Count on CalArts, that world-renowned experimental laboratory in Valencia, to give local exposure to underground concepts. That agenda defines the essence of this weekend's CEAIT (Center for Experiments in Art, Information and Technology) Festival.
It began four years ago as a student-run festival organized by alumnus and faculty member Clay Chaplin as a forum for live performance of mostly computer-generated music. The festival has nudged up in ambition and resources this year and includes a visit from the New York-based, multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp.
Though known for his work as an adventurous and abstract electric guitarist in the margins between rock and the avant-garde, Sharp also composes unique works with graphic scores. Sharp's visit to the California Institute of the Arts will include a panel discussion on the interaction of computers and improvisation from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. He will perform his piece "SyndaKit" that night.
Putting the pieces together for the festival, which goes by the subtitle "Spontaneous Circuits," were Chaplin and CalArts professor Mark Trayle, an experimental composer with an international reputation, along with ample help from graduate students.
This year's general theme relates to the computers and improvisation. Today's program includes a "global improvisation" over the Internet, with musicians stationed in such locales as Austria and Australia, as well as traditional Korean music filtered through computers. Saturday night will feature improvisations by reed player Vinny Golia, young drummer Harris Eisenstadt and Tim Perkis, from San Francisco, who is known for conjuring a hearty sonic stew from a laptop.
There will also be a computerized deconstruction of banjo music from two students with a hankering for country music, as well as computer-aided experimentalism.
Sunday night's post-concert event will be a dance/electronica party where "people will be encouraged to dance, and in fact may not be able to resist doing so," Trayle said.
Minty Fresh, Twerk and the Bay Area's Blectum from Blechdom will perform.
Also on Sunday's program will be a piece by graduate student John Wilson for 27 alarm clocks, with no computer in the loop.
"That's the whole idea of the piece," Trayle said. "Built-in margins of error build up. These things go off periodically, but they're not quite in sync. The sound is wonderful when you get a large number of alarm clocks going off."
Wilson is typical of a certain type of student drawn to conceptual uses of sound, music and gizmos.
"You have people from a wide variety of backgrounds coming together with similar interests," Trayle said.
CEAIT Festival, today through Sunday at CalArts, 24700 McBean Parkway., Valencia. 8 p.m. Free admission. Call (661) 253-7832.