SF WEEKLY 1991 Alternative Music Awards copyright 428w

A Plethora of Avant Garde Sounds by Liz Sizensky

Below are not one, but 22, Bay Area avant-garde artists to watch for in the coming year

One word can describe the Bay Area's large avant-garde music scene: plurality. There is no single type of avant-garde music -- there are wide ranging influences as each musician puts together a particular combination to come up with his or her version of the avant-garde.

Improvisation is riding a wave these days. Everybody seems to be doing it. Henry Kaiser uses a guitar plugged into all sorts of electronic gadgetry to come up with distinctly unguitarlike sounds. The Molecules use predictable instruments -- guitar, bass, drums -- to come up with unpredictable music. Bob Ostertag is an electric improv wizard.

The burgeoning improv scene makes room for everyone, including ROOM and the computer music band The Hub. Some people, like Tom Nunn, build their own instruments as a part of that neverending search for new sounds. Nunn plays his instruments solo and with the free improvisation group Rotodoti, which is possibly the weirdest quartet in the world: Tim Perkis on computer, Nunn on his original instruments, Doug Carroll on cello and Ron Heglin on trombone.

Computer and electronic music lovers can look forward to performances by Mark Trayle, and an electronic music/text collaboration by Paul De Marinis and Laetitia Sonami, Chris Brown's newest work, Lava, for eight instruments and live electronics, premiers this year. Kenneth Atchley is hard at work on a series of short operas that use electronic music, while Barbara Golden has gone multi-media.

Golden's interactive computer piece, Pink Pleasure, combines Golden's music, photos of 100 women posed as Maya from Goya's painting Naked Maya, and portions of an erotic journal Golden has kept for the past twenty years. With each selection the viewer makes, the computer randomly combines visuals, music and test in breathtaking patterns.

There's a lot more to look forward to this year. Singers like Laura Amnat and the Enormous Ensemble will sing their hearts out and the Wig band will perform a kind of avant-garde cabaret. Sound poets Charles Amirkhanian and Susan Stone will be playing around. We'll see concerts by versatile instrumentalists like Beth Custer -- she's been known to make her clarinet sound good underwater. And Bob Davis, who plays just about every instrument known to humankind, including some things not ordinarily thought of as instruments, will be experimenting in the near future. Take a break from the regular club fare, and get out to see some of these innovators.