Over the last four years, Oh My Ears has hosted ambitious musical events in the Valley. In addition to putting on concerts throughout the year that spotlight the works of experimental ensembles and modern composers, they also put on an annual "marathon" show, featuring 10 hours of back-to-back new music. But for this year's fifth annual marathon, OME are changing their tune: The marathon has become a full-blown festival.
When asked about the change in format, OME founder Elizabeth Kennedy Bayer says that the term "marathon" is more prevalent when it comes to new music concerts in cities like New York and L.A. "I was doing my performances here a disservice by using a term that's never been used in Phoenix before," she says. "I changed it to a festival because people are more familiar with that format."
Bayer says another advantage of switching to the festival format is that it lets OME group and schedule shows together in a way that gives concertgoers more freedom to pick and choose what they want to see, and they can spread that out over a few days.
While the format for OME's big event has changed, their mission is still the same: to showcase new music sounds that you won't hear at any other festival in Arizona. Here's what you need to know about the event.
Dates: OME kicks off on Thursday, January 25, and concludes on Sunday, January 28.
Locations: It's a multivenue festival, with shows taking place at The Trunk Space, Phoenix Center for the Arts' Third Street Theatre, FilmBar, Megaphone PHX, and two locations at Phoenix College (the Eric Fischl Gallery and Sessions Hall).
What Is New Music? If you're wondering what constitutes "new music," the term refers to modern classical and experimental music. Think composers like Robert Ashley, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Tony Conrad, John Cage, Xenakis, and Glenn Branca. Much of new music blends classical orchestral traditions with ambient music, electronics, and even noise.
Even if you've never listened to "new music," you've probably listened to bands heavily influenced by them. Groups like Sonic Youth, Swans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Velvet Underground, Brian Eno, pretty much every post-rock band ever: All of them owe musical debts to sounds and ideas that emerged from the new music world.
Parking: All the concerts take place in Phoenix, so good parking can be hard to come by. Most of the venues like Trunk Space and FilmBar have dedicated parking lots, so you shouldn't have to shell out at the meters. Better to bring a pocketful of quarters, though, to be on the safe side.
Prices: OME offers a couple of options. You can buy tickets to individual concerts, or purchase festival passes that offer access to all the shows. Prices for individual concerts can vary from $5 to $12 (and there are a couple pay-what-you-can shows, too). Festival passes are available as general tickets for $50 or as VIP tickets for $100. VIP tickets come with a festival shirt, an album of new music, and an invite to a VIP happy hour with the musicians. Student passes ($30) are also available to anyone who is currently seeking a degree. All tickets and passes can be purchased in advance via OME's online store.
Third Street Theatre at Phoenix Center for the Arts (7 p.m.): Black Air, Josh Hill, Evan Runyon, Melissa Malork, David Wegehaupt ($10 to $12)
The Trunk Space (9:30 p.m.): Emiddio Vasquez, Vedran Mehinovic ($5 to $6)
Megaphone PHX (5 p.m.): Kristilyn Woods, Triceratops, Julia Lougheed and Friends, Kristi Hanno ($5-$7)
Eric Fischl Gallery at Phoenix College (6 p.m.): Jessica Tsang, Hunter Long, Alexander Miller, Nick Norton (pay what you can via BRAVO app)
Third Street Theatre at Phoenix Center for the Arts (8 p.m.): B1 presents "Metal Music", Tetra String Quartet, Improv Poetry Orchestra with Elisabeth Blair and the OME House Band ($10 to $12)
Megaphone PHX (5 p.m.): Kin of the Moon, RE: New Music (Robin Meiksins and Emily Mehigh), Amber Walker ($5 to $7)
Sessions Hall at Phoenix College (7:30 p.m.): Elizabeth A. Baker, Maiani da Silva, Karolina Rojahn, The Furies, Karl Schindler, Bask, Naoko Garrison (pay what you can w/ BRAVO app)
The Trunk Space (9:30 p.m.): New Music Sleepover with Meghan Ihnen, Julius Bucsis, Qais Essar ($5 to $6)
Megaphone PHX (3 p.m.): Paradise Winds, Keith Kelly, Julia Lougheed and Friends ($5 to $6)
FilmBar Phoenix (6 p.m.): Keith Kelly, Josh Bennett, Composers/Improvisers Big Band, Michael Krassner and Friends ($5 to $7)
How to Find out More About the Performers: The OME festival page has links to event pages for every concert, and those event pages have links to most of the artists' work. The OME Facebook page is also a great resource, as they've been highlighting a different festival performer every day and offering information about what they're planning to do at the festival.
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Must-See Shows: When asked about new additions to this year’s OME, Bayer singles out two shows for being unique, never-before-seen happenings for the fest.
“On Friday we’re doing a thing called the Improv Poetry Orchestra," she says. "We’re working with Four Chambers, who’ll be bringing the poets. We’ll improvising the poetry and the music at the same time. What the poets will be writing - that’ll be projected on-screen while a large ensemble of musicians react in real time to the poetry that’s being created.”
For festivalgoers looking for a more cozy experience, Saturday’s New Music Sleepover will be the place to be.
"Mezzo Meghan Innen commissioned new modern lullabies to be premiered at our festival,” Bayer says. Along with Afghan composer/rabab player Qais Essar and guitarist/electronics composer Julius Bucsis, the trio will serenade concertgoers in the courtyard of Grace Church. “There’s going to be blankets and a cereal bar and hot chocolate,” Bayer adds.
What to Bring: Cash and card for food, merch, and the occasional parking meter. A pair of earplugs can come in handy for some of the more dissonant pieces at the festival. The festival will be doing several shows as pay what you can via the BRAVO tipping app, so you may wanna have that cued up on on your phone. And of course, a pillow is a must-have for New Music Sleepover attendees looking to achieve maximum snug-as-a-bug-ness.