Shuffle: Second Cleveland Re:Sound Festival Aims to Bridge Gap Among Musical Genres

Jun 6, 2019

Sophie Benn and Noa Even are working to bridge the gap between jazz and classical music audiences in Northeast Ohio with the Re:Sound festival. In its second year, the 2019 event will be held June 6-9 in various locations throughout Cleveland.

Re:Sound is run by the Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project (CUSP), which is run by co-directors Benn and Even. The organization works to create opportunities for new music in the local area through concerts, events, commissioning projects, education and outreach initiatives.

Curating an experimental music event
The Re:Sound festival highlights musical acts from across the nation who undergo an intricate selection process.

“We put out the call, people send in a submission of some samples of their work and a proposed program that’s about 30 to 40 min long,” Benn said. “Everyone on the CUSP team listens to every single submission.”

"We think of experimental music as music that's pushing boundaries — boundaries of what kinds of sounds people are used to hearing ... "

Benn said the organization conducts an all-day meeting to determine which artists would best fit the new music or experimental theme of the event.

Of this year’s 100 submissions, 14 local and national acts were chosen to perform at the festival.

“it was really more of a curation process,” Benn said. “A lot of our performers work in many different genres at once. Many of them are classically trained, but many of them are not. Some have a background in jazz, or noise, or rock.”

A Space for Music and Audiences to Connect
The Re:Sound festival, which Benn explains as a flagship of CUSP, aims to both bridge and fill a gap in the Northeast Ohio music scene.

New music and experimental music are hard categories to define, Benn said.

“We think of experimental music as music that’s pushing boundaries — boundaries of what kinds of sounds people are used to hearing, (and) also boundaries of genre,“ Benn said, “We wanted to create a festival where people can find things that are a little bit outside of their comfort zone but still something that would really appeal to them and appeal to sort of a broad swath of audience members.”

She said she and Even found that there are a lot of passionate music lovers in Northeast Ohio, but many do not attend shows outside of genres they usually are drawn to.

“Jazz fans would go to a jazz show, classical fans would go to a classical show,” Benn said.

The festival is what she described as a “mish-mash” of music that incorporates many different styles to push the boundaries of what musical expression means in the modern era.

Cleveland improvisation band Miralia/Stranahan Duo is among the 14 artists selected to perform at the Re:Sound Festival
Credit Miralia/Stranahan Duo

Collaboration across genres 
Even, who teaches saxophone at Kent State, and Benn joined together in 2017 over their love of experimental music and observation that an organization like CUSP was needed in the Cleveland area.

CUSP works to give a voice to creators and performing artists from diverse backgrounds seeking a platform for their musical expression.

The organization encourages collaboration among musicians and a connection to audiences through events and programming in a variety of local venues.

Last year’s Re:Sound festival, Benn said, was surprising to her and Even in its success and attendance.

“Considering it was a really scrappy upstart thing with a very low budget and very DIY aesthetic,” Benn said. “But last year we had almost every concert was sold out or at capacity, which was amazing to us.”

Establishing a lineup for the festival’s second year
Benn hopes this year’s event draws in crowds across the various venues where musicians will perform, including Negative Space Gallery, The Magalen, Praxis Fiber Workshop, BOP STOP at the Music Settlement and CODA in Cleveland.

“For the future, we’re hoping this will continue to be our flagship sort of yearly festival,” Benn said. “And we’re hoping to expand the other activities that CUSP does into different commissioning projects and concerts throughout the year as well.”

This year’s event will include local acts like Miralia/Stranahan Duo, which fuses synth and other electronic elements with gongs and percussive instruments for a free improvisation sound and performance.

No Exit Music Ensemble, which Benn describes as “one of the most active, vibrant, established new music ensembles in the area,” originally reached out to CUSP to partner on a commissioning project.

The ensemble will perform two pieces commissioned jointly by CUSP and high school students at the final concert of the festival.

Additional artists who will perform during the three-day event include Nois, Saajtak, Berrow Duo, Sound Energy, Dykes & Young, Stephanie Lamprea, andPlay, New Morse Code, madam Data, Leo Suarez, Park Jones, and Ju-Ping Song.

Tickets and the Re:Sound schedule of events can be found at uncommonsoundcle.com