CMP Mayhem

CMP Chair Steven Paxton. Photograph by Amanda Tyler

CMP Chair Steven Paxton. Photograph by Amanda Tyler

Since 2001, High Mayhem Emerging Arts has provided a space for what it describes on its website as “creative tinkerers who challenge our notions of aesthetics in music and art.” Though its mission will continue through one iteration or another, the group will be moving on from its long-standing space at 2811 Siler Lane. Steve Paxton, the chair of the contemporary music program, will perform during one of the space’s final concerts in its annual Fall Series.

In an interview with Paxton, he shares insights into his upcoming performance as well as some of his thoughts on the tenets of High Mayhem’s philosophy as a community. Paxton’s piece samples music from artists ranging from Frank Sinatra toFrank Zappa in an interwoven sound collage. He intends the piece as a sort of “ofrenda,” a spiritual offering to the voices of musicians who have passed away. The mix of styles, which blend the worlds of pop and more classically-influenced music, is intended as a chance to “step outside of the history of music,” Paxton says.

During the sound installation, Paxton will include a performance art element. He demonstrates how he will unravel and pass along a large roll of paper through the audience, writing the names of the memorialized artists and speaking them out loud. He says he intends for the audience to join in the naming of the dead, allowing his performance to become a part of the community mindset of the space.

Regarding influence, Paxton cites John Cage saying he feels the intention of the piece is to “set up a process and observe the results… without manipulating the results.” While the philosophical and intellectual qualities of experimental music are important, Paxton says he also hopes the emotional content of his work resonates with the audience. “That’s very important to me,” he continues, saying he wants to “bring those things back together.”

CMP Majors Angelo Harmsworth (left) and Sam Funk (right) interact with Paxton's performance piece. Photograph by Amanda Tyler

CMP Majors Angelo Harmsworth (left) and Sam Funk (right) interact with Paxton’s performance piece. Photograph by Amanda Tyler

Paxton said that he was excited to perform in the High Mayhem space after being invited by CMP major Angelo Harmsworth, who volunteers at the space and will be performing in the concert as well. As for the space itself, Paxton says he appreciates the “club mentality,” and that the atmosphere of the space lends a unique tone to the experimental art and music community. “It’s kind of DIY… it’s more like folk music, back porch music,” says Paxton.

To this end, Paxton says he is excited to perform in a space that bridges the gap between music that is intended solely for entertainment and music that is intended strictly as artistic expression. “I’m hoping it will be entertaining,” he says, and also show the “clear pathway back and forth” between art and entertainment.

Paxton will be performing Nov. 15 at High Mayhem Emerging Arts, 2811 Siler Lane, alongside Angelo Harmsworth, The Proxemics, BullSeal! and Johnny Bell. Doors open at 7 p.m. and a $10 donation is encouraged.