Echo Park is center for growing experimental music scene

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The roots of avant garde music extend back to World War Two when American and European musicians created experimental compositions. Experimental music's signature work is John Cage's composition Four Minutes, Thirty-three Seconds. It's that much silence, intended to turn listeners' ears to the sounds that surround them. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez reports that a new generation inspired by experimental composers and performers is feeding a growing music scene in and around L.A.'s Echo Park neighborhood.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: On the third-story rooftop of a building, 50 feet above Sunset and Glendale boulevards, Jason Grier and Julia Holter pivot 360 degrees and point to musicians' homes and the clubs of Echo Park's new music scene.

Jason Grier: Right over there at Alessandro and Berkeley is Emily Jane from the Bubonic Plague; that's one of our old bands, lives there. She makes a lot of videos for everybody. There's the Echo right over there. Everybody's played there on Sunday night, I mean, everybody.

Guzman-Lopez: Grier and Holter studied music composition at Cal Arts. Grier founded the record label Human Ear two years ago to disseminate his own musical experiments and those of his artistic and geographic neighbors.

["Je Vivroie Liement" by Julia Holter plays]

Guzman-Lopez: Jason Grier's label is a labor of love. He says he's not after mass appeal, but several songs, like Grier's collaboration with Holter, are quite catchy.

["Say It With Your Love" by Jason Grier and Julia Holter plays]

Guzman-Lopez: The point is not to copy music from a generation ago, Grier says. Musicians on the Human Ear label add their own, compositional flair. Sometimes they use analog equipment like the kind audiophiles fancied 30 years ago.

That's around the time Cal Arts experimental music composer Michael Pisaro took a left turn from Jimi Hendrix addict to John Cage worshipper. Pisaro says the audience for experimental music isn't as tiny as it used to be.

Michael Pisaro: Nowadays, I think it's enormous. And I think in fact, because experimental music has been taken up by so many people outside of classical music.

Guzman-Lopez: Pisaro's experimental works, such as "Harmony Series," have inspired Human Ear's founders.

["Harmony Series" by Michael Pisaro plays]

Guzman-Lopez: Human Ear has scheduled a performance of Pisaro's "Ascending Series #3." It's an eight hour long composition scheduled from 3 in the afternoon to 11 tonight on a gallery rooftop in Echo Park. Eighteen performers, playing in intervals, will try to harmonize with neighborhood sounds. During moments of "silence," the neighborhood will become part of the ensemble.

[Neighborhood sounds, composition]

Guzman-Lopez: The piece's midpoint is set for sunset. Pisaro calls that a time in which street activity and the ensuing sounds change as dramatically as the natural light.