With an earthquake and a hurricane out of the way, New York's natural disaster quota for the next few days seems to be filled, just in time for AMPLIFY 2011: stones. AMPLIFY is a festival curated by Jon Abbey, the founder of Erstwhile Records. While the location shifts (past AMPLIFYs have taken place in Tokyo, Prague, Cologne, Berlin, and New York) and the cast of musicians changes, the consistent taste of Abbey guarantees an incredible festival.
First, a little on Erstwhile. The label, started by Abbey in 1999, focuses almost exclusively on free improvisation, particularly of the electroacoustic variety. Erstwhile's roster includes legends like Keith Rowe, Toshimaru Nakamura, Günter Müller, Axel Dörner, Otomo Yoshihide, Jason Lescalleet, Voice Crack...the list goes on and on. Each Erstwhile release, though, remains consistent to a very specific vision and aesthetic, determined by Abbey. AMPLIFY 2011: stones is set to take place 1-17 September, with 1-15 September at The Stone and 16-17 September at Issue Project Room, with multiple sets each night.
Here are a few words Jon shared on AMPLIFY 2011: stones --
On why he's bringing AMPLIFY to New York again, and why The Stone: "John Zorn asked me to curate for two weeks as a part of his 'label' series, and I started inviting people. Pretty much everyone I asked said yes, despite the lack of funding, and after a certain point, I thought the overall lineup was strong enough to call the whole thing an AMPLIFY."
On the "scope" of the festival: "Each festival is different, depending on what city it's in and where we are in the music at the time. This one is much longer than most of the others, but I don't think the scope is necessarily wider than the 2002 or 2004 ones."
On how to choose which musicians would play when, and how much of a hand Abbey takes in structuring his AMPLIFY festivals: "I guess it's a bit like putting together a puzzle, you start putting in pieces and then see the best juxtapositions and the best overall structure. It's a little hard to explain, but it's something I've prided myself on being good at since the first one in 2001. Second question - again, it's case by case, but generally I don't do too much micromanaging of live shows after setting up the overall structure of the festival."
On particularly exciting individual sets: "Really pretty much all of them to different degrees, but specifically the Keith Rowe solo on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, really curious to see how he'll handle that. Also, Taku Unami's series of six sets, it's extremely challenging to try to do that many different sets before one overlapping and discerning audience in such a short period, so also very curious how he'll handle that."
On the connection between Erstwhile Records and the AMPLIFY festivals: "I consider it my main job to run Erstwhile, but I think that festivals like this are essential for the music to thrive if at all possible, and since pretty much no one else does them, I do them when I can."
The festival includes some sure-to-be-brilliant sets from long time collaborators, like Toshimaru Nakamura and Keith Rowe (the 8th). There are also a host of first-time collaborations and premieres, like those of Bonnie Jones/Maria Chavez (the 2nd), Nakamura/Taku Unami (the 9th), and Graham Lambkin/Vanessa Rossetto (the 3rd), that will definitely not disappoint. There is also the Gravity Wave Festival, a sort of "sub-festival" happening 14 and 15 September as a part of AMPLIFY, featuring what promise to be fantastic sets by, among others, Michael Pisaro and Barry Chabala.
It's rare to catch proper electroacoustic shows in New York, nevermind such high quality ones for not one, not two, but seventeen nights, with multiple sets per night, in a row. Check out the AMPLIFY festival this month, and get to hear, in person, the incredible musicians representing Erstwhile.