Musicians performing in High Zero 2001:

Thomas Ankersmit (alto saxophone, computer, analog synthesizer) Berlin
Crackling, whistling, circulating multiphonics of one of Europes most challenging saxophonists. An intensely sound-oriented player on the relatively extreme end of the spectrum, Thomas Ankersmidt has played concerts throughout Europe, North America and Japan. Based in Berlin, Germany, he has worked with Borbetomagus, Axel Dörner, Kevin Drumm, Alvin Lucier, Tamio Shiraishi, Taku Sugimoto among others. [MP3]

Jim Baker (Arp synthesizer, piano) Chicago
A deeply unusual musician, Jim Baker has been playing in and around Chicago as a pianist, keyboardist, and synthesist for more than two decades, mostly in improvisational contexts. He has performed at concerts and festivals in North America and Europe, in groups with Ken Vandermark, Mars Williams, Fred Anderson, FredLonberg-Holm, Michael Zerang, Guillermo Gregorio, Hamid Drake, Kent Kessler, Harrison Bankhead, Steve Hunt, Damon Short, David Stackenas, Sebi Tramontana, Paul Lytton, Paul Lovens, Thomas Lehn, Jack Wright, Bob Marsh, Bhob Rainey, Carol Genetti, Toshi Makihara, and many others.

John Berndt (saxophone, self-built instruments, electronics) Baltimore
John Berndt has a lifelong serious interest in experimental culture, intellectual nonconformity, and the outer limits of cognition and direct experience. He began composing serious electronic and tape music around age 12, and though his interests have organically broadened to include conventional instrumental performance, real-time improvisation, and original instrument design, a central interest in EVOCATIVE STRANGE SOUND and intensification of "subjective" experience has been a constant throughout his life. He is the founder of The High Zero Festival, The Red Room Collective, and the Recorded CD label. He has many active collaborations with artists and musicians in North America and Europe, most notably Henry Flynt, Jack Wright, Catherine Pancake, Eric Letourneau, Ian Nagoski, and Neil Feather. He also has manyhighly-developed interests which have nothing whatsoever to do with sound or music. [interview MP3s: 1 2]

Dan Breen (bass, drums, clavinet, self-built instruments) Baltimore
"Tyring to listen. Dan Breen is, for the most part, a self taught musician. Trying. Playing in a variety of music-style groups. Trying as much as two titans. Electric and electric-upright. No formal training. Playing mostly bass. Trying to tighten. Drums and percussion. Learning no training. Self, factory, and custom built instruments. To adapt to your ways. He is also, self-taut (self-tightening) in some situations. (That) Guitars?"-Dan Breen
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Michael Bullock (contrabass) Boston
Free improvisor Michael Bullock has played bass in 8 countries, on a dozen records, and in a variety of bands, touring extensively both solo and as part of various ensembles. He has also played with well-known improvisors Eddie Prévost, Lê Quan Ninh, and Peter Kowald, in addition to working with numerous members of Boston's improvised music community. Two of his current obsessions include IIbasSpit, an electro-acoustic trio with Tucker Dulin (trombone) and Seth Cluett (bass, voice) which is planning a CD release this year; and an ongoing curiosity with acoustic feedback. Bullock has released recordings on such diverse labels as Emanem, Rounder, and Naxos. [website]

Charles Cohen (Buchla synthesizer) Philadelphia
Based in Philadelphia, Charles Cohen has been composing and performing electronic music since 1971. He specializes in collaborative, cross-disciplinary projects with theater, dance, music, and media artists, and is especially interested in live performance and improvisation. In concert, he does textural and rhythmic improvisations with the Buchla Music Easel. This is an extremely rare integrated analog performance instrument made by synthesizer pioneer Don Buchla in about 1975. Cohen bought this instrument new from him in 1976 and has been playing it ever since.

Daniel Conrad (flute, voice, Chromachord light organ, self-built instruments) Baltimore
Conrad, a native of the Baltimore region, has tried to escape the area for much of his adult life (1964 - 1975, college and wanderings,) only to be compelled by karma to return and remain (1976 - present.) In visual art, his principle area of study, Conrad has sought to transcend the representation of experiences, real or abstract, with work that may produce post-perceptual influences on the viewer. The most far-reaching product of this direction has been the Chomaccord, an instrument for color performance (see But music has been his private muse that precedes, permeates, and persists through all his creative actions. He is also the inventor of the Wild Waves, an instrument which directly drives any resonating object with tunable sine waves, allowing the performer to plumb the objects vibratory sound characteristics in an unusually direct way.

