The High Zero Festival of Experimental and Improvised Music 2007
September 20 - October 3, Baltimore, MD
Some scattered thoughts (and pictures) of the High Zero Festival now concluded:
The Baltimore free improvisation music scene is vibrant and owes a great deal to John Berndt's tireless efforts to bring it out into public spaces.
The emphasis on inviting individual performers and shuffling different combinations of those players over multiple sets is pure brilliance. Often opening up one's ears to new players without saturating the ears with any singular individual sound.
Some musical discoveries (in no particular order):
Matana Roberts. I heard about her at the Guelph Jazz Festival this year and was delighted to hear her play. I was also thrilled to eavesdrop on her conversation about Sun Ra and Andrew Hill. She's an inspiring, emerging figure and I'll have much more to say about her as I add her music into the HurdAudio rotation.
Thomas Helton. There was only a brief glimpse of this outstanding bass player as he seemed to vanish after the first couple of days of main concerts. Again, he's going right into the HurdAudio rotation as a talent well worth discovering.
Matthias Kaul. I'd heard his CD of James Tenney compositions prior to this year's festival. Which is not the same as experiencing his great electric toothbrush solo live. He's a wonderfully engaging and eccentric percussionist.
Eve Risser. Prepared upright piano, a barbie toy guitar (along with "the contents of a small toy store" as John Berndt stated it), voice and a wonderfully intense approach toward free improvisation.
Audrey Chen. She wasn't a "discovery" as she is already a local favorite. Her improvisational instincts are incredible as she navigated a lot of different contexts over the course of this festival.
Jamie Branch. Deeply intriguing. Must hear more. Why doesn't she have a web presence yet? Come back to Baltimore anytime, Jamie.
Kyp Malone. He was completely new to me and he shouldn't be. Wonderfully intuitive playing.
Marina Rosenfeld. Not your father's turn-table artist. This was a brief glimpse into a sound universe that was enormously compelling and startling.
Shodekeh. Beat-boxer extraordinaire. Great instincts and an important layer of sound for its physicality of a pulse informed by hip hop beats.
Chris Heenan. This was the second contrabass clarinet I've heard this month. Nice.
John Dierker. Another local favorite and a welcome sound within these ears. He's developed a great sound as a great figure in the Baltimore free improvisation community.
Experimental music in public spaces. I didn't get to many of the High Jinx going on around town. What I did see had a unique tension derived from the environment outside the concert hall. The general public is more receptive and open minded than I give it credit for as this setting takes on the social dimension of music that is often easier to neglect.