Tone Deaf Music Festival on key for 17th run

Experimental artists and performers to visit Kingston

The Tone Deaf festival will be returning to Kingston this month for the 17th year.
Credit: 
Photo supplied by Graeme Langdon

If you didn’t know Kingston had a local experimental music scene, you’re not alone. 

Running from from Nov. 15 to 24, the Tone Deaf Music Festival for Adventurous Sound is trying to change that. Entering year 17 as an official festival, it showcases established andup-and-coming experimental musicians from all over the world. 

If it’s not mainstream, it fits the bill. 

Graeme Langdon is one of four artists the festival is working to expose to the city to bring this experimentation to Kingston. 

“This is an exciting opportunity for people to see and hear something unlike anything they’ve ever seen or heard before,” Langdon told The Journal. 

Knowing  Kingston is known for producing great music—typically rock bands like The Tragically Hip and The Glorious Sons—Langdon still believes the city could be home to the biggest and best experimental artists. 

To make it happen, Langdon worked alongside Emily Pelstring, Matt Rogalsky, and Daniel Darch, brainstorming what experimental music they wanted to highlight in their 17th festival. 

From artrock bands in Montreal, to solo beat makers in Toronto, Tone Deaf is a festival for predominantly underground and emerging musical acts. 

While researching bands, Langdon feverishly emailed and cold-called artists, both local and international, to invite them to partake in the event. 

It’s a big job. 

Many experimental musicians established in their own respective genres don’t regularly stop in Kingston, knowing that there isn’t a huge demand for their music here. 

Artists like Phill Niblock, who’s made his name in minimalist and experimental music, film, and photography over the last 50 years works out of New York—where there are more opportunities and demand for abstract, non-mainstream content.  

Alongside Niblock, regional and emerging artists partake in the Tone Deaf Festival this month—including artists from Queen’s.

Proving there’s a growing platform and audience base for experimental music in Kingston, five Queen’s students will be showcasing their music ranging from traditional acoustic composition, electrical engineering and electroacoustic composition, to harsh noise and soundscapes.  

“There is so much vibrant, incredible music happening in all different communities in Canada,” Langdon said. 

Though there’s some interest in the experimental genre, there isn’t a high demand. The City of Kingston’s Arts Council granted Tone Deaf the funding to afford this festival—but not enough to pay for artists’ lodging. Graeme and his colleagues have volunteered to host performers in their own homes. 

He’s willing to do anything necessary to keep this festival up and running. 

After all, their goal is to change the city’s music scene in a big way—that requires dedication and sacrifice. But for Langdon, it is a goal worth working towards. 

“Events like this provide inspiration to that small community and help to grow it,” Langdon said. 

The fact that there are a select few experimental musicians in Kingston, is enough reason to try to “feed this small community.” 

The festival is a service to Kingstonians. It’s a rare chance to see something new.  

“It’s the one opportunity out of the year to have these boundaries pushing artists in town or the opportunity to see them and have your mind expanded,” Langdon said. 

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