Mike Cooper (lap-steel guitar, electronics) England
Starting in the mid sixties as a solo country blues singer and slide guitar player, Mike Cooper was one of the handful of acoustic players who pioneered the British Blues Boom, playing with and alongside such blues legends as Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White, Howlin Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed. His 1969 l.p. Oh Really!? is widely acclaimed as one of the best acoustic blues albums of the period. ...a quantum leap into Folk - Jazz... (Folk Roots) In the early 1970s he recorded five solo albums which chronicle, through his own songwriting, a fascinating shift from pure blues through to free jazz. Collaborating with jazz, improvising and avant-garde musicians, in particular South Africans Dudu Pakwana, Harry Miller, Louis Maholo and Mongezi Feza, Zimbabwean composer and arranger Mike Gibbs and British saxophonist Mike Osborne he produced, perhaps some of the first, and finest, rogue folk. His group The Recedents...."a dadaesque event of profound silliness and sublime wonder; breathtaking, mischievous and magical, taking eccentricity to the heights of zen bliss.." (Coda Magazine). By the late 1970s he had begun to develop a parallel career and establish himself on the free-improvised music scene, working with members of the London Musicians Collective such as Keith Rowe, Max Eastely, Steve Beresford, Paul Burwell, Eddy Prevost, David Toop and dancer Joanna Pyne. In 1983, with sax player Lol Coxhill and drummer Roger Turner they formed The Recedents, now in its third decade of innovative electro-acoustic free improvising.

Helena Espvall-Santoleri (cello, banjo) Stockholm and Philadelphia
"I've played classical music, arabian music, been a theatre musician, a member of a silent movie orchestra and played guitar in rock bands, but playing free improvised music is what satisfies me most. In free improv collaborations, so much amazing music is being created that could never happen any other way. It is my way of transcending, getting high, escape the tyranny of the so-called rational mind, it's my religion and my way of staying sane... "-Helena Espvall-Santoleri

Neil Feather (self-built instruments) Baltimor Neil Feather is increasing recognized outside Baltimore as one of the most unusual musical thinkers. Upon seeing a Neil Feather concert, audience members tend to rigidly divide into people who are positively blindsided by his originality and the depth of development of his outrageous musical ideas--and those who are irritated that his music pays so little respect to anything they have heard before, even in the avant-garde, finding it opaque and threatening. His music is rich, thick and powerful, but never "lands," not even in the remote sense that freely improvised music usually does. A "Sound Mechanic" Neil Feather has spent over twenty years building an extremely INTEGRAL orchestra of eccentric and refined instruments, and conceiving the original idiom of music to be played on them. His solo concerts, longtime duo with John Berndt ("THUS") and the quintet Aerotrain (with Berndt, Catherine Pancake, Andy Hayleck and Eric Franklin) all show different sides of one of the stranger musical minds of the century. No foreigner to improvised music (he is also an ardent social player), Feather's true brilliance comes out when his music is purified and allowed to assert its own freestanding, weightless, and troublingly bizarre logic. [website interview MP3s: 1 2]

Eric Franklin (theremin, self-built instruments) Baltimore
Eric Franklin is pleased to have you as an audience member. His interests include magic rocks and secret things. What did you have for dinner tonight?

Lafayette Gilchrist (piano) Baltimore
Keyboardist/Composer Lafayette Gilchrist has been playing his own unique brand of Jazz inspired, Hip hop tinged, Funk soaked music for more then ten years now and has never failed to move audiences with his inspired live performances. Born and raised in Washington D.C., this young self-taught musician has released under his own label 2 hotly regarded CDs "The Art Is Life" and "Asphalt Revolt" and now haunts the clubs of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C.. Recently, Lafayette has been blessed for his creative efforts by having been discovered and taken in by Grammy Award Winning Saxophonist/Composer/ Band Leader David Murray who has has long been on the cutting edge of creative music and has his roots firmly planted in the rich and fertile soil of over 20 years of struggle. Lafayette has also had the privilege of performing with such notables of creative jazz music as Trombonist Craig Harris and Oliver Lake- alto Saxophonist, composer, and founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet.

