When sonic wizard Scott Colburn remodeled his Fremont recording studio in 2000, he celebrated with a listening party devoted to a fully synchronized playback of the Flaming Lips' Zaireeka. Released in 1997, Zaireeka is a set of four compact discs designed to be played on multiple stereo systems in a kind of DIY surround sound.

Zaireeka grew out of the Lips' 1996–97 parking-lot concerts. For those unorthodox shows, the band passed out cassettes for the audience to cue up on their car stereos. It seems primitive, yet a decade ago surround sound was a rarity, confined to hi-fi geeks, upscale movie theaters, and innovative—and, alas, exclusive—facilities like the Acousmonium in Paris and the Audium in San Francisco.

Foreshadowing Zaireeka, two works from 1992 also pioneered a DIY approach to surround sound: Phil Kline, a compadre of the New York new music collective Bang on Can, devised Unsilent Night for cassettes of Christmas music and an unlimited number of roving boom boxes. Composer and ex-Seattleite Ron Fein's Hadra and its 1993 successor Amber Waves call for 20 tapes and 20 boom boxes. Like Zaireeka, both pieces luxuriate in the surprising flux of dense, sometimes foggy textures and spare, wistful sound.

While listening to Zaireeka, I savored hearing echo-sodden guitars swerve and careen around the room. I was impressed that Colburn synced all four CDs digitally in ProTools; he knew that CD players are almost impossible to synchronize due to variations in spin-up time and millisecond differences arising from hitting the "pause" button.

Most vividly, I'll never forget huddling into the manhole-sized "sweet spot" with three other people. We crammed in close: I not only could count the chest hairs on the guy in front of me, but also heard everyone breathing in tandem with the music. Surround sound indeed! recommended

Concert Listings

Thurs 9/20


Science-fiction films favor one of two types of sound worlds: abstract, spacey blorps and twitters maybe laced with a few orchestral bits (Forbidden Planet, La Jetée, Solaris) or grandiose, let's soar-to-the-stars orchestral music that leans heavily on Mahler, Strauss, and Holst (Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.). This "Symphonic Pops" program opts for the latter, purveying themes and medleys from Star Trek, Superman, Star Wars, Close Encounters, and one of the Harry Potter films. George Takei, beloved as Star Trek's Lt. Sulu and a formidable presence on the current TV series Heroes, narrates Bernard Herrmann's Suite from the Day the Earth Stood Still. Also Fri Sept 21 at 8 pm, Sat Sept 22 at 2 and 8 pm, and Sun Sept 23 at 2 pm. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 215-4747, 7:30 pm, $17—$92.

Fri 9/21


Founded by ex-Seattle composer Christian Asplund in what seems like the Stone Age—1999—this monthly, informal presentation of new music by Seattle composers enters its ninth season. MC Tom Baker has corralled fellow composers Scott Adams, Brad Anderson, Ron Pilcher, Steve Scribner, and Hope Wechkin, who present finished works, previews, and works in progress. Fourth floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 8 pm, $5—$15 sliding scale donation.


Leave it to the pranksters of Seattle School to transpose the voyeurism inherent in performance art to a seedy hotel. Of course, there's no admission and no seating for this uncompromising, weeklong festival. You can show up and peer into a window from outside or watch at home on a webcam. Check www.motelmotelmotel.com for venue details, a full schedule, and webcam links. Through Sat Sept 28. Venue to be determined, call 206-782-8872 on Fri Sept 21 September for location details. Various times, free.

Sat 9/22


Two legends of ambient music, Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd, make this show a must. Budd famously fused Minimalism and ambient music with his 1970 score The Candy Apple Revision, which specifies a D-flat major chord of open duration and instrumentation. His collaboration with Brian Eno on Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror (reissued on Astralwerks) remains an essential album. Cult favorites Biosphere and Seattle ambient artist Rafael Anton Irisarri round out the evening, which should sound sumptuous in Town Hall's reverberant acoustics. Just try not to sit behind a pillar. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, 800-838-3006, 6—10 pm, $20/$25.


If you've never heard the gently percolating metallic percussion of Javanese gamelan music, imagine a clangorous toy piano orchestra miniaturized by a Martian shrinking ray and you get the idea. Fourth floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 8 pm, $5—$15 sliding scale donation.

Sun 9/23


The SRJO serves up a "greatest hits" concerts culled from their voluminous book of transcribed big-band classics by Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Gerry Mulligan, and others. Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729, sets at 4 and 7:30 pm, $26.50.