This weekend, the Digital Media Center is hosting New Forms/New Paths, a three-part series exploring new directions and new technologies emerging in the electronic music scene in Baltimore.
First on offer is a concert this Friday, March 3rd, at the Mattin Center, featuring the two co-founders of TECHNE, Bonnie Jones and Suzanne Thorpe, as well as percussionist Sarah Hennies, and local musical trio, Mind Over Matter, Music Over Mind. This showcase is the first of its kind on campus, bringing new forms of electronic sound to Hopkins. Scheduled performances are listed as dabbling in “experimental jazz, improvisation, circuit bent electronics, avant-classical composition, and virtuoso instrumental skills.”
WJHU got the chance to interview Bonnie Jones, who comes from a poetry and performance art background and has been enmeshed in the Baltimore electronic scene since the 90’s. She helped found TECHNE in 2010. Ever since, the national arts education organization has worked to bring together technology, music, and art to help make electronic music more accessible to marginalized groups. Their hands-on workshops focus on teaching young women—often in high school—DIY electronics.
We spoke to the artist and educator about the evolving music and arts scene in Charm City and how her work at TECHNE can address a dire community and industry need for diversity:
WJHU: There’s been such a rise in popular festivals, an opening up of apps, and online access to electronic music. We wanted to get your opinion – has it been a good thing for electronic music to become so mainstream, or is there something that people are missing out on that’s in the underground still?
Bonnie: My general take on creative practices in any medium is that there will always be an underground scene and there will always be a mainstream, more accessible scene that people are consuming. What this means to me, is that the underground will always stay dynamic and lively no matter what changes in technology accessibility occur. As far as technology tools becoming more accessible, I think that’s a positive contribution to the experimentation and development of new musical ideas.
However, at the end of the day, one of the things that’s interesting about making electronic music or any art for that matter, is that it’s rarely about the tool. Technology changes all the time, it’s inevitable. Making electronic music has to do with being able to develop your own voice, ideas, and understanding what you want to express, and then going out and finding whatever tools you need to accomplish your vision.
The tools don’t make the art, they only serve the art you want to make.
WJHU: We’re wondering if these new tools and the ease of access is lowering the barrier to entry for women and people of color – can we solve these social issues because of the changing technology?
BONNIE: A lot of time accessibility of tools is just one part of the reason why more young women don’t go into STEM, or STEAM (science, technology, art and math) fields. The tools are out there in a lot of different ways right now—young people can go get a degree in whatever they want when they enter college, they can get involved in whatever kinds of classes their high school, after-school program, or community arts center are offering.
However, I think there is a social determinant that might lead these young girls to believe that they can’t do those types of things, or that making electronic music or instruments is not for them. Part of that is due to how we teach technology and the lack of role models out there. What TECHNE wants to do is focus on changing these young girls’ minds. Some of that is showing them that all of this is really accessible and understandable – not just that they can download it or get to it—but that when we show them how to use it, there’s nothing mysterious about these tools or working with electronic music.
On Saturday, Bonnie and her TECHNE partner Suzanne Thorpe will host a DIY educational workshop, where participants learn how to make their own light controlled oscillator instrument. The event will be held from 1-4 pm at the DMC Makerspace. Visit this site to sign up: https://bookit.dmc.jhu.edu/.
To wrap-up the weekend, there will be a panel discussion on Sunday, March 4th, 2-4 p.m. The panel brings together an eclectic, powerhouse roster of artists, technologists, and musicians from the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area. Thomas Stanley Ph.D, Tara Rogers PhD., and Suzanne Thorpe and Bonnie Jones have all played a roll in breaking some of the glass boxes that exist in the form and sound of electronic music.
More info can be found at The DMC’s Facebook event.
Look out for an upcoming WJHU blog post with Bonnie Jones’ recommendations for the most exciting arts and electronic music spaces in the city!
By Thea Harvey-Brown, Jessica Moog
By Thea Harvey Brown on March 2, 2017, 6:02 p.m.