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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Hear/Now Festival of New Sound

A crop of impressive new music events and efforts have been helping to transform Pittsburgh's soundscape over the past few years, from the grassroots production of VIA--which has put the city on the national festival map--to new live music venues large and small like Stage AE and Mr. Roboto Project.

The latest music festival to launch in the Burgh is bringing an eclectic lineup of local, national and international acts to East Liberty this weekend. To curate and present the two-day Hear/Now Festival, which runs April 13th and 14th, the Kelly Strayhorn Theater teamed up with contemporary chamber ensemble, Alia Musica.

A showcase of new sounds that have ties to classical music, Hear/Now aims to demonstrate both the diversity and the breadth inherent within the ever-evolving genre known as contemporary music. Featuring everything from ensembles and electronica, to soloists and instrumental compositions, the festival provides an opportunity for emerging and established artists to share the stage in neighborhood-based venues, pairing Grammy Award-winning global stars with local and regional talents.

The concept for the festival format evolved a few years ago from a series of conversations between Janera Solomon, executive director of the Kelly Strayhorn, and Federico Garcia, artistic director of Alia Musica. Solomon says she had always loved classical music, but noticed that younger audiences were not attending more traditional concerts and venues. After attending an Alia Musica concert at Chatham University, she connected with Garcia.

"I started to notice more emerging ensembles, collectives and musicians who are classically trained and playing a broader range of music around Pittsburgh. Our idea started as a new classical music festival. All of the artists are inspired by, or have a connection to, classical music in some shape, form or fashion," says Solomon, who has been with the Theater since 2008. "This is an experiment. We try ideas out new ideas at the Kelly Strayhorn to see how artists and audiences feel about them. We have a rich theme in terms of musicians, artists and students being trained here. We want to explore this scene, as well as the artists' careers and the audiences' responses."

Events will be held at the Kelly Strayhorn and Shadow Lounge. On Saturday, Hear/Now will host a special, family-friendly community orchestra performance at East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

Featured musicians will perform works from acclaimed local, national and international composers, such as Edgar Varese, Morton Feldman, John Cage, George Tsontakis, Philip Glass, Mathew Rosenblum, and Eric Moe. Also to be performed will be pieces by Pittsburgh-based composers Mark Fromm, Federico Garcia, Sean Newkom, and John Arrigo-Nelson.

On Friday, don't miss Grammy Award-winning flutist Tim Munro of Chicago-based ensemble Eighth Blackbird, as well as the lauded experimental instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, and media artist Pamela Z, who will perform alongside co-presenters, Alia Musica. Saturday's impressive lineup features acclaimed NYC-based concert pianist Conor Hanick and the Pittsburgh-based Eclectic Laboratory Chamber Orchestra.

Not to be missed is Saturday's headlining performance by the prolific NYC-based artist-producer DJ Spooky at 8:15 p.m., followed by a festival closing bash, at the Kelly Strayhorn.

Nee Paul D. Miller in 1970 in Washington, D.C., DJ Spooky blurs boundaries between electronic, experimental and hip hop music, art and performance. Dubbed That Subliminal Kid, DJ Spooky is credited with helping to give rise to a genre of hip hop called illbient music, via a rich creative practice draws on everything from avant-garde sound and free jazz, to trip hop and dub. He's collaborated with an impressive list of legendary musical figures, including Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kool Keith, Thurston Moore, and Matthew Shipp, and he even produced material on Yoko Ono’s recent album, Yes, I’m a Witch.

DJ Spooky's multimedia work has been featured a high profile settings, such as the Whitney Biennial, Venice Biennial, Lincoln Center Festival, Miami/Art Basel, and The Andy Warhol Museum. His writing has been published in The Village Voice, Artforum and The Wire. He is currently professor of music mediated art at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

"We're committed to the idea and its success, and we have a lot of great partners. There has been a great energy and the artists are all very excited about the event," says Solomon.

View a complete Hear/Now schedule.

Purchase tickets now.

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