Support the “Option Series” at ESS


An open letter to the music and art scene-

In June of 2015, the OPTION music salon began presenting concerts and conversations at Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago.  Since the first performance and discussion with Paul Lytton there have been dozens of performances, giving artists the opportunity to present their work and audiences a chance to ask questions and talk with the artists informally. These conversations are now part of the continuum of shared experience and oral/sonic history in Chicago experimental music history, extending such irreplaceable documented and archived histories as the AACM, which were utilized in a major exhibition held at the MCA in this city, now shown at the ICA in Philadelphia; and which belong to an international field of documentation that includes John Corbett’s recently published, “Microgroove,” and the overview of Steve Lacy interviews assembled in Jason Weiss’, “Conversations;” libraries of oral histories collected at major universities like those at MIT, Yale, and Columbia; the oral history archive at the British Library and the EMP Museum; and the legendary “For Example” collection on FMP, which documented the activities of the Workshop Freie Musik from 1969-1978 in sound, text, and photographs.

A single private donor has made this important programming possible:

Joshua Abrams, Jason Adasiewicz, Michael Attias, Jim Baker, Tim Barnes, Amanda Deboer Bartlett, Johannes Bauer, Josh Berman, Jeb Bishop, Silvia Bolognesi, Jaimie Branch, Ari Brown, Anthony Coleman, Chris Corsano, Sylvie Courvoisier, Hamid Drake, Ben LaMar Gay, Carol Genetti, Ben Goldberg, Elisabeth Harnik, Terrie Hessels, Russ Johnson, Kent Kessler, Christof Kurzmann, Ingrid Laubrock, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Paul Lytton, Mat Maneri, Joe McPhee, Andy Moor, Joe Morris, Paal Nilssen-Love, Weston Olencki, Jeff Parker, William Parker, Tom Rainey, Dave Rempis, Jason Roebke, Eve Risser, Susana Santos Silva, Steve Swell, Ben Vida, Edward Wilkerson, Mars Williams, Nate Wooley, C. Spencer Yeh, Katherine Young, Aaron Zarzutzki, Michael Zerang…

To continue the series, we need your help.

This individual sponsorship inspired the launch of the series. We now ask the music community to help us build on this inspired generosity so we can, together, extend the important and influential continuum of Chicago experimental music.

As of October, OPTION has gone on hiatus while the programmers and ESS look for additional ways to underwrite the series.  Experimental music and programming has often needed to be supported by its community of listeners and makers. Recently, “The Selected Letters of John Cage,” was published and its pages are filled with his struggle to raise money for experimental work. While funding systems often looks at sustainability as a financial concern, we see it as extending directly from the mission of ESS and the artistic vision of OPTION participants.  What this work creates through “sustainability” is artistic- through archiving and documentation- something that ESS has had in place since the beginning of OPTION.  Without this kind of activity, museum exhibits like “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now,” held at the MCA in Chicago (and now at the ICA in Philadelphia) would be impossible.  Without recording oral histories, George Lewis’ access to the minutes of the early AACM meetings, for use in his seminal book, “A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music,” would have been impossible.  Without photographs, television footage, radio and studio recordings, the understanding of what was accomplished by the Workshop Freie Musik in Berlin between 1969-1978 would be impossible. The list goes on and on.

As organizers we are working to find a funding alternative to allow us to perpetuate the unique experience of OPTION for audiences and musicians now and into the future.  The originating sponsorship enabled OPTION to offer all Chicago participants an honorarium and travel/accommodation when needed. Each participant on the series received a professional, multi-tracked recording of their performance as part of their compensation. Ticket sales supported ESS operating expenses incurred by ESS.

A fund of $4000 per quarter has enabled OPTION to organize the kind of programming described above, and it can maintain the same series of exceptional concerts in the future.

We’re reaching out now to the scene itself, to find individual donors from people who believe, as we do, that experimental music and improvising musicians should not only be heard, but should be respected through fair payment and an open curiosity toward their ideas.

Our thanks to everyone involved at OPTION— Tim Daisy, Andrew Clinkman, Ken Vandermark, the incredible staff and volunteers at ESS, the patron of the 2015-2016 season, the media who helped spread the word, the audiences, and most of all: the musicians.

Here is a link to how you can help: