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Railroad Earth celebrates its unique aesthetic with MultiMedia Festival


If you knew the recording existed, where in the world would you turn to find Skateboarding in Sarajevo and other poems, the latest CD compilation by local writer Jerry Cullum? How about Clark Vreeland's Digital Tape Conkrete or The Aleph by Maurice Clifford? And do you know how to ferret out the Hidden Tracks recorded at Chelsea Studios by local musicians like Smoke, Kelly Hogan, Bill Taft and Grace Braun?

These CDs and more will be available at Railroad Earth Studios' weeklong MultiMedia Festival. Beginning on June 18, the RRE MultiMedia Festival presents an opportunity to decipher what members of the self-described "artist community and production facility" have been up to for almost 10 years now.

Situated in a rambling house near Emory University, the Studios don't look exactly like the brainiac headquarters that they are. The house used to be the private Ar'lyn Worth school. Now a bit musty and cluttered, what Fried calls "the parallel university" is a home for wayward techno-heads and musicians. The place is riddled with rooms of computers and recording equipment.

Resident Earthmen Neil Fried, Maurice Clifford and Scott Childs maintain an open door attitude about life that is refreshing and scary at the same time. Their laid-back, somewhat spacey style belies the fact that they spend most days (and some nights) involved in intense commercial video production, sound design and composition. Their paying clients include the Centers for Disease Control, Easter Seals, Turner Broadcasting and all manner of music makers. Still, they find a way to facilitate esoteric gatherings that involve the creative synthesis of art, philosophy and new sounds.

"I've observed with fascination as Railroad Earth has documented one amazing performance event after another, and I'm very happy to see this work finally being made available," comments Cullum, who regularly frequents RRE events. Cullum is heavily committed to Artists in Residence International, an organization whose monthly activities are hosted at the Studios. Robert Cheatham, another RRE operative, says the festival is "an effort for us to pool together to get a little attention in Atlanta, but also to find new markets and communities. Atlanta hasn't paid much attention to alternative forms. We have to develop an audience."

RRE was established by Fried and Childs in 1995, though three years before that, Fried was already recording music in the basement studio of his parents' house in Druid Hills. Says Fried, "We've been doing production for many years and have accumulated archives of music and networks of clients and collaborators. This festival is the launch of a publishing catalogue that includes much of that archive. It's an attempt to form critical mass in like-minded producers and artists."

The "network" he refers to probably consists of less than 100 locals along with the international arts community they're developing on the Internet. Railroad Earth's website pictures the collective concept as "a communication metaphor" and "a point of connection." The group's name is taken from the title of a Jack Kerouac short story that explores the railroad and its relationship to the wanderings of the Beat generation. Trippy indeed. The guys have developed a multi-dimensional idea of the past, present and future of artistic expression that defies a truly focused description. They are definitely outside the box.

Here's the lowdown on the hi-tech happenings they've scheduled from June 18-June 23:

font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="4" color="#330033">Third Sunday

For the past three years, Railroad Earth has collaborated with Artists in Residence International (an Atlanta group that sponsors artists' residencies here and abroad) in Third Sunday. The monthly event includes slide presentations by artists, one-night exhibitions of artwork, a literary event (performance or reading) and a musical event.

This Third Sunday features poet Jerry Cullum, musicians Dick Robinson, Clark Vreeland and Paul Jorgensen, the Mediterranean ensemble Makari and presentations of work by RRE members Neil Fried and Scott Childs. Cullum will perform excerpts from Skateboarding in Sarajevo, a recording that represents 15 years worth of his poetry. Seventy-five year-old Robinson plays and discusses his ElectrocAcoustic Music, Volume I.

Railroad Earth presents work on Synergetic Crystallography, German artist Herbert Koller and the compilation of musical performances from Third Sunday artists, including the Dribbling Hermits, Woody Williams, Glenn Weinstein, Bill Taft, and others.

June 18 from 3-9 p.m. at Railroad Earth Studios, 1467 Oxford Road. Free.

font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="4" color="#330033">Identity Paper Series

According to organizer Robert Cheatham, Identity Papers presentations "examine various issues of identity formations in art, self and society as we move into the third millennium of human civilization."

A musician and visual artist, Cheatham talks about his work and contextualizes the oeuvre of former Nexus Contemporary Art Center curator Alan Sondheim. Cheatham plays sax and theremin to fête the release of his new CD-ROM, materialisms. He'll introduce (Con)Text(Sub), a CD-ROM that contains 4,000 pages of Sondheim's writing.

June 19 at 8 p.m. at Eyedrum, 253 Trinity Ave. Free.

font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="4" color="#330033">Solstice Celebration

Maurice Clifford presents a special solstice performance of his virtual reality installation environment, The Aleph. Seatings of 8-10 people at a time in a digital cave will experience the aleph, or a point of connectedness in all things.

For the past few years, Clifford has used the aleph as the principle of design for his work with VRML, virtual reality model language. With a mouse, the CD-ROM viewer can navigate through 3-D worlds. In performance settings, the artist works with projectors and quadraphonic sound to simulate the same virtual environment.

June 21 from 8:30-10 p.m. at Railroad Earth Studios. Free.

font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="4" color="#330033">Hidden Tracks Release Party

This previously unreleased work by Smoke, Kelly Hogan, Bill Taft, Grace Braun and others was recorded by Neil Fried at Chelsea Studios. "These are songs that slipped through the cracks," says Fried. "They weren't heavily produced and were very much from the heart."

The event features live performances by Lydia Brownfield (Long Flat Red), Bret Bush, Bill Taft, Kelly Hogan and ex-members of Smoke, along with classic films and video footage by Neil Fried.

June 23 at 9 p.m. at The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Ave. $5 admission.

For more information call 404-373-1561 or visit. www.rre.net.??

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