San Diego Union-Tribune, June 3, 2005
Festival offers a weekend of improv
Spring Reverb features spontaneity, surprises
By George Varga
Union-Tribune Pop Music Critic
Many performers are dismayed or even angered by audience members who arrive late. But not Marianthi Papalexandri, who performs tonight and tomorrow as part of the Trummerflora Collective's fourth annual Spring Reverb Festival of improvisation-fueled music and dance.
"I don't see people who arrive late as a distraction but as an extra element, whether it's the sound of someone's high heels or chairs being moved around," said Papalexandri, a native of Thessaloniki, Greece, who is working on her Ph.D. in music composition at UCSD.
"I try and see how I can make it part of the performance, even though it's not. There should be a process of exploration and interaction, and that's where the audience comes (in)."
One would expect no less from this 30-year-old aural adventurer, whose "found sound" instruments include leaves, furniture, wind-up toys, a hotel front-desk bell, hair dryers, an apple, zippers or the synthetic fabrics she sometimes wears onstage.
Such an unusual approach surely makes her an anomaly at most music festivals. But she's a perfect fit for Spring Reverb, and vice versa.
The festival, which began last night and concludes Sunday, is designed to spotlight cutting-edge music that thrives on spontaneity and surprise.
This year's edition will feature several dozen like-minded mavericks from as far afield as Ireland, Japan and across North America. Performers range from such worthy but obscure acts as Positive Knowledge (a free-jazz band from the Bay Area), and Baiyon (a Kyoto-based laptop computer artist), to such internationally esteemed contrabass masters as San Diego's Bert Turetzky and Mark Dresser.
"The criteria for selecting performers was basically to find people who are doing creative new music, artists whose work excited us," said percussionist and electronic musician Marcos Fernandes, a driving force behind San Diego's Trummerflora Collective.
The 13-person collective is celebrating its fifth anniversary concurrent with this year's fourth Spring Reverb Festival. Coincidentally, both coincide with the 20th anniversary of Accretions, the indie record company Fernandes founded in 1985 to promote the same music Trummerflora and Spring Reverb were created to celebrate.
To date, Accretions has released 38 albums that cater to listeners with little appetite for the predictability of most mainstream music. The label's goals are virtually identical to those of Trummerflora, whose mission statement reads:
"The Trummerflora Collective is an independent group of music makers that embraces the pluralistic nature of creative music as an important means of artistic expression for the individual and the community, and provides an atmosphere that nurtures the creative development of its members."
"It's never going to be quite the mainstream thing, but that has more to do with marketing than anything else," said Fernandes, referring to his record label, the festival and the collective. "There are other places where this kind of music is a lot more established and accepted, like Europe and Japan."
Papalexandri, who lived in London and her native Greece before moving to San Diego, agreed. Yet, she sees at least as many similarities as differences here and abroad for the unconventional music to which she has devoted herself.
"It's amazing to see how small (performance) venues for improvised music look almost the same wherever you go, whether it's in Athens, Brussels, Stockholm, Amsterdam or San Diego," she said. "I don't know what it is, exactly, but they have something in common."
For drummer and percussionist Nathan Hubbard, who joined Trummerflora in 2001, the collective offers an opportunity to work and play with other musicians who share his quest to explore uncharted artistic horizons.
"It's totally unique compared to anything else I've been involved with," he said. "There are different sides to it: the musician side of playing, which we did a lot of in the early days; the business side of putting on concerts and festivals, like Spring Reverb; plus hanging out, interacting and talking about music, and learning about how and where people tour and getting advice on who to have master (engineer) your CD or do the artwork."
The entire budget for this weekend's festival is just $5,000. Part of that came from a grant from the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. Some out-of-town performers will bunk at the homes of Trummerflora Collective members; others are getting discounted rooms at a downtown hostel.
But no matter. Making good music, not big bucks, is the goal of all of the festival's participants. And their only request is that those who attend do so with as few preconceived notions as possible.