David Gross (reeds) Boston
Labeled as "One of Boston's steadfast explorers," by Bob Blumenthal of the Boston Globe, saxophonist and clarinetist David Gross discovered improvised music while studying with Yusef Lateef at Hampshire College. He has performed with Le Quan Ninh, Eddie Prevost, Bob Marsch, Martin Tetrault, Glenn Spearman, Raphe Malik and many members of the Boston free-improv scene including Bhob Rainey, Greg Kelley, and Laurence Cook. Currently, Gross is transforming the saxophone into exactly what it is: a metal tube with keys, mouthpiece, and a reed. Reviews of his recordings, on his own Tautology label with ensembles EED and FETISH, have ranged from "The range of textured noise that he cajoles from his instrument is impressive" to "lengthy episodes of fingernails ripping at a blackboard." [his Tautology records web site]


Andy Hayleck (guitar, electronics, self-built instruments) Baltimore
... enjoys collaborating with animate and inaminate objects. In the animate realm, he has worked with free improvisors, drum'n'bass djs, pop and ska groups, experimental musical instrument builders and artists. In the inaminate realm he has worked with vibrating metal systems of one, two and three dimensions, air, water, and electricity. He currently plays in Aerotrain (a group that performs compositions on instruments built by Neil Feather) and the Heavy Things, as well as solo (gong and electronics). Gongs:[1] [2]

Katt Hernandez (violin) Boston
Katt lived first in michigan, where she helped create a program for improvisers at the University of Michigan, and played throughout the Detroit area. She has been in the Boston area for the last four years, and has played throughout the east coast, where she has worked with a great number of musicians and dancers known and not amongst some and not others. . . including Jonathan Vincent, Joe Maneri, Zack Fuller, Allisa Cardone, Jeff Arnal, James Coleman, and Dan Dechellis. she has also played music of the late ottman empire with the eurasia ensemble. in the last year she has been particularly involved with the zeitgeist gallery in cambridge, in playing, programming, protesting, and mayhem. Most recently she has moved to Brattleboro, Vermont in pursuit of trees and affordable housing, and -perhaps more- bringing more improvised music to the world outside the great metropoles. In the long term she plans on starting a rural collective space in vermont for sound and collaberation.

Peter Kowald (contrabass, voice)
Wuppertall, Germany
Peter Kowald is one of the most original voices on his instrument, a crucial improvisor in the European free music scene since the early sixties, and a generally inspiring spirit to boot. He was born in 1944 in Thüringen and has lived in Wuppertal since 1945, playing double-bass since 1960 (also Tuba). A list of important projects follow: Collabroating with saxophonist Peter Brötzmann since 1962. In 1966 European tour with Carla Bley / Michael Mantler, member of the Globe Unity Orchestra from 1966 to 1978. Collaboration:with Evan Parker since 1967, in different formations with Irène Schweizer and Pierre Favre 1968-69, with his own ensemble 1970 - 72, with Alexander von Schlippenbach 1973-78 and from 1979 to 1982 trio with the American trumpet player Leo Smith and Günter Baby Sommer, drummer from Dresden. Performed and / or recorded with many other influential musicians including Rashied Ali, Derek Bailey, Billy Bang, Konrad and Hannes Bauer, Marion Brown, Marilyn Crispell, Danny Davis, Bill Dixon, Charles Gayle, Barry Guy, Jeanne Lee, Robin Kenyatta, Toshinori Kondo, Takehisa Kosugi, Frank Lowe, Jimmy Lyons, Albert Mangelsdorff, Barre Phillips, Manfred Schoof, John Tchicai, Keith Tippett, Fred van Hove, Marten van Regteren Altena, David S. Ware Trio (together with Beaver Harris) and with many of the European improvising musicians. [web site]

Keenan Lawler (national steel guitar, electronics) Louisville
Keenan Lawler is an improviser from Louisville, Alabama, with an intensely focused, perhaps "minimalist" approach to steel guitar, often playing extremely drawn-out bluegrass-inflected tonalities along a harmonic series of sharp, electronically treated clouds. His playing, which is both hypnotic and ringing, often involves unusual string technique which is tightly integrated between the ringing of harmonics and articulation of notes. Perhaps dwelling in a ringing string-space between Tony Conrad and Eliot Sharp, Lawler has created an original idiom of music that is at once monolithic, cosmic, and deeply 'American' in the ethnic cultural sense. [web site MP3s: 1 2 3]

