It’s funny how sometimes things come around full circle. A few decades ago the classical music concert hall was a bastion of snobs. Not intentionally, but due to a variety of sociological shifts the unspoken rules of the symphony’s dress and etiquette code became alienating and outmoded.
Now, for many of us in our early 20s, nothing says “snob” better than the snobbery that comes straight from Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the form of the elite “hipster,” which is accompanied by a set of social codes that can be even more intimidating than those associated with my buddy Brahms. Something about trying to pretend that I can keep up with the onslaught of lists of “bands-to-watch-out-for at SXSW” is getting exhausting.
Consider the alt/post/indie-classical alternative. Today there is a younger generation of classical musicians who are actively working the hardest — out of probably any class of artists — to make their events inviting. Fostering community, collaboration and friendship are at the forefront of the minds of these presenters, performers and composers. Here are two upcoming concerts that exemplify the best of these inclusive qualities, straight from the hearts of the alt/post/indie-classical Austin community, to you.
Julie Fiore, director of One Ounce Opera, perhaps said it best when she told me, “This is a show for everyone. No pretense, no snootery. Just an evening of collaboration between friends, sharing music and a few drinks with curious people hailing from all over the world.”
“To this end, the programs are meant to be innovative and challenging, yet accessible to anyone. A big part of this is the context in which the concerts are presented: at any given time there are 2-3 performances happening simultaneously in the museum, which gives an audience member choice and opportunity for discovery. The listener has complete control over what they hear and how they experience it.”
On March 10, listeners will have a tough time choosing between performances while roaming the halls of the Blanton. Austin’s indie-music champion Graham Reynolds will be playing four of his own original compositions on a spinet piano played through computer processed effects, each inspired by a piece of art in the gallery.
Golden Hornet Project co-founder Peter Stopschinski will be premiering his new work Zen Songs and Prayers, written for “tea master and singer.” University of Texas student musicians will be playing two works informed by composer Andrew Sigler’s experiences as a teen playing hard rock and heavy metal music, Treetops and Stompbox Reflection.
Other performers will include One Ounce Opera, Convergence Vocal Ensemble (a small chamber vocal ensemble consisting of members of Conspirare and Roomful of Teeth), and the Bel Cuore Quartet.
“The visual arts scene and resources in Austin have really blossomed in the last 10 years and it's important for the music community to be in dialogue with it,” says Graham Reynolds. “SoundSpace is at the forefront of that dialogue.”
The Sound Bridge Project has been putting on quirky concerts of new and old classical music at bars and coffee shops around Austin for the past few years, featuring a very large roster of composers and performers. Highlights from the past year have included a costumed birthday party concert for Bach and a show at Cherrywood Coffee House featuring new music by composer, bassist and co-founder, P. Kellach Waddle.
Next week, SBP will be bringing out all their friends, including Mundi, the Deja Flute Ensemble, the Waterloo Sound Conspiracy, bassist Jessica Valls, composer Joel Love with vocalist Amelia Ciskey, and One Ounce Opera for an intimate evening at Clayworks Studio/Gallery.
“This joint effort between Sound Bridge Project and One Ounce Opera is a natural one — both of our organizations were founded to move new and re-imagined classical music ‘out of the halls,' and into unexpected locations,” says One Ounce Opera founder Fiore.
“When Lauryn Gould and I discovered we had a mutual vision for creating an alt-classical SXSW showcase, we knew we wanted to include other professional local musicians who are naturally under-represented during a typically pop/rock/indie event.”
Lauryn Gould, Sound Bridge Project co-founder, adds that “We titled the concert The Listening Garden because we wanted to present a SXSW showcase that would act as a respite, or a pleasant place for patrons to land in the midst of the madness, give their ears a "volume break" and enjoy a unique musical experience."
“There is an incredibly diverse musical culture in Austin that is not represented during the SXSW Festival,” Gould continued, “and this concert is one small stepping stone toward giving visitors a glimpse of the depth of our local music scene.”