The noise rock scene is one defined by innovation, characterized in its various guises by the pushing of boundaries and the constant experimentation with sound and performance. But when it comes to gender relations and the balance of the sexes, the genre can seem, at least on the surface of things, much like of the rest of the world.

"People in this culture have a very difficult time attributing power to a female," says Jenny Graf, one half of the duos Metalux and Harrius. "Identification with a male voice on stage or in a courtroom or whatever is much more comfortable for most people."

Graf, a filmmaker as well as a musician, is one of three women - alongside the duo Stone Baby of Rochester and the influential experimental guitarist Marcia Bassett - who will play a show at the Lost Dog Lounge that seeks to highlight the influence of women in the noise and improv genres. The show will be held on Tuesday, August 12. I spoke over email with Graf and Bassett about their recent work, the differences between solo performance and collaboration, and the issue of gender in experimental music.

Evident in the comments of both women is a dedication to their unique approaches to art and a confidence in nontraditional methods and styles. There is little ambiguity when they discuss their work, a complete lack of generalizing or cliché, and plenty of emphasis on the merits of free-flowing creativity.

Graf, currently based in Baltimore, has worked on a variety of projects in both film and music and often combines elements of the two disciplines. With a solo album coming this winter, a new Harrius record being mixed, and a Metalux tour on the horizon, she's still found the time to work on what she calls a "large-scale composition for human activity" for the High Zero Festival of Improvised Music in Baltimore this fall, as well as a "sonic/ultrasonic composition for ferns" to be featured at the Lincoln Conservatory in Chicago in December.

Compositions for "human activity" and ferns - Graf has little regard for normal ideas about the limits of art. This independent attitude can be seen in "The Guitars Project," her recent experiment in learning guitar with female patients of Alzheimer's that inspired a series of three-minutes short films entitled "Exchanges."

"In both filmmaking and music making I'm interested in levels of consciousness and how that interfaces with the way in which ideas can be communicated," says Graf. "It is very different to make something that engages people with sound, image and storytelling all at once."

Often, Graf will intertwine the two disciplines in her work. "The sound and the image work together in film to create a fictional space enclosed in a box. The tension between the box and the space always exists and so the sound can be a bridge between the world you see and the world you don't see. I like that in film, reality is never static, [and] sound can be a vehicle to transform one reality into another."

Sound as a reality-transforming vehicle is something that Marcia Bassett also knows about. A prolific performer and studio musician, she made her name in the renowned experimental quartet Double Leopards and has proven her mastery of a breadth of styles and temperaments in the bands Hototogisu and GHQ.

Like Graf, Bassett pushes past the expected with her unrestrained guitar experiments and trance-like vocal improvisations. Tom Carter, a member of the avant guitar duo Charalambides, plays with Bassett in the duo Zaika. Here, Carter describes her unique musical approach: "I know she doesn't consciously hew to someone else's aesthetic... Overall I think of her music [as] having the attention to fine sonic detail of experimental electronic music and the modal weight of psychedelic," Carter says.

Currently on tour under her solo moniker Zaimph, Bassett shared some thoughts about her music-making process. "My approach is totally non-traditional, which leaves all possibilities open for me. I feel really unlimited as to what I can do." As for her tendency to reinvent her sound with each new recording: "I think of it in a more linear projection. The overall recording is very much thought of as a definitive whole - meaning each piece is related to the next. The placement next to another piece is important for me too. I spend a lot of time mapping out the arrangement of pieces on my releases and thinking about how one piece influences the other," says Bassett.

Both Graf and Bassett will be performing solo at the Lost Dog, which means they will have a chance to explore in depth ideas that have come up in their work with collaborators. Both describe the experience of playing alone as a somewhat more deliberate activity.

"My relationship with the audience is more central, more intimate when I play solo," says Graf. Collaborating is "kind of like steering a large vessel using two pairs of hands, without talking... Playing alone is much more intimate. I can use my own temperament more directly to guide the music and audience and I can go places that are my own places, ones that only I imagine. I can move at my own pace through a series of ideas."

Bassett recognizes a similar freedom in her work as Zaimph: "Sound-wise, I am able to develop and build on individual pieces, which enables me to revisit certain ideas, pushing the limits or introducing new elements within my own timeframe and sensibilities... I often elaborate on tunings, effects, rhythm[s] that are/were being used in a particular project."

As for one element of the show - women in noise - Graf and Bassett are somewhat divided over the issue. Graf, for one, sees a definite problem: "It's no different than being a woman in any other scene or non-scene in life... it is really interesting that although a music scene may strive to break down barriers and conventions, the truly stubborn barriers within people remain intact."

Bassett is a bit more skeptical. "Well, my approach is just go ahead and do it - I mean play. I don't let other people limit where I want to go. Really the only place that really seems to focus on gender is the press."

Whatever the real truth about gender dynamics in noise - there's certainly no consensus even within the scene - the August 12 show will bring to Ithaca two of the most prominent women in the genre. Graf, ever the boundary-pusher, will be on the "Tranoe" - "an instrument that lets me guide sounds with my hands and mind" - while Bassett, characteristically coy, shied away from any specifics when I asked her about plans for the evening: "Ah, that is the mystery... you'll have to come out to know."

Jenny Graf Bibulah and Zaimph will perform at the Lost Dog Lounge this Tuesday, August 12. Rochester-based noise duo Stone Baby will open. The show begins at 9pm. For more information, visit our arts blog, Popcorn Youth. (www.ithacatimesartsblog.com)

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