Heralded by NPR as a “Who’s Who of the avant-garde” and The Wire as “a forum for forward-thinking composers and an opportunity to hear performances of a uniformly challenging and rigorous nature,” San Francisco’s only international festival of avant-garde music returned to celebrate its milestone 25th anniversary! Other Minds Festival 25: “Moment’s Notice” brought to the stage twenty-six of the greatest living artists working in the field of improvised music. Across four nights, programmed by guest curator Harry Bernstein, OM 25 featured a rare convergence of pioneering icons of free improvised music side-by-side with emerging artists whose work is at once a continuance and an expansion of the jazz avant-garde.
Festival artists included MacArthur Genius Award winners Mary Halvorson and Tyshawn Sorey; Guggenheim Fellows Jen Shyu and Zeena Parkins; Doris Duke Performing Artist Award winners William Parker and Myra Melford; NEA Jazz Masters Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell; Berlin Prize Awardee Elliott Sharp; and several additional performers whose music is a vital expression of the traditions of improvisation. Performances crossed disciplines to include dance, theater, and video including pianist/composer Myra Melford who partnered with Butoh dancer Oguri; William Parker’s dance/theater work, The Sky is Trembling featuring dancer Patricia Nicholson; and Jen Shyu’s luminous Nine Doors, a theatrical work heralded by the New York Times as a “dizzying,” “imaginative ritual” sung in multiple languages and performed by Shyu on a variety of instruments.
Concert 1: October 14, 2021 @ 8pm
Jen Shyu, Compositions, vocals, Taiwanese moon lute, Korean gayageum and soribuk drum, Japanese biwa, piano, dance, sound design, choreography, Timorese gong and Korean gong (kkwaenggwari)
(Kristen Robinson, Visuals; Alexandru Mihail, Director; Kristen Robinson, Set & Props Designer; Solomon Weisbard, Original Lighting Designer; Naoko Nagata, Costume designer; Danang Pamungkas, Javanese “Bedhaya Pangkur Tunggal” choreography; Lianne Arnold, Original Projection Programmer; Satoshi Haga, Co-director with Shyu of “Song of Silver Geese” (2016), which inspired much of “Nine Doors”)
Concert 2: October 15, 2021 @ 8pm
Videos – Live-Stream Recordings
Night 1 Stream, featuring
Myra Melford/Mark Dresser/Oguri
Ikue Mori/Zeena Parkins/William Winant
Recorded and streamed live from the Atrium Theater in downtown San Francisco, this program was recorded on, Thursday, October 14, 2021, during Other Minds Festival 25. The stream was hosted by Other Minds Executive and Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian, with co-host, composer and multimedia performer Pamela Z. All sets were improvised, except Jen Shyu, who performed an adaptation of her work Nine Doors, which had sections that were improvised.
Night 2 Stream, featuring
Ben Goldberg/Liberty Ellman/Gerald Cleaver
William Parker/Hamid Drake/Patricia Nicholson
Tyshawn Sorey/King Britt
Recorded and streamed live from the Atrium Theater in downtown San Francisco, this program was recorded on, Friday, October 15, 2021, during Other Minds Festival 25. The stream was hosted by Other Minds Executive and Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian, with co-host, composer and multimedia performer Pamela Z. All sets were improvised.
Night 3 Stream, featuring
Larry Ochs/Donald Robinson
Roscoe Mitchell/Junius Paul/Vincent Davis
Recorded and streamed live from the Atrium Theater in downtown San Francisco, this program was recorded on, Saturday, October 16, 2021, during Other Minds Festival 25. The stream was hosted by Other Minds Executive and Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian, with co-host, composer and multimedia performer Pamela Z. All sets were improvised.
Night 4 Stream, featuring
Mary Halvorson/Sylvie Courvoisier
Anthony Braxton/James Fei
Recorded and streamed live from the Atrium Theater in downtown San Francisco, this program was recorded on, Sunday, October 17, 2021, during Other Minds Festival 25. The stream was hosted by Other Minds Executive and Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian, with co-host, composer and multimedia performer Pamela Z. All sets were improvised, with the Braxton/Fei set guided by a graphic score by Braxton.