"No matter what music I'm listening to, I've found the best way to approach it is just to be open-minded," Hubbard said.
"People should come without any expectations," Fernandes agreed. "Hopefully, they will discover something new. And they shouldn't be intimidated. The operative word for the festival is 'fun.'"
The last word goes to Papalexandri, one of more than a dozen artists who will make their Spring Reverb debuts this weekend.
"People who come should try to be prepared to be ready not to be ready," she said with a laugh. "I hope it will be a surprise, even for me. As performers, we are expecting to risk things, so that's why we can't be too prepared. All you have to do is decide when you're going to listen to it, and for how long."
San Diego Citybeat, May 4, 2004
Flowers of the Fallout
Spring Reverb brings the fringe of The Fringe to both sides of border
by Loren Graves and Troy Johnson
If, that is, you prefer your music fed in singles from the Clear Channel Ether Empire, or from Tower Records' Top 20 list. Stop, or you'll be wasting the next nine-and-a-half minutes of your life reading about musicians and artists too weird and outlandish, who make music and art that you'll hate.
If, that is, you're the type who's not opposed to taking the occasional ice pick to the brain, jiggling it around to see what jars loose.
If you've ever found yourself gravitating towards the non-linear "music" by composers like Philip Glass or Steve Reich, read some more.
Spring Reverb is siezuring back through San Diego for its third year, fragmenting preconceived notions of transgressive art and experimental music.
Spearheaded by the mélange of San Diego artists known as the Trummerflora Collective, the two-day event starts May 6 in downtown San Diego's Museum of Contemporary Art. On May 7, the festival jumps the border to tear apart La Antigua Bodega de Papel in the heart of Tijuana.
"Our dogma is that there is no dogma," says Ellen Weller, ethnomusicologist and co-artistic director of Spring Reverb. Their goal is to provide an environment of creative support and networking for The Fringe.
As a group on its own, Trummerflora sweeps a musical spectrum from phonography (the practice of found-sound manipulation) to Klezmer to free jazz to custom-programmed electronics—the thread that ties the group is purposefully unrecognizable.
"We're all into different things. Sometimes these things overlap, but they all come from somewhere different," says Weller, herself a flutist, reedist and improviser. "We see ourselves as the earth in the garden. We don't discriminate between a weed and a flower."
The word "trummerflora" alone sets the tone of Spring Reverb. Also known as "rubble plants," trummerflora are the pretty little flowers that result when a massive bomb explodes in urbana, causing rubble to mix with seeds that have lain dormant in the earth for centuries. It's a tumultuous way to rekindle old magic, destroying the faćade of modernism and rebirthing ancient naturalism.
Considering Spring Reverb's co-artistic director and artist coordinator Marcos Fernandes describes his own music as "a tea party in a hurricane," this all seems fitting, if a bit unsettling.
A percussionist, improviser and phonographer who has performed in Japan, China, Mexico and the U.S., Fernandes is a founding member of Trummerflora. Along with Marcelo Radulovich, David Holzborn, Robert Montoya and Hans Fjellestad, the musical freaks pooled their resources to create an organized front for their cause—to champion true, experimental music, almost wholly unrelated to the pop form.
Spring Reverb: The Trummerflora outcropping
"When I first started with [Trummerflora]," says reedist-composer Jason Robinson, "different people were doing different things at different places, and what we found lacking was a space to do music that really arched beyond the boundaries of traditional situations and clubs that had to find it financially worthwhile. Someone came up with the idea of doing a spring festival of new music and it sounded like the perfect conceptual idea."
Funded by private donations and corporate grants, Trummerflora put on the first Spring Reverb in 2002, drawing members of the collective together to perform along with guests such as Las Casas Del Ritmo, The Nortec Visual Collective and world-renowned bassist Lisle Ellis.
This year, the collective has assembled an equally diverse group of new guests, all vanguards in their chosen media.
