BRATTLEBORO—Fans of adventurous music and performance, and those curious about what that means, have a reason to venture to downtown Brattleboro on the third Thursday of every month.
Fieldwire, which describes itself as “an experiment in emerging media focusing on music, art, events, happenings, locations, travel, and sharing,” has been hosting monthly “sessions” at The Future Collective, the gallery and music space on Elliot Street upstairs from Taylor for Flowers.
What can one expect from a Fieldwire session?
Each is unique. Surprises abound, but the show generally includes multiple acts with each set running approximately 20 minutes, according to its producer, John Singer, who explains:
“We have an improv set at every performance, where I invite friends to sit in and create in real time. Free improv of all flavors: field recordings and the sounds around us, soft and quiet and loud and hard; music; interventionism; situationism; [and] ‘come-together-ism’.”
Singer adds that every session has its highlights, and “the best part is being pleasantly surprised at the high quality of the performances taking place.”
He also notes that “it’s great to go from lowercase improv to full-on skronk, from radio broadcast experiments to early music.”
Most sessions stream at soundcloud.com/fieldwire. Singer says he’s grateful to the artists who made these recordings available.
Recent sessions have included improv pieces with Willie Gussin using multiple radios as instruments, each tuned to a different radio station: the staticky space between stations; an evocative solo guitar piece by Ron Schneiderman; a lively noise quartet featuring members from Lowell, Mass., and New York City, wherein the drummer deconstructed his kit as part of the piece; local drummer and instructor Todd Roach performing solo on three hand-drums; and John Levin playing 14th century Italian dance music on recorder.
The next show, on Thursday, Aug. 21, features Wooly Mar with the ever-dependable Session Players, but Singer says he’s uncertain of this month’s lineup “or what we’ll be doing.” That said, he guaranteed new improv.
Audiences get visuals with their audio. Overture, based in Greenfield, Mass., will show animations. Right now, Overture is showing videos at festivals in Japan and have done videos for Mum, Hauschka, and many others.
Singer will provide a live score for one of Overture’s more recent videos at the upcoming sessions.
The monthly Fieldwire Sessions emphasize the group’s ethos of “active listening/viewing” in its structure. Some performers started as Fieldwire audience members. As well, Singer says he roped participants in “from the area’s incredible musicians close to us in all directions.”
Singer says he started the sessions with people he knew, had seen, or had wanted to see.
“From there it’s begun to grow as others hear about the series and want to be involved. I’ve tried to put people together in a way that makes that night interesting and unusual,” he explains.
One semiregular performer at the Fieldwire Sessions is Ron Schneiderman, guitarist with the experimental noise-rock band Sunburned Hand of the Man. His efforts further inspire Fieldwire.
“Ron Schneiderman brought similar music to his Blueberry Honey space when it existed,” Singer explains. “As he’s on hiatus with a new family member, the series in some ways is picking up on some of what he was doing.”
The core group producing Fieldwire is Singer, John Levin, Willie Gussin, and Dave Seidel; Dar Tavernier-Singer contributes graphic design and promotion for Fieldwire. All are from Brattleboro except for Seidel, who lives nearby in New Hampshire.
The group expects the roster to change as the project grows.
Why The Future? After Singer had attended musical performances at The Future Collective, he saw it as the ideal setting for the sessions.
“All ages, no [illicit] substances, comfortable, conveniently located, and the perfect size for the type of events I had in mind,” he says.
He says he believes the Future is doing important work for the town in providing a great space for local and touring artists to perform and in featuring artwork that wouldn’t be seen otherwise.
“There’s not another venue in town that has the kinds of performers they’re presenting: it’s grassroots, community-driven organizing at its best. I’d be hard-pressed to think of anywhere else I could see Fieldwire Sessions music and the other music they present.”
Singer met with Gussin — also a Future Collective board member — and “let him know what I was interested in doing, and he helped make it happen. He’s been there [at] every event, both helping and participating.”
Singer has a long history of involvement in music, and his variety of experiences informs his vision for the expansive, inclusive nature of Fieldwire.
“I’ve been in bands since I was 15 years old, some known, most unknown. I’ve played with some pretty famous folks, as well those never heard from again, and loved doing it all,” he says.
Locally, he’s performed in Green Hill Builders, Hayseed Chrome, and Lampray. His musical styles span genres, “from performance punk to noise, country to Irish traditional, all flavors of rock, solo-acoustic, [and] traditional gospel.”
Brattleboro-area community radio fans might recognize Singer from his involvement with radio free brattleboro and WVEW.
“Like everyone else involved in community radio I played an eclectic mix of music on my own show, ‘Field Trip,’ as well as read ‘Garfield’ cartoons as one of the morning DJs on the Moose Haas show.”
Fieldwire and the sessions also owe a debt of inspiration to composers and performers such as John Cage, Sun City Girls, Erik Satie, and innumerable local acts.
Of the latter, Singer says, “Damn! For a small town of 12,000, Brattleboro has an immense amount of music going on, much of it high quality.”
He credits intimate shows put on at local record stores and thanks Carson Arnold at Turn It Up!; John Doe in Greenfield, Mass.; Josh Burkett at Mystery Train in Amherst, Mass.; Ted Lee at Feeding Tube in Northampton, Mass.; and Eric Gagne from Toadstool in Peterborough, N.H., “with his Thing in the spring festival. I could go on all day.”
But Singer noticed something was missing.
“Although there are some venues that bring in adventurous, ‘out-there’ music, for the most part it’s not being presented except for some loft/living-room shows. We see this series filling a particular niche with our approach.”
In addition to producing live Fieldwire Sessions the third Thursday of every month, Fieldwire also has a digital presence. One can hear performances, find upcoming dates, learn about projects, and connect and collaborate over various flavors of social media.
Fieldwire’s current state is “fairly organic and low-tech,” says Singer, but the group hopes to expand into multiple media and offer “live and recorded presentations through multiple channels: live streaming of video, Web radio, pop-up sound, and art.”
Singer says Fieldwire’s plans also include working with other spaces to put on larger shows, and find a space of their own where they can work with musicians, artists, performers and others on emerging media projects.
A festival of adventurous music could develop as early as next year. “Check back for details,” Singer says.