Photos – Concert 1
Photos: David Magnusson
Photos – Concert 2
Photos: David Magnusson
Photos – Concert 3
Photos: David Magnusson
Photos – Concert 4
Photos: David Magnusson
Festival Artist Bios
One cannot overstate the enormity of the impact Anthony Braxton has had on the worlds of contemporary composition and creative musicianship at-large. A legendary AACM member and MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, Braxton’s work is a comprehensive, systematic exploration of the artistry of sound, focusing on “core principles of improvisation, structural navigation, and ritual engagement – innovation, spirituality, and intellectual investigation.” His music is expressed in nigh-infinite variety, ranging from watershed solo-performances on woodwinds to the operatic epics of his Trilllium cycle. Distinguished as Professor Emeritus at Wesleyan University, Braxton’s honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the aforementioned MacArthur Fellowship, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, an NEA Jazz Master Award, and honorary doctorates from Université de Liège (Belgium), and New England Conservatory (USA).
Extending the storied legacy of Philadelphia’s late-20th century DJ and hip-hop scenes well beyond the boundaries of epoch and locale, King James Britt‘s work as a producer, DJ, composer, and electronic musician has transfixed audiences in dance clubs, concert halls, and festival spaces world-wide while suffusing the realms of film scores and television soundtracks. King Britt’s mastery is the artistry of synthesis, in the form of cultural and historical merger, producing meaning and context anew through the intricate entanglement of clips, tracks, and ready-mades. Britt has collaboration with Digable Planets, De La Soul, Alarm Will Sound Orchestra, Saul Williams, and film-director Michael Mann. He has remixed recordings by Meredith Monk, Solange, and Calvin Harris.
Heralded by JazzTimes as a “brilliant drummer/composer as comfortable leveling a straight-ahead ride cymbal groove as fulminating an avant-garde pulse,” Gerald Cleaver‘s earliest inspiration came from listening to the percussive stylings of his father, John Cleaver. A denizen of Detroit and graduate of the University of Michigan, Cleaver relocated to New York in 2002 where he has established himself as one of the most sought after voices in jazz and free improvisation, contributing multi-layered pulsating textures to music in collaboration with Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Jacky Terrasson, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Mario Pavone, Charles Gayle, Matthew Shipp, Reggie Workman, Joe Morris, Craig Taborn, Ralph Alessi, Eddie Harris, and Miroslav Vitous among others. A National Endowment for the Arts award recipient, he has recorded as bandleader or co-leader on nearly 20 albums, and has appeared as a contributing musician on dozens more. He currently lives in the Bay Area, where he teaches at the California Jazz Conservatory.
Sylvie Courvoisier‘s absolute mastery of the piano as an expressive, resonating body has propelled her to the forefront of New York’s creative music scene as one of its most versatile improvisers. Since her arrival in Brooklyn in 1998, she has appeared on more than 50 records (leading or co-leading in excess of 30) and has extensively toured the United States, Australia, Canada, Europe, and Japan with the likes of Kenny Wollesen, Drew Gress, Mark Feldman, Ikue Mori, Evan Parker, Tony Oxley, Joëlle Léandre, Ellery Eskelin, Yusef Lateef, Ingrid Laubrock, and John Zorn. Universally acclaimed for her deep insight into the lofty architecture of sonic space, she has received awards from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Chamber Music America, and the New York Foundation for the Arts in addition to several honors from her birth-home, Switzerland. Photo by Caroline Mardok.
Vincent Davis traces his passion for music back to his childhood: growing up in a home constantly filled with music, he felt compelled to study drums and percussion at the Milwaukee Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of teacher and mentor Manty Ellis. His adoration of sound in all its intricacies is immediately apparent in the music he’s made with artists as diverse as Roscoe Mitchell, Marilyn Crispell, Arthur Blythe, Matthew Shipp, Hamid Drake, Jodie Christian, and Scott Fields. He is the founder of the ensemble Laws of Motion, percussionist on more than 30 recording sessions, and a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Photo by Janet Takeyama.