"I think that everybody who is coming to perform this year has connections with someone in the collective," says Robinson. "When we first started organizing this year's festival I got a call from Gino Robair, the percussionist, and he was trying to set up a tour for a duo with him and the English saxophonist John Butcher. He asked me if I had any suggestions for places to play down here, and the profile with him and Butcher made it a perfect kind of fit for the festival. That's a stereotypical example of how it works"
Butcher is an experimental saxophonist from Britain, regarded as one of the central figures of Europe's creative music scene. His emphasis on the use of live electronics, amplifiers and feedback control far removes his sound from that of "normal" saxophone playing.
"It's basically a nomination process," says Weller of how and who is elected to perform. The collective proposes musicians who intrigue them, or who they've played with in the past. Then the nominations begin.
"It's windier this year," she adds, alluding to the festival's emphasis on horn players and reedists.
Trumpeter Lesli Delaba will be making the trip from Seattle. A distinctive voice in improvised music since the '70s, performing in ensembles and as a soloist throughout the U.S. and Europe, Delaba is the name Trummerflora members seem to talk about the most.
Delaba and Butcher, as well Money Mark (from Beastie Boys acclaim) join other such vaunted guests as Two Foot Yard's Carla Kihlstedt and Vinny Golia, the godfather of Los Angeles' improvisational music scene.
The diversity of musicians and styles brought together by Spring Reverb is as impressive as it is cheap. There is no charge to the public, since the festival is funded in the manner of most fringe arts—by generous private contributions and corporate grants.
To visualize the music, Trummerflora has invited videographers and dancers from Japan and Mexico to perform. Adriana Trujillo, co-director of yonkeART, will curate this year's videography.
"This is going to be so cool," says Weller. "The videographers will be in the back of the room [at the MCA] projecting above the musicians. The video will actually be fed downstairs and projected onto the window so the people at the outside stage will be able to see the video as well. It will be truly multimedia."
The post-modern dance group Lower Left will be performing at the same time within the space, in interpretive reaction to the environment created by the musicians and videographers.
"They will be floating," says Weller. "You might find them in the hallway, in the stairs, doing dance in the elevator, while you're waiting in line for the bathroom."
All of this is designed to create a seamless experience for both performers and audience.
"The nice thing is that people are going to be able to move into very different sonic spaces," Weller explains. "You can basically mix your own experience by deciding when you want to listen to music, when you want to focus on the artwork. There is a lot of control the audience actually has."
On the first day in San Diego, members of Trummerflora and their guests will perform as regimented a format one could expect from a group of improvisers. On the second day in Tijuana, however, the musicians and performers won't pack their sheet music or set list. What happens in Mexico will be as much a mad laboratory as it is a concert.
Tijuana was the natural choice for the second day of the festival. "It's back to the concept of bridging communities," says Trummerflora Collective's Fernandes. "The audiences in San Diego are often more surprised or intrigued by what they see or hear, and audiences in Tijuana seem a bit more open-minded. I think they're more used to experimental or transgressive art."
"On Friday in Tijuana we'll be mixing it all up and that's when it gets really interesting. We literally tear down the borders. I get a lot of satisfaction from spending a couple days with these artists, playing together, listening to each other and learning and being inspired."
San Diego Citybeat 2003
San Diego's Urban Guide
by Tracy Saunders
[5.01 & 5.02] Spring Reverb 2003 >> Create + Bloom + Flourish
Trummerflora, or rubble plants and trees, are a special phenomenon unique to heavily bombed urban areas. The bomb acts as a plow, mixing rubble fragments with the earth, which often contains seeds dormant for a century or more. These seeds come to light and those that can live in this new and special earth grow and flourish.
If you've been around the local experimental arts scene, you probably understand why the Trummerflora Collective has chosen this to be their name. Their creations seem as if a bomb has indeed fallen on the traditional concept of music and art, and a new, wholly different beauty has sprung from the rubble.
