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.
That's the implication of Burlesquefest, the movement's first official cross-country tour, which launches at the Ogden Theatre on Saturday, May 17. Organized by Jerri Theil, a talent buyer with Nobody in Particular Presents, Burlesquefest will hit twenty cities in the United States and Canada by the end of June, when the jaunt winds up in San Francisco. Empire Burlesque Follies, Oracle Dance, local dancer Miss Kitty Crimson and headliner Catherine D'Lish will shimmy across the land, caravan-style, tailed by Nick Urata and the other members of Boulder's DeVotchKa, house band for the tour. For the Denver date, DJ Vivian VaVoom (aka Michelle Baldwin, founder of Burlesque As It Was) will provide music between sets; drag queen Joey Lane will also perform, adding an element of is-that-a-man? intrigue to the evening.
Considering that last year's most popular film featured svelte starlets writhing around in fishnets, dancing, Burlesquefest's timing seems perfect. Maybe the American public simply needs a good bump and grind now and then.
"When we did the first shows, we kind of tailored them to the Radio 1190 crowd; it had an underground vibe and was kind of small," Theil says. "But afterwards, people were just freaking out, e-mailing me and calling, like, 'When are you going to do another one?' I realized that we should open it up to everyone. After we did that, we had all kinds of people turning up. I realized that this is a concept that works."
Theil, who's produced burlesque events at the Ogden and Gothic theaters in the past, is functioning as Burlesquefest's Mama Rose, shaping the tour to meet her vision of a proper cabaret-style showcase. She was choosy about whom she cast in the company, using local and non-local talent, and she's staging each date as a theater experience, not a concert.
"People won't get up from their seats," she says. "We'll have tables and candles and cocktail waitresses -- and we dress them up adorably -- to make the entire experience an event rather than just a show that you go to and split. It's supposed to be an experience. It's not sleazy or weird; it's a hoot and a holler, and you just go and laugh and scream."
What? It's a hoot and a holler and a laugh and a scream? Sounds like a fine evening to Backwash. Va-va-voom.
There are goings-on in the world of the fully dressed, as well.
Prolific songwriter Eric Shiveley releases his second full-length CD, The Way It's Going to Be, on Saturday, May 17, at Herman's Hideaway. Though it seems like Shiveley's played with everyone in town over the past couple of years, for the moment he's settled on a lineup -- and an impressive one it is: Tarantella bassist Chad Johnson, Space Team Elektra guitarist Matt Deason and Dado Sa and Behomoth drummer Jim Ruberto are his current mates.... The Breezy Porticos are planning to take a break from playing in order to focus on recording; before the hiatus, the band will open for Dressy Bessy and Essex Green, who appear at the Larimer Lounge on Saturday, May 17. That's a power-pop trifecta, folks.... The tireless Mr. David Booker helps christen the High Street Speakeasy, a nearly hidden watering hole at 39th and High streets that celebrates a grand opening on Friday, May 16. Do you deserve a drink today? Yes, you do. Get thee to High.
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