About New Languages
jacksonmoore on 06/17/2014 at 09:42AM
New Languages started out as an annual jazz festival in 2005. At the time there were no George Wein style jazz festivals dedicated to the generation of jazz musicians who had come of age in the wake of neoclassicism. We created one as a way of asking, basically, "what's next?" — how is our generation living up to the legacy of an art form characterized by an unbroken string of discoveries and innovations? As our peers began to enjoy some critical recognition and similar festivals began to proliferate, we began to interrogate our own role as producers and curators in responding to the questions opened up by a century of creative improvisation.
The jazz solo revealed something new: the sound of the person: subjectivity in musical form. New Languages takes these musical subjects out for a walk, so to speak. Until now, they have been confined to a very narrow commercial sandbox: 45-60 minute stage performances and 45-60 minute records. We explore new time frames, conventions, and sites in which the potential of improvised music to mirror the wonders and vicissitudes of real life might evolve.
In 2012 we put on Music Factory, a continuous 83-hour improvisation, at Eyebeam Art+Technology Center in New York. This simple alteration of the time-scale of performance had profound effects on our experience as improvisers as well as the musical result. Anyone who has tried a free improvisation with friends knows that the end is usually unexpected but immediately obvious. It isn't planned, yet it seems inescapable. During Music Factory we learned that this moment is really just the end of the beginning — the first of many such events that form the historical anatomy of a performance.
In the past year we've started two new initiatives. Remote Hearing is a series of improvisations that dispense with the need for geographic proximity, or any sort of telecommunications in its absence. The performers record themselves from wherever they happen to be at an agreed upon moment in time, and only hear one another after the fact, when the recordings are synchronized and superimposed. The result is something like a satellite photograph — it captures the composite activity of a group of people around the world at a given point in time, even if they aren't aware of one another's movements. The palpable and utterly satisfying sense of interaction on these recordings raises serious questions about the efficacy of a 'good ear' and its inevitable side effects, anticipation and reaction.
Later this year we'll be launching a new series, Holidays from the Future, which plays with the shape and relationship of the stage and the audience. We'll be redrawing the border between the two and inviting anyone to cross it at any time, depending on whether they want to communicate in music, or listen, drink, and talk. In addition to featured improvisers, each show will include installations (booths, projections, sonic fountains), interventions (surprise gambits and secret conspiracies), and invitations (early bird workshops and bulletins for structured participation) devised by guest artists.
It has become clear that in the design of new environments for creative musicians, there is a lot of low-hanging fruit.