Although "Electric Island" is an apt title for an upcoming electronic-music concert on nearby Bainbridge Island, it also handily sums up the state and status of the music here in Seattle. Why are concerts of noncommercial electronic music—the kind where you sit in a darkened room and listen on world-class speakers—so scarce?
We lack a local arts organization that presents adventurous electronic music on a regular basis. Heroic, grassroots entities such as Decibel and the Wooden Octopus Skull Festival remain invaluable, as do weekly club nights like the late, lamented No Tomorrow. Yet without a regular, dedicated venue, electronic music remains confined to annual festivals, home listening, and occasional, one-off appearances at a few, brave places (e.g., Seattle Composers Salon and On the Boards) that welcome electronic music. Unfortunately, the one organization that could muster the requisite gear, the UW's DX Arts program, rarely ventures outside the usual circle of current and former students and professors.
Such scarcity makes me grateful for Electric Island, a concert organized by composer Allen Strange, author of the legendary tome Electronic Music Systems, Techniques, and Controls. Strange has corralled an eclectic lineup of Northwest composers: Marc Barreca, a member of Young Scientist in the early 1980s, performs "Big Dahomey" for computer-processed sounds and video. Rightly despairing that the cassette-tape recorder "cries out to be saved from the scrap heap of forgotten appliances," Byron Au Yong presents his "Pause for Tape Recorders, Singer, and Audience." Other pieces on the program include Jeff Stolet's "Wicked Paths, Cruel Deserts"; David Hahn's "The Mask of Sanity," which pillages snippets from the film Donnie Darko; and Every tendril, a wish, a collaboration by Bonnie Mikisch and Christopher Penrose.