Tomorrow (Wednesday) evening will mark the beginning of the four new music concerts on consecutive nights that will be presented in the fourteenth Outsound New Music Summit. Last night in the Capp Street Concert Hall of the Community Music Center, Outsound Presents hosted the last of three “Outspoken Events” serving to preview to concert series. The title of the event was Creative Music Media; and it provided a screening of Tim Perkis’ Noisy People, a documentary series of profiles of seven Bay Area performers actively involved in “bleeding edge” music making. Those performers were (in alphabetical order) Tom Djll, Greg Goodman, Phillip Greenlief, Cheryl Leonard, Dan Plonsey, Gino Robair, and Damon Smith.
This is probably as good a time as any to confess that “bleeding edge” is an epithet that I shamelessly appropriated from my “past life” in Silicon Valley. In that rarefied environment south of San Mateo County, it served as a shibboleth for those most committed to unleashing “disruptive innovation” upon the world at large. For my purposes, while one might think of “bleeding edge” musicians as “disruptive,” I prefer the connotation of another worn-out Silicon Valley cliché. These are creative people not afraid to “think outside the box;” and many of them have succeeded in doing away with the box altogether.
Inevitably, a “first contact” with such music-making practices tends to evoke the immortal words of Butch Cassidy, “Who are these guys?” Noisy People provides a delightful introduction to seven of “these guys.” It pulls no punches with some excellent footage of some of the more outrageous things they do in the name of performance, but it also shows the seriousness they bring to working with the performers to prepare their offerings. However, it is clear that all of “these guys” do what they do because the enjoy it, even if they cannot convert their activities into a viable revenue stream (to appropriate another tired Silicon Valley cliché). Greenlief even went so far as to suggest that he finds more joy in his work than anyone he knows that is successfully making a living out of making music.
Most important is that the documentary lacks a “reportorial narrator.” Almost all of the video involves the musicians speaking for themselves or intently involved in acts of making music. Nevertheless, Noisy People is anything but “raw footage.” Because all of these musicians are intensely passionate about what they do, when given an opportunity to speak, they often go on at great length, bubbling over with enthusiasm and totally lacking in coherence. Perkis’ documentary is a product of his own scrupulous and perceptive editing technique. For each musician he has developed his own clear sense of what that individual is trying to say about what (s)he does; and, through well-chosen editing techniques, Perkis has made sure that any sympathetic viewer will get the message, not only from the musician’s own “presentation of self” but also from the music being made. (This is probably also the appropriate place to observe that Perkis is, himself, also a participating member of the music-making community he is examining.)
All of the Summit concerts will also be held in the Capp Street Concert Hall, each preceded by about half an hour of Q&A with the contributing music makers. This summer, however, the environment of the Concert Hall will also serve as a gallery space, exhibiting a cross-section of “portrait” photographs by Peter B Kaars of many of the musicians that have performed under Outsound Presents auspices. (I use scare quotes because the portrait of Amanda Chaudhary shows only her fingers controlling the electronic gear she used for her performance of “Pitta of the Mind” during a 2013 performance at the Luggage Store Gallery.) Kaars has created an index page for this exhibit on his Web site, where each thumbnail is hyperlinked to the full photograph and its description; and all of these photographs will be on display for the remainder of the Summit.