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Yvon Bonenfant

“It’s very unhip to talk about love,” says Yvon Bonenfant, referring to the general stoicism that dominates contemporary experimental music. It’s ironic, he says, because despite the emotional distance that our technological age has created, Bonenfant sees the signals of love our culture has created everywhere he goes.

“Beacons are things you put there when a person can’t be there,” he says. “They’re a message of love. You put them on the road so cars don’t drive into potholes. You put them on buoys so boats don’t crash into underwater reefs. They’re this technology we’ve created to protect one another but they’re totally banal.”

Bonenfant, who describes himself as an “extended vocalist,” admits he’s a little obsessed with the idea, so much so that he’s been commissioned by EMPAC to create a multimedia extended vocal piece using the concept. Over the course of two residencies, the performer has worked with video artist David Shearing and audio technician Francis Silkstone to create an “immersive theatrical voice environment.” The show will incorporate state-of-the-art 5.1 surround sound to carry up to 12 tracks of Bonenfant’s voice, as well as three video screens featuring Shearing’s images.

“I’m trying to create a world where people respond to call, where people pay attention to all the ways we reach out to each other, and how many times that fails—but it doesn’t matter. There are always more messages, and we have to be permeable to receive them.”

This sort of emotional directness is nothing new to Bonenfant, who, with a voice that can sound both male and female, considers the voice an optimal tool for accessing the tactility of sound. Drawing on his training in a form of psychotherapy called biodynamic massage, Bonenfant is interested in the literal vibration of the voice on the body as a sort of long-distance, social touch.

For this reason, Bonenfant has been hesitant to work in an electronic setting, but the concept for his show, titled Beacons, seemed perfectly suited to such a multimedia environment because it is, in a way, a show about technology.

“It could never have been done this way not in this space,” he says. “[Studio 1] has this vastness that really works for the idea. We can work with this horizon line of screens and when the lights go out you really can be lost in space. In a way, it’s a very minimalist project because it’s about one thing, but you’ll hear from the sound that it’s kind of a maximalist approach to minimalism.”

The chorus of voices set to flashing lights and sweeping colors constitute a “gymnastics of emotion” that Bonenfant finds inseparable from issues of the “queer voice.” In a sense, the electronic interface helps “realize some intentions” of the artistically marginal extended voice, and, like the idea that shaped the piece, act as a beacon itself.

Yvon Bonenfant’s Beacons will premiere at EMPAC (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy) tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday (May 29-30) at 8 PM. Admission is free. Call 276-4135 for more info.

—Josh Potter

Mountain Jam

Forty years ago, a bunch of hippies rolled around in the mud and it changed the live music experience forever. Nowadays the savvy, soused, sunscreened and independently wealthy concertgoer can literally fill a whole summer touring to weekend music festivals. With the fifth annual Mountain Jam at Hunter Mountain, the season is officially underway.

It’s a testament to musicians’ success that they can throw a big party for their fans every summer. Phish, moe., Donna the Buffalo, the Disco Biscuits: They all do it. And with Gov’t Mule and the Allman Brothers Band headlining Mountain Jam, this is officially the Warren Haynes show (he, like, produces the event to boot). But the cool thing about these events is that they’ve been drawing a wider crowd and range of musicians every year. For three days, and on as many stages, the festival will feature Umphrey’s McGee (pictured), the Derek Trucks Band, Michael Franti and Spearhead, the Hold Steady, the Gene Ween Band, John Medeski, Girl Talk, Eric Krasno, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, the Marco Benevento Trio, Porter, Batiste and Stoltz, and at least another page more.

Filling out the festival experience, there will be puppets, frisbee golf, a kids area, vendors, food, and morning yoga sessions led by John Medeski’s wife Debi.

Mountain Jam at Hunter Mountain (Hunter) will run from noon tomorrow (Friday, May 29) through 10 PM on Sunday (May 31). Tickets for the weekend are $149.50, while single-day passes are $79.50 for Saturday and $89.50 for Sunday. Visit mountainjam.com for more info.


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