"The first two years (of High Zero) drew press attention from fringe-oriented music magazines such as Cadence and The Wire, but the fest also won the notice of more mainstream outlets such as The Washington Post and National Public Radio's All Things Considered. But more importantly, each festival provided several days and nights of cataclysmic, creative music, improvised on the spot by players who had often just met. From sonorous tone poems to raucous squonk fests to sounds so unusual that they seem fresh to the planet (to all three in the same set), the music of High Zero has proven a feast for any adventurous music lover."--Lee Gardner, City Paper, 2001

"No one walked away disappointed, as this year's first annual HIGH ZERO Festival of Experimental Improvised Music left the large crowds at every session enthralled. " --Steve A. Loewy, Cadence Magazine, 1999

"A striking glimpse into the avant-garde and a creative process limited only by the imagination. " --Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun, 2000

Our Method

As far as we can tell, we are a unique festival in North America. HIGH ZERO is focused solely on new collaborations in freely improvised experimental music. Internationally famous musicians play side by side with younger "unknowns," united by their commitment to the musical imagination. For four days in September each year, Baltimore becomes a fertile meeting-ground for a group of inspired players, drawn from a fascinating international subculture. The festival exposes large audiences to this radical music in its pure form. Each year, dedicated musicians and sound-artists come as individuals to participate in entirely new improvised collaborations.

The festival exposes large audiences to this radical music in its pure form. Large-scale public concerts, recording sessions, workshops, and guerilla street performances are all part of the heady mix. The players are carefully selected by the festival's organizers for their intense, unique music, whether it is based around dramatic intensity, humor, specially designed instruments, original approach, raw sound, or nearly superhuman instrumental technique. The resulting collaborations challenge the limits of music and delight by their audacity, expressiveness, immediacy, and innovation. It isn't about stars or established projects; it is about the most uncompromising and stimulating new improvised music we can bring together.

High Zero is a vivid outgrowth of a real, unbounded subculture of people producing spontaneous genre-transcending music around the globe--so called "free improvisors." There is no clearly unified philosophy here, but instead an intensity of existential investigation and expressions of imminent freedom. The festival focuses attention on EXPERIMENTATION--a widening and exploration of possibilities, and on IMPROVISATION--real-time aesthetic risk-taking, flexibility, and sensitivity, and "raw mental processes" revealed without objectification or reductionism. To get a sense of what motivates and informs this activity, these interviews on the Red Room web site may be of interest.

To say the High Zero Festival is an unusual event is an understatement. Not only does the festival intend to provide the audience with extremely varied, inspired and igneous experiences, it is also a major challenge for the improvisors, who are put in contexts where their stock personal musical languages may not work, pushing them into terra incognita. Though not directly inspired by it, the festival has a "no groups--all new collaborations" structure which is perhaps most comparable to Derek Bailey's Company Week in London. We are interested to hear about any other events which have this sort of approach.

The High Zero Foundation was incorporated as the official organizing body of the festival and received nonprofit 501(c)3 status in July 2002. We are actively soliciting donations of support to fund the festival. We continue to make the festival a yearly event with an ever-growing visibility and documentation while maintaining the standard of non-pandering and undiluted approach of the previous years. High Zero is just one facet of this living culture--and we strongly encourage organizers of experimental music to continue to develop their own venues and platforms, and audiences to pursue live music. The Red Room performance series also continues in Baltimore, presenting an average of 50+ performances a year.

This years festival again promises to be the best yet, with more performers and more music. We hope to see you at High Zero 2005, and hope that you will spread the word to anyone you think might be interested!