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The Arts
May 31-June 7, 2006

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Burhan Sukarma

Two bronze gongs and a microphone: Burhan Sukarma's suling bamboo flute is where it's at.


New Music Works prepares for a rockin' Avant Garden Party

By Leyna Krow

In celebration of eclectic rhythms, unique instruments and the musical potential of bamboo, New Music Works will be hosting its 25th annual Avant Garden Party on Sunday, June 4. New Music Works, an organization dedicated to exposing the public to the lesser-known genres of contemporary music, has been putting on concerts throughout the Bay Area by living composers since 1979. Its Avant Garden Party is New Music Works' way of celebrating the culmination of each year's concert series.

The party, which will be held this year at Blue Bamboo's Grove (an aptly named bamboo grove behind the Ocean Street nursery), was originally the brainchild of New Music Works artistic director Phil Collins and composer and former Cabrillo College faculty member Lou Harrison.

Collins, who held the Avant Garden Party in his own backyard for 20 years, attributes much of his own success in the realm of new music to Harrison, who passed away in 2002.

"He always encouraged me to put on my own concerts and do things myself," Collins said of Harrison. "He'd frequently turn down more money to be able to do his own thing. He was often quoted as saying 'I prefer to be an amateur.'"

This year's Avant Garden Party is titled "Bamboo Muse" and will feature music from Southeast Asia and Japan. Partygoers should keep an ear open for performances by UCSC Gamelan, who play Sundanese music using a gift set of heirloom instruments from the Republic of Indonesia, as well as Crystal Trinity, who utilize crystal and bronze singing bowls to create unique tones and rhythms. Established New Music Works fans and first-timers alike will also enjoy original compositions by Harrison and Collins as well as suling bamboo flute virtuoso Burhan Sukarma.

"It's a great experience for a newcomer to New Music," says Collins "It's in a beautiful setting where people can walk around and get food. It's not as forced as concert seating."

Indeed those in attendance are encouraged to mingle and sample food by master chefs India Jozseph Schultz and David Jackman as they roam the Grove.

More than just an urban bamboo garden, the Grove is also home to one of most innovative art installations this side of the Pacific--living bamboo stalks with hollow bamboo segments attached horizontally between the stalks to create a unique, percussive instrument. At 40 feet tall, this creation is quite something to see--and hear.

"It's alive," says Collins of this bamboo creation. "It's still growing, but it's also an instrument. It's the most holistic combination."

Along with music and food, the Garden Party will also feature a silent auction, the proceeds of which go to New Music Works, and a raffle for a Hawaiian holiday vacation. "It's exciting," says Collins. "Usually the prize is a free day at the Boardwalk."

The Avant Garden Party's theme varies from year to year but always features contemporary music from around the globe. Last year's party included acts from West Africa and the Pacific Rim. Regardless of the kind of music being played, the event inevitably draws a crowd, and Collins is confident that this year will be no different.

"I've always enjoyed bringing creativity to a different venues, and doing things outdoors in Santa Cruz is so perfect," said Collins. "I don't want to live in a community that didn't do something like this."

The Avant Garden Party happens Sunday, June 4, 3-7pm, at Blue Bamboo, 2115 Ocean St. Ext., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $25-$35 adv/$30-$40 door, available at Street Light Records, Santa Cruz Civic Box Office or call 831.423.8597.

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