Easily one of the most sought-after percussionists in the world of jazz and improvised music, Hamid Drake incorporates an extensive battery of Afro-Cuban, Indian, and African instruments into his setup, affording him a creative flexibility which enlivens any and all musical environments to which he is a contributor. Drake’s career as a creative percussionist finds its roots in his relationship with Fred Anderson, whose workshops provided a venue to explore the intricacies of improvisation as an art and share ideas with AACM members like George Lewis. He has since charted out a remarkable journey, playing and recording with Peter Brotzmann, Ken Vandermark, Mahmoud Gania, and William Parker amongst countless others. Photo by Roberto Cifarelli.
Mark Dresser‘s self-proclaimed “obsession” is, happily enough, also his instrument of choice: he does not merely “play” the double-bass so much as speak it, expressing its every discernible nuance through use of extended technique and inventive amplification. His impressive oeuvre as an instrumentalist and bandleader boasts over one hundred forty recordings, highlights of which include projects with Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, Gerry Hemmingway, John Zorn, Tim Berne, Myra Melford, Matt Wilson, Nicole Mitchell, Bob Ostertag, and Joe Lovano. In addition to being a board member of the International Society of Bassists and the International Society of Improvised Music, Dresser is also one of the foremost scholars of the contrabass, winning a Fulbright Fellowship to study the instrument in Italy, and holding teaching positions at many universities in the U.S., including his current appointment at the the University of California, San Diego.
London-born, New York-affiliated and Bay Area-based, Liberty Ellman‘s controlled, harmony-rich musicianship has helped to shape the sound of 21st century jazz guitar-playing. Ellman has received praise and accolades in publications as wide-ranging as the Wall Street Journal, The Wire, JazzTimes, The New York Times, and Downbeat (where he was voted #1 Rising Star Guitarist of 2016 in the Critics Poll) for his subtle touch and unique ability to evoke tranquility while traversing indeterminate space. He is best known for his tenure in Henry Threadgill’s Zooid, but has also played and/or recorded with an enormous host of talents the likes of which include Joe Lovano, Myra Melford, Wadada Leo Smith, Butch Morris, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, Greg Osby, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Nels Cline, Somi, Nicole Mitchell, Matana Roberts, Ledisi, JD Allen, Michele Rosewoman, Adam Rudolph, Stephan Crump, Jonathan Finlayson, Okkyung Lee, and Ches Smith.
Heralded by the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD as a “brilliant and demanding technician,” James Fei‘s music is marked by a certain scientific rigor which catalyzes creativity, as his profound understanding of sonic structures illuminates unforeseen pathways leading to musical expressions which are truly “new.” Fei’s music exhibits dual-mastery of live electronics and reeds, ranging from the largest of the clarinets to the second-smallest of the saxophones. Serving as Professor of Electronic Arts in the music department at Mills College, Fei’s retinue of collaborators includes Roscoe Mitchell, Laetitia Sonami, and Chris Brown in addition to the constellation of improvising musicians orbiting around Anthony Braxton. His compositions have been performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, MATA Micro Orchestra, and Noord-Hollands Philharmonisch Orkest, and his music has been featured on stages world-round, including Roulette, The Stone, Steim (Amsterdam), SFMoma, Super Deluxe (Tokyo), and Taiwan’s National Recital Hall.
The music of clarinetist/composer Ben Goldberg plays with the fundamentals of sonic development in the same way that poetry glances and grins at literary meaning. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Goldberg’s post-secondary studies in music brought him to the Bay Area, where he studied with clarinetist Rosario Mazzeo at the University of California at Santa Cruz, leading him to pursue an M.A. in Music Composition from Mills College. A student of esteemed reedsmen ranging from Mazzeo to saxophonists Steve Lacy and Joe Lovano, Goldberg’s water-shed moment as an aspiring composer-improviser grew out of experimentation with bassist Dan Seamans and drummer Kenny Wollesen, resulting in the formation of New Klezmer Trio. Goldberg has since established himself as a Bay Area institution and one of the leading voices in clarinet-improvisation worldwide. Goldberg is the founder of BAG Productions and a prolific band-leader whose projects include The Out Louds, Invisible Guy, Unfold Ordinary Mind, Brainchild, and Orphic Machine.
