To help you navigate this year’s Festival, we’ll be sharing regular posts on some of the “through-lines” of this year’s program. Whether you have a particular interest in dance or site-specific projects or visual art or film, we’ve got a whole suite of projects for you to discover. So buy a pass and start making connections between this year’s artists. In this edition, we’re bending an ear to some of the more experimental sounds at TBA.

Laurie Anderson. Photo: Lucie Jansch.

From street corners to late-night stages, TBA has filled Portland with avant garde composers and experimental musicians year after year. We’ve hosted improvisational marathons in a gallery window, comic beatboxers, pop cellists, a guitar “orchestra,” and a dance and music suite in public fountains. This year, we’ve invited a few legendary musicians, as well as a few young composers, spanning generations to show the range of contemporary sound art and music.

Perhaps the “grand dame” of contemporary music, Laurie Anderson returns to Portland to complete her trilogy of solo story works, which she presented with PICA in 2002 and 2006. Dirtday! finds Anderson back with her violin and her wry observations on modern life, reflecting on this past decade since 9/11. “Politicians are essentially story tellers,” says Anderson, “they describe the world as it is and also as they think it should be. As a fellow story teller, it seems like a really good time to think about how words can literally create the world.” Luckily for us, she tells these stories with considerable grace and stirring sounds.

Musician and curator Aki Onda returns to Portland with a line-up of legendary experimental sound artists from Japan in Voices & Echoes. With poet Gozo Yoshimasu, guitarist and turntablist Otomo Yoshihide, and sound artist Akio Suzuki, the night will span from improv to conceptual art to literature to performance. These three artists are legendary and seminal figures in the Japanese sound and music scenes, but few audiences in the States have ever had the chance to witness their work: Akio Suzuki has not performed in North American since a NYC performance in 1983, and Gozo Yoshimasu has never given a public performance in the United States, outside of small readings in universities and galleries. This rare concert is not-to-be-missed!

No, we haven’t resurrected John Cage for TBA (though maybe someday we’ll pull off a hologram concert á la Tupac), but his legacy is apparent in so many of the musicians we support. This being the Cage centennial, it’s fitting that we have a trio of projects by local musician Claudia Meza, all inspired by Cage-ian music theories. On the visual program, Meza presents Water at the White Box, an interactive tape collage/installation instrument wherein the viewer can play a series of water-based sound loops on hanging cassette players.

Out in the world, Meza continues her explorations of overlooked quotidian sounds through her Sonic City PDX project. She called upon a diverse mix of local musicians and composers to select their favorite “sonic sites” in town, crafting a digital walking map and audio tour with QR codes. While audiences are invited to wander and discover the sounds all week long, the project will culminate in special concert on September 15 of original compositions (by Meza, Daniel Menche, Luke Wyland of AU, Matt Carlson of Golden Retriever, Mary Sutton, Eric Mast of E*Rock, and more) inspired by the various locations. So grab your smartphone and head out!

Our late-night stages usually see the greatest concentration of musicians—party DJs, afropop, art rockers, and more—but avant-classical compositions are a relative rarity. Thanks to the Parenthetical Girls‘ knack for expansive and ambitious chamber pop, we’ll have some experimental sounds filling the WHS auditorium at THE WORKS. This evening of performances will draw their wide web of collaborators into the spotlight, featuring music by Golden Retriever, compositions by Jherek Bischoff performed by Classical Revolution PDX, and dance by choreographer Allie Hankins. It’s sure to be an idiosyncratic, lushly-textured performance.

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