Daydream Nation 

Make your own damn sense out of the avant-noise project SpectralSpace.

Experimental and avant-garde concerts tend to inspire something special -- and guilt-inducing -- in most people. Namely, daydreams. "Am I missing some deeper message?" you wonder guiltily as you drift back into your own personal music video, that uneasy question left unanswered.

Take heart: At least one musician is sympathetic.

"I am not saying anything with my music," insists Pacifica resident and electronic composer Kim Cascone. "There is no meaning or message -- the listener provides that. They construct meaning by making associations: 'That sounds like rusted chains scraping against the hulls of sunken ships, or one hundred hummingbirds outside my window, or a misty bog at night.' None of this is intended by me, but is called up in the listener."

Cascone came to international prominence after founding the now-defunct Silent Records, an SF label that was arguably the country's premiere outlet for electronic music in the late '80s and early '90s. A trained musician and theorist, he's composed his own works since the '70s, developed audio software for video games, and worked as a music editor with filmmaker David Lynch.

SpectralSpace, the solo piece Cascone will perform at Mills College Monday night, is an ongoing project that combines found sounds, stereo panning, and other sonic effects to create a dense, heavily textured field of sculpted noise. The intention, he says, is to create music so rich and layered that the audience literally can't absorb it all simultaneously. Instead, each listener must choose which parts to focus on, and decide what those parts mean. In effect, everyone subconsciously creates a unique piece of music from Cascone's wealth of material.

Sounds tough, but Cascone points out this should be second nature to anyone used to navigating the flood of music, images, news, and advertising that washes over us daily. "In our age of media overload, the human mind is being rewired," he says. "The public has adapted to this condition by enlarging their ability to simultaneously consume multiple streams of information. I wanted to deal with overload and multiplexing information -- how do we deal with the fire hose of information on a cognitive level?"

The experiment isn't just for the audience, either. As he plays, Cascone's computer randomly selects sounds from a vast library he's built over the past few years. Without knowing what's coming, he mixes these sounds on the fly; this ensures that no two performances ever sound the same. Of course, if Monday's Mills audience yields a pack of active daydreamers, even that one performance won't sound the same anyway.


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