The independent group of musicians, dedicated to experimentation and improvisation, makes good on its mission to 'embrace the pluralistic nature of creative music as an important means of artistic expression for the individual and the community, and provide an atmosphere that nurtures the creative development of its member artists.' Through odd, clever and often non-linear sounds, as well as intense art, Trummerflora works to keep San Diego culturally aware and alive.
Trummerflora's '2nd Annual Spring Reverb,' a festival of original music and art, will bring together performers from Japan, Europe, Canada and Mexico. Check out the show May 1 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown's 'Thursday Night Thing' (TNT), or head down to La Antigua Bodega De Papel (Calle 11, Entre, Revolución y Madero) in Tijuana on May 2 for a little border culture action.
Check the website for the lineup of artists and more info.
San Diego Union Tribune, April 27, 2003
Fernandes Creates His Niche Here for Improvised Music
Get Ready for Annual Spring Reverb Festival Downtown and in Tijuana
by George Varga
Can a Portuguese/Japanese drummer find happiness in San Diego as the head of an indie record label that specializes in avant-garde music and is home to a cutting-edge performers collective?
"Definitely yes," said Marcos Fernandes, the head of Accretions Records and a mainstay of the Trummerflora Collective, which stages its second annual Spring Reverb festival this week here and in Tijuana.
"San Diego has offered me a place to grow, without necessarily being in the limelight," he continued. "And that's good, because you get to experiment and develop your art without constantly being under a microscope."
Founded in 1985, Accretions was initially devoted to putting out recordings by Burning Bridges, a World Beat band in which Fernandes drummed.
The label began to expand with the 1994 release of a self-titled solo album by genre-leaping musician Marcello Radulovich. The following year saw the release of Barefoot Hockey Goalie's delightfully twisted art-rock opus, "Darius: A Rock Opera," along with a Trummerflora compilation that featured envelope-shredding music by Wormhole, Dodecaphonic and Z.O. Voider.
Accretions and Trummerflora have grown together hand-in-hand. The label, which Fernandes operates out of the Mission Hills home he shares with his wife, Tam, has released nearly three-dozen albums by young and veteran musicians who thrive on defying convention.
In the process, the intertwining enterprises have earned praise from such cutting-edge icons as George Lewis, the UCSD music professor and electronic-music pioneer who last year was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant. A masterful trombonist, Lewis last year performed on saxophonist Jason Robinson's "Tandem," an Accretions album that also featured Radulovich, Hans Fjellestad and internationally celebrated pianist-composer Anthony Davis.
"The Trummerflora Collective has become internationally known and important," Lewis said. "I've watched them grow and I've grown right along with them."
A labor of love for Fernandes, who will become a naturalized American citizen this year, Accretions issues 1,000 copies of each album it produces. The label's most successful release thus far has been 1999's "In the Acrux of Upsilon" by San Diego math-rock band Upsilon Acrux. Recent Accretions releases include percussionist Nathan Hubbard's "Born On Tuesday," Fernandes' solo album "Hybrid Vigor," Cosmologic's "Syntaxis" and a collaborative album featuring avant-guitar hero Fred Frith and Tin Hat Trio's Carla Kihlstedt.
"Accretions was always intended to be an artists-based label," Fernandes said, "while the goal of Trummerflora is helping and promoting each other, collaborating and reaching out into the community to create a more fertile environment.
"It's been a challenge, because improvised music is a niche market. But things have improved and continue to get better. There's a lot more interest in experimental music; a lot of young kids are discovering it through electronic music. As far as running the label goes, the Internet has definitely made it easier to sell albums and book tours. We've had orders on our Web site (www.accretions.com) from Asia and Europe, as well as the U.S. and Canada."
This year's Spring Reverb festival will be held Thursday night at 7 at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's downtown location on Kettner at Broadway, and Friday night at 8 at Tijuana's La Antigua Bodega de Papel, Calle 11, between Revolucion and Madero.
Thursday's show will feature music on an outdoor stage, for which admission is free, and inside the museum, for which admission is a suggested donation of $3.
