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1 KC Fringe 2012: Experimental Music Showcase on Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:22 am


By Lee Hartman   Wed, Aug 01, 2012

The third and final evening of Kansas City Fringe Festival’s Experimental Music Showcase found the floor of industrial artspace, la esquina, riddled with a spider’s web of cabling. For classically minded concertgoers the scene may have looked like a Giger-inspired nightmare, but this is Fringe and such is the norm. Where else can you hear pieces for didgeridoo and electronics and a set of exciting toy piano works (with melodica thrown in for good measure) and cap the night off with unapologetic free improvisation?
Each night was divided into 20-minute sets by various artists and ensembles. This structure enabled patrons to come and go as they pleased and presented the air of a hip jam session throughout. I was able to stay for the first two sets on Saturday evening.
Eric Honour, president of KcEMA opened his set withDreamtime for didgeridoo and computer. The Australian national instrument was well suited to the piece’s concept, which was based on the aboriginal thought that the world was sung into existence.The massive bass drones created by the process didgeridoo were rich but lacking in pitch development (a drawback to the instrument). Portions of the work alluded to acidic 80s synth-pop but the melodic content was rendered in a grating timbre and was too melodic to fit within the piece. The Gremlin-like chittering was a great addition to the droning work.  Honour’s Phantasm closed his portion of the evening. Scored for saxophone and electronics, the piece is structured as an introductory dance and then a song, which turns into a duet between the live saxophone and the electronic ghost saxophone. Some of Honour’s great technique was lost in the amped-up acoustics but the effect was still impressive.
Pianist Kari Johnson followed with Christopher Biggs’s The BFG for toy piano and electronics. A more delicate work than most of Biggs’s pieces, it contained wistful moments juxtaposed against jarring dissonances, all of which Johnson attacked with fervor, looking like the piece’s titular Roald Dahl character. Paul Rudy’s Death’s Thin Melody (Up/Down) was a theme and variations for melodica and electronics. It was a gorgeously simple work using an Italian lament and a squeaky escalator as sources. The gentle lilt of the melodica was unwavering, letting the electronics serve as the variant. It was melancholic and beautiful and would perfectly score a Jean-Pierre Jeunet short film. Johnson closed with Karlheinz Essl’s Kalimba for toy piano and tape. She was dogged in her control of the phase-shifting, octatonic patterns in a dazzling display of micromovements.
The Experimental Music Showcase was a welcome addition to this year’s Fringe Festival and hear's hoping it will become a feature in years to come.

Kansas City Fringe Festival
Experimental Music Showcase
July 26–28 (Reviewed Saturday, July 28, 2012)
la esquina
1000 W. 25th St., Kansas City, MO
For more information visit

Top Photo: Kari Johnson]

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