High Zero is a festival devoted exclusively to experimental, improvised music.

The term "experimental music" implies an intention that is very different from the intentions of traditional, classical, or pop music. Experimental music is first and foremost about the exploration of possibilities--rather than the confirmation of what is already known or well understood. This can mean radical changes in the way that the sounds and structures of music are conceived and perceived; or it can mean subtle additions to the way music is made, played, and heard--giving old music a new life. The result is a different, strange, and often beautiful music, and sometimes experiences that raise the question "Is this music at all?" (Even if I like it and WANT to hear more of it?) The imagination is moved to the center stage, with the history of music left behind.

"Improvisation" is the practice of invention-on-the-spot in music, where the performer "makes it up as he or she goes along." There are obviously many rich traditions of improvised music, such as the different types of Jazz, Blues, Hindustani Classical music, Flamenco, etc. It is worth mentioning that a large proportion of folk music traditions around the world have some components that are improvised. In these traditions, improvisation is often "the icing on the cake," a departure that animates or illuminates a well known form by controlled deviations.

In contrast to these known traditions, there is also avant-garde music that is purely improvised, where the invention takes place without any desire to locate it in an existing style or tradition. This "free" music first became a topic of conversation in the Sixties, when it was associated with both contemporary experiments in Jazz and Modern Classical music, but has subsequently come into its own as a permanent and inspired musical underground (with far greater support in Europe than in the USA, incidentally). This music has its own audience, but also draws interest from Jazz enthusiasts interested in expressive or highly individual playing, and also from people interested in the entire range of the musical imagination (for instance, people interested in electronic, ambient, and world music; and people interested in abstract art).

HIGH ZERO investigates many sides of experimental improvised music, drawing on an amazing pool of talented younger players and several important older figures from multiple musical subcultures. Though some of these players are virtuosic musicians in established styles (such as Jazz or Classical music) they are united in HIGH ZERO by their commitment to the musical imagination first and foremost: to music which challenges the limits and delights by its audacity, expressiveness, immediacy, newness, and risk-taking. Many of the players have very strong personal styles, and have developed extremely unique music. Whether it is based around dramatic intensity, humor, especially designed and built instruments, original use of electronics, raw sound, or nearly superhuman instrumental technique, it is all aligned with exploration and possibility. One and all, they are "virtuosi of the spirit," and they must be seen and heard to be believed. . . .

Experimental and improvised music in Baltimore are very vital these days; if you want to get a sense of what is going on, check out these sites:









Any list of links to general sites about experimental and improvised music on the internet must necessarily be incomplete--it is a huge subject with many subcultures and perspectives involved. If you are new to the subject, to get you started, the following are a few "meta" site lists that may be of interest for people persuing the subject. Obviously, surf critically--not all of it is true!!