In American Music in the Twentieth Century (Schirmer Books), composer and critic Kyle Gann asserts that "a creative culture is a triangle requiring three points: individual artists, a tradition to work within and against, and a public with an adequate amount of disposable attention." Gann's triangle should also include low-cost, innovative venues that reach out beyond that small, stalwart public who frequents obscure, out-of-the-way clubs.
The Monktail Creative Music Concern's Sounds Outside concert series is a perfect example. Its central location—Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill—as well as all-points access, and price (free), abet the serendipitous, just stumbled-upon-it discovery so essential to acquainting everyone with the avant.
I enjoyed the first of this three-concert series—featuring Degenerate Art Ensemble, Sunship, Seattle Harmonic Voices, and figeater—on a bright, sunny afternoon in June. The crowd was just the right size, with enough people to make people-watching worthwhile yet scattered enough to leave space for stretching out on the grass and listening.
At first, I sat near the running water of the reservoir and listened at a distance; the turbulent hiss of running water, laughing children, the musicians onstage, and stray bits of nearby dialogue melded into a live musique concrète. Closer to the stage, the occasional (and thankfully remote) sirens and the chalky baritone sigh of airplanes aloft in the sky fit the music snugly.
The July installment of Sounds Outside features cellist, composer, and visual artist Paul Rucker; improvising pianist Gust Burns, who brings along his battered collection of tape recorders; the Orkestar Zirkonium, which clatters like the joyous Balkan brass bands of yore; and the rowdy, out-jazz Monktail big band ensemble, Non Grata. It should be a grand time.
Sounds Outside, Sat July 14, Cal Anderson Park, 1632 11th Ave, 684-4075, 2–8 pm, free.
THURSDAY JULY 12
KELLEY JOHNSON GROUP
Capering through standards and forgotten chestnuts, this jazz singer's coltish voice scampers across the most treacherous, word-sodden phrases with ease. Anyone who covers the Ellington throwaway tune, "Tulip or Turnip" and suavely sells "Do I get the booby prize/Or will I be the hero?/Am I heading for blue skies/Or is my ceiling zero?" is tops in my book. Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave, 547-6763, 5–7 pm, free with museum admission.
FRIDAY JULY 13
SCMS SUMMER FESTIVAL
Yes, this stalwart festival does occasionally acknowledge new music. The free 7 pm recital includes Sonata for Piano No. 2 by Israeli-American composer Avner Dorman (1975— ), who has a penchant for fast, smartly pulsing rhythms. The main concert features Ernst von Dohnányi's Serenade for Violin, Viola and Cello in C major and the Quartet for Piano and Strings, op. 25 by Brahms. Another 20th-century composer, the late Georgy Sviridov, sneaks in the program with his Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano. You can also tune in for free on KING 98.1 FM. Through Fri July 27; see seattlechambermusic.org for a full schedule. Lakeside School, 14050 First Ave NE, 283-8808, 8 pm, $8—$38.
Although he probably would shun the appellation, López ranks as one of the most important composers to emerge in the 1990s. He beckons the ears to hear anew and re-hear within new contexts, such as building ventilation, near-inaudible digital spikes and ticks, and the Costa Rican rainforest. Essential albums such as La Selva and Buildings (New York) as well as his various Untitled pieces demand a new, defiantly attentive listening. The Barcelona-based sound artist shares the bill with the seldom-seem Matt Shoemaker, who, like López, masterfully processes field recordings into a dizzyingly abstract web. Fourth floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 8 pm, $5—$15 sliding scale donation.
SATURDAY JULY 14
This a cappella group sings Francis Poulenc's Figure Humaine set to texts by the poet Paul Éluard. The opening lines of "Liberté," the last movement of Figure, seem cribbed from Stravinsky's Perséphone but then float off into its own beautiful space. Music by Justin Merritt, David Asplin, Abbie Betinis, Paul Ayres, and director Eric Banks rounds out the program. Also Sun July 15 at Holy Rosary Church in West Seattle at 3 pm. St Joseph's Church, 732 18th Ave E, 935-7779, 8 pm, $15—$20.
SUNDAY JULY 15
ILLUSION OF SAFETY
One of the longest-running experimental music projects going, Illusion of Safety makes a rare Seattle appearance. Count on loud, throbbing frequencies, poetic glitches, and an overall onslaught of sound. Climax Golden Twins, who of late have ventured into skewed "country blues pickin'," help make this triple bill a must. Guitar saboteur Bill Horist opens. Illusion of Safety also performs Sat July 14 at Gallery 1412. Lo_Fi, 429B Eastlake Ave E, 254-2824, 9 pm, $5.