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Keeping their avant-garde up

Stalwarts of the new-music scene are ready to improvise at Center for the Arts.

January 06, 2012|By Kirk Silsbee

When the history of new music and avant-garde jazz is written, two institutions will figure prominently: Cal Arts and the Center for the Arts in Eagle Rock. The former figures into the monthly offering of the Center’s Open Gate Theatre series in a fascinating way Sunday.

Produced by drummer Alex Cline and composer Will Salmon, Open Gate (which will observe its 15-year anniversary in March) is currently the longest-running showcase for left-of-center music in SoCal — maybe for all time. Everything from modern composition to sound environments to free improvisation — and beyond — is featured and celebrated.

Two local stalwarts of new music, Emily Hay and Vinny Golia, share the bill. Their paths have crossed many times before as their respective artistic trajectories have intertwined. Hay is a flutist, vocalist, composer/improviser and pioneer in the use of electronics in new music. Golia is a reed omnivore, composer/improviser and bandleader, who plays in configurations that range from solo recitals to orchestras that hold scores of players. At the Center for the Arts, Hay will duet with composer/multi instrumentalist Amy Denio, and Golia will lead his sextet.

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Hay is from rural Virginia, where she studied piano and flute. At Bard College in upstate New York, she came into contact with Karl Berger’s Creative Music Studio, which stoked her interest in improvisation. She tried living in New York City, but tired of it. “It was hard to make headway there,” she explains, “if you didn’t already have a pedigree.”

She enrolled at Cal Arts in 1979 but was dismayed: “No one there knew anything about contemporary music.” What she did discover was the deep ethnic studies in African, Balinese and Indian musics. “The different world music was the most eye-opening for me,” Hay says. “I got to play it, sing it and dance it!”

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