Somehow, I’d never made it to High Zero after years of living in Baltimore. So I was glad to pick up this assignment, and I plan to check out the festival next year, as well… High Zero is a 10+ year festival of experimental improvisational music that is located in Baltimore, run by the Red Room Collective, a group that puts on experimental music and art events on a regular basis. The festival concept is basically to bring experimental musicians and thinkers from all over the world into one place, and set up a series of events over a long weekend, and see what happens.
I was there for two days of the fest and it was pretty interesting – a lot different from the shows I normally go to, but also very worthwhile and thought provoking on the whole. The highlight for me was a piece where Lebanese musician and artist Mazen Kerbaj drew images and comics in wet ink that was projected on a screen, while a large group of musicians reacted to his images, which mostly dealt with issues of violence in his native Beirut and also in Baltimore. Pretty moving piece.
Not everything was as heavy as that though – plenty of pure experimentation was on hand, and fun, such as Tom Nunn’s invented instruments – a strange assortment of objects that one would not consider to be musical instruments at first glance, but still generated beautiful and sometimes cacophonous sounds. An interesting, and varied festival, and one I plan on visiting again.