What Is Different Skies?
Different Skies is an electronic music festival, a workshop for artists in these and related experimental music genres, a working vacation, an intensive and rewarding creative environment, and many more things.
I began Different Skies in 2003 with the assistance of Tucson musician and radio show host Doug Wellington, as an opportunity that rarely presents itself in the rarefied world of space music: a chance for members of our community to get together for an extended period of time in a controlled and isolated environment, to network and learn from one another, form new professional alliances and new friendships, and to create and perform an evening of entirely original new music for an enthusiastic audience.
Electronic music, which features the synthesizer and computer as prominently as it does traditional amplified and acoustic instruments, is traditionally viewed as a lonely art form, created by musicians working alone in small studios. Opportunities to build community among these musicians are rare, and I have experimented with them for many years. Team Metlay, with its biennial gatherings of musicians from 1990 to 1998 and eventual trilogy of CD releases, was a good first step...but only a first step.
The second step was to find a place which was inspiring and welcoming to visiting musicians, where rehearsals could be both relaxed and energetic, with a fixed goal in mind while allowing for flexibility of scheduling on a day to day basis. Arcosanti, with its wonderful admixture of futuristic architecture and art-colony sensibility, seemed a perfect choice.
Artists and Arcosanti residents alike approached last year's Different Skies with some trepidation; it was, after all, an untried idea that required the cooperation of over a dozen artists who'd never met before, working with a community that had never met them or heard much of their music. Fortunately, we'd made good choices with respect to the invited artists and their musical styles, and the Arcosanti community proved welcoming and supportive, leading to an exceptional experience for all concerned. It was a measure of our success that all but two of last year's artists have returned for this year's show.
We're back again for an encore, with artists old and new, a new palette of ideas, and a lot of energy and drive to create beauty for you. We plan to have a lot of fun tonight, and we hope you do too. We'll see you in the Amphitheatre!
-Mike Metlay, Founder, Different Skies
WHERE IS IT LOCATED?
Arcosanti is located about an hour's drive north of Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix is a good sized city (over 3 million people in the area - one estimate has Phoenix as the sixth largest city in the United States) and it has an international airport with many daily connections. All major car rental companies are represented. Arcosanti itself is on many hundred acres of property but the main community is fairly contained. Between residents, workshop participants, Different Skies participants, and other visitors, there are several hundred people at Arcosanti at any one time.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Typical expenses at Arcosanti are $450-$550 for the week, which includes room, board and theatre rental. Add any travel expenses to get there (airfare, car rental, gas) which can range from $100 - $1000. Plus any spending money for libations, extra food, and emergency gear purchases.
At Arcosanti, all proceeds from the Saturday dinner and concert ticket sales go to Arcosanti. You may sell CDs or other materials during the show, and while we typically sell 40 - 50 units each year of all displayed CDs, you shouldn't expect to sell more than a handful of your titles.
HOW MANY PEOPLE PARTICIPATE IN DIFFERENT SKIES?
Typically, there are about 20 participants at Different Skies in Arcosanti including musicians, video artists, interns, and production folks. This is limited by the amount of housing space available to us for the event and by the amount of stage space and mixing channels for the main concert. This allows everyone to participate in the proceedings; there are always groups of people talking or playing who have room for one more, and there is a good feeling of community.
The Saturday concert typically gets an attendence of over 100 people.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING?
First off, everyone needs to make sure they have their usual absolutely necessaries in terms of cabling for their show rig. Set up your rig in the middle of an empty room... power, audio routing, MIDI and all. Once you've got it running to your satisfaction, that's what you need to bring, PLUS:
- A pair of good isolating headphones, with a long detachable extension cord just in case
- A headphone distribution amp if you have room for one
- An extension cord for AC power to get you to one of the trunklines... ten feet should be okay
- An extra pair of long MIDI cables if you plan to sync to the main brain. Most people don't seem that interested in trying to distribute MIDI clock but if you want to make use of it, have a cable or two with a long reach. I'm looking into getting an active MIDI Thru box that can redistribute clocks easily from several sources.
- A pair of balanced 1/4" TRS cables or a pair of mic cables, ten to twenty feet (your rig to mixer). Whatever your submix is, it has to have a pair of very long cables (25 to 50 feet) that can run to the mixer rack on the stage. I recommend bringing both 1/4" and XLRs, but use XLRs if there's any way to take such a feed off your mixer, as the cable runs will be cleaner that way. If your submixer has only 1/4" unbalanced outs, consider a stereo direct box (preferably a good-quality one) to convert the outputs to XLR.
Most important--you MUST come to Arcosanti with at least one really good flashlight. When the sun goes down, the site is dark as pitch, and we're going to be there during the dark of the moon so there won't be moonlight to rely on. More than one attendee has run across creepy crawlers on the pathways at night and these are creatures you do not want to step on.
If you're tight on space and weight, buy a white-LED pocket light. Don't worry about whether it's cool looking: All that matters is that it has an on/off switch rather than a momentary pushbutton, so you can use it to walk around without spraining something. Avoid colored LED lights.
Red isn't necessary; this isn't a planetarium. And all the other colors fuq up your color vision something fierce.
There is a nice pool at Arcosanti. You can borrow towels but you'll need to bring your own suit, and a beach towel is optional.
