The Sonic Circuits Festival of Experimental Music is this weekend, September 28-30 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center near Capitol Hill. I spoke with Jeff Surak, director and curator.
What is Sonic Circuits, and what does it mean to Washington, D.C.'s new music scene?
Sonic Circuits is an organization which promotes experimental music of all forms in the Washington, D.C. area. We have an annual festival and also organize shows year-round. We promote music otherwise overlooked by the mainstream, and provide a platform for D.C.-area artists and visiting artists to present their work. It's about networking and building the community.
How old is Sonic Circuits, and how did it start?
This is the 12th edition of the Festival, and we began programming year-round in 2008. Originally it was a program created by the American Composers Forum, and the DC Chapter held the first festival in 2001. For the first few years, it was under their direction until the DC Chapter closed, and ever since it's been a separate entity. Originally Sonic Circuits was focused on music that used new technologies, but we've expanded way beyond that to include everything that's experimental, no matter how it's produced.
You've planned a great closing-night event for the annual Festival on September 30. What will we hear?
The entire festival is great, but yes, the closing night program definitely goes out with a bang. We have the Glenn Branca Ensemble performing, along with the international free improv trio Isabelle Duthoit & Franz Hautzinger & Zsolt Sőrés, psychedelic eastern european art-song stylings of Alec Redfearn & the Eyesores from Providence, and opening it all will be a collaboration of several D.C.-area artists called STYLUS!BLACK!FACTORY!, sort of a post-rock drone ensemble for record players, guitar and cello.
What is your vision for the Festival five years from now?
Since it's all about experimentation, it's almost impossible to predict what it will be like in five years. If it's the same, then I think we've failed. It's all about pushing things farther, constantly questioning what is music and how it's made, how it's received by the audience.
Do you have a favorite moment from a prior Sonic Circuits Festival?
There are many! One favorite is the Dutch noise artist Odal coming out on stage donning nothing but a hockey mask, with strategically placed black duct tape which didn't really do its job over the duration of the performance of keeping things in place.
What: Sonic Circuits Festival of Experimental Music
When: Friday, September 28 through Sunday, September 30
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002
Tickets: http://atlasarts.org/events/2011/07/2012-sonic-circuit-festival or in-person at the box office
UPDATE: Upon conclusion of the Festival, I filmed this performance on Saturday, September 29, and pulled together a same-day edit. It's a hybrid of concert performance and documentary footage, for a conceptual work by Jimmy Ghaphery based upon the 1972 World Chess Championship between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer. It's an epic composition, and lengthy as such, but the second half is worth waiting for (or jumping to).