Some of this year's Counterflows artists tell us why this compact and bijou festival of avant-garde music keeps joyfully bubbling away
Counterflows is a much anticipated annual celebration of 'artists who fall through the cracks'. Those artists may not be household names but they're still recognised practitioners in the diverse fields of contemporary classical, jazz, electronica, improvisation and performance art.
This year's gender-balanced, multi-disciplinary and international bill features respected artists from home and away, including top-flight US jazz improvisers Nicole Mitchell and Tomeka Reid and the Gorbals Youth Brass Band paying tribute to the music of composer and arranger Bill Wells.
With a desire to make the seemingly inaccessible accessible, performances take place not in dry, stuffy concert auditoriums but in varied venues around the city, from arts centres to community halls. The festival's curators Alasdair Campbell and Fielding Hope are not just paying lip service to diversity and inclusion but actively seek to engage with the city's spaces, demystify what is often seen as 'difficult' music and foster an inclusive community of curious customers. And the participants are as much fans of the festival as its loyal audience, as some of this year's artists were only too happy to tell us.
Alexander Hawkins, jazz pianist and composer
It would be hard to find a festival with programming as diverse as that of Counterflows and, at the same time, as coherent. Part of their magic is to make completely individual, uncompromising music accessible to a wide audience, and I think this parallels something of what I'm after in my own music: the idea that music should be a risk-taking and personal enterprise, at the same time as recognising its qualities as a communicative, shared experience.
I'm playing twice. Solo piano has been a format in which I've always performed. This is risk-taking through familiarity; there's a special opportunity to push ideas up to and beyond breaking point when on stage alone. The other performance is a world premiere of a trio with two of the greatest improvisers from the USA, Nicole Mitchell and Tomeka Reid. Although we have deep musical affinities in many senses, this is risk-taking through novelty.
Myriam Van Imschoot, voice artist
For the first time we can present the yodel duet Hola Hu [with Doreen Kutzke] with the films that reveal the backstories of some of my collaborators and muses. Every voice technique has a genealogy of transmission where cultural history and personal biography intersect; that's where the counterflows arise.
Susie Ibarra, contemporary composer and percussionist
Counterflows is truly dedicated to radical music making and cultural exploration. I was honoured to be invited to perform, loved the diversity and how invested the festival is in their commitment to nurturing and creating an amazing artistic community.
Ashanti Harris, dancer and DJ
I always feel like I'm masquerading as a DJ. I grew up with carnival and I love everything it stands for like connecting to your ancestors and making your body move. I'm terrible at mixing and don't have any tricks up my sleeve, but I'm a furious collector and a sharp selector and I never stop dancing to the music I'm playing.
Ashley Paul, composer and multi-instrumentalist
For me, Counterflows is Fielding and Alasdair, and their incredible awareness and support of independent, unusual music. I feel truly honoured to have been a part of Counterflows: they have such good taste! The music represented doesn't fall into genres or categories; they are simply interested in good music.
Counterflows, various venues, Glasgow, Thu 4–Sun 7 Apr.