For most of us, the term "electronic music" conjures up visions of drum 'n' bass DJs generating rump-shaking beats or the synthesizer-driven pop music of Kraftwerk. But the rather fuzzy classification was first used to refer to the experimental noodlings of avant-garde musicians. And according to local sound artist Pamela Z, the Bay Area has long been a hotbed for innovators of such experimental noises. Z and her genre-busting band of co-curators have organized the sixth annual San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, with four nights of performances that push the boundaries of this aural art form.
The lineup ranges from legendary S.F.-based Tape Music Center co-founder Morton Subotnick, who presents a multichannel surround-sound piece generated by his personal computer, to a reunion of local heroes the Hub, whose collaborative works treat the computer network as a complex musical instrument. But lest you think that this music fest is all laptop-generated bleeps and blips and robotic knob-twiddling, several artists combine acoustic instruments with, uh, unconventional electronic gewgaws. Most notable is Yugoslavian-born Victoria Jordanova's use of the sex toy as musical accessory; she plays her concert harp with a Japanese-made Fukuoko finger vibrator on each digit and then processes it electronically into a swirling soundscape. Other performances include an appearance by sound installation artist Matt Heckert and an interactive, theatrical-based music piece from gal* in_dog. Chaos Butterfly, Eric Glick Rieman, and George Lewis open the festival Thursday at 8:30 p.m. (and shows continue through Sunday) at the SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is $15 nightly, a festival pass is $45; call 863-1414 or visit www.sfemf.org.
-- Jane Tunks
Keeping Up With the Jones
Ron Jones is best known for The Third Wave, a story about an educational experiment in fascist social construction, written in 1972. After the Third Wave hoopla, though, Jones got a job at a rec center in San Francisco and coached an undefeated Special Olympics basketball team for 30 years. He also wrote several books and was nominated for a Pulitzer during that time; When God Winked is Jones' new play, chronicling his experiences at the rec center and his continued quest for enlightenment. The curtain goes up at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday through Sept. 16 at the Marsh Berkeley at the Gaia Building, 2120 Allston (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Admission is $10-22; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Tap Tap Tap
Arthur Duncan live!
For those of us who associate tap dancing with unctuous Rat Pack members and hepcats singing scat, the artists of the 2005 Bay Area Tap Festival are about to ... well, probably not altogether alter your stereotypes, but at least add a little swing to them. Aside from offering workshops in body music and soft shoe, the big names of tap are also performing in this lively variety show. They include Arthur Duncan, who first made his name as a song-and-dance man on The Lawrence Welk Show, and Channing Cook-Holmes, who experienced brutal extremes as a tap dancer in Gangs of New York and cast member of the kitschy theatrical sensation known as Riverdance. The concert featuring Duncan starts Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Tickets are $18-22; call 294-4941 or visit www.stepology.com for a complete festival schedule.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
Five Points Profile
The kids aren't all right
Patsy Cline once sang, "If I could see the world through the eyes of a child, what a wonderful world this would be." But those "Feed the Children" commercials tell a sadder story. Award-winning playwright Timothy Mason, who has built a career on tracing childhood suffering through turbulent periods in U.S. history, returns with the fourth installment in ACT's Young Conservatory New Plays Program, Mullen's Alley. Based on Jacob Riis' classic exposé How the Other Half Lives and featuring seven actors aged 13 to 17, the play chronicles the brutal hardships faced by youthful slum-dwellers in the Five Points neighborhood of Industrial Revolution-era New York City, where children are forced into harsh labor, even crime, in order to survive. Mullen's Alley opens Friday night at 7:30 (and continues through Aug. 28) at the Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 749-2228 or visit www.zeum.org.
-- Josh Rotter
The group show "Transmigration" draws from a deep well: the 12 previous AfroSolo festivals and 25 years of performances from Cultural Odyssey. Among the repeat acts will be Idris Ackamoor in An American Griot, a portrait of a jazz musician; Venus Opal Reese in Split Ends; and Concrete Jungle from the Medea Project, a group Rhodessa Jones founded to rehabilitate female inmates using the performing arts. The show opens Thursday at 8 p.m. (and continues through Sunday) at the Buriel Clay Theater, 762 Fulton (at Webster), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 292-1850 or visit www.culturalodyssey.org.
-- Michael Leaverton