The 2020 Frequency Festival announces a lineup of world-class experimental music | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

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The 2020 Frequency Festival announces a lineup of world-class experimental music

Highlights include a fusion of Carnatic music and jazz, a solo vocal piece for Diamond Reynolds, and programs of work by Eliane Radigue and Annea Lockwood.

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New Zealand-born composer Annea Lockwood, who turned 80 this year, is well-known for her use of environmental recordings. - NICOLE TAVENNER
  • Nicole Tavenner
  • New Zealand-born composer Annea Lockwood, who turned 80 this year, is well-known for her use of environmental recordings.

In spring 2013, Reader music critic Peter Margasak launched the Frequency Series at north-side venue Constellation, opened earlier that year by drummer, composer, and impresario Mike Reed. His intent was to bring experimental and new classical music together on a stage that also hosted jazz and improvised music, reasoning that audiences would find commonalities between them.

Margasak left the Reader more than a year ago. Since July, he's been based in Berlin, where he's freelancing, preparing a podcast about that city's musicians, and working on a book about Chicago's genre-hopping 1990s music scene. But he's still presenting music in Chicago: the Frequency Series continues, and Margasak has just announced the lineup for the fifth Frequency Festival, an annual event that celebrates the series and extends its reach beyond Constellation to the rest of the city. "Mike Reed was supportive of my move and has welcomed me to keep programming the series and the festival from abroad," he explains by e-mail from Berlin. "I love organizing both things and doing what I can to help foster support for Chicago's contemporary and experimental music communities."

Early on, most artists booked for the Frequency Series came from Chicago. But the 2020 festival, which runs from Monday, February 24, till Sunday, March 1, will include performers from the east and west coasts as well as from Australia, Belgium, Canada, and Mexico. "It's the biggest edition of the festival yet, with more out-of-town musicians than ever," says Margasak. "I think the stylistic range is unique among festivals happening in Chicago." The program features music by two octogenarian women composers, Annea Lockwood and Eliane Radigue. It will also include several solo performances of acoustic and electronic music; two duos that incorporate jazz and Indian music; and one concert by Chicago-based ensemble Aperiodic.

Oren Ambarchi, Crys Cole

Mon 2/24, 8:30 PM, Constellation, 3111 N. Western

Australian multi-instrumentalist Oren Ambarchi has played metal, ambient, and freely improvised music with the likes of Sunn O))), Jim O'Rourke, and Keiji Haino. Canadian sound artist Crys Cole uses everyday objects, amplification, and deliberate crossings of the boundary between performing and listening to invite the audience to reconsider its relationship to what it hears. While the two of them have recorded and performed together, at this event they will play separate solo concerts.

  • A track from Oren Ambarchi's 2019 album Simian Angel
  • A 2015 recording by Crys Cole

Jacob Wick, solo and with Phil Sudderberg

Tue 2/25, 6:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago

Jacob Wick's 2019 solo LP, Feel (Thin Wrist), uses extended trumpet techniques and a concept he terms "queer space" to destabilize assumed relationships between players and listeners as well as between musicians and the settings in which they play. Wick, who grew up in Glencoe and lives in Mexico City, will also revive his splendid duo with local drummer Phil Sudderberg.


Nate Wooley will participate in three Frequency Festival events this year. - ZIGA KORTNICK
  • Ziga Kortnick
  • Nate Wooley will participate in three Frequency Festival events this year.

Julia Eckhardt and Nate Wooley play Eliane Radigue

Wed 2/26, 8 PM, Bond Chapel at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn (copresented by the Renaissance Society)

Charles Curtis plays Eliane Radigue

Thu 2/27, 7 PM, Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan, $5-$10, all ages

French composer Eliane Radigue (b. 1932) recorded exclusively long-form electronic music until 2004. That year she began devising similarly durational acoustic music for a select group of players, among them cellist Charles Curtis and trumpeter Nate Wooley (both Americans) and violist Julia Eckhardt (who lives in Belgium). At these concerts, the musicians will each perform pieces written specifically for them.

  • Nate Wooley discusses working with Eliane Radigue.

Annea Lockwood portrait concert with Aperiodic and Nate Wooley

Fri 2/28, 8:30 PM, Constellation, 3111 N. Western

Annea Lockwood: A Sound Map of the Danube opening reception and talk with Nate Wooley

Sat 2/29, 2 PM, Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N. Ravenswood, all ages

Annea Lockwood was born in 1939 in New Zealand, but she's been based in the U.S. for decades. She has used recordings of outdoor environments and body processes, such as a cat purring, to make music that acknowledges the power of natural forces. She will be present for performances of her music by local new-music group Aperiodic (a recurrent participant in the Frequency Series) and by Wooley, who will perform solo. Lockwood will also be present at the opening reception for her installation A Sound Map of the Danube.


Keith Fullerton Whitman makes his first Chicago appearance in six years at the 2020 Frequency Festival. - ROBERT SZKOLNICKI
  • Robert Szkolnicki
  • Keith Fullerton Whitman makes his first Chicago appearance in six years at the 2020 Frequency Festival.

Keith Fullerton Whitman, John McCowen

Sat 2/29, 8:30 PM, Constellation, 3111 N. Western

Keith Fullerton Whitman is an American electronic musician whose work has encompassed chaotic improvisations, user-friendly minimalism, and radically ramped-up drum 'n' bass. During the six years since his previous Chicago appearance, he's moved to Australia and back again and switched from releasing music through conventional record labels to issuing it with zero fanfare on Bandcamp; these days his concerts draw equally upon digital processing and analog sound generation. John McCowen is an American clarinetist whose most recent recording, Mundanas I-V (Edition Wandelweiser), explores timbral extremes.

  • A Keith Fullerton Whitman recording from 2017

Rajna Swaminathan & Ganavya Doraiswamy

Sun 3/1, 2 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, free, all ages

Mridangam player Rajna Swaminathan is an associate of jazz pianist Vijay Iyer. Her recent album Of Agency and Abstraction (Biophilia), which features singer Ganavya Doraiswamy on a couple tracks, proposes a combination of jazz and Carnatic (southern Indian classical) music.


Katinka Kleijn, Julian Otis

Sun 3/1, 8:30 PM, Constellation, 3111 N. Western

Dutch cellist Katinka Kleijn is a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and maintains an improvisational duo with guitarist Bill MacKay; as a composer, she has created several site-specific performance pieces. Her solo program will include at least two premieres: a piece by Nathan Davis for cello and electronics and a piece by Aliya Ultan for cello and Mylar, both of which foreground the exploration of resonance.

  • Julian Otis performs Julius Eastman's Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan of Arc as part of the 2018 Frequency Festival.

Julian Otis is a Chicago-based singer whose repertoire includes works by 20th-century African American composer and performer Julius Eastman. He will premiere Anthony R. Green's solo piece for voice and movement, Empathy I: Diamond Reynolds, which the composer describes as "an opportunity to process the inner emotional life of Reynolds's witness to the death of her boyfriend, Philando Castile."  v

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