I have been involved in contemporary music for the last 26 years – first going back to school as a grown-up at the University of California–San Diego, and then beginning the Fresh Sound music series in 1997… 20th anniversary coming up. I went back to school after hearing Susan McClary give a talk at UCSD – I had a job I didn’t like, and after hearing her I thought, what the heck?
I got into the UCSD music department, where I finished my undergraduate degree, and then went on to the literature department for grad school. (There was no musicology division at UCSD yet.) It was great… because I was an “older” student, the professors allowed me to write on musical works in place of literature on the same subject – for instance, when assigned to write a paper on literature about the U.S. at war with an Asian country, I wrote about George Crumb’s Black Angels, a lament for the Vietnam War.
After grad school, my original concept was to bring to the San Diego community the music I’d learned about at UCSD, which at that time operated pretty much in its own university bubble. The first concert was with Steven Schick, professor of percussion there – now conducting and writing as well – and his grad student Vanessa Tomlinson. They will perform again on the 20th-anniversary concert.
Then, after I lived in New York for three years, my focus changed. I wanted to bring in music that San Diegans wouldn’t hear otherwise. And this continues. It’s been remarkable to me how this community of contemporary musicians and composers has expanded and enriched my life. I am still connected with UCSD, and go to many of the concerts there, and the Fresh Sound music series has brought me together with musicians around the world. It is wonderful to have this global community when we get together in New York, at concerts in Los Angeles, and here at home.
A few years ago, I held around 16 soirees at my home to discuss and play music. This began when I listened to the Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music, a fascinating 16-disc collection. The series continued with attendees presenting any kind of music they liked; the only requirement was to put it into historical context. The people who attended have remained friends and colleagues: hence, local community.
I now host Fresh Sound at Bread & Salt, which used to be the Weber Bread Factory … the owner/architect is turning it into art spaces. Fresh Sound has been in three previous venues. Moving around is not ideal but often necessary, whether for cost, accessibility, or owner cooperation. The series has retained its purpose over the years, and I am not really interested in growing big; I would love to have a bigger budget, but only to pay musicians more and bring in larger groups. One of my mottos is “go with what you got.”
When I visit New York – which I do quite often – I meet with many of the musicians who have performed for me in San Diego, and we babble away about what’s going on now. Since the new-music world is rather small, it’s lovely to be able to talk to those who know what the heck I’m up to. Also, perhaps not surprisingly, Facebook offers connection and community.
I hope that I have helped to create a community for new music and its makers and admirers here. What I do see happening is good news: There are new directors at the San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera, and La Jolla Music Society, all of whom are enhancing traditional programs with newer music. It will be wonderful to watch as this expands.
Keeping Fresh Sound going – almost 200 concerts so far! – is important to me for several reasons: to bring new music here and (selfishly) to feel connected to this community of really interesting, talented, and creative people; and to have a purpose on my travels: finding new and interesting music and musicians.
Whatever would I do without this community? I would be bored and listless. Music!
Based in San Diego, California, Bonnie Wright runs the Fresh Sound concert series and the Henceforth record label, and writes about her musical adventures avidly for San Diego publications and social media. She can be reached at email@example.com.