Speculation & Interaction: A Preview of Future Music Summit 2012

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Every year bloggers ask the same questions: What's going to be the song of the summer? How long before a band's reunion tour falls apart? Who is the next big thing?

When we're not reviewing shows, doing interviews, waxing nostalgic or making lists, we love to speculate. But that kind of speculation is limited. It's discussion of the near future, one which we'll know soon enough. It's the type of discussion that we'll get to laugh about in a few weeks; not particularly deep.

Rarely do we discuss the actual future of music. The evolution of not just a genre, but of the entire realm of sound, silence, form and harmony.

If you've ever been curious about the places music is going, you'll be happy to know that there's a group of like-minded people out there looking to discuss the future. And at the Future Music Summit, taking place this weekend in Round Top, they don't just want to talk about it: They want you to experience it.

Take one part conference, one part concert and one part interactive playground and you'll start to see a picture of what Plutopia Productions, organizers of the Future Music Summit, hopes the event will be. Think SXSW by way of Ted Talks.

Access FMS's Web site and you'll see references to augmented instruments, convergent technologies and transmedia, phrases that sound complicated, maybe daunting. That said, the summit isn't just for techies.

"Musicians, industry members, music aficionados and tech developers should all be interested," says Maggie Duval, CEO and Head Plutopian. "We'll be exploring aspects such as where music is going as an industry, music instrumentation and technology/human interface."

Although the summit starts Friday with an artist's roundtable, the bulk of the exploration will happen Saturday.

The day starts off with a series of symposia presentations ranging from the now, such as DIY electronic music, to ten years down the line and the future of entertainment. They'll also include discussions on the evolving relationship between man, instrument and machine.

That relationship plays a big part in the concert aspect of the Summit. Discussion of future music many times involves talking about EDM and laptop musicians. Not the case here, says Duval.

"We've designed the concert to be well grounded in classical music," she says. "The focus is on artists whose integration of technology augments the feeling of the instruments."

The concert will feature styles of performance that rarely grace the 1,100-seat Festival Institute Concert Hall, including: Jazari, a steam funk cyborg percussion ensemble controlled by Patrick Flanagan; violinist Mari Kimura, who uses motion sensors that help push her instrument into new sonic territory; and DJ Spooky, a turntablist and philosopher who will be presenting a set of "acoustic portraits" of Antarctica.

The final component of the summit may be the most important: Getting interactive. Organizers want the experience for attendees to go beyond listening. An interactive playground is being set up where attendees can participate in activities such as light painting and animation. They'll also be able to try out different electronic controllers and instruments.

The future, just like jargon, can be confusing, perhaps even scary. Plutopia is looking to help people get over that fear.

"We're looking to making the future accessible to people," says Duval. "By putting it in their hands, it lessens the fear and makes it more empowering."

The Future Music Summit takes place May 11-13 at the Round Top Festival Institute in Round Top, between Brenham and Giddings. For more information and tickets, visit the FMS Web site.

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