May 67 p.m. @ MCA San Diego, Downtown
1001 Kettner Blvd. at Broadway
All-ages. Free ($3 suggested donation)
May 78 p.m.
La Antigua Bodega de Papel
Calle 11, between Revolución and Madero,
Ages 18-up. Free.
If, that is, you prefer your music fed in singles from the Clear Channel Ether Empire, or from Tower Records' Top 20 list. Stop, or you'll be wasting the next nine-and-a-half minutes of your life reading about musicians and artists too weird and outlandish, who make music and art that you'll hate.
If, that is, you're the type who's not opposed to taking the occasional ice pick to the brain, jiggling it around to see what jars loose.
If you've ever found yourself gravitating towards the non-linear "music" by composers like Philip Glass or Steve Reich, read some more.
Spring Reverb is siezuring back through San Diego for its third year, fragmenting preconceived notions of transgressive art and experimental music.
Spearheaded by the mélange of San Diego artists known as the Trummerflora Collective, the two-day event starts May 6 in downtown San Diego's Museum of Contemporary Art. On May 7, the festival jumps the border to tear apart La Antigua Bodega de Papel in the heart of Tijuana.
"Our dogma is that there is no dogma," says Ellen Weller, ethnomusicologist and co-artistic director of Spring Reverb. Their goal is to provide an environment of creative support and networking for The Fringe.
As a group on its own, Trummerflora sweeps a musical spectrum from phonography (the practice of found-sound manipulation) to Klezmer to free jazz to custom-programmed electronics-the thread that ties the group is purposefully unrecognizable.
"We're all into different things. Sometimes these things overlap, but they all come from somewhere different," says Weller, herself a flutist, reedist and improviser. "We see ourselves as the earth in the garden. We don't discriminate between a weed and a flower."
The word "trummerflora" alone sets the tone of Spring Reverb. Also known as "rubble plants," trummerflora are the pretty little flowers that result when a massive bomb explodes in urbana, causing rubble to mix with seeds that have lain dormant in the earth for centuries. It's a tumultuous way to rekindle old magic, destroying the façade of modernism and rebirthing ancient naturalism.
Considering Spring Reverb's co-artistic director and artist coordinator Marcos Fernandes describes his own music as "a tea party in a hurricane," this all seems fitting, if a bit unsettling.
A percussionist, improviser and phonographer who has performed in Japan, China, Mexico and the U.S., Fernandes is a founding member of Trummerflora. Along with Marcelo Radulovich, David Holzborn, Robert Montoya and Hans Fjellestad, the musical freaks pooled their resources to create an organized front for their cause-to champion true, experimental music, almost wholly unrelated to the pop form.
Spring Reverb: The Trummerflora outcropping
"When I first started with [Trummerflora]," says reedist-composer Jason Robinson, "different people were doing different things at different places, and what we found lacking was a space to do music that really arched beyond the boundaries of traditional situations and clubs that had to find it financially worthwhile. Someone came up with the idea of doing a spring festival of new music and it sounded like the perfect conceptual idea."
Funded by private donations and corporate grants, Trummerflora put on the first Spring Reverb in 2002, drawing members of the collective together to perform along with guests such as Las Casas Del Ritmo, The Nortec Visual Collective and world-renowned bassist Lisle Ellis.
This year, the collective has assembled an equally diverse group of new guests, all vanguards in their chosen media.
"I think that everybody who is coming to perform this year has connections with someone in the collective," says Robinson. "When we first started organizing this year's festival I got a call from Gino Robair, the percussionist, and he was trying to set up a tour for a duo with him and the English saxophonist John Butcher. He asked me if I had any suggestions for places to play down here, and the profile with him and Butcher made it a perfect kind of fit for the festival. That's a stereotypical example of how it works"
Butcher is an experimental saxophonist from Britain, regarded as one of the central figures of Europe's creative music scene. His emphasis on the use of live electronics, amplifiers and feedback control far removes his sound from that of "normal" saxophone playing.
"It's basically a nomination process," says Weller of how and who is elected to perform. The collective proposes musicians who intrigue them, or who they've played with in the past. Then the nominations begin.
"It's windier this year," she adds, alluding to the festival's emphasis on horn players and reedists.
Trumpeter Lesli Delaba will be making the trip from Seattle. A distinctive voice in improvised music since the '70s, performing in ensembles and as a soloist throughout the U.S. and Europe, Delaba is the name Trummerflora members seem to talk about the most.
Delaba and Butcher, as well Money Mark (from Beastie Boys acclaim) join other such vaunted guests as Two Foot Yard's Carla Kihlstedt and Vinny Golia, the godfather of Los Angeles' improvisational music scene.
The diversity of musicians and styles brought together by Spring Reverb is as impressive as it is cheap. There is no charge to the public, since the festival is funded in the manner of most fringe arts-by generous private contributions and corporate grants.
To visualize the music, Trummerflora has invited videographers and dancers from Japan and Mexico to perform. Adriana Trujillo, co-director of yonkeART, will curate this year's videography.
"This is going to be so cool," says Weller. "The videographers will be in the back of the room [at the MCA] projecting above the musicians. The video will actually be fed downstairs and projected onto the window so the people at the outside stage will be able to see the video as well. It will be truly multimedia."
The post-modern dance group Lower Left will be performing at the same time within the space, in interpretive reaction to the environment created by the musicians and videographers.
"They will be floating," says Weller. "You might find them in the hallway, in the stairs, doing dance in the elevator, while you're waiting in line for the bathroom."
