subliminal messages

Tides Theater describes its mission as “creating visceral theatre” and interprets that in some interesting ways. Last year I caught a play based on an investigative report about homeless vets in LA scored by Exray’s frontman and Tides Theater’s Resident Designer Jon Bernson, for instance. And this Saturday, he’s curating a night of visceral ambient music called “Subliminal Messages #2.”

This is the second installment of Subliminal Messages, as you might have guessed, and Bernson has fine-tuned, it would seem, like a scientist tinkering in his lab, designing the experience for maximal sonic-mind-meld immersion. He was kind enough to explain it all to me in the interview below.

Subliminal Messages #2
Tides Theater
January 18, 2014
9pm, $5

MG: So what’s Subliminal Messages all about?

In the spirit of Subliminal Messages, I can’t answer that question directly. Let’s call it a party and a group art show for musicians. No center of attention, just twenty five people contributing ambient music to a playlist, plus three short live sets, and possibly some visuals.

MG: Who’s participating?

JB: Musicians, producers, and surveillance experts, primarily from the Bay Area, but eight pieces are from other parts of the country. I don’t want to sound like a hype machine, but I really am honored that such great musicians contributed such incredible music. Most of the pieces were made specifically for this show. Here’s the list:

Live: Odes, Yames & Evunder and Costeau.

Playlist: Lord Tang, Spinnerty, Shortcircles, Tim Cohen, Glenn Jackson, Opaline, Psychic Vagina, Orca Life, Empty Pockets, Michael James Tapscott, Face Tat, Baby Ramps, Jared Blum, Visiting Houses, Death Cheetah, Raphi Gottesman, The Talking Book, Seed Ling, Kokomo Hum, Bahama Kangaroo, Future Twin, Bigg Dipper, Lazer Wolf, Bigg Dippr, THEMAYS & Exray‘s.

MG: Will folks sit quietly and listen? Or is it more like an event, where people will be free to mingle and interact with each other and the musicians?

JB: I don’t want the audience to feel like they’re trapped at an opera. They can talk, drink, make out, exercise or sleep. Last time, most people sat back in their seats, closed their eyes and retreated to inner space. It seemed like they were interested in relaxing and listening to what people had created, but there is plenty of space to hang out as well.

MG: There is going to be an interesting set-up in terms of speaker positioning for playback of the tracks. Tell us about that?

JB: As a creative challenge, I thought it would be fun to set up a stereo mix with the two right speakers in front of the audience and the two left speakers behind them. Imagine rotating your headphones so that you have one earbud on your forehead and one on the back of your hair. The contributors knew the deal, so we’re going to hear some really cool stuff.

MG: What do you say to people who think ambient music is just background music, or boring? Why do you think it’s worth working in ambient music?

JB: I would say those people are very perceptive. I’d be curious to know if they prefer paint on their walls, music in their movies or if the weather affects their mood.

MG: How did you get Tides Theater to agree to host this? What’s their interest?

JB: I’m a company member at Tides and my wife Jenna is the producing artistic director. The theater began as a playhouse, but has been expanding quickly. It can transform into a movie theater, with a huge screen and a surround sound system that was donated by Pixar. On any given week you can catch a play, a reading, a class and a movie. Subliminal Messages is just one experiment of many.