HIGH ZERO festival of experimental improvised music
About 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 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?) The imagination is moved to center stage, with the history of music left waiting just off stage.

"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 many rich traditions of improvised music, such as Jazz, Blues, Indian Classical music and some African and Eastern music. 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 known in the Sixties, when it was associated with 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) whose improvisations are only limited by their imaginations. Though many of these players are virtuosic players in other forms music (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 these 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. One and all, they are all "virtuosi of the spirit," and they must be seen to be believed. . . .

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In recent years, Baltimore has unexpected joined Chicago, New York, Seattle, San Fransisco, and Montreal as a rare center for this kind of avant-garde musical activity in North America. Fueled by an intense group of original players organizing a concert series at The Red Room, the Baltimore scene has received continual praise and critical attention since a renaissance which began in 1993. HIGH ZERO is an outgrowth of this cultural change, forming musical bonds between players from different cities and focusing the attentions of a broad audience for four days on this art form which is, at base, all about inspiration.