Unsound Festival New York

February 4, 2010
Suzanne Thorpe

As of Thursday, February 4, 2010, Fundacja Tone, the Polish Cultural Institute in New York, and Goethe Institute New York, in collaboration with Electronic Music Foundation and with support from Trust for Mutual Understanding and a host of other organizations, present the first Unsound Festival New York. A forward-thinking ten-day program of music and media, Unsound Festival New York’s mission is to forge new links between music genres, generations, and artistic practices. Unsound accomplishes their mission by hosting an ambitious line-up from Europe and the U.S., with artists from the electronic, experimental, independent, post-classical and club music scenes.

Mat Schulz, Unsound Festival's program director, tells us how the festival came about. Continue on for an Unsound Festival New York primer.

ST: What is the Unsound Festival and how did it come about?

Unsound's history ...

ST: When you talk about a deficiency in electronic music in Poland, what are you referring to specifically? And how is Unsound supplementing that need?

MS: There's quite a strong tradition of electronic music in Poland, but there weren't many festivals, events or promoters in Krakow dealing with this particular type of music. That's changed dramatically now. In comparison to other European countries, I think it's quite significant how many there are, especially in Krakow.

Poland's Jacaszek

ST: One of the characteristics I find interesting about Unsound is that the festival itself is occupying a position of ambassador, not just musically, but ideologically as well.

Unsound as cultural attaché ...

ST: Can you tell us more about how Unsound illustrates cultural collaboration?

MS: We've done a lot of work with organizers in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, between Russia and Poland. It has a very specific political situation in that it's quite isolated. We organized four events there, the last of which was a workshop and collaboration between western European artists and artists of Belarus. They worked on a number of tracks together, ending in a CD which we distributed in Belarus and Western Europe. It promoted the artists from Belarus in Western Europe and had the effect of puncturing the isolation, at least to a degree.

ST: What makes the New York version of Unsound Festival unique?

Unsound New York ...

ST: Do you think that Unsound is fostering a greater sense of collaboration in New York City than one might ordinarily find?

MS: We started to link together venues for this festival that typically would compete in some way. This competition dissipated and the structure of the festival began to grow organically. This is the reason why the festival ended up being a 10-day event. That was not the original intention, but through the enthusiasm of the local organizers it became something much bigger.

ST: Can you tell us about some of the Eastern Promise artists?

MS: Pavel Ambiont, from Belarus, is a very interesting artist from an isolated country, as we mentioned before, that plays experimental dub/techno and will be appearing at Bunker in Williamsburg. There's also a night of experimental music cosponsored by EMF at Issue Project Room featuring Zavoloka and Zenial. Zavoloka is from Kiev, and has created a very specific voice that connects electronic music to traditional Ukrainian music. Zenial is based in Krakow and performs drone music. Another interesting artist under the Eastern Promise banner is Jacaszek of Poland, performing at Le Poisson Rouge. He makes references to composers such as Gorecki and Arvo Part, and is part of an emerging eastern european tradition in classical music melded with electronic music. There is also a wide range of ambitious experimental techno music from Poland and Romania which I think is worth checking out at Bunker.

Pavel Ambiont

ST: You are showing a few Andy Warhol films in the festival. How did they make their way into your programming?

Andy Warhol's films at Unsound ...

MS:  ... the other Project that is within that program involves the video artist Lillevan of Berlin. He has worked with a lot of electronic musicians including Vladislav Delay, Fennesz and Morton Subotnik. He has created an homage to Warhol's Screen Test, in which Warhol filmed visitors to the factory for 3 minutes as they stared into the camera's lens. Lillevan will does this with video, filming people at Unsound events, and all around NYC, which will be shown on the media wall at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, and will also use the materials at a show at Bunker. The whole idea is about creating something new from something that exists, and I think it makes sense to do something like this in NYC.

ST: What's in the future for Unsound?

Future Unsound ...

For more information on Unsound Festival New York go to the EMF Productions website:

Unsound Festival New York