Among the complaints infrequently heard among local music aficionados is the dearth of avant-garde music programs. Nevertheless, downtown's Installation gallery is inaugurating its own music series Oct. 8 with a concert by electric guitarist Mark Trayle.
"There are very few venues for new music outside of academia," said gallery director Dan Wasil. "In fact, outside of UC San Diego, there isn't anything for electronic music or a different approach to acoustic work."
Wasil said that, after 10 years of showing the work of avant-garde visual artists, Installation was eager to expand into other media.
"Experimentation is who we are, primarily. The gallery is a laboratory for experimental culture. Our emphasis obviously is not on the commercial. There are plenty of venues for that here in town. We don't have to be a nightclub or a commercial gallery--we're an experimental museum.
It is easy to imagine a variety of performing groups taking to the gallery's sprawling but unpretentious quarters--the basement of a large edifice that housed the First Baptist Church before the congregation moved to the suburbs. In May, Installation put on a production of "The Strong Breed" by Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian playwright who won a 1986 Nobel prize. Later in October, Installation staff member Shelley White will host poetry readings, and a video project is on the drawing boards.
Trayle is associated with the San Francisco-based computer music band "The Hub" and is touring with the group in Europe. A recent emigre to San Diego from the Bay Area, he contacted Installation shortly after relocating to Encinitas. After a meeting with Wasil, who appreciated Trayle's performance links with similar San Francisco galleries, including the New Langton, Trayle became the gallery's music coordinator.
When reached by phone, Trayle said his plans for the Installation music series were to provide an alternative to the UCSD scene, even though his wife, violinist Mary Oliver, is a graduate student there. After Trayle's debut, another North County group, (trom-bown), will appear Oct. 13.
For a gallery director who has managed to survive the fickle trends of the contemporary art world, Wasil still harbors some crazy, idealistic notions.
"If we could get visual artists actually working on music and musicians working on the visual, then we would have what I think of as collaboration--this is my goal. The crossover is what we're interested in. We've seen that a lot having done Artwalk for the last four years."
Wasil acknowledges being an avocational musician, although it is unlikely that he will soon appear on the new music series.
"I'm a casual player--keyboards, guitar. I come out of '60s rock 'n' roll with a Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Beethoven and Bach eclectic background."
Fall in San Diego usually heralds the opening of the opera season. But now that San Diego Opera has decided to operate on a consolidated schedule with all performances between January and April, fall seems musically depleted. West Coast Lyric Opera will offer some consolation, however, with its program of Donizetti opera highlights on Oct. 2 at the Hahn Cosmopolitan Theatre.
Company artistic director Anne Young has selected scenes from Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" and "Don Pasquale," accompanied by a chamber orchestra under the baton of Yugoslav conductor Sandro Zaninovich. If there is such a thing as the Yugoslav connection locally, it is San Diego Symphony violinist Vesna Gruppman, who put Young and Zaninovich together. A frequent guest conductor at Yugoslav summer music festivals, Zaninovich now makes his home in Los Angeles.
Adding more international flavor to Young's cast is Romanian basso Josif Buibas as Don Pasquale. Local Metropolitan Opera audition winner Debra Pearson will sing the title role of Lucia.
Lunchtime in downtown San Diego need not be relegated to a continuous round of munching in anonymous delis. On alternate Mondays below Horton Plaza in the Lyceum Theatre, San Diego Mini-Concerts offers free programs for a musical lunch. UCSD keyboard master Cecil Lytle is first up this season on Oct. 3, playing piano pieces by Chopin and contemporary American expatriate Conlon Nancarrow. Over the fall weeks, the series will present music as varied as the sprightly tunes of Harry Pickens' Jazz Trio and the stately sonorities of the San Diego Brass Consort.
Another budget stretcher. The downtown San Diego Public Library presents free chamber music concerts on Tuesday evenings. David Ward-Steinman opened the series last Tuesday with a program devoted to his own compositions, an adventuresome beginning for a series that usually sticks to standard classical repertory.