Music Festivals

The Immediate Music Festival Features Janet Feder, Collaborative Improvisation

This Friday, April 29, the Auraria campus will host The Immediate Music Festival at the King Center. Open and free to the public, the event celebrates collaborative improvisation and invites attendees to participate in various workshops and demonstrations. Workshops and presentations run from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The festival concludes with an evening concert with Sone, a group comprising some of the day's presenters: Jane Rigler, Janet Feder, Evan Mazunik and Mark Harris, who will accompany short silent films followed by a performance of Flux Conduction Ensemble led by J.A. Deane.

All the presenters have roots in avant-garde music in Denver. In particular, Mark Harris will perform with the internationally renowned progressive-rock band Thinking Plague; in turn, Harris's guitar ideas and performances have influenced presenter Janet Feder, who teaches the history of rock and roll at the University of Colorado in both Boulder and Colorado Springs. Feder is a respected guitarist whose five albums are fine examples of how one can write technically innovative music with human emotions intact. The latest of these records, 2015's T H I S C L O S E, was one of the final albums recorded at Boulder's Immersive Studios, which closed in the spring of 2015.

Although Feder is very much an academic, her sense of music goes beyond mere technique and respectability among high-culture appreciators. This is evidenced by her shows, which involve plenty of between-songs storytelling and jokes. Feder often engages her audience while preparing her guitars by placing objects on the strings to affect the tones.

“It's basically like being a magician and saying, 'Excuse me, I'm setting up for my next magic trick here,'” says Feder. “So what I do instead, like any good magician, is I distract them from what I'm doing by talking to them and telling stories and jokes. It's a funny moment because of the absurdity of me standing here with guitars and putting things on strings and relating to the audience. So I generally talk about funny things. I like to relate to people. People want to know how I get the sounds, and this guy came up one time and I greeted him, and he introduced himself and asked, 'Do you have a tragic life?' I said, 'I have an amazing life with incredible friends and family. I've had a more incredible life than I ever imagined I would get to have.' He said, 'I thought you had to have had a tragic life because your music is so somber.'

“I really believe that music helps all of us make sense of what's really happening in the world and how to feel about it, how we deal with it,” continues Feder. “It's the arts that help us live with that. I wanted to shake him and say, 'Wake up, man!' If we as artists keep painting these happy pictures in primary colors, we would be missing the point of our lives, our jobs, our work. How do we live like human beings and not lose our humanity? Music is where I live deeply in public. That's what I'm here to tell.

Feder sees music, especially rock and roll, as a cultural force that has helped bring about changes in society, and she highlights these developments with her students.

“We're part of a musical inheritance from a time in humanity that hasn't been like any other time before or since,” comments Feder. “Every important thing that happened had a direct connection primarily to rock and roll — whether it's the civil-rights movement, women's-rights movement, gay-rights movement or standing up to a political system. That's not just in the United States — it's all over the world. I get to tell people about that and ask young people to compare themselves and their universe and perspective to the activism of their peers from fifty years ago. Imagine you spend your summer in a place where the culture and customs are completely foreign to you. There's injustice happening there, and you can't sleep another night without doing something about it. This is our legacy. We're living the way we are because of it.”

Suffice it to say that Feder's presentation and those of the other artists involved in the Immediate Music Festival won't be stuffy, dry academic affairs. Anyone interested in attending is encouraged to register at the event's website. There you can find details about the event and everyone involved in presenting workshops and performances. The schedule of events in included below. There is free parking for the event at the 7th Street Garage at 7th and Lawrence.

9:00—9:15 a.m.
Meeting and introductions

9:20—9:40 a.m.
Sone performance with Jeff Agrell 

9:40— 10:00 a.m.
Get to know the artists

10:00—10:10 a.m.
Ten minutes of group sounds 

10:10—11:05 a.m.
Soundpainting with Evan Mazunik 

11:10—11:30 a.m.
Janet Feder performance and chat

11:30—12:00 p.m.
Group play

12:00—12:30 p.m.

12:30—12:50 p.m.
Improvising with Jeff Agrell

12:50—1:10 p.m.
Deep Listening workshop with Jane Rigler 

1:10—2:05 p.m.
Conduction led by Dino J.A. Deane 

2:10—2:30 p.m.
Final group performance led by Jeff Agrell

7:30 p.m.
Evening concert

Sone accompanies silent films by women
Flux Conduction Ensemble
King Center Recital Hall and King Center Music & Dance Studio

The Immediate Music Festival debuts Friday, April 29, at the King Center on the Auraria campus. 
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.