Before the Aeolus Quartet returned to the frozen Northeast, they entered the studios at UT Austin to record Many-Sided Music, an album of new works by American composers, its title taken from Leonard Bernstein’s description of the “many-sidedness” of American music. I’ve had the good fortune of hearing several of these pieces live, fresh, and new, but it’s great to hear them with the benefit of time and reflection.
What strikes me about my SXSW experiences in the twelve years I’ve been here (and what I typically hear from friends and acquaintances) is that some of the best parts were not vaguely planned. What they stumbled upon as they made their way around downtown Austin and the surrounding area is what made their festival experience fun and unique.
The No Idea Festival recently celebrated its ninth year with seven days of concerts in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. An international roster of artists participated in workshops and performances in spaces large and small and, as a run up to the festival, the No Idea Sunday Series featured four performances from local and regional improvisers.
This past Saturday, the Austin Museum of Digital Art presented the most recent concert in their performance series focused on experimental music and digital performance art. Though AMODA has no physical address (and really, isn’t that what you’d expect from a purely digital outfit?), their presence has been felt throughout the Austin area, and I was anxious to see what they had in store.
Since its founding in 1991, vocal ensemble Conspirare has become not only part of the firmament of the Austin music landscape but also part of the national and international scene. This year, Conspirare has wasted no time in presenting two concerts of new music multiple times over the past few days.
Two weeks into the virtually undodgeable 24/7 Winter Wonderland sound collage that is this time of year, I’ve been looking for something without sleigh bells, warm brass, and mixed chorus. My search for sanctuary from the rising Yuletide led me to Skinny’s Ballroom in the heart of downtown Austin for a bit of improv holiday cheer.
Big rooms, slick clothes, and pricey intermission drink prices have their place, but I thought I should get out to shows organized by smaller, less tightly knit groups, where the filters are off and the experimentation is on. I also thought that I’d seen lots of fiddles and horns, so it might be worth finding a show where there’s more plugged in than the announcer’s microphone.
In addition to a wide variety of sculpture, painting, and installations, the Blanton Museum features the Soundspace series which pairs composers with choreographers and dancers with instrumentalists to create interdisciplinary works that interact with and explore various spaces and works of art within the museum.
Recently, the Center for American Architecture and Design, The School of Architecture, and The Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music hosted Music in Architecture • Architecture in Music, an international symposium to “explore the connections between architecture and music through research, composition, design, installation, and live performance.” The four-day event featured papers and presentations from an international gathering of artists and scholars, plus a collaborative composition/architecture competition.