A Musical Nest Out on a Limb
The Roost perches at the Outpost for its fourth season
Hydrophonium: a tuned jar of water fitted with a submerged microphone. Described by its inventor, Danishta Rivero of Voicehandler, as an “electroacoustic percussion instrument,” this unusual device can be played in a number of ways. For example, it can be struck with a mallet, or bubbles can be blown into it through a straw. The resultant sounds are then processed through a variety of electronic effects.
You’re not likely to hear this eerily beautiful sound on the radio, nor will you see Rivero on “The Late Show” or find her work on the Billboard Hot 100.
You can, however, catch her and other adventurous musicians on both familiar and bizarre instruments at the fourth annual installment of The Roost, a concert series devoted to emergent music.
For musicians such as Rivero, who operate outside of the normal commercial conduits, finding a congenial place to perform can present a challenge. Mark Weaver—a composer, tubaist and didgeridoo player—started the series specifically to provide a place where adventurous music can find its audience.
Operated on a shoestring budget, the series has stayed “humble,” as Weaver puts it. He’s kept costs to a bare minimum, paying musicians from the gate. It’s typically not much of a payday for them, especially if they’ve traveled in from another state, but Weaver notes that finding a receptive venue has made the economics acceptable for the players.
In each of its first three years, the series has nested in a different spot—The Filling Station, UNM’s ARTS Lab and The Projects. Along the way, it caught the ear of Outpost Executive Director Tom Guralnick, himself no stranger to adventure, having coaxed music from a vacuum cleaner hose fitted with a reed. Guralnick offered to copresent The Roost as part of the Outpost’s annual Creative Soundspace Festival if he could secure funding. An NEA grant has made it possible and will pay the performers something more than lunch money.
The Roost’s performers have included well-established figures on the emergent music scene, such as Vinny Golia and Janet Feder, and local luminaries like Mustafa Stefan Dill, Jefferson Voorhees and Christian Pincock.
Weaver notes that the series gives all these artists the freedom to explore new territory. “Some things are germinating. Some things are possibly happening for the first time at The Roost,” he says. A number of groups use the series to produce a new composition or to experiment with their approach. The quartet Slumgum, for example, will play in all the duo combinations that its members can form.
The 2012 series includes everything from free jazz to electronically manipulated pop. Whatever the style, one thing is pretty much certain: The music will stretch your ears and your imagination.