New Music Seminar Lives On With Ropeadope
The now-defunct New Music Seminar is remembered -- dimly, in the case of some fun-loving attendees -- as New York's major new music fiesta of the '80s and early '90s.The now-defunct New Music Seminar is remembered -- dimly, in the case of some fun-loving attendees -- as New York's major new music fiesta of the '80s and early '90s. But the NMS name lives on, thanks to Brooklyn, N.Y.-based indie label Ropeadope Records.
For five years, the label has mounted the Ropeadope New Music Seminar (RADNMS), a genre-leaping festival bringing together a diverse slate of its own acts and complementary musicians signed to other imprints.
This year, RADNMS is hitting the road; at some stops along its month-long tour, which begins Nov. 10 in Des Moines, Iowa, it will mount daytime panel presentations at colleges and universities. The University of Iowa in Iowa City (Nov. 11), the University of Colorado in Boulder (Nov. 14) and Reed College in Portland, Ore., (Nov. 18) will present the sessions, at which musicians and industry executives will appear.
This year's program features such Ropeadope acts as guitarist Charlie Hunter, horn-blasting rockers Sex Mob and Seattle improv unit Critters Buggin'. But it also includes such unlikely non-Ropeadope talents as cellist Matt Haimovitz and rapper Lyrics Born. The acts are presented in a seamless flow, with unexpected improvised collaborations between artists who seemingly share little in common musically.
"There are certain concrete markers [in terms of performance order]," Ropeadope owner Andy Hurwitz says. "We have a list of who goes when, [but] what you do on your time and how much you improvise between sets is up to you ... Just when you're finished with [a performer], it changes before your eyes. That's what makes music exciting -- the nature of improv taken to a more stable space."
On the road, the RADNMS college stops will take the form of either master classes or open town hall meetings that will include Hurwitz, some concert participants and other industry personnel. Hurwitz views the panels as a way of hipping students to the way the business works -- and a more benign way of attaining understanding than the Recording Industry Association of America's lawsuits against downloaders.
"I'm not trying to be preachy, but the kids need to see the musicians, to hear how they have supported their families as musicians," Hurwitz says. "I'm trying to have a different educational process."
After the tour wraps Nov. 21 at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, Hurwitz will return to the business of record-making. Next year Ropeadope plans to release an album by sacred steel guitarists the Campbell Brothers and a King Britt mix of performances by the late New Orleans street singer Sister Gertrude Morgan.