Earlier this year, Kent-based electronic musician Jeremy Bible performed at the Museum of Contemporary Art as it opened its second season. About that time, he started talking to Chris Auerbach-Brown, the museum's media program manager, about some kind of collaboration. Auerbach-Brown has a background in composition and electronic music, and he studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music, so he was open to the idea, even if it meant bringing in some rather avant-garde artists.
"I talked to Chris that night and I knew that since the new building opened, the museum was really trying to diversify its programming," says Bible one afternoon over lunch with Megan Lykins Reich, MOCA's director of programs and associate curator. Bible is the guy behind the upcoming Experimedia and MOCA, a concert featuring Eleh and Duane Pitre, two underground electronic artists. A local guy — Go Media's Chuck Karnak — will set up a sound system to create an "immersive" experience.
"We're not a music venue per se, but we want music to be part of the program because it's so influential for many of the artists we work with," says Reich. "Many of them are sound artists as well as visual artists. But more often than not, our goal is to collaborate with experts in the field to bring different genres to the museum and to create experiences for our audiences that are unique. Jeremy brings a certain kind of expertise and he has all the right relationships. It's a good partnership to strike in year two. The new [MOCA] building is in proximity to other bars and places to eat and we want to create more energy around music here, other than just the orchestra."
Bible got his start as a music promoter at the Peanut Gallery, a DIY art space in Akron where he booked electronic acts in the early 2000s as part of a monthly night. That, in turn, led him to start recording the shows and selling those recordings online. He eventually founded a record label, Experimedia, which is now home to about 20 underground electronic artists from around the world. In 2007, he retooled his website and built an e-commerce site and now sells music on CD, vinyl and cassette.
"The website became so robust that I could buy five CDs from another label at a discount and sell them through my website," he says. "That has slowly snowballed into distributing. I've kept doing events but they've been sparse for the past five years. This is a great opportunity in such a good space. I've always been interested in bridging the gap between the visual arts crowd and the more esoteric music crowd. The stuff I'm interested in doesn't sit well in a bar. This music is more like looking at an art film or looking at a sculpture."
Eleh and Pitre's music certainly wouldn't go over well in a bar. Eleh started releasing analog synthesizer recordings in 1999 and has remained an enigma (no one really knows his true identity). He didn't start publicly sharing his music until 2006, and he didn't perform in the States until last year. His early vinyl releases are so rare they often sell for big money online. His new album, Retreat, features so many weird blips and bleeps, you'll swear your stereo is malfunctioning.
"He's deeply rooted in the same community or scene that I am," says Bible.
Based in New Orleans, Pitre is a former pro skateboarder who left skateboarding and starting making music. He currently teaches music classes to youngsters at a charter school.
"He works with microtonality, centered on bowed harmonic guitar," says Bible. "Last year he did an ensemble in New York and invited something like 20 guitarists and taught them their cues and gave them visual cues for this harmonic performance that filled up the entire space."
Pitre's new album, Bridges, is a collection of sparse tunes featuring a variety of stringed instruments as well as saxophone and computer electronics.
The two will perform solo, but they will also perform together as the duo Pitreleh. Their performance together at MOCA will mark only the second time they've played together live.
"I've heard the album they have coming out later this year and it has Eleh's focused analog tones along with Duane's bowed guitar harmonics," Bible says of Pitreleh. "I love the record. It's in my zone."
The concert will also feature a performance by HolyKindOf, a group that uses live processed cello and found audio sounds.
Bible and MOCA will put on another event together in late February of 2014.
"I want to take that theme of bridging the gap there a little farther with the next one so it's not strictly a sound concert," Bible says. "The next artist we're looking at is Eli Keszler, who does sculpture work with sound installations with piano strings and he uses DC motors. He's done installations at museums and at the Williamsburg Bridge. He's a percussionist at his core and performs live along with the installation as a percussionist. We want him to do an installation for a week and end it with a performance by him."
Bible says he'll book various artists depending on which theme he wants to explore.
"I'd like to have loose themes around each one," Bible says. "This one [with Eleh and Pitre] is about a minimalist approach to music and the next one will have a physical approach with the percussionist and strings. For the future, I'd like to do something involving video and film art."
For Reich, Bible's approach is well suited to the museum's mission.
"Our role institutionally is to bridge the regional with the international and it's great to find resources in our own backyard that demonstrate a certain worldview in a medium or genre," she says. "We're always talking about the next thing happening in contemporary culture. And music is core to so many of the artists we work with."