All of this is designed to create a seamless experience for both performers and audience.
"The nice thing is that people are going to be able to move into very different sonic spaces," Weller explains. "You can basically mix your own experience by deciding when you want to listen to music, when you want to focus on the artwork. There is a lot of control the audience actually has."
On the first day in San Diego, members of Trummerflora and their guests will perform as regimented a format one could expect from a group of improvisers. On the second day in Tijuana, however, the musicians and performers won't pack their sheet music or set list. What happens in Mexico will be as much a mad laboratory as it is a concert.
Tijuana was the natural choice for the second day of the festival. "It's back to the concept of bridging communities," says Trummerflora Collective's Fernandes. "The audiences in San Diego are often more surprised or intrigued by what they see or hear, and audiences in Tijuana seem a bit more open-minded. I think they're more used to experimental or transgressive art."
"On Friday in Tijuana we'll be mixing it all up and that's when it gets really interesting. We literally tear down the borders. I get a lot of satisfaction from spending a couple days with these artists, playing together, listening to each other and learning and being inspired." *
John Butcher started playing sax at Surrey University while studying physics; he later earned his doctorate on the theoretical properties of charmed quarks. Yeah, a real big-brained saxman who performs free improv, multi-tracked saxophone pieces and live electronics, amplification and feedback. Butcher is considered one of the central figures in Europe's avant-garde music scene.
The latest creation from Chilean-born audio-visual artist and Trummerflora co-founder Marcelo Radulovich, Titicacaman is an ambitious combination of music, literature, video and graphics. The music has been described as "deviant South American folklorica," Beautiful and surreal.
UCSD professor Chittle explains her art as imagining a full incapacity of the body, in which the only place to exist is in the psyche. "Just in case this ever happens," she says, "I've been practicing, imagining and creating drawings of "nice places' for me to be."
Dalaba is one of the most respected trumpeters in improvised music, with a delicate style. She's performed with Wayne Horovitz, a John Zorn compatriot, as well as guitarist Henry Kaizer, who is viewed as the head of the "second wave" of free improvisation in the U.S.
Diaz-Infante is a guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and composer who also curates the Big Sur Experimental Music Festival. After cutting his chops in high school jazz groups, garage rock and Mexican conjunto bands, he's gone on to become one of the most prolific of the avant-garde composers on the West Coast.
A German artist, Dietrick has long been fascinated by how the modern human identity is assaulted by information overload and media manipulation. She's currently working with the tradition of paper cuts on multi-colored and patterned paper to comment on transnational movement and the psychological impact of dislocation.
Kihlstedt is a classically trained violinist from San Francisco who co-founded jazz trio Tin Hat Trio and art-rock band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. She's appeared on Phillip Glass' series, Music at the Anthology, and contributed to recordings by John Zorn, Tom Waits and Mr. Bungle. Considered one of the Bay Area's top avant-garde musicians.
Humphrey is a graduate of UC Berkeley and currently an MFA candidate at UCSD. Her paintings work in the realm of notebook doodles made by an adolescent girl, exploring themes of female identity and the construction of gender, including the recent series, "Fuck, Marry or Kill!!!"
The artist who designed the work for last year's documentary Frontier Life, Yepiz is one of San Diego's up-and-coming underground designers, using a combination of neo-graffiti style and computer-generated graphic design.
The Osaka, Japan-based musician organizes an experimental concert series called "Electro Future Pop." Originally a drummer, he now mainly plays laptop and samplers, with a theme of "impressive experiment of the auditory nerve," which explores the combined use of digital synthesis, sound systems and venue.
An artist from Hartford, Conn. who creates some strange, artificial-looking landscape pieces that are both minimalist and map-like. We dig it.
Known as the fourth member of The Beastie Boys, Mark Ramos Nishita, aka Keyboard Money Mark, was the man behind a lot of the sound on the classic Beastie albums, Check Your Head and Ill Communication. He'll be featuring his solo work, which is a mix of scratchy soul and laid back hip-hop.
Romus is known as the icon of San Francisco's jazz improv scene, a wind player who studied at the Stanford Jazz Workshop under the tutelage of legends like Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie. His alterna-jazz outfit The Lords of Outland paired him with an ex-member of the Sun Ra Orchestra and was featured on BET's Jazz Central. He currently runs his own record label, Edgetone.
TV viewers might know Robair's work as the music director for CBS' animated series, The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat. He works with percussion, electronics, prepared piano and Styrofoam, and has recorded with Tom Waits and Terry Riley. One of the "25 innovative percussionists" featured in the book, Percussion Profiles, Robair is also the senior editor at Electronic Musician magazine.
A San Diego-based postmodern dance collective, Lower Left held a performance and teaching residence at Sushi Performance and Visual Art in 1997, and at San Diego Center for the Moving Arts in 2003. They work in abstract, highly physical dances and complex, theatrical multimedia dance plays. The group also co-produces CLEAR Journal, a biannual publication dedicated to contemporary performance in Southern California.
Golia is one of the marquee names in the festival. A multi-woodwind player and composer, Golia has worked with John Zorn, Patti Smith and Kevin Ayers, to abridge a very long list. He's scored original pieces for ballet and modern dance, and currently teaches at the California Institute of the Arts & Art Center College of Design. His list of awards is long, including Jazz Times' TDWR award for Best Saxophone in 1990, L.A. Weekly's "Best Jazz Musician" in 1999 and numerous nods in Downbeat's Critics Poll for baritone saxophone. Jazziz Magazine named him one of the 100 people who have influenced the course of jazz in the 20th century.