Making A Successful Museum Soundwalk pt. 2

Making A Successful Museum Soundwalk pt. 2

Mar 11, 2017

John Chittum

Part two of the series, A Successful Museum Soundwalk. To Part 1

KcEMA has a divided structure. This allows for us to separate concerns, as well as prevent conflicts of interest. Members of the executive board are on the artistic committee, however it is comprised mainly of other artists in the Kansas City area. The Vice President is chair and advisor, with the President acting in an advisory position. The artistic committee met in the esteemed establishment of P.Ott’s and started brainstorming people to approach. We knew we wanted to include at least one artist from Lawrence, and as luck would have it, we had just met one. From there we programmed mainly upon variety of musical styles, possible fits with themes, and artists in the area we knew could deliver in the short time span.

The chosen musicians were Hong Hong Hui, Frank Nawrot, Mt. Asther(A collaboration between Stacy Busch and Cody Kauhl), and David/Harte (Seth Davis and Tim J. Harte). Our final spot was left open as we discussed possible options. We reached out to various artists, but with January beginning, we had yet to secure a final person. It was decided then that a new collaborative group would emerge, Trio Defecta (Christina Butera, Jeff Borowiec, and I). Did I mention Be agile in part one? Curating is a difficult business, and is worth it’s own blog post. Some may look at this and see many KcEMA board members. It’s important to again note that the Artistic Committee is made up of independent musicians. We trusted their judgement, with the only decision made later being the inclusion of Trio Defecta as we were still short a participant. This brings up another major point: Step 7: Give yourself more time than you’ll need for a concert.

Time becomes a precious resource, something that can all too easily disappear. The holidays ate almost a month our time, as collaborators from all areas took time to be with their families and recover from a hectic fall. KcEMA had done a few events, sometimes for hire (such as the earlier mentioned event at the Spencer), and others as support (No Divide KC’s first production). The Spencer staff was recovering from the whirlwind of re-opening after being closed for renovation, and presenting an ambitious exhibit in Temporal Turn.

Everyone involved took time on a Saturday in January to head out to the Spencer for a guided tour. The curator Kris Imants Ercums was gracious enough to lead the tour and give us lots of information. If you haven’t made it out to the Spencer Museum for this wonderful exhibit, do so. It’s fantastic. The tour was great, and gave many people ideas. Each artist could spend a day talking about their works, but I’ll take the simple approach–see Step 4 from part one!

This also gave us a good chance to walk the space again and decide upon show order and space. We decided to make the set-ups as small and localized as possible. Instead of bringing in large speakers, we opted to use studio monitors for the majority of set-ups. Frank Narwot’s work has a political bent and fit well with the Anthropocene theme. How humans interact and change the world is a main theme in politics at the moment. We decided to start outside at a large site-specific sculpture. We faced the speakers toward the building, allowing the audience to walk outside after the brief introduction and be comfortable in the space. There were also acoustic reasons, as it limited reflection time (as compared to pointing at the building across the street, where the slapback would be longer), and allowed us to limit the volume a bit more (shutting off one plane, and having a semi-reflective surface can be handy). We used a pair of Mackie SRMv1 speakers (Yes, the old ones). From there we headed inside to Mt. Asther performing around a 24 hour clock with many sayings reflecting on time. Above was a video constructed from images of space. This fit their theme of “The Edge of Infinity” wonderfully. Cody and Stacy’s mix of beat driven music, vocals, and synths worked wonderfully. We moved into studio monitors, using a pair of NHT Pro M00s with the matching S00 sub. These are a little older, lesser known speakers, but pack a wollop for the size, and sound fantastic in many situations. Afterwards we moved to Hong Hong Hui’s haunting work for Pipa and fixed media. The work was done between Tomoko’s wonderful screen and a sculpture of three mythical beasts. It fit the Mythopoeia theme. For technical reasons, I opted to use my pair of Samson Rubicon 6as for this piece. They offered a much more full-range sound on their own compared to just the M00 monitors, and allowed me to shift the sub. We moved from there to Trio Defecta’s new work for Kate Sikora. The computer takes control in our interpretation of the Human/Posthuman/Inhuman theme, as it tries to learn the Stalinist lullaby sung by Sikora. By the end, the computer decides one voice isn’t nearly enough, and it begins moving into territories no human could. This was done beside one of my favourite pieces, affectionately referred to as “Disco Wolf” (you’ll know it when you see it). Davis/Harte finished the evening with a new scoring of “Uterus Man.” Their distinct flavour of noise and improvisation created a “Pulse” driven new score. See what I did there?

It was all hands on deck for KcEMA, with everyone working from set-up to tear down. The sound was impeccable at all stations, and the walk itself was leisurely, as we didn’t try to hurry anyone from space to space. Some folks joined as the concert was going, presumably just coming to the museum only to be met by this unexpected experience. In a rare moment for electronic music (especially live electronic music), every performance went smoothly. The show was deemed a great success by everyone involved. We also did a much better job clearly communicating to everyone involved how much would be made in the performance, and how we’d be getting them payments. Many participants generously decided to donate their proceeds back to KcEMA. This leads to the final, most important step–Step 8: Always have the highest quality product(ion) possible. Without that, no planning, marketing, or agility will matter.

What did we learn? The full recap from Part 1 and 2:

  1. Get your name out there! Word of mouth advertising is still very relevant and valid
  2. Be prepared to take any opportunity.
  3. Take the gig that sets you up for the next gig. It might not be glamorous, but if it helps get the big gig, it’s worth it.
  4. Give options, and work with your clients and collaborators through the entire process.
  5. BE AGILE (no, seriously)
  6. Lay out expectations, preferably in writing. Even better, with official contracts.
  7. Give yourself far more time than needed
  8. Make it the highest quality possible.

Going forward, KcEMA will be doing more posts like this, reflecting on our experiences, discussing what it takes to make everything happen. Look out for future posts discussing calls for scores, planning ambitious projects, and more. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook!

Regards, John Chittum KcEMA President

Tag: concert

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