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The San Francisco Electronic Music Festival organization was founded in late 1999, yet many who heard about the first festival in May 2000 were surprised that such an event had not already been taking place for many years. This is only natural, as the Bay Area has been a hotbed of activity for electronic music since at least the days of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the 60s. Plenty of artists in the region working with electronics, from John Cage to Negativland, Morton Subnotick to The Residents, could have easily filled an annual festival for the past few decades. It took until the last couple of years for such an event to be established, but the response from the first festival was extraordinary, and this year's festival, which happened May 3 - 6, was even more impressive, expanding to 3 venues and 18 artists.

Of course the term "electronic music" has become more and more ambiguous over the years, especially since the early 1990s with the mainstream media attention given to dance music and its various trappings - 4/4 beats, raves, clubs, DJ culture, and the like. While the SFEMF has never wanted to deny the existence of this more recent mass cultural trend, its steering committee (this author included) has aimed its curatorial eye primarily in another direction: the older tradition of experimental and fine-arts electronic sound and music that has been evolving for over half a century. Dance-oriented electronic music already receives a vast amount of attention worldwide, so we hope to celebrate the lesser known but ground-breaking artists in the Bay Area and beyond whose work has fallen outside the realm of this popular form.

Even so, the SFEMF also has a goal of inclusivity, and the wide range of music and sound art presented this year was testament to that. Audiences at the 4 nights of performances witnessed quite a variety of work: from the quirky electro-punk of Blectum from Blechdom to the brain-wave measurement piece of Miya Masaoka; from the social commentary of Los Angeles' Ultra-red to the rich abstract drones-capes of Thomas Dimuzio; there were laptop knob-twiddlers, gestural sensor experimenters, site-specific amplified performance art, audiovisual synesthesia, and much more.

For details, see the website at sfemf.org, phone the information hotline, 415.861.3257, or send email to info@sfemf.org.

A (present-tense) version of this article originally appeared in the Transbay Music Calendar's May 2001 issue.


    The the SFEMF Steering Committee and founders:
  • Miya Masaoka
  • Carl Stone
  • Pamela Z
  • Steev Hise
  • Chris Salter
  • Ed Osborn
  • Donald Swearingen
  • Dan Joseph
    2000 Festival artists:
  • Alvin Curran
  • Paul De Marinis
  • Kenneth Atchley
  • Miya Masaoka
  • Carl Stone
  • Pamela Z
  • Steev Hise
  • Sponge
  • Ed Osborn
  • Donald Swearingen
  • Dan Joseph
  • SensorChip
    2001 Festival artists:
  • Antimatter
  • Thomas Dimuzio
  • Electric Birds
  • Scott Arford
  • Miya Masaoka
  • Carl Stone
  • John Bischoff
  • Brandon Labelle
  • Bob Ostertag & Pierre Hebert
  • Maggi Payne
  • Matt Ingalls
  • Ultra-red
  • Fuzzy Bunny
  • Michael Gendreau
  • Atau Tanaka
  • Blectum from Blechdom
  • Randy Yau
  • Scot Jenerik

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