There will be no swarming mass of drunken fans at the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival. It won't involve a thousand glow sticks, wearing the same grimy wristband for three days, or spending half a month's salary on tickets. It won't take place on a giant field -- or even in a concert hall. This year's venues are Brava Theater Center and the California Academy of Sciences. The festival caters to discerning music listeners, with a focus on experimental composers and musicians who incorporate multimedia projects or performance art into their sound. Here is a guide to this year's offerings.
Thursday, Sept. 12. $10-$12
Offering the most bang for your buck festival-wise, Thursday night features a mixture of sounds, art, and education. Maggi Payne presents water-inspired music in the coral reef gallery, instrument designers Donald Swearingen and Cheryl Leonard will lead interactive presentations about instrument creation, and the synthesizer group I/O Music Technology will teach the fine art of using modular synthesizers.
There will also be music from the L.A.-based electronic duo Lucky Dragons, plus sets by local DJs Geeta Dayal, Dominique Leone, and Joshua Kit Clayton.
Brava Theater Center, Fri Sept. 13 -- Sun, Sept. 15. $12-$25
The rest of the festival features three concerts and a panel discussion to honor the 100th anniversary of Luigi Russolo's futurist manifesto, The Art of Noises. In Noises, Russolo argued that the human ear had become accustomed to the sounds of machines and industrialization, and that this required a new approach to musical creation. The discussion will precede Friday night's concert, and is moderated by music writer and DJ Geeta Dayal.
The musical offerings are diverse, with more than 20 local and international artists booked. "We try to have a mix of people who are heavy hitters, combined with people who are emerging artists doing quality work," says Pamela Z, one of the organizers.
A few of her standout picks for this year are progressive techno producer Thomas Koner, French guitar player and sound looper Richard Pinhas, and Laetitia Sonami's performance of a piece composed by her mentor and electronic music pioneer, Eliane Radigue. Another performance to watch this year is the collaboration between Bay Area visual artists Joshua Churchill and John Davis, who created a piece that incorporates film and sound. Their collaboration from a January show at Shapeshifters Cinema in Oakland can be seen below.
The San Francisco Electronic Music Festival starts Thursday, Sept. 12 (and runs through Sept. 15) at the California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park, and Brava Theater Center, 2871 24th St., S.F. Tickets are $12-$45; visit sfemf.org.