Aug. 08--As Salem Heritage Days draw to a close this Sunday, they will be accompanied by some unique sounds.
For the third year, a performance of electronica -- music created with electronic devices rather than traditional instruments -- will be held at the Salem Willows bandstand as the final event in the 11-day festival.
"It's not a mainstream style, but I think it's become more popular in the last couple of years," said Scottish-born organizer Scott Buchanan, who lives in Salem and uses the stage name DJ Radio Scotvoid. "Basically you can say it's electronic disco."
Buchanan calls the event Sunset Hang, and uses the acronym SCENE -- Salem's Chiptune, Electronica and Noise Extravaganza -- to describe the group of musicians involved in the event.
Electronica was known as techno in the early '90s, and these days goes by the acronym EDM, or electronic dance music, Buchanan said.
"Basically, it was people who wanted to have the repetitive sound of disco but wanted to make it in their bedrooms with their drum machines," he said.
The do-it-yourself approach that these musicians apply to creating songs extends to their equipment, which is adapted from a range of technologies.
The "chiptunes" in Buchanan's acronym, for example, refer to songs that are created using Nintendo video game consoles.
"Some of the younger kids who grew up with Game Boys -- it became a vintage sound for them," Buchanan said.
"Noise" is another type of electronic sound, which musicians coax from equipment and computer programs that they've made themselves.
"There is a genre called noise, made of this hacked software we're using, opening up an old piece of equipment and soldering it," Buchanan said. "If you run that through a bunch of guitar pedals, you'll get white noise, pink noise. It's distortion."
While the sounds come from a range of devices and sources, the compositions often allude to recognizable genres like hip-hop or punk rock, Buchanan said.
Five musicians from Boston, Cape Cod, Lowell and New Jersey will perform during the second half of Sunday's concert, while three DJs will be featured in the first half.
Whereas electronic musicians create songs from sounds they've borrowed or generated, DJs work more like collage artists, Buchanan said.
"They're playing other people's music, blending them together and creating their own kind of vibe," he said. "Kind of like mashing up other people's music to create a story, a journey of music."
Two of the DJs have local roots, including Noel Snow of Beverly, who plays guitar but started working as a DJ in 1998.
"I've always been interested in different styles of music, instead of typical guitar rock," said Snow. "Different genres, experimental stuff, and that got me listening to a lot of dance music."
Snow first heard a DJ playing techno at a rave, or party, and immediately decided he wanted his own set of turntables.
"I was picking up random jazz records and disco and hip-hop and trying to mix that, even spoken words records," he said. "For a whole year, I disappeared from all my friends."
He would take a series of beats from one type of music, vocals from another, and mix them together.
"Now it's funny because there's a whole style that came out called mash-up," he said. "A DJ will mix popular songs. I've been doing that forever."
Snow likes to combine the natural sounds of musical instruments in a kind of one-man band with its own, unique sound.
"The mixing style is really all about layers going over other layers, where they connect somehow," he said.
Electronic musicians are rarely staged as main acts, he said, and DJs are featured even less often, so he appreciates the chance to appear in the Sunset Hang.
"Especially the DJ is considered the guy between bands, so this whole thing on Sunday, it's awesome," he said. "Ideally, you want to do something of what you like, that comes from your heart, and you hope everyone else will understand it."
He will be followed by DJ Bryan Connery, who uses the stage name Quanteye and played bass in the orchestra and jazz band at Salem High School.
For the last 10 years, Connery has lived in Ludlow, Vt., where he mixes music at athletic events.
"It's a small ski town," he said. "In wintertime, I play a lot of local ski events for ski boarders. I set up in the snow, where there's jumps."
Connery has always been fascinated by how music works, and mixing songs is a way to share his process of exploration with an audience.
"One of the reasons I got into mixing was to learn how music was made and recapture that -- all the different layers, and the mix from one to the other," he said. "Every song is written in a certain key signature, and you can't go willy-nilly mixing songs with songs."
Connery said he'll mix songs using several different kinds of equipment at Sunday's show.
"I'll be playing off an iPad, which will be unique," he said. "The possibilities are limitless. There will be guys on turntables and guys on MIDI controllers. I'm going to play sexy bass music."
While the songs Connery mixes come from other sources, the music he makes is his own.
"I've always appreciated underground music, something that's not mainstream, and that's a whole part of this -- it's underground and not commercialized," he said. "It comes straight from the artist."
If you go What: Sunset Hang When: Sunday, Aug. 11, 3 to 9 p.m. Where: Salem Willows Cost: Free Information: www.radioscotvoid.com
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