Performers both nights include the Trummerflora Collective, maverick guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, Japan's Hako (whose musical arsenal includes an amplified teapot that creates electronic feedback), Danish computer musician Jakob Riis, Mexico's Plankton Man (a former member of Tijuana's Nortec Collective), San Diego audiovisual artist Titicacaman, San Francisco's Pamela Z, who wears a special body suit that triggers electronic sounds, and other bands and solo acts. The dance troupes Lower Left and Head On Off will perform Thursday only.
"We picked these artists because they're all doing unique things and all have a different approach, while having a similar aesthetic," Fernandes said. "They are all artists we enjoy andlike."
For more information, log onto the Accretions Web site or call (619) 299-5371.
SLAMM, November 2002
Fresh Sound Music Series presents Nortec Collective with special guests from the Trummerflora Collective in an Evening of Electronic Music
The Spruce Street Forum has emerged as one of the city;s top experimental, grassroots events for local and national artists. This week, it's a double bill that showcases the bewest nenbers in electronica and free-form jazz with the Trummerflora Collective and the famed TJ DJs the Nortec Collective.
Trummerflora crashes traditional instruments (guitars, percussion, bass, piano, keyboards, sax, flute, etc.) with electronics, following strange melodies over the horizons of possibility in their live improvisations. What they're doing is so new, so incongruous with traditional music, their parcels of interweaving acoustic/electronic melody must be heard to be understood. For fans of the Art Ensemble of Chicago - and not for the unadventurous. Trummerflora and Nortec Collective perform at the Spruce Street Forum, Nov. 9. for info call 619-295-0301.
The Wire, April 2001
Global Ear: San Diego
To many Mexicans living south of the US border, the Southern Californian city of San Diego represents the pathway to a better world. For a minority, who since childhood have commuted back and forth across the political boundary but have stayed living in Mexico, San Diego has become a natural extension of their home. San Diego is a quaint city compared to nearby Los Angeles: essentially conservative, dominated by the presence of American military institutions and a few corporations. Great weather, baseball and American football teams, malls, an increasing downtown nightlife, sandy beaches and an internationally recognised zoo all make San Diego an attractive place for living the American dream. But to many, San Diego is just a big, wealthy surf town where nobody actually surfs - a polar underwater current comes in every summer, making the Pacific Ocean colder at that time than the rest of the year.
Surprisingly, and in spite of its lack of music venues, San Diego has had its share of musical history, being at various times the home of Tom Waits, Diamanda Galas, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Jim Croce and Iron Butterfly. But Japan-born Marcos Fernandes, a musician and San Diegan since 1973, has been trying for years to give the city its own musical identity, and his hard work in trying to marshal the city's experimental music forces finally seems to be paying off.
In 1985 Fernandes, a percussionist, improvisor, sound artist and producer, founded the Accretions label to release the musical output of Burning Bridges, his World Music/Progressive musical outfit that lasted around 12 years. Then, in 1994, Accretions released the music of Chilean born multi-instrumentalist Marcelo Radulovich. "Marcelo had been playing around San Diego for a long time with many different bands," Fernandes remembers. "We always wanted to do something together after years of seeing each other play in other people's bands, so I put out his solo album on Accretions, which made the label official. By then I was more interested in experimental music again and started developing musical projects catering to that aesthetic, like Wormhole Effect."
Wormhole Effect served as a sanctuary for many of the city's musicians who were interested in more free improvisational music form. According to Radulovich, "Wormhole Effect was an attitude more than anything else, the excitement of playing music and not being so concerned with all the little side things." From there, Radulovich and Fernandes - along with percussionist Robert Montoya, a Tijuana born San Diegan musician and Fernandes's musical partner since his Burning Bridges days - hooked up with pianist/keyboardist Hans Fjellestad, guitarist Damon Holzborn, reeds player Jason Robinson and percussionist Nathan Hubbard - "people with that same approach and attitude", explains Radulovich. "People inspiring each other and pushing each other in different levels and different ways," he continues, "also to just come up with different sounds and approaches. And now it's rolling and that is the best thing about it, that we are just doing it, doing what comes naturally."
