In preparing for the January 2018 Creating Music Together retreat, I've thought a lot about how to structure a situation, and what affect small changes to aspects of the situation--such as money, food, location, accommodation, space, geography and time--have on the experience. Below, please find a round-up of what I call "pop-up utopias" - small, intentional communities that form for a limited time for a specific purpose. There are many more out there, below are the ones I have direct experience with or know and have confidence in the organizers.

Co-incidence Festival | January 19th - 28th, 2018 | Washington Street Gallery, Somerville MA

Selected composer/performers/artists join Joachim Eckl to take over Washington Street Gallery for a week of collaboration, critical discussion, workshopping, and public performances. The festival is directed and organized by experimental composer/performers Aaron Foster Breilyn and Luke Martin.

Situation: Participants meet and work together at the gallery, where public performances take place. Participants are responsible for their own living accommodations, which can be found in Somerville.

Money: Aaron and Luke do some grant-writing and have been able to offer small amounts to the artists who are accepted to cover travel. Audience are also welcome to attend the concerts for a small fee at the door.

Applications are due October 29th, 2017. Apply here.

Summer School of Craft | June 24 - August 11, 2018 | St. Mary's Retreat House, 775 West Drahner Rd, Oxford, Michigan

This seven week intensive guitar course organized and taught by veterans of Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft and Guitar Circle courses. There's a strong emphasis on working in groups, and participants share the cooking and cleaning tasks. The approach is holistic, incorporating Alexander Technique, Tai Chi, and a morning sitting inspired by Vipassana meditation. I've done four GC courses and participated in weekly Guitar Circle sessions. The group kept me practicing and working beyond my patience, helped me extend my attention-span and develop an awareness of my body while performing. Very intense, and a very good way to learn guitar.

Situation: Residential - everyone pitches in to do the cooking and cleaning up.

Money: $1000 for a week $2500 for seven weeks includes single room with shared bath, all instruction and all meals. This is funded entirely by the participants, and covers costs.


Klangraum Düsseldorf | Summers | Kunstraum Düsseldorf | Himmelgeisterstrasse

Klangraum centers on a series of concerts, sound installations, and experimental operas over six or so weeks in July and August. Part extended music festival, part artist residency, part Wandelweiser family reunion, there is enough time and great people for meaningful informal exchanges, in-depth rehearsals, and a vital exploration of the work around the musicaldescendents of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Scratch Orchestra, and AMM. Antoine Beuger serves as organizer and midwife, accepting proposals and supporting as resources allow. Marcus Kaiser often supplements with concerts at his loft Kaiserwellen.

Situation: Extended concert series. Audience and musicians come and go during the weeks of Klangraum. 

Money: Admission to concerts by donation. Participants are responsible for their own overnight and meals. There are decent low-cost hotels and vacation rentals within walking distance to the Kunstraum. Value far exceeds cost, especially for someone knew to this network.


Deep Listening in Nature retreat | five nights in July | Pointe Navarre, Gaspé, Quebec, Canