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Trace Reddell spends a fair amount of time figuring out ways to make his computer more like a person. A musician and educator who teaches both undergrads and graduate students in the Digital Media Studies program at the University of Denver, he uses computers as tools of art as well as communication -- making his machines talk and sing, for example, by converting text files to MIDI. In Reddell's active imagination, technology isn't a cold and impersonal realm, but a wide-open world of interactivity.
"This media doesn't just mean sitting alone in your room with your computer checking out things from afar," he says. "It can really be a tool to get people together and get them communicating. Media just becomes that conduit, to get them to listen to each other."
Reddell hopes to get lovers of strange sounds to listen to fifty local and international artists who will participate in the A:D:A:P:T: Festival, an experimental program set for Thursday, May 15, that serves as the culmination of the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver's monthly "Visualsoundings" series, which Reddell curates. ("Visualsoundings," which began in February, has run concurrently with the museum's current exhibit, Elegy: Contemporary Ruins.) Although the performances will range from multimedia presentations to semi-straightforward DJ sets, all of the performers share an affinity for the unusual and technically enhanced: A traditional rock-and-roll show this isn't. The Way Things Go interlopes acoustic instruments, including violin and guitar, with digital and analog synths, while the Mystery Children (another creative enterprise helmed by Kallisti/Experimental Playground Ensemble leader Conrad Kehn) layers jazz and even classical stylings over foreign-language recordings and other found sounds. DJ Em23, founder of Boulder's Radiovalve.com, will spin a set before headliner Equulei, a production collective that dwells in the dark matter of spacey electronica.
"Equulei's sound is very cosmic, with a purely electronic sound to it," Reddell says. "I would characterize it by using the old maxim of 'intelligent dance music.' They do work with beat, and it can get quite dancey. It will be interesting to see if anyone feels like dancing in that setting.
"We wanted to try to find a way to do two things. One was to provide music that's compelling enough that people might want to sit down and focus on the performers. The second was to create music that would provide a soundtrack to the exhibit, if guests are just interested in looking at the art."
After spending four months shaping the festival, with input from his student collaborators at DU, Reddell seems most excited about the event's multimedia experiments. He plans to place up to four computer pods around the museum, where patrons can log into and interact with various sound and video pieces, some of which will be streamed in live from artists in remote locations. A New York DJ, for example, will beam in a set from his basement in Manhattan, and projection screens will broadcast some of the stranger works. Those include a sound collage and video created by a couple in Latvia, who used samples they recorded during a walking tour of their home town (bones scraping on the ground, that kind of thing). Such participation by people in far-flung locations supports the notion that technology can bind the world's artists more tightly together, Reddell points out: He posted simple calls for submissions on a number of Web sites and was soon fielding works from all over the place.
Still, Reddell's own contribution promises to be one of A:D:A:P:T:'s most intriguing. Under the name PharmaconT, he'll perform a live DJ set using only a computer and multiple browsers. Surfing different Web sites for live audio sources -- MP3 files, streaming Real Audio media, etc. -- he'll juggle about fifteen different sound files while crafting an extemporaneous, computer-driven music that rivals what's scratched up by the most skilled turntablist. Like a DJ, Reddell will be armed with some of his own tracks; however, he stores them in his hard drive's bookmark folder rather than in a record crate.
"Their network connection can manage it really easily," he says of the museum. "But it also kind of ties into the ruin structure and the visual exhibition. If it slows down or surges from overload, for example, it will be like it's decomposing -- almost like the network imposes its own sensibility."
That's a concept worth contemplating. Come to think of it, so is everything else Reddell has planned for A:D:A:P:T: The action runs from 5 to 10:30 p.m. at the museum, 1275 19th Street, on the very date of this paper -- so hurry over there and get yourself some art.
To update a timeless Huey Lewis sentiment, the power of burlesque is a curious thing. In its recently revived form, the neo-vaudevillian movement is an amalgam of historic nostalgia and a very modern manifestation of female sexual empowerment -- an art form ruled by women who aren't afraid to be naughty, or even physically imperfect. The independent performance groups that have sprouted up all over the country have a grassroots, punk-rock aesthetic...albeit one that's adorned not by tats and piercings but by platform heels and lots of pretty, shiny, tiny outfits. And there's something timeless about good, old-fashioned T&A that suggests burlesque may have an odd sort of staying power.