Eric Letourneau (computers, various) Montreal
"Andre-Éric Létourneau (a.k.a. algojo) (algojo or Benjamin Muon) Type-setter, musician, intermediatic artist, police chief and radiophonic realizer (Radio-Canada, CKUT.FM, CIBL.FM). It explores the radio operator hacking, intermediality, the installation and art performance. In 1995, Létourneau received the price for media arts on behalf of the European Seedbeds for young artists (Paris). A monograph of its work was published following its residence in Kunst Akademie in Enschede (Netherlands). Since 1987, it maintains a step radiophonic artist whose work has ete presente has through the world. It finishes at present endisquement work controlled by societé Radio-Canada for the label Squint Fucker Press. Some of its works were also endisquées for the Nonseqiutur house and Misadventure. Éric Létourneau forms part of many musical sets dedicated to the experimental music and which give concerts several times per month to Canada, abroad, with the radio or on the Parmis Web those: second glance (with Alexandre Saint-Onge), four bodies (with Magali Babin and Suzanne Joly), mine mines mine (with A. St-Onge-Onge and M. Babin) and firefly (with Philippe Lambert a.k.a. Monstre/O). Éric Létourneau made paraitre several tests on the current music and art intermediatic. It collaborates in the reviews of art québécoises Inter and Esse. He is a lately collaborator with the literary review Liberté. Eric Letourneau is also occasionellement a police chief within the framework of international events on the art-performance and the sound performance. Since 1999, it teaches also the history of the Web art and the history of the mediae to the College Andre-Grasset has Montreal."--Captain Altavista [mp3]

Lukas Ligeti (drums, electronics) New York City
Lukas Ligeti is an innovative, eclectic musician whose work covers areas as diverse as "classical" composition, electronics, improvised music, and cross-cultural collaboration. Born in Vienna, Austria, he has lived in New York City since 1998, after having studied composition and jazz drums at the Vienna Music Academy as well as two years at Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. He has composed music for a wide variety of ensembles, including Ensemble Modern, the Kronos Quartet, Icebreaker, and his own group Beta Foly, which combines African and Occidental music in experimental ways. "I'm active in what seems like a wide variety of musical settings, but for me they are all quite similar in that my interests stay essentially the same. I search for new possibilities of perception of rhythm and meter, of ensemble interplay, of odd tuning systems. Possibly, traditional musics from around the world are my strongest source of influences, but whatever I do, my nonconformist attitude forces me to create music that, for better or worse, defies easy categorization."-Lukas Legetti

Kaffe Matthews (live sampling, theremin) London
Laptop-improvisor kaffe matthews is an extraordinary architect of real-time site-specific sonic explorations. Many of her works have an eerie beauty and monumental character, while retaining a kind of relationship to reality similar to the extreme distortions of memory. She regularly performs all over the world, live sampling and improvising with sonic snatches from the venue and a small Theremin (touchless instrument), reprocessing in lines and blips and beating crackles during while often playing inside a circle of speakers with the audience. Her label, Annetteworks, is dedicated to documenting the results of site-specific electronic performances. She often collaborates; currently with Euopean electro-improv group MIMEO, the duo matter (with guitarist andy moor), christian Fennesz, composer Neotropic, digital artist Mandy McIntosh and film maker Meloni Poole. for more info and where to find her next, check out or mail

Christopher Meeder (tuba, voice, percussion) New York City
"I don't think it's helpful to talk about how you make music. It's usually all a big pretense, anyway, and I don't want anyone to think they need some kind of special knowledge to appreciate what I do. I like all the different kinds of music, and I like to hear things that I haven't heard before. So I spend a lot of time making weird sounds on the tuba. Not many people are all that familiar with what a tuba can sound like, so things that don't sound weird to me sound weird to other people; that's fairly interesting. Sometimes I want to hear a sound that isn't easily made with a tuba. Then, I might use something different to make that sound. Lately I have been using either my voice or some piece of metal (besides my tuba) that I scrape or bang on. But I'll scrape and bang on my tuba, too, sometimes."--Christopher Meeder

Ian Nagoski (electronics) Baltimore
Nagoski makes dense, complex sound masses which, ideally, create "exalted disorientation" (J.B.) or the feeling of "looking at fractal images through a microscope [until you] lose your sense of self" (B.R.). He wonders if feelings may be best described using the gamut of vibrations ("timbre", harmony, rhythm) as novel experiences of time analgous to the variety of sensations of the motion of time which we experience under the influence of various emotions. He has worked on the same piece of music for over three years, revising its emotional content, adapting it for a wide variety of venues and collaborations, and incoporating new strategies for "making it bloom." You'll be glad to hear that lately the original material (from three years ago) has finally been sloughed off. He is sometimes a writer on music and recently a member of the Red Room Collective. [web site]

Catherine Pancake (percussion, dry ice) Baltimore
The ineffable M. Pancake is one of a new breed of improvising musicians for whom the avant-garde serves as a practical technical base and inspiration; as a drummer, she is influenced equally by Sean Meehan, Bob Wagner and Michael Zerang (and possibly even Gene Krupa.) She is a self-taught percussionist seeking to approach musical possibilities of the sublime, extreme type; and also a prolific filmmaker and a central organizer of the Baltimore scene. She is a member of Neil Feather's Aerotrain, and the Coltrane tribute group "Music in The Key of Zero", with saxophonist John Berndt.

