PAVED Arts audio festival Sounds Like a good time

By in Culture

Have you ever wondered about the distinction between sound and music? This question is exactly what the seventh annual Sounds Like festival is about — and it will surely rock your aural world.

Hosted by PAVED Arts and curated by the Unheard Sound Collective, the Sounds Like audio festival is taking place in Saskatoon from Nov. 9 to 12 — the weekend before fall reading week. The festival features live performances, workshops during the day on Saturday as well as film screenings on Sunday night.

The term “audio festival” may be vague for those unfamiliar with the Sounds Like series. The music featured at the festival is commonly called “sound art,” a category often associated with electro-acoustic and noise music. However, festival organizers Chad Munson and Todd Emel want to move past this moniker.

“I’m not really comfortable saying it’s sound art or audio art or music. I don’t feel like there has to be that distinction,” Munson said. “We want it to be more open so that there can be things that edge into the world of new music or things that edge into the world of sound art or things that edge in the world of video-based work. It’s basically just audio-oriented art.”

This year’s festival is focused on dialogues through music — or the idea that sound can create an interpersonal discourse. Emel notes that this iteration of Sounds Like aims to create an opportunity for communication that would otherwise not take place.

“We’re providing a platform for things that maybe don’t fit in clear categories. It’s really about providing the artists with a space where they feel comfortable to fully realize their ideas,” Emel said.

While it is difficult to understand exactly what Sounds Like has to offer without listening to the acts, Emel compares the festival’s sound to a psychedelic experience.

“I’ve had at least three full-blown out-of-body experiences listening to sound art at the festival… It’s ecstatic,” Emel said.

The festival itself is taking place at a number of venues, including La Troupe du Jour, PAVED Arts and the Remai Modern Art Gallery of Saskatchewan. For Munson, the cross-pollination between the festival and the venues supports their focus on dialogues.

“A big thing for us is to break down the boundaries between all those different practices,” Munson said.

Although the festival may seem inaccessible for those unfamiliar with the sound-art scene, Munson believes that the only way to truly understand it is by going.

“I feel like — with a lot of things that are labelled ‘sound art’ or ‘audio art’ or ‘experimental music’ — there’s a bit of an air of pretension around those things. A lot of people don’t understand it, but there’s something more to understand than just the experience,” Munson said.

Munson and Emel reveal that many artists featured in the festival come from the punk-rock scene and practice a type of do-it-yourself experimentation, which they hope rubs off on audience members.

“If anyone leaves this festival and wants to do this, then I feel like we’re winning,” Munson said. “It’s kind of the folk music of now, because anyone can do it. If you have cheap laptop, you can make this kind of art.”

Ultimately, Munson and Emel hope that the no-stress philosophy that goes along with audio art is something that can ease listeners at the festival.

“Come and let yourself be immersed in it. Just don’t overthink it, and let yourself have a really organic response to it,” Munson said. “You may hate it, … but I feel like there’s enough of a range this year that there’s a little bit in there for everybody who’s interested in music.”

Festival events are $5-15, and a festival pass for the whole weekend is $25. For the full lineup, schedule and tickets, head to soundslikefest.com.

Tiess Mckenzie

Original photo by Klara Du Pleiss, edited by Ghost House / Supplied