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Festival changes its tune
The focus of the New Dischord Festival is changing this year, from experimental new music to intermedia works in which artists create outside their traditional disciplines. This year's festival is June 6-9 in several Chattanooga venues.
The new direction began when festival founder Tim Hinck found his interest in creating new music waning so much that he didn't feel much like producing a festival devoted to it. He considered killing the four-year-old festival, but poet and friend Aubrey Lenahan suggested he refocus it instead on the kind of work that still interested him.
The two shared an interest bringing experimental artists to Chattanooga from other cities, as well as a frustration with the lack of peer critique in Chattanooga's arts scene.
"There are a lot of experimental artists here and in other cities. What if we connected them?" Hinck recalls asking.
"We started saying, 'Where do you have people, where do I have people?'" recalls Lenahan.
The new version of New Dischord not only features experimental artists from Chattanooga, DC, New York, Atlanta, Montreal, and Savannah but kicks off a "satellite collective" among them.
"The idea is for Chattanooga to be part of a very specific network of cities," says Lenahan, "not just bringing in artists that live anywhere, but actually targeting communities, trying to figure out what their conversation is about by visiting them and seeing their work, and then having those artists come to our town and add their ideas to what we're doing."
"It's not just about popping in and seeing work, but rather studying and giving verbal feedback on site at the event," says Hinck. For him, the model for this kind of dialogue comes from talkbacks at the arts residency series he and painter Ashley Hamilton host at their Easy Lemon studio space.
"That moment when the person finishes presenting their work and sits down and three people start talking at the same time, that is electricity," he says.
Similarly, Lenahan recalls listening to one particular poet. "She was reading all these poems dealing with masculinity in the Hardy Boys and I'd been writing a lot of poems about Nancy Drew from a feminist lens." Because of the face-to-face meeting, the two poets began a conversation that night and now have an ongoing email exchange.
What the 20-plus artists participating in this year's New Dischord festival have in common is that they are working outside the confines of the media in which they were trained. The festival includes musical composition, visual art, theater, movement and poetry.
"Intermedia is a single person using and propagating their ideas through various disciplines," says Hinck.
Violinist Malcolm Goldstein, for example, "gives performances that are equally movement and sound," says Hinck. "He embodies or inhabits the stage. Movement and sound come from same place.
"Most of the festival artists begin from composition or sound," he continues, "but they are working in a very intermedia world, so their work is no longer just sound performance. The place where a lot of this multidisciplinary work comes together is almost theatrical. It will always look a little bit like theater."
New Dischord is intended to be a sustained four-day conversation that begins this week in Chattanooga and continues in other cities. For example, DC poet Alyse Knorr and Lenahan will both perform at New Dischord, and again in July in DC.
"Between these two events, she and I are going to have lots of conversations about how in DC we can extend the conversation we started in Chattanooga," says Lenahan.
"That's the ideal form of intermedia,” says Hinck. "It's not just that we travel outside to perform our work and host people who perform here, but that in-between and during these events we're having a conversation that we can build upon. It's an ongoing conversation that places Chattanooga around the table with these other experimental arts communities."