Muzik3 festival promises contemporary, avant-garde music

For 10 years, the Muzik3 festival has been bringing contemporary, avant-garde music acts to La Jolla.

This year they are presenting a cutting edge show from Polygraph Lounge on April 14 at 7:30 p.m. and on April 15 at 2 p.m. at the Other House. Muzik3 is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to commissioning new works from composers and video artists for their annual festival, according to Muzik3 artistic director and co-founder, Felix Fan.

The organization is comprised of a small group of people, most of whom are relatives of Fan and have been involved since Muzik3 was founded a decade ago.

The organization originally was created to present both classical and contemporary music together in one performance, but it has evolved into an arts festival, Fan said.

The past performances have been diverse and they incorporated various artistic mediums such as dance and video art. Each year, every show has had a theme - this year, the theme is comedy.

Fan said that previous festivals were pretty dark, so he wanted the festival this year to go in a different direction.

“The Polygraph show is it is like a musical and it is a comedy show,” Fan said. “It is almost like a variety show.”

The Poylgragh Lounge is based in New York and it is made up of two musicians, Mark Stewart and Rob Schwimmer.

Fan is friends with both Stewart and Schwimmer, but he was aware of the Polygraph Lounge prior to their friendship. Stewart is a cellist, but he plays guitar in Paul Simon’s band. Schwimmer is pianist and composer who has recorded music for film and television.

Both musicians are very accomplished, but their performances in the Polygraph Lounge are rife with eccentric stage antics. The show is a comedy and it has the same sense of humor as a Spike Lee film, Fan said. There are references to pop culture in the show and it has elements of a political satire, he said.

“It is like a musical comedy revue , but it is so hard to describe, though,” Fan said “It is like the ‘Gong Show.’ I think a good quote that describes it is that it is like Weird Al, but high-brow.”

Fan said that he thinks audiences will enjoy the festival because the performers in the Polygraph Lounge are both talented musicians and quick-witted comedians.

“There is a comedy aspect and it also has got the musical aspect,” Fan said. “Someone who would go see ‘Forever Plaid’ would find it entertaining.”

Music is at the core of Polygraph Lounge’s performance. Schwimmer and Stewart will be joined by opera soprano Melissa Fathman and percussionist Joe Mardin for this performance, and they all will perform classical music, new music, and music from stage, film and television. The group has many influences, including the experimental composer, John Cage.

Polygraph Lounge often plays to sold-out crowds and during their visit to San Diego, they will teach a class at UCSD.

In addition to being artistic director for Muzik3, Fan is cellist and he is currently playing with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra. He grew up in La Jolla and he attended school the Bishop’s School. He studied music in Europe and lives in New York, but he visits La Jolla often. His festival has always featured experimental musicians and artists, some more experimental than others.

“It is not only a music festival - we have done a lot of video projection during the performances,” Fan said. “One year, we had a video projected on a live body.”

Fan said although Muzik3 features progressive artists, the festival is not the only event in San Diego that promotes avant-garde art and music.

“Now there is the Carlsbad music festival and UCSD, they have a very strong contemporary arts department, especially in music,” Fan said. “There is also the La Jolla Summerfest, which happens once a year. I think there are a few things going on. There is always an audience for this kind of stuff, for people who are really into cutting-edge, avant-garde work.”

Muzik3 hosts a show once a year, so Fan begins organizing the event a few months prior to the event, and he does most of the planning from New York.

The event is going to take place at the Other House. The Other House is Fan’s parents’ home, but it occasionally doubles as a concert venue.

Fan said the home has been outfitted acoustically to hold concerts and there have been musical performances besides Muzik3 that have used the home as a performance space.

Most of the past Muzik3 festivals have taken place at the Other House. The venue holds up to 250, but Fan expects at least 100 people to attend this year’s event.

The Other House is at 7813 Esterel Drive. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $10 for students. For more information call (858) 403-0413.