By 1998 it had become apparent that a union of efforts was necessary, so the group formed The Trummerflora Collective, an organisation dedicated to the performance, distribution, and promotion of experimental and improvisational music. The word Trummerflora, according to San Diego environmental artists Helen and Newton Harrison, is a phenomenon that affects rubble, plants and trees in heavily bombed urban areas. The bomb acts as a plough, mixing rubble fragments with the earth and reactivating plant seeds that have been asleep for a century or more, making them grow and flourish.
One of the interesting aspects of the Trummerflora Collective is the diverse background of its members - "completely different worlds", according to Radulovich. Hans Fjellestad sums it up this way: "Jason has a strong jazz background. Marcelo, Marco and Robert have Progressive rock and World Music backgrounds. Damon and I have more of a classical and academic music background. And that definitely colours your approach in terms of the training you had coming up. But since we all have the commonality of approach towards improvised music and the kind of story we want to tell, that gives us extra colours, extra flavours to deal with; it brings all kinds of different vocabularies into the situation and into the space. And that is what really interests us, all the surprises that can happen. We are interested in the surprises and in the spontaneity of improvisational form."
Support for the Collective's activities soon started to come from many fringe cultural institutions in San Diego, as well as from current resident George Lewis, the improvising trombonist, composer and computer installation artist, member of Chicago's AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), and professor of music in the Critical Studies and Experimental Practices department at the University of California in San Diego. Robinson, Fjellestad and Holzborn all used to be students under Lewis, learning the importance of being in an atmosphere of openness and diversity. "This is what we are trying to do," comments Lewis, "and this comes, as far as I am concerned pedagogically, out of the AACM's way of looking at teaching, a way of producing diversity and a way of nurturing individuals as a part of a collective."
Still, in spite of the support and flurry of activity recently generated, The Trummerflora Collective still finds it hard to find an interested audience at home. "It's not exclusive to San Diego," ponders Damon Holzborn. "Even in big cities around the world you hear the same complaints everywhere. It's not a mainstream music; there is no engine behind it. It's supported by the musicians themselves and a few promoters. On the other hand there are a lot of Improv musicians around town and there seems to be more and more activity outside of the campus where it was traditionally locked. And now you see it in the community and it's very often all over the place. At this point it's really an exciting place to be for this kind of music." Referring to the lack of support from San Diego's media, Fernandes asserts: "After all, we live in a town that has one news daily, one alternative weekly and, for all practical purposes, one college radio station. If the mechanism were in place, the local music scene would be much healthier."
Lewis is even more appreciative of the situation: "As far as I can see I look at San Diego and I think, 'Wow! I don't see anything like this happening in Los Angeles', nothing of that sustained variety, and as a result I don't go to Los Angeles much because there is a lot going on here. I'm really quite surprised. I say that right now it's amazing. It's nothing like I have ever seen it, and I'm just happy that this sort of homegrown collective in what many people think as an out of the way, very conservative place, which would never have a scene of new and transgressive music, would suddenly develop one out of nowhere which I think eventually will be known around the world. I'm sure that is going to happen."
San Diego Union-Tribune, September 21, 2000
by Bart Mendoza
Galoka Jazz Scene in Bird Rock still has one of the most impressive and diverse lineups going. The club tells us that Galoka Jazz Scene continues to spotlight jazz and innovative music with Monday night shows hosted by local collective Trummerflora. The lineup changes, but if you like improvised music, free jazz or noise art, and like your musical boundaries challenged, this is the show for you. Every Tuesday features the free jazz of the Christopher Adler Trio, a fine mix of sax, piano and percussion. Again, no cover charge and
the show's at 9 p.m. Wednesdays have the unique "Artists Session," in which sculptors and painters are invited to work on-premise with live models. DJs and the occasional live musician will provide musical inspiration for the art being created. Tickets for this weekly gathering are $5, with an 8 p.m. start time, and you do have to be an artist to attend the event. Thursdays feature Blood Relation with live jazz and Fridays showcase Forward Funk, a mix of funk and jazz. Saturdays and Sundays feature dance nights with the Real Deal, featuring hip-hop and more on Saturday, and Pass the Peas, a slightly more experimental dance night, on Sundays. There's a $5 cover on Friday and Saturday nights, and show times are 9 p.m. Saturdays are 21 and up, all other nights are all ages. Information: (858) 551-8610.
