarist for Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Tim Chad and Sherry, Laura Cantrell, Charlie Louvin, Hiss Golden Messenger and others. I can’t wait to hear what the two talented players will do together.

This show is organized by Chris Davis, drummer for the Cherry Blossoms and promoter of countless amazing Nashville shows.

More details on the Facebook event page.

Trevor Watts & Veryan Weston
Tim Barnes & William Tyler
Friday, July 13th, 8:30 doors, 9 pm start, $15-$20 sliding scale

Downtown Presbyterian Church
154 Fifth Avenue, North
Nashville, TN 37219

Apr 182012

Experimental percussionist TATSUYA NAKATANI is performing at the Downtown Presbyterian Church this Friday at 8pm. I saw Tatsuya perform at Zeitgeist Gallery last year, and he took my breath away. (Check out my recording of that performance on T.I. podcast 43: Pulse.) A Nakatani concert is a transformative experience, which can only be augmented by the DPR’s amazing acoustics.

This show is part of a series of DPC concerts organized by Brady Sharp, David Maddox, and Chris Davis. Of Nakatani, the Facebook event page says,

He has created his own instrumentation, effectively inventing many instruments and extended techniques. He utilizes drumset, bowed gongs, cymbals, singing bowls, metal objects, bells, and various sticks and bows to create an intense, organic music that defies category or genre. His music is based in improvised/ experimental music, jazz, free jazz, rock, and noise, yet retains the sense of space and beauty found in traditional Japanese folk music.

Also performing is Nashville’s KIRBY SHELSTAD — percussionist, electronic music pioneer, and studio player who has worked with Leon Russell, Bela Fleck, Charley Rich, and more.

Concert starts at 8pm. There is a $6-$10 suggested donation for the performers. No one wishing to see the performance will be turned away for lack of funds.

This is also a great time to introduce Voight-Kampff Music, Brady Sharp’s new experimental music blog, which features a killer concert calendar. Check out the Voight-Kampff write-up of the Nakatani show here.


Sep 292011

On October 1st and 2nd in the heart of the country music capital of the world – walking distance from neon signs, country cover bands, line dancing tourists, and tip bucket buskers  — downtown Nashville will waft with sounds unfamiliar. It’s fitting that SOUNDCRAWL, the year’s most challenging and innovative music festival, is happening on the turf of music’s lowest common denominator, thumbing its nose to an industry that stamps art into commodity.

The ambitious festival will envelop three downtown spaces: the Arcade, the Presbyterian Church, and the Bank Gallery. You can see the full schedule at the Soundcrawl website and find out how to get into Sunday’s ART OF THE FUTURE event FREE here.

Soundcrawl co-founder KYLE BAKER talks with Theatre Intangible about the festival’s past, present and future. For more on the crawl, check out last year’s Theatre Intangible interview with the other founder, AARON DOENGES.

TI: What was the genesis for Soundcrawl?

Kyle: In the spring of 2009, Aaron [Doenges] and I were on his back patio discussing a festival called SOUNDWALK in Long Beach, California. At the time, their website was down, so we just envisioned partnering with the Art Crawl and assumed that that’s what their event was like, too. Afterwards, we went back to their site and realized we had created something substantially different.

TI: How has Soundcrawl evolved over the past three years?

Kyle: Well, in 2009 the vision was more “art project” than festival, you know, like the project where somebody puts pianos on street corners or something. We loved the idea that we’d take these great works and serve them up for public consumption by putting them in art galleries for one night. Since then, we’ve been driven to serve the art well, and that’s led to a more structured and independent experience.

TI: In Soundcrawl:Mainstage, sound art will take over the First Saturday Art Crawl at the Arcade. What can we expect?

Kyle: Typically, the response has been something like,  “This sounds like Star Wars!” When we first heard that in 09, we got defensive. “No! It’s ART, dangit!” Now I realize it’s a compliment. We’ve tried to run with that expression a bit.

We love the Art Crawl. We love the vibrancy and the energy of the whole event; and so our first stop is there, to present our Mainstage selections as we have in years past. The Arcade will pretty much be taken over by avant-garde audio. Continuing our embrace of emerging video art, we’re also presenting the video software Weiv on our new Soundcrawl Hologram. The software is one part game and one part art, allowing users to control aspects of the video art by using Wii controllers. It’s a lot of fun, and we’re pleased to help introduce it to Nashville.

TI: What are some of your favorite pieces playing the crawl this year?

Kyle: My favorites this year are “My Parents’ Phone Number” by Ethan Frederick Greene, and “Cloud I: Windmills I-65” by Bin Li. Both of them are inventive pieces that are very approachable. I recognize very clearly that Soundcrawl is introducing the whole genre of audio art during the Art Crawl, and it’s very pleasing to me to find works like these. They are clever and imaginative, strongly constructed, but are able to be understood at many different levels of engagement.

TI: What role does experience play? Why can’t I just download these works and listen to them on my headphones at home?

