Last August, composer David Mahler—a fixture of Seattle's avant music community throughout the 1980s and '90s—moved to Pittsburgh. A week later, he sent me a cumbersome package stuffed with posters, fliers, and concert programs, all spanning two decades of adventurous music making in Seattle.
Some names in Mahler's mini-archive, notably Stuart Dempster and Trimpin, remain familiar. Yet many others, especially the late and largely forgotten microtonalist Tom Peterson, have yet to receive their due. All those fliers and other souvenirs classified by museum curators as "paper ephemera" attest that the "scene" here crests and troughs as performers, presenters, and venues coalesce, converge, and then disperse.
I've lived in Seattle long enough to kick myself for the great gigs I missed, most prominently Soundwork Northwest's presentation of Morton Feldman's six-hour String Quartet No. 2 in 1991. And why did I bypass the 1995 Fire Walking and Decapitation Seminar, which showcased Merzbow and other now-seminal noise artists? Back then I was too closed-minded to accept that noise is feral, improvised electronic music whose overwhelming volume fulfills what composers of classical music have wanted for 200 years: total immersion in sound.
The second edition of the Wooden Octopus Skull festival—four ambitious shows ranging from an evening devoted to the raucous side projects of Acid Mothers Temple SWR to a "Surrealist Folk Night" to a six-band bill with Yellow Swans and new noise icons Wolf Eyes—heralds the gradual return of a scene that has been diffuse and in disarray since 2001. Don't miss it.
Wooden Octopus Skull Experimental Musick Pfestival runs Thurs Sept 7 through Sun Sept 10 (Conjuring Room, 2203 Utah Ave S, 545-2800), start times vary from 8:30 to 10 pm, $16/$18 or $60 for a full festival pass.