The Crucible Sound Interview
The eclectic nature of modern electronic music continues to thrive through innovations in technology. Pittsburgh, touted as a hub of innovation, is a melting pot of these divergent styles of expression and the Crucible Sound Series at Modern Formations Gallery in Garfield is a testament to that. The series brings artists from all musical backgrounds together to play live, improvised sets. Imagine being at a party (at an art gallery no less) with a bunch of talented musicians—who just so happen to be ready to play live sets. Anthony Levin-Decanini, the originator of Crucible Sound, talked to us about what this type of performance event means and their plans for the future.
Mystery Haza: What is the importance of innovative musical performances?
Anthony Levin-Decanini: Improvised music is something that interests me personally, and I wanted to book the kind of events that I’m interested in attending. I rarely get excited about hearing a band perform their album. I prefer to hear something unexpected. Crucible Sound operates on a small scale, and uses the common act of improvisation as a way of nudging people to get out of their comfort zone and engage with each other across styles, backgrounds, etc. If the results are deemed to be innovative (or not) then so be it.
MH: Why the name “crucible”?
ALD: It evokes Pittsburgh’s steel history and refers to a pressurized situation like live improvisation.
MH: Pittsburgh seems to be a good testing ground for creative ways to redefine the live concert, how do you guys use the city to your advantage?
ALD: What we’re doing isn’t redefining the live concert, it’s just a local and contemporary riff on an idea. There’s a long history of improvised music events like Crucible all over the world, including Derek Bailey’s Company (1968-present), the High Zero Festival in Baltimore, Irtijal, Nihilist Spasm Band, on and on. Before moving back to Pittsburgh, I lived in Chicago for 10 years, and there were several long-running improvised music series there as well (Elastic, Myopic, etc.). Obviously that city is significantly larger and consequently has a much larger community of musicians and listeners supporting events like these. But it’s also more expensive, more alienating, and more competitive. Why can’t Pittsburgh have nice things too?
MH: What goes in to the booking of artists for Crucible Sound?
ALD: I try to engage musicians that come to improvisation from different angles with the hopes that their respective methodologies will push each other and maybe even cross-pollinate. I’d like for it to cut across genres and shake us all out of our respective mental ruts, musically and otherwise.
MH: What’s next for the show?
ALD: This Thursday, we’ve got Michael Boyd, Stephen Boyle, Ricardo Iamuuri and Joshua Tenenbaum performing. I’m looking forward to seeing how the academy, electroacoustics, and urban folk music collide. For Crucible Sound #7 on November 7th we’ll have our first out-of-town participant, guitarist Han-Earl Park from Brooklyn, performing with some of Pittsburgh’s finest musicians. I’d like to continue to widen the circle and bringing in an increasingly diverse and accomplished set of improvisers. In 2014, look for Crucible to include some pre-existing groups and programmed events too, in addition to ad-hoc combinations.
Come out this Thursday to Modern Formations Gallery for this month’s installment of Crucible Sound and prove that Pittsburghers can have nice things too!