The Alabama Symphony Orchestra (ASO) wants to push Birmingham residents out of their musical comfort zones. With the premiere of ASO’s Sound Edge Music Festival in February, ASO asks music lovers to expand their horizons with a nine-day festival exploring the many facets of musical experiences.
Taking place from February 10 to February 18, the festival combines a series of classical works with contemporary music and multimedia to create a collaboration that its creator, Alabama Symphony Music Director Carlos Izcaray, hopes will push people away from their habitual musical choices. The concert series has gained support from several local organizations including Birmingham Mountain Radio, Communicating Vessels, Seasick Records, and Saturn, and will take place at several different local venues.
Izcaray feels the “merging” of different genres will help open eyes as to how vast the musical landscape can be. “You cannot call it a ‘cross-over,’” he said. “It’s really a merging of sound. We [musicians] are citizens of the world and have a broad range of experiences and taste. This is what the merging is about. Why can’t an electric instrument go with an acoustic instrument if properly balanced?”
The festival was the “natural step forward” for ASO to both explore more contemporary music and Birmingham’s many venues, Izcaray said. The name represents “the edge of comfort” for both ASO (in performing outside of their normal venues) and Birmingham residents who may not be as familiar with this style of music. Izcaray hopes these exact aspects are what attract people to Sound Edge.
“It’s another chance for us to try out different multimedia settings and music that people have yet to discover. … This is a city that is growing and going through a process of change, and there’s a very hip generation that’s moving to town. Downtown is going through a transformation and we want to perform for that crowd as well,” he said.
Performances will range from combining Beethoven’s Great Fugue with the sounds of indie-rock group NYCO at Iron City to “a music street party” throughout the various restaurants and recording studios of Woodlawn with a special DJ set by Lee Shook.
On February 13, festival-goers will explore the relationship between art, music, and film at the Birmingham Museum of Art. Guests will get to experience the museum’s new contemporary art exhibit “Third Space” before enjoying Koyaanisqatsi, a film with a Clockwork Orange feel, composed by Philip Glass, about the consequences of not respecting the earth. Izcaray will also have a conversation with the audience about the relationship between the three mediums and the importance of that relationship.
Couples looking for a Valentine’s Day event can take in the installment Contemporary Visions: Inspired by Shakespeare at WorkPlay. The event is a musical twist on the “both beautiful and deadly themes of love” throughout Shakespearean works. Singer Susan Botti will perform her operatic monologue Telaio: Desdemona, which is a telling of the tragic tale of the bride from Shakespeare’s Othello.
Birmingham residents may find a new appreciation for lesser known classical works thanks to Sound Edge. “We are playing a very wide range of composers from today but also from the past who were very edgy,” said Izcaray. “That Beethoven piece [Great Fugue] is still … most people when they hear it they can’t believe it was written by someone in the 19th century, … so it’s not the typical Beethoven that most people think they know.”
Izcaray believes that Birmingham residents will embrace the concept of Sound Edge because of how music affects emotions. “People want to engage in something that is very meaningful and exalting and transcendental, you might say,” he said. “So while people go from generation to generation, music has always been there. It’s the wonders of the human experience and is ever evolving. … This is why Shakespeare will always be Shakespeare: it’s as relevant today as it was when it was written. And the same goes with music.”
Music is a “window to the emotions of people in past eras,” Izcaray said. “The same types of complexities of the human experience are there. I think that people are now discovering that a lot of this music is very liberating, and it touches the heart of our contemporary audience as well.”
Izcaray describes the festival as his “baby” and wants everyone to be able to attend. VIP passes stand at $60 (the website describes it as a bargain), but for attendees who may want to attend certain events more than others, there is a door cover for each venue ranging from free to $19.
Overall, Izcaray hopes people interested in attending will leave moved by the experience. “I want them to feel a sense of togetherness and a connection with music and with a live performance. [The festival is] perhaps even more relevant now than ever before, a place for live music to happen and for people to connect and to discover. This is definitely a platform where I’m guessing most people have not heard what they have heard … and it’s an exploration.”
For more information and the complete calendar of events for the Sound Edge Music Festival, visit their website soundedgebham.com.