Good walking shoes with closed toes is a good idea; no one was stung or bitten so far, but it's happened at Arcosanti and could happen again. Besides, if all goes well, you could always take a morning ride for a quick look at the Grand Canyon...
Weather will likely be hot as Hades during the day, bitter cold at night. We've been lucky so far and had overcast skies or cool temperatures that kept things bearable through the whole week, but there's always one really hot day that is miserable. We recommend clothing for warm weather with a couple extra layers for night.
Sheets, blankets, a small pillow, and small shower towels are provided in the rooms.
WATER. Arcosanti is a wonderful place but the water has a definite taste to it, and in the desert at high altitude we need to drink a LOT of it. You may want to stop on the way to pick yourself up a flat of bottled water.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
We can't tell you precisely what the form of the music will be; as these notes are being prepared, Different Skies is still some time in the future and nothing has been cast in stone as yet. However, we can make some guesses as to what you can expect.
The music you're going to make and hear has never been performed anywhere else. There will be a few pieces that were composed beforehand that will receive their live debut, but for the most part what you'll hear will be composed here over the course of the week—some of it spontaneously improvised right on the spot, with few if any preset rules.
While there will be a number of computers on stage, please don't assume that you'll hearing prerecorded music. With a bunch of musicians available to play parts, there's really no need! The computers will take on two primary roles. One is to be played as actual instruments, replacing one or more traditional synthesizers with their "virtual" equivalents (a laptop is far easier to travel with by air than a stack of full-sized keyboards!). The other is to interact with the playing of the musicians to create music that is live and spontaneous yet too complex for human hands alone—to enhance and extend live performance rather than to replace it.
As is the case with any live performance where there's no safety net, there is always the possibility that something will go wrong—anything from wrong notes and missed cues to a complete power failure (a highlight of the 2003 show). Take a cue from us—it is possible to take one's art seriously without taking oneself seriously, and we'll do our best to come up smiling. In fact, there will almost certainly be moments during the week that are well worth a belly laugh, and we encourage you not to assume it's impolite. The instruments are electronic, but the emotions we create here—exaltation, introspection, sadness, terror, joy—are very real, and should be shared.
Different Skies is part musical collaboration, part working vacation, and part charity event. To participate in Different Skies, you must be able to make the full week-long commitment. We travel to Arcosanti on a Monday, practice together and develop material during the week, and then perform on Saturday night. All proceeds from the dinner and the concert go to Arcosanti. Typical expenses at Arcosanti are $300-$400 for the week, which includes room, board and theatre rental. You may sell CDs or other materials during the show.
Arcosanti is located about an hour's drive north of Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix is a good sized city (over 3 million people in the area - one estimate has Phoenix as the sixth largest city in the United States) and it has an international airport with many daily connections. All major car rental companies are represented.
The roster for Different Skies is automatically populated with members who have attended in previous years, and new members are added as old members drop out. We expect there to be several cancellations over the course of each year for various reasons, so we're able to accommodate some but not all waitlisted artists.
The waiting list for Different Skies does not carry over from year to year. To be on the waiting list for next year's event, if you were NOT present at a previous DS, you must rejoin the waiting list. Doing so promptly assures better placement on the list. The list officially opens when announced on the Different Skies Group, usually in March.
GET INVOLVED! BECOME A PARTICIPANT!
Different Skies is a growing event. If you are interested in participating in Different Skies, either as a perfomer or as production staff, and can make the week-long commitment, there are four steps you must take to be considered:
First, join the Different Skies discussion group list serve on Yahoo Groups: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/differentskies/
Third, send him samples of your work. Send to:
Atomic City, P. O. Box 17083, Boulder, CO 80308-0083 USA
Fourth, follow up with Mike via the Different Skies list and make sure he has received your materials and contact infomation, and reaffirm your wish to be on the waitlist.
Fifth, READ THE ARCHIVES of the discussion group on Yahoo.
When ALL of the above are done, the artist is added to the waiting list. Artists who don't join this Yahoo Group don't get added; neither do people who promise to send Mike a CD and don't. MP3 files do not, repeat, NOT count; Mike must have something tangible in his hands to listen to. If he's in the hot seat, he gets to make the rules. (No soup for you.)
One other note: It is unclear whether bands actually perform as bands at Different Skies. There is an undercurrent of "let's make up new bands, rather than giving the established acts stage time" in the aftermath of the first Different Skies event. This does tend to lean in favor of the spontaneous improvisers rather than composers, but more importantly for this topic, it means that Mike signs up PEOPLE rather than BANDS.
Once you've done this, you'll be slotted into the list and eligible for a place in the roster as vacancies open up. There are other factors that can affect eligibility on a case-by-case basis; you'll be notified if any of those affect your placement either positively or negatively.
Arcosanti is about an hour's drive north of Phoenix. If you are not a fesitval participant (artist or crew) and wish to stay closer to Arcosanti, there may be accomodations at these and other locations nearby:
Closest: Cordes Junction:
Cordes Junction Motel and RV Park
phone: (928) 632-5186
In Mayer , 8 miles north on highway 69:
Creekside Preserve Lodge and Guest Cabins
Teskey's Motel & Cafe
phone: (928) 632-9696
Copyright © 2003 - 2011 Different Skies, all rights reserved.