Kyle: Don’t tempt me! – Soundcrawl Internet Audio festival. . . (laughs). . .  Because we don’t experience art that way. That’s not how we use our computers. I think a great deal about audience expectations, and I’ll tell you, that there are few things humans approach with as open a mind as an art gallery. Computers are tools, we evaluate the things we use them for based on utility, I think. We tend to know what we expect when we go to a concert too. Theatre and art galleries are the two spaces where I think the audience has only a vague idea what’s going to happen and is excited (rather than fearful) to be in that position.

TI: Soundcrawl:Listening Room takes place in a bank vault. Attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket and sandwich. I think it’s safe to say this will be the world’s first bank vault experimental music picnic. What inspired this incongruous listening party?

Kyle: Well, we were looking for a space near the Art Crawl to retreat to, and Todd just opened The Bank. It’s one of those friend of a friend connections. It’s a very good thing for us, because, like I said, there are few things we approach with such an open mind as an art gallery- and we don’t want it to be a concert. You should see the space. He’s painted all the walls with just super crazy images, it adds a ton of energy to the room.

TI: Soundcrawl:Art of the Future features live performances, audio installations, visual art, and video installations. What excites you about this program?

Kyle: Art of the Future is my baby. I’ve been waiting to put something like this together for a while. My background is in theatre and production design- I even ran a haunted house when I was young. To me, Art of the Future is a pop-up new media gallery that happens to be hosting some live performances. Ultimately, I’d love to present each piece in its own installed space, but we’re still a few years away from that. I love giving the audience options and having multiple things happening at once. I love the “magic” of automated art and the personal connections we have with live performances existing in the same space.

TI: New media can often be a challenging experience. Have you had any negative responses to the works in the past Soundcrawls? How do you deal with them?

Kyle: We haven’t really had any. I suppose that’s because of the “opt-in” format we use.  If they don’t like something, they “opt-out” and go on with their evening.

TI: What about positive responses?

Kyle: What we hear most times is that people are surprised that the art is so profoundly moving. They didn’t expect to like it at all, but yet the beauty of a work touched them.

TI: You’re a graduate in Composition from Belmont University, and you won the university’s prestigious Competition Contest. How has your education shaped your composition? What was it like winning the award?

Kyle: My education has had a profound impact on my work, but a lot of my learning took place outside of school. I learned a ton when I toured with Drum and Bugle Corps during undergrad, and that sense of precision and pageantry has continued in my work. Belmont was incredibly gracious and supportive of my ideas while I was there. Winning the award was a great night, and meant that the piece was played by the orchestra. That was a lot of fun.

TI: Your album of compositions Bootcut Classical (including the sound art piece “Psychosis”) is available on Amazon.com and other outlets. How does being a composer yourself affect your selection process?

Kyle: When we listen to the submissions, I tend to root for the composer like it’s a sporting event. “Com’on man!… Awww, why’d you do that? Two-hand catch!” etc. I’m intensely focused on the internal logic and rhetoric of a piece. . . but I have a bias towards the aggressive.

TI: What else do you look for in Soundcrawl entries?

Kyle: Passion, agility & rhetoric. Say something!

TI: Who are some of your favorite artists and musicians in Nashville?

Kyle: I really like the band EASTERN BLOCK, and the Americana band FAREWELL DRIFTERS. Both groups are just incredibly talented. If there’s any justice in the music business, they’ll be headliners soon.

TI: What’s the number one thing you want people to take away from this year’s Soundcrawl?

Kyle: Wonder. I hope they walk a way with the same post-event high you get from a good play or concert. The world becomes incredibly real and different because you’re seeing it through the artist’s eyes.

May 312011

This isn’t technically an “experimental show,” but the dream-team of guitarists CHRIS DAVIS has assembled to play the Nashville Downtown Presbyterian Church on June 2nd is too good to ignore.

For starters, we have semi-obscure-but-legendary UK singer/songwriter MICHAEL CHAPMAN. He cut his teeth on the 60s Yorkshire folk scene and never looked back, redefining himself with each new decade.

Chapman is joined by PHIL KEAGGY, guitarist for American 60s rock band GLASS HARP and one of the world’s top-3 “fingerstyle” guitarists according to Guitar Player Magazine readers’ polls (Wiki).

Rounding out the bill is friend of Theatre Intangible WILLIAM TYLER, himself a guitar legend in the making. In addition to running his own record label Sebastian Speaks, laying down session work all over Nashville, and touring with the likes of KORT and LAMBCHOP; William is also winning the praises of NPR and Pitchfork with his new solo instrumental album Behold the Spirit.

The show is happening in the acoustically-resonant Egyptian revival sanctuary of Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church. Three amazing guitar players in a wonderful music-listening environment equates to a must-see. (I can’t speak for the worshiping bit.)

More details at the Facebook event page.

Downtown Presbyterian Church, Thursday, June 2nd, 7pm
Michael Chapman
Phil Keaggy
William Tyler
$10-20 suggested donation. “Your generous donations ensure the continuity and possibility of adventurous musical programming. Thanks to Downtown Presbyterian Church for the generous use of their space and for their ongoing support of the arts.”