Recently announced as a 2019 MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, Mary Halvorson’s inimitable musicianship has taken the New York creative music scene by storm, reformulating and revolutionizing traditional conceptions of the electric guitar’s role in jazz and improvisation in ways that have rippled out across the world. A prolific composer and bandleader, Halvorsen leads ensembles featuring some of the world’s finest talents including Ches Smith, Jonathan Finlayson, Ingrid Laubrock, Susan Alcorn, Amirtha Kidambi, and Tomas Fujiwara. She’s also worked with Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Bill Frisell, Jason Moran, Jessica Pavone, Tomeka Reid, and John Zorn amongst countless others. In addition to her prestigious MacArthur fellowship, Halvorson has received considerable accolades from publications as diverse as JazzTimes, City Arts, Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, NPR, Village Voice, and DownBeat.
The music of Darius Jones gales and glistens as his superlative melodic sensibility and superior command of the saxophone work in concert to produce spellbinding, air-enriching improvisations. Based in New York City since 2005, Jones is widely regarded by critics (including writers for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and DownBeat) as an exquisite musician who’s time-large, entirely singular artistry simultaneously engages African-American music’s rich history while presenting a compelling vision of its present, extending to the beyond in recording projects “evocative of Black Futurism.” His peerless creativity as a composer and performer has brought him to stages as elevated as Carnegie Hall and ensembles featuring all-time greats such as Gerald Cleaver, Oliver Lake, William Parker, Craig Taborn, Tyshawn Sorey, Amirtha Kidambi, Steve Lehman, Fay Victor, Matthew Shipp, and many others.
Myra Melford‘s skillful, impassioned musicianship weaves subtle silken thread through histories, cultures, and idioms as numerous as they are diverse. World-renowned as a pianist, educator, composer, and curator, Melford’s ambition is to integrate pedigree with nascence in music-making environments which rely on trust and spontaneity. She’s received honors from the Guggenheim and Doris Duke Foundations and has ranked in multiple DownBeat polls. In addition to teaching as Professor of Composition and Improvisational Practices at UC Berkeley, Myra regularly performs with Snowy Egret (her quintet featuring Ron Miles, Liberty Ellman, Stomu Takeishi, and Tyshawn Sorey) as well as in ensembles with Nicole Mitchell, Joëlle Léandre, Ben Goldberg, Miya Masaoka, and Zeena Parkins. Photo by Don Dixon.
Roscoe Mitchell is an internationally renowned musican, composer and innovator serving until recently as the Darius Milhaud Chair of Composition at Mills College. His virtuosic resurrection of overlooked woodwind instruments spanning extreme registers, visionary solo performances, and assertion of a hybrid compositional/improvisational paradigm have placed him at the forefront of contemporary music. Mr. Mitchell is a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and the Trio Space. His oeuvre boasts hundreds of albums and original works, ranging from passionate, forceful improvisations to ornate orchestral music, and his honors include distinction as an NEA Jazz Master, the United States Artist Award (2019), a CMA Presenting Jazz grant (2010), the Shifting Foundation Grant, and grants from The National Endowment for the Arts and Meet the Composer.
Composer, performer, and media artist Ikue Mori first came to prominence behind the drum kit for the pioneering no wave band DNA, flanked by Arto Lindsay and Tim Wright. She has since crafted one of the most distinct and acutely sensitive voices in the world of experimental improvisation through use of self-programmed drum machines and laptop. Her inimitable, scintillating electronics have proven to be an essential element to the works of John Zorn and she has collaborated with countless artists world-wide, including Dave Douglas, Susie Ibarra, Zeena Parkins, Sylvie Courvoisier, Fred Frith, the Rova Saxophone Quartet, and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth fame. Photo by Scott Irvine.
