The Gatherings is a series of musical performances presented in the very beautiful, historic and very resonant St Mary’s Church on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, in the Hamilton Village section of Philadelphia. The sound and tonal qualities, along with the acoustics of the building and the sanctuary inside which they’re held, could make a symphony of rattling trash cans.
The series, which has been going on since 1992, features mostly American musicians, with the occasional foreign visitor whose music is in the space music genre. The final show of last year’s season included Dieter Moebius, Hans Joachem Roedelius, Dwight Ashley, and Tim Story; I’ll review it soon to get you further psyched for this season, which will be a knockout. As Chuck van Zyl, the creator of The Gatherings and Star’s End, a weekly radio show which he also hosts, says, St Mary’s is “a serene space ideal for experiencing atmospheric sounds of spontaneous creation.”
Space music is so much more than just music. To disinter a saying from the 1960s, “It’s a happening, man!”
The Gatherings Concert Series 2009 season welcomes Saul Stokes with Jason Sloan on 18 April; Ben Neill on 16 May; Jóhann Jóhannsson with Lichens on 27 June; an insightful Digital Sampler Workshop on 13 September; Hammock with Mico Nonet on 17 October; and Arc on 15 November [Arc is Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve].
Last season’s offerings included Jeffrey Koepper and Jason Sloan; First Night Out; Sequencer Workshop; The Ministry of Inside Things; and Dean de Benedictis and Vic Hennegan, in addition to the previously mentioned Moebius, Roedelius, Ashley, Story date.
The Gatherings has featured some really choice acts in the past, and Chuck is shooting to blow the doors off for this season. Some previous musicians include “the techno-tribal journeys by Steve Roach, glurpy explorations by Robert Rich, multi-layered melodies from Jeff Pearce, the interface of earth and sky with Jonn Serrie and Gary Stroutsos, floating spacemusic of Spacecraft, the ambient chamber sound of Tim Story, the ethereal flutes of Coyote Oldman, and the world fusion of Steve Tibbetts and Choying Drolma.” Some electronic music pioneers and innovators who’ve appeared include Richard Pinhas, Kit Watkins, David Borden, and the previously mentioned German pioneering supergroup, Can, consisting of Moebius and Roedelius.
But The Gatherings isn’t just about the big names and supergroups; you’ll also be introduced to some new artists, and some who are just starting out. Either way, you’ll hear some fine, entertaining music regardless of who’s playing. The stated goal of the series is “to bring interesting and challenging music to our community while providing a context for rewarding experiences for performer and listener alike.”
Look for more articles on the Philadelphia Space Music in the coming weeks. Let your mind take a somnambulistic, almost ethereal voyage on the wings of the vehicles that these musicians will build, note by note, right in front of you. So drop into your favorite seating arrangement, roll your favorite cocktail, and let go. Remember, it's the journey, not the destination, that's the adventure. Just let go.
You can tune in on the Internet at WXPN online. Star’s End is also broadcast on WXPN in Philadelphia, with other repeater stations in Pennsylvania and Maryland (from 1 a.m. until 6 a.m., every Sunday morning, or as some would say, Saturday night). Tell ‘em Lou sent ya!