“I love the idea of it being almost anonymous, and just there,” says Bob Lukomski, artistic director and organizer of Quiet Village, an “anti-festival” presentation of ambient electronic music coming to Hasbrouck Park in New Paltz on Saturday, September 17 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Unlike typical music festivals — which are all about paying attention to the performers — Quiet Village will be a day-long auditory experience where people can listen actively or just let the sound sink into the backdrop.
The ambient music will provide “a soundscape,” Lukomski explains. Or think of it as “a sonic field to simply pass through.” The experience is not so much about people gathering, he says, but more about “the sound emanating from one place where people can engage with it if they choose to, or not.” He’s looking forward to seeing the people passing by who will hear it, and not know what it is, and just listen a bit before going about their way, he adds. “For the most part, it’s about the happenstance of just being there. To just see what happens.”
Eleven acts will perform live throughout the day. Some of the performers may have CDs available to purchase, but don’t expect the typical festival set-up with food vendors and bouncy houses. The musicians will be located under the gazebo.
It’s not the sort of thing where the audience lines up early to get a good view. “It’s live performance, but we’re keeping it a little hidden so that it’s about listening, not the visuals,” says Lukomski. “It’s like stepping in the same river twice; the experience will constantly change and move along. If you’re not sure you like what you hear, come back an hour later.”
The performance roster for Quiet Village consists of electronic musicians from the Hudson Valley and beyond. New and established artists will be featured. Works are scored, improvisations, or a combination of the two. The range of approaches taken by the musicians will showcase a diversity of techniques and styles, and the family-friendly setting of Hasbrouck Park will bring a different aspect to electronic sounds usually heard within an art gallery or concert venue.
Performers will include the New Paltz-based Lukomski as well as New Paltz musician Michael Lutomski. (“But for an accident of spelling, we could be related!” says Bob.) Lutomski, with a ‘T,’ performs as “Okkoto,” working with modular synthesizers. “A lot of what he’s doing is about texture, really, and the change of sound and timbre. It’s not really drone, but more of a sweeping, subdued sound,” says Lukomski, whose own sound is more sparse, he explains, incorporating plain chant and early (pre-Baroque) music to create “a much thinner texture.”
David Mecionis is a New York City composer who works with patterns and sequences. His work is described as being more about movement than flow. New Jersey-based Beaux Eaux Trio — pronounced “Bozo Trio” — is actually a solo performer, John Korchuk, who creates his sound with a system of connected iPhones. He has been making electronic music for decades.
Cowboy and Indian from Catskill specialize in the lush sound familiar from the Chariots of Fire soundtrack by Vangelis. Nixie Unterwelt from Kerhonkson started out as more of a songwriter doing vocally based work, but now incorporates “found textures,” says Lukomski.
“It’s all over the map in terms of the different approaches the artists take. And that’s part of the fun about it. Many people think of ambient music as functional music, for yoga or meditation, but it can be diverse and wonderful. You know, we have cityscapes as well as landscapes, and music should reflect that.”
Others slated to perform are Rothwell and Mariette Papic from New York City and Oneiromantix from Saugerties. Andrew Shapiro and Absent Warrior (of Sontag Shogun) both hail from Brooklyn. Edward Ruchalski is based in Syracuse.
Quiet Village is modeled after a “beta version” of the event Lukomski hosted last year in his own New Paltz backyard. Some 40 or 50 people throughout the day came and stayed for a while. Some sat and listened intently, he says, while others had a picnic and carried on a conversation against the backdrop of ambient sound. A quilter friend who attended did some stitching while she listened, and kids playing on the swing set in the yard supplied another type of auditory component.
“Brian Eno talks about ambient music as being something that can accommodate focusing and be interesting to listen to, or you can ignore it and it’s a nice, functional background,” Lukomski says. “Erik Satie talked about making music that would go well with the clinking of forks and knives at dinner. The model I compare it to is the organ in church. Oftentimes you don’t see the organist, but you hear them, and if people want to pray, they can do that, or if they want to admire the architecture, they can do that. The sound functions at different levels.”
Lukomski teaches electronic and computer music and music theory at SUNY-New Paltz. This semester marks his sixth year on campus. His own undergraduate degree was earned in recording technology and voice from the College of St. Rose in Albany, and he has pursued advanced study in moral philosophy and aesthetics at the University at Albany.
Privately, in his own studio, Lukomski also teaches music composition. He has written music for a variety of genres, including works for choir and organ, solo piano and chamber ensembles, tape and electronics. “Most of my work is sort of choral music, avant garde and classical music, and popular music all together in this nice mish-mash.”
His work has been performed by the Jim Sande Ensemble and the choirs of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Albany and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. International premieres include Ensemble Decadanse’s performance of “Miniature Set” in Lunel, France in 2000 and the score for “Mouthful” performed with Clyde Forth Visual Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2003.
In 2006 “Music for Synagogue,” a piece created with the free-improvisation trio Lukomski/Majer/Lail, was featured in an installation at the Galéria Jána Koniarka, Slovakia. Lukomski has been awarded grants by the New York State Council on the Arts and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Arts Council, and received an Artward Bound residency by New York arts organization, The Field. In 2005, he received a Meet the Composer’s Creative Connections grant for his large-scale electronic work, “Look at Me (when I talk to you),” a collaboration with choreographer Lynn Neuman and Artichoke Dance Company. His recent composition, “2 Part Organum,” was premiered in Brooklyn last September.
Lukomski is also a member of the Coterminous Collective, an Ulster County-based consortium of electronic media artists. As a vocalist, he has performed as a soloist and member of various ensembles, including the choir of St. Thomas Church and Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City, The Berkshire Opera Company, The Schola Cantorum, Saratoga Springs, the choir of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Albany, and the choir of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He sings with the choir of Grace Church in New York City and is a member of Kairos: a Consort of Singers. He has also performed work by composer Shirley Warren with the Poné Ensemble for New Music, where he also serves as a board member.
Quiet Village is presented by the Poné Ensemble for New Music in tandem with the Coterminous Collective.
Lukomski says he’s hoping to hold future events like Quiet Village in other venues, too. The initial spark to bring his anti-festival to Hasbrouck Park happened when taking his eleven-year-old daughter to the Kingston Mall one day. Noting the way the piped-in music sounded in the semi-empty storefront spaces made him think about what it would be like to program original music in such a place. “Then I thought, Let’s bring this outdoors ….”
Lukomski is intrigued with the thought, he says, that music exists so much in the public realm, with concerts and performances, while at the same time it can be such an individual experience when people hear music in their cars and on headphones. “I’d like to find that spot where it crosses over, where the experiences meet.”