San Diego New Music Newsletter, Vol.3 Issue 2, April-June 2000
New Music Kids on the Block
by Chris Williams
As our fearless leader Christian Hertzog discovered not too long ago, an attempt to define "what constitutes classical music these days" (see SDNM v. 2, issue 3) can be a sticky venture indeed. Though his noble quest yielded a refreshingly comprehensive outline, naturally - perhaps intentionally - it left substantial gray area. Oddly enough, it seems the music which inhabits such a gray area often can provide vital life to the more well-established or canonical veins of new music; we at SDNM welcome this with open arms.
Case in point: the music of Trummerflora, a new collective of musicians creating, facilitating, and celebrating "improvised and experimental music in San Diego."
Born this past February, Trummerflora comprises the alliance of two bodies, Accretions and Zu Casa, both of which have been individually active in San Diego for some time. Accretions, established in 1985 and headed by local musicians Marcos Fernandes and Marcelo Radulovich, is an artist-based independent record label with an ear towards experimental, improvised, and global sounds. Launched in 1997, Zu Casa (www.zucasa.com) is a laboratory for online exhibition and performance of improvised and experimental music; artist film and video; and netart; curated by musician/ video artist Hans Fjellestad, and musician/ web designer Damon Holzborn. Together, they have created an expanding list of Cds, a web site (including a noteworthy contemporary music calendar), and a concert series, aiming "to create a fertile, varied, self-sustaining environment for the San Diego experimental and improvised music scene."
This article was initiated by a couple of CDs SDNM received which are a part of the fast- growing Accretions label. After listening to Marcelo Radulovich's "2 Brains" and the newly released compilation "Trummerflora 2," many questions arose. Classical music,
or not classical music? To review or not to review? Needless to say, these questions alone showed pretty solid evidence that Accretions was worth investigating. We discovered that with 15+ releases to date, the label includes such veteran local unclassifiables as Wormhole Effect, Z.O. Voider, Barefoot Hockey Goalie, and Upsilon Acrux. We also discovered that there's not much one can say about these folks; rather, to quote curator Marcos Fernandes, "The music is out there." Check them out for yourself at ww.accretions.com for more info.
The Trummerflora concert series, now in its second season, showcases between two and five local artists/ ensembles one night a month at the Casbah. As the venue might suggest, the series has a history of proudly presenting acts (such as multi-instrumentalist Radulovich and the once-local Marty's Sexual Organs) which combine the concert music ouvre with palpable pop- cultural undertones. "I'm coming more from the whole xperimental/ prog rock side of improvisation and experimentation," says Fernandes. However, Trummerflora also often presents acts which fall into none of these forementioned categories, such as avant-jazz musicians Cosmologic (performing with George Lewis in SDNM's "Noise at the Library" series at the Athaneum May 14th) and percussionist Nate Hubbard's unique found object and electronic setup. "Our programming platform is pretty much the same as our musical musical platform - ," says Fjellestad, "experimental and improvised."
The slickly designed web site, www.trummerflora.com, provides a fabulous resource for people interested in any branch of new music. Herein can be found a thorough list of upcoming concerts and happenings, links to local artists and fixtures, CDs for sale, and, of course, musings on our favorite subject. Again, not much to be said here; it's definitely worth your own look!
