There are two kinds of avant-garde sound makers: those who view their work as Serious Art, best experienced under monastic conditions, and those who refuse to accept the idea that experimental music can’t be a party. If you side with the latter camp, you need to have Sam Hillmer on cultural speed dial. Since the late ’90s, the local saxophonist has been on a multifaceted mission to fuse classical music’s intellectual rigor with underground rock’s street-level rawness. The various series he’s helped oversee—including Practice!, currently going down weekly at Williamsburg’s Zebulon—have snowballed into a polyglot scene, embracing indie hip-hop, modern composition, free jazz, outlandish theater and more.
If you’re looking for a way in to Hillmer’s world, take the title of You Are Here as an imperative. An honest-to-God, human-scale labyrinth—coconceived with Hillmer’s wife, sculptor Laura Paris, and first launched in a midtown gallery in 2007—the project casts a variety of cutting-edge musicians in a Willy Wonka–esque happening, complete with hidden potions, custom video games housed in treasure chests and an interactive sound installation. The live music is no afterthought: Depending on when you go, you might hear a guitar visionary like Mick Barr or Dustin Wong, a heady soundscapist such as Laurel Halo or Noveller, or one of Hillmer’s own challenging projects, which include Zs and Diamond Terrifier. (View the day-by-day schedule at troublemaze.com/ny-calendar.html.) In all cases, the objective is the same: Relish this rare chance to get lost in sound and space alike.—Hank Shteamer
Follow Hank Shteamer on Twitter: @DarkForcesSwing