To Mark Charlotte Street's 20 Years, Kansas City Musicians Plan A Sonic Space/Time Warp

Sep 27, 2017

Humans tend to take time and space as a given. We are assured that in 60 seconds, a minute will have passed; after 59 more it will have been an hour. We assume our living spaces will not suddenly develop new real estate behind the closet wall. We generally understand objects' physicality and can discern area through depth perception and touch. Most of us (author not included) are aware enough of the actual reach of our limbs so as not to knock fragile objects to floors.

It’s when we lose these orientations that we can begin to feel uneasy. Bereft of a sense, we seek to strengthen our other senses. Denied light, space and the concept of time, we'd likely rely on sound. This would be intense and disorienting — which is essentially the point of a performance this weekend.

“My primary interest in music is its unique ability to elicit an incredible range of emotional and intellectual responses through sound alone,” says Brad Cox, one of the musicians involved.

“Time's Not Listening,” on Saturday, September 30, at the Folly Theater, is the musical centerpiece of the Charlotte Street Foundation's 20th-anniversary "Every Street is Charlotte Street" celebration, a year-long series of performances and programs by more than a hundred artists involving 20 venues and organizations across the city.

Jeff Harshbarger received a Charlotte Street Foundation Generative Performing Artist Award in 2015.
Credit Courtesy Jeff Harshbarger

For this show, five winners of Charlotte Street Foundation fellowships and awards intend to use the structure of the Folly itself to challenge the audience’s relationship to time and space, and influence that relationship through sound.

Each player/composer comes from a different corner of Kansas City’s polyphonic music scene. Together, the group promises to create what’s billed as “hypnotic and melodic performances.”

Representing the jazz corner of the city are Cox, founder and director of the Brad Cox Octet and the People’s Liberation Big Band (and the owner and co-founder of the Owen/Cox Dance Group), and Jeff Harshbarger, the venerable Kansas City bassist, bandleader, radio host and composer (he's also in Cox's ensemble).

Representing more international perspectives are Patrick Alonzo Conway and Amado Espinoza.

Conway is a percussionist, wind player and composer who, among other pursuits, leads the Balinese group Gamelan Genta Kasturi. Guest starring with him on Saturday will be electronic artist Shawn Hansen, in a performance, Hansen promises, “has elements of structured improvisation and a composed section that incorporates traditional Balinese concepts of composition fused with Western harmonies.”

Patrick Alonzo Conway is a former Charlotte Street-Urban Culture Project Studio Resident and winner of a Charlotte Street Foundation Generative Performing Artist Fellow Award.
Credit Courtesy Charlotte Street Foundation

Espinoza, who is originally from Bolivia, plays more than 40 instruments (including Latin, African and Arabic percussion) and native flutes from around the world. He's also the artistic director of “We Are The Landscape” (a theatrical production promoting indigenous ideals).

Rounding out the line-up is Ashley Miller, an electronic music, performance and visual artist known for his wit, humor and dedication to the Kansas City art scene.

Gentlemen of this caliber wouldn’t be content with merely presenting hypnotizing melodies, and they intend to keep audience members on their toes throughout the performance.

The nooks and crannies of the art-deco Folly Theater make it a fitting labyrinth for a performance in which we never know what might be lurking just around the corner. The composers say they have been given free rein of the theater and are expected to put its unused spaces to work in eccentric ways.

Some of the pieces will begin in the audience and end onstage, while others will have musical conversations with players placed throughout.

Other components of the performance will involve the use of technology, such as a composition played on cell phones and another involving a tower of speakers in which each one will initially put out a different sound before slowly compounding to produce one dissonate sound from a single speaker. Some pieces and players will come from unidentified sources to challenge the audience’s sense of orientation.

If all goes as planned,  it might really feel like as if sound is the only thing that’s real. As if  time and space might not exist. And in an age that grows more disorienting by the minute, it seems an appropriate way to celebrate the passage of two decades.

CSF Presents: Time's Not Listening, 8 p.m. Saturday, September 30 at the Folly Theater, 300 West 12th Street, Kansas City, Missouri, 64105; 816-474-4444.

Monique Gabrielle Salazar is a Kansas City freelance writer, artist and producer. She can be reached at mgswrites@gmail.com.