For several decades, adventurous musicians have probed the imperceptible area where sound and silence meet. Luc Ferrari and Bernard Günter, along with dozens of other lesser-known/unknown sound artists, create works that take the ears to the threshold of hearing. With blips, clicks, susurrant textures, and long stretches of near silence (or, depending on your stereo, utter silence), the very nature of this work, often referred to as "lowercase sound," precludes it from attracting a wide audience. FM broadcasts pervert the integrity of lowercase sound; radio stations use compression to even out severely loud and extremely quiet sounds, thereby destroying the carefully calibrated volume of such work. Careful listening--at home or in live performance--reveals a marvelous microscopic world of sound.

Locally, our burg has few venues sympathetic to work that teeters on the edge of silence, but with the advent of the listener-friendly Polestar Music Gallery, Alex Keller decided to organize an event of minimal electronic sound works by Steve Barsotti, Mateo Chavez, Jake Elliott, Vance Galloway, inBOIL, Model 563, and WATFIV. Addressing the lack of visual stimuli appropriate to performing such understated music, Keller says, "During the show, the artists will be behind a screen, behind the listener. The audience will be unable to make any visual connection between the artist, the artist's tools, and what is actually being heard. Hopefully the listener will be less distracted by visual information and will focus only on the audible performances. Threshold of Hearing may not be a perfect answer to the problem of presenting these works, but is an attempt to find that answer." CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI

Explore the Threshold of Hearing Sat Dec 7 (Polestar Music Gallery, 1412 18th Ave at E Union, 329-4224) at 8 pm, $7.chris@delaurenti.net

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