Patricia Nicholson‘s medium is dance, but her tireless dedication to art at-large merits terms more akin to “visionary” when attempting to describe her creative work. As a performer, she channels the energy and gestalt of free jazz in naturally-flowing movement patterns which take inspiration from traditional schools of dance while deliberately running obliquely to them. She primarily works with live musicians, including William Parker, Yoshiko Chuma, Don Cherry, Matthew Shipp, and KJ Holmes, but has also recently begun moving in harmony with multi-media art, spoken word, and theater. She’s also served as a curatorial bedrock, organizing important events like New York’s Vision Festival and leading as founder and director of Arts for Art since 1995.
Our bodies, the organic rhythm of daily life, and the inexorable momentum of the natural world are integrated into an ever-emergent symbiotic ecosystem in the works and life of the utterly singular dancer, Oguri. A co-founder of the Body Weather Laboratory (alongside Roxanne Steinberg), Oguri has worked to involve his Butoh-inspired somatic vocabulary in cross-disciplinary pursuits which suggest an artistic vision untroubled by matters of scale (to any extreme). He is artist-in-residence at the Electric Lodge in Venice, has served on the faculty at Bennington College, and has been awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, The Getty Center, the Japan Foundation, and the Doris Duke Fellowship. Photo by Moses Hacmon.
Larry Ochs is a living wellspring of inspiration to those fascinated with the saxophone and its multivalent potential for sculpting air and space. An icon of the Bay Area musical vanguard, Ochs is perhaps best known as co-founder of Rova Saxophone Quartet, contributing to that fabled ensemble his richly-enameled tone on tenor and sopranino saxophones . Ochs’s empassioned musicianship serves as proof-positive that timbre and emotive nuance are fundamental components of the substrate from which meaning in music can be unearthed, rather than shading or coloration in service of rhythm and pitch. He has served as executive director of Rova:Arts since 1987, and his contributions to the musical avantgarde have received commendation and support from Chamber Music America, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Meet the Composer.
Hailed by the Village Voice as “the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time,” William Parker‘s accomplishments as an instrumentalist, composer-improviser, educator, and author have garnered him a reputation as not only one of the most skilled practitioners of the art of improvisation, but also one of its most investigative minds. The sheer depth of his knowledge with regards to the field is staggering, and the music he makes with projects like the In Order to Survive Quartet and the Little Huey Creative Orchestra evinces a fathomless wisdom. A seminal icon of both the New York improvisation scene and the European avant-garde, Parker’s bass playing can be heard in his work with cross-continental icons like Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Peter Brotzmann, Milford Graves, Peter Kowald, and David S. Ware.
The work of Zeena Parkins is driven by a spirit of immaculate rigor and boundless creativity, making her one of the most sought-after artists in a stunning variety of disciplines: artistic and academic alike. Her innovative harp-technique is rivaled only by her inventive harp-design, as she employs both idiom-agnostic strategies for extending the sonic possibilities of the acoustic harp and electric instruments of her own making. Her 30+ year career has been decorated by honors as prestigious as the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Doris Duke Award; multiple international residencies and museum features; and of course, innumerable collaborations with visual artists, filmmakers, dancers, and fellow musicians calculating Ikue Mori, Björk, Butch Morris, John Zorn, Fred Frith, Pauline Oliveros, Kaffe Matthews, and Mandy MacIntosh. She currently holds the Darius Milhaud Chair in Composition at Mills College.
Chicago born and raised, Junius Paul has quickly established himself as one of the world’s most impressive rising talents, contributing his expertise on both upright and electric basses to the music of history’s most recognized acts, including Fred Anderson, Roscoe Mitchell, Roy Hargrove, Curtis Fuller, Donald Byrd and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. He performs regularly in a wide variety of genres, “ranging from jazz to hip-hop, house, funk, classical, and gospel” and is a fixture of the international touring scene, with notable appearances at the Southport Weekender Festival in England, the Sons d’hiver Festival in Paris, and the Ghana Jazz Festival. His exciting debut album as a bandleader releases in November of 2019 on the International Anthem label.