It is true that you may not ever find a music stand at a Trummerflora concert. It is also true that you may not ever look exceedingly clever when bringing up "Marty's Sexual Organs" at a cocktail party. However, you can rest assured that soon enough you will find yourself in the midst of an essential part of the local arts community when participating in any of the many activities of San Diego's newest proprieter of, well... new music.
San Diego Union-Tribune, Night & Day, January 27, 2000
You'll find TRUMMERFLORA V2.1 at the intersection of art and music
by Angela Ashman
When it comes to labeling music as experimental, improvisational or sound art -- where to draw the line between what is art vs. just a bunch of noise is a difficult question. Some may say it just depends on how open your mind is.
"It's complicated, but I think it boils down to a value judgment," explained Damon Holzborn, one of the four founding members of Trummerflora V2.1 (http://www.trummerflora.com), a forum held monthly at the Casbah in Middletown for raw, sonic experimentation.
"Somebody who doesn't have formal music training can make excellent music in my opinion, but to somebody else it's just a bunch of people on stage making a bunch of noise," said Holzborn. "And just because of the type of music we do, people are probably more likely to label us as such. But, at the surface, that's what all music is anyway -- a bunch of people on stage making noise."
Since July of last year, Holzborn along with Marcos Fernandes, Marcelo Radulovich and Hans Fjellestad, have been putting on Trummerflora. Each show is a fresh musical experience, that includes performances by Trummerflora's founders as well as other local experimentalists.
Monday's show at the Casbah will be by Radulovich, whose latest CD "2 Brains" credits him with playing "guitar, bass, piano/keyboards, voices, drums/percussion, loops, samples, tapes, radio & noisemakers." Obviously, being musically diverse is not the challenge.
The hard part is attracting people who too easily dismiss it all as just "weird music." Although a Trummerflora performance may feel more like watching musicians in a jam session than anything actually rehearsed, there is a structure to it that is sometimes discovered at the occasional practice session.
"You're not up there just making noise," said Fjellestad, who, with Holzborn, also runs Zu Casa Laboratories, a Web site for online exhibition and performance of music and art. "And it's certainly not random. You're actually telling a story that has taken many years to get to through your training and all of your influences and experiences.
"You set up some limitations for how you want to tell that story so you can do it most effectively, such as -- I'm going to use this sound palette or this pitch set. So in some ways, free improvisation is actually structured."
But at the heart of everything done for Trummerflora, whether or not there is a structure, is the notion of original sound composition and discovering music that has never been done before -- even if the players are forced to look a little strange doing it.
For the four Trummerflora players, it wasn't too long ago that they found themselves experimenting with the environment during a recording session of a piece called "Frodty the Snowman."
"Marcelo just told everybody to bring a lot of fans," recalled Fernandes,who runs Accretions, an experimental music label. "So we had all of the electric fans going in the room to get a windy, hoary feeling. We were sticking paper into the fans and there was shredded paper everywhere -- so it kind of looked like snowflakes. I don't know how much of the sound from the fans got on the tape, but it definitely affected the way we were playing."
Always original, Trummerflora is currently searching for more like-minded experimentalists and improvisers so that the series can be more than once a month.
"We want to expand the circle a little bit and open it up," Fjellestad said. "We'd love to collaborate some more with the amazing players at UCSD that are going through the graduate program there. And, I would like to see the circle expand across the border in terms of incorporating some of those artists and some of that energy."
Although Trummerflora is still too new to determine if it will catch on, the interest shown in events at the Spruce Street Forum and Sonic Arts Gallery gives the Trummerflora members some reason to feel hopeful about the open-mindedness of San Diegans.
"We have all been talking about Trummerflora being the catalyst for creating some sort of scene," Fjellestad said. "San Diego is notoriously sleepy. And I think it's very tough to get people to come out to anything except for beach volleyball.
"But, on the other hand, when people do get an announcement of some event, and they do get themselves out there, generally they have an experience that is valuable to them. Hope is not lost -- and I think we do have the potential for an interesting scene."