Evan Rapport (reeds, piano) New York
The virtuosos Rapport plays human-a-tone, nose recorder, piccolo, shofar, slide whistle, jew's harp, squeaky crab toy, as well as a range of lesser known wind instruments such as alto, soprano and tenor saxophones, clarinet, and flute (often at the same time). He is a central organizer of improvised music in Baltimore, and a founder of the Mass Particles recording label. Mr. Rapport is an improviser/composer with one of the broadest-and most incongruously heterodoxical-musical sensibilities ever encountered, comparable no doubt in some ways to the likes of John Zorn and Steve Beresford. An encyclopedic knowledge of obscure pop-genres co-exists in Rapport with deep obsessions in obscure 'ethnic music,' "difficult" modernist string quartets and Sun Ra; while his original compositions and improvisations have a uniquely fragmented, fragile, and bedeviling hyper-subjective 'perversity' all their own. The pure tone and clipped phrasing of his reed playing recalls Steve Lacy. Recently, as an improvisor Evan has been one third of "Companion Trio" (with Bob Wagner and Jerry Lim) and a member of the jazzier unit Krill (with Vattel Cherry and John Dierker). [Interview Mass Particals Web Site]

Leslie Ross (bassoon) New York City
Leslie Ross has been playing for nearly two decades in solo, small and large groups concerts where improvisation is always an essential part of the performance. Her solo works include performances on acoustic bassoon, amplified bassoon through electronic sound processors and samplers and interactively with computers as well as works for original instruments. Two recent ongoing projects have been; (this one in its second year) keeping a music journal where a record of generated material is kept - where the generation of material as record of the moment is the end in itself & more recently, working with the poetic ABA form of Villanelles. She also builds instruments (mainly replicas of historical bassoons), sound sculptures and installations: The Tentacled Bellows (a armourlike, houselike portable 16-beating reed-drone structure), The Circular Bowed and Teetering Plucked Instrument (large mechanical structure of plucked and bowed strings), The Obstinate Thrummers (an orchestra of crawling, banging and plucking windups) among many others. She was a member of the trio TRIGGER (with Fred Lunberg-Holm and Paul Hoskin) and has played regularly with David Watson, Evan Gallagher, Eugene Chanbourne, Paul Lovens, Pat Thomas and many others. In High Zero 2001 she will simply be playing the basson. [MP3]

Jason Willett (anything) Baltimore
At an early age, Jason Herman Willett was plucked from the slow-moving world of Fredrick Maryland to become a stand-in bass player for a whilwind european tour of the legendary band Half Japanese--and his life has never been the same. Returning to the US, he set up a record label and record store in Fredrick, both called Megaphone, and began to exert a profoundly expansive and international influence on the local music scene, eventually moving to Baltimore and doing the same there. Always prolifically published on his own and other labels, but never really seeking personal publicity, Willett's outstandingly creative music runs the gamut from the most discombolated and dissonant noise-rock to tightly crafted faux-Italian soundtrack music to some of the strangest improvised dance music ever produced. His collaborations have included a huge range of notable international musicians including Ruins, James Chance, Jac Berrocal, Chris Cutler, The Boredoms, Jon Rose, Jad Fair, and Mick Hobbs. Anything in Willett's hands is seemingly ready to explode with moving music--from rubber bands to tiny circuits to an invisible trombone. "Jason Willett: Pure non-intellectual love of music on every level, incompatible with banality. " --John Berndt [Megaphone website MP3s: 1 2 3]

Jack wright (reeds, piano) Boulder
At 56, Jack Wright is a ledgend of the North American improvised music, constantly setting out from his base in Boulder, Colerado to engage in free improvisation with an incredible range of obscure and occasionally famous musicians. This is his third year in the High Zero festival, a festival which was in many ways inspired by the extremity of his musical vision and his generosity of spirit towards the greater community of players.

"None of us has music, individually or as a group. Music has us. It passes through us and meets points of resistance, finds channels, pours back into itself. It repeats itself endlessly through us. We undergo it, it convulses and distorts us, changing us into strange beings for a time, unrecognizable as human beings. We do not experiment with music, music experiments with us. When you hear and see us play we are preparing ourselves for this." -Jack Wright [interview website MP3s: 1 2 3]