Cherished for both his driving rhythms and percussive subtlety, Donald Robinson’s exceptional talent for improvisation has made him a mainstay of the Bay Area new music scene for decades. Boston-born, his journey as a student of music charts course from New England Conservatory, where he studied classical percussion, to Paris, where he developed his voice as an improviser under the tutelage of Kenny Clarke while playing with Alan Silva, Anthony Braxton, Oliver Lake, and Bobby Few (to name a handful). Robinson’s playing is visceral though empathetically interactive, masterfully striking the ever-elusive balance between independence and coordination sought after in improvised music’s interpersonal counterpoint.
Elliott Sharp is an iconic figure of New York City’s music and art scenes on account of his wide-reaching talents as a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and bandleader. His uninhibited creativity on the guitar finds focus from his affinity for synthesis, as he incorporates concepts from mathematics and the hard-sciences into his compositional and improvisatory practice alike. He has worked with Radio-Sinfonie Frankfurt, Debbie Harry, Ensemble Modern, the Kronos String Quartet, Jack deJohnette, Oliver Lake, Sonny Sharrock, and Christian Marclay amongst many others. His music, including scores and sound-design for feature films, documentaries, and television networks, has been honored by the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Parson’s Center for Transformative Media, and the prestigious Berlin Prize in Musical Composition. Photo by Sascha Rheker.
A starfire polymath and font of artistic ingenuity, Jen Shyu‘s performance practice is literally unclassifiable on account of the sheer breadth of her expertise. Her spellbinding creations incorporate her award-winning vocal talents, virtuosity on multiple instruments, expression through movement, and visionary stage-design to inspire and exhilarate audiences world-wide. Her solo performances and work as a vocalist and instrumentalist with the likes of Nicole Mitchell, Anthony Braxton, Steve Coleman, and Chris Potter have brought her to the most highly-esteemed stages in the world, including Carnegie Hall, The Lincoln Center, the Ojai Festival, the National Gugak Center, and the National Theater of Korea. At present, one can anticipate her performances to feature some combination of piano, violin, Taiwanese moon lute, Chinese er hu, Japanese biwa, Korean gayageum, Korean soribuk, and Korean kkwaenggwari. Photo by Gretchen Robinette.
The music of Newark-born polymath, composer, multi-instrumentalist, educator, and MacArthur fellow Tyshawn Sorey is distinguished by systematic rigor, nuanced complexity, and startling virtuosity. It is consequently of little-to-no surprise that his retinue of collaborators includes many of modern music’s most venerable luminaries, including John Zorn, Vijay Iyer, Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, Wadada Leo Smith, Marilyn Crispell, George Lewis, Anthony Braxton, and Myra Melford amongst innumerable others. One of the world’s most skillful drummer-percussionists, he is also an accomplished pianist and trombonist. His work as a composer exhibits an agnostic indifference to the strictures of genre and idiom, as he strives to draw from “the totality of all different musics” when assembling unique sonological palettes – each one formed precisely to suit the thematic and methodological needs of a given piece. Photo by John Rogers.
William Winant‘s incomparable virtuosity as a percussionist has emboldened composers as esteemed as Steve Reich, John Zorn, and Roscoe Mitchell to entrust him with the task of realizing some of history’s most demanding scores – a task he regularly executes with astonishing aplomb. Such efforts were awarded with a Grammy nomination for his recording of John Cage’s 27′ 10.554” for solo percussion in 2016. His precision and expertise serve as a deep foundation bolstering a profoundly compositional improvisatory dialect, which he has contributed to music featuring fellow legends including Frank Zappa, Keith Jarrett, Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, George Lewis, Annea Lockwood, Sonic Youth, Yo-Yo Ma, and the Kronos String Quartet.