Different Skies: A Retrospective
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.
2012 marks the tenth anniversary of the festival, which took place this past week in Arcosanti, Arizona.
Mike Metlay founded Different Skies 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 the electronic music 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 Mike 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 that 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 the first Different Skies festival 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, the invited artists and their musical styles worked well in this unusual community, and Arcosanti proved welcoming and supportive, leading to an exceptional experience for all concerned.
Today’s edition of At Water’s Edge offers a retrospective of Different Skies, including Arcs and Angles (2004), Imaginary Spaces (2007), Strange Lines and Distances (2007), Back to the Cliff (2007), That Merciless Sky (2009), Arcosanitarium (2009), and Scorpion Chronicles (2010).
Please note: due to technical difficulties, the podcast episode is abbreviated. What’s there is great fun, though, so give it a listen!