Don’t Call it a Genre

Conspirators in the eight-hour long Switchboard Music Festival might best be described by the titles of their own work: Skronk, Biserka, Obsession, Digital Loom. Certainly, these names are more instructive than terms like “new music,” “avant garde,” or “experimental,” any of which might apply to this year’s artists, but would entirely miss the point. Switchboard creators disdain musical genres, ghettos, and propriety. Like ADORNO Ensemble, named for the German philosopher of aesthetics, they believe chamber music should not be stuck in symphony halls; like Moe! Staiano, they believe walking on pans, bowing spatulas, and throwing pipes at concrete might be as stimulating as samba.

This year’s 17 sound allies include Pamela Z, who combines her chilling voice with sampling technology triggered by a BodySynth MIDI controller; Melody of China, which makes folk music on moon guitar, mouth organ, and table harp; and California Symphony composer-in-residence Mason Bates, who wrote a “water symphony” for orchestra and synth, which begins with crashing ice bergs. Lovers of New York’s highly theatrical World/Inferno Friendship Society are already familiar with Ken Thomson’s fearsome clarinet and the sneaking suspicion that playing Weimar-punk is barely a stretch. Thompson’s original compositions are as complex as a beehive, filled with amber-hued nooks and crannies that bear traces of jazz, world music, and classical, without succumbing to any of them. Watch the patterns emerge and dissolve.
Sun., March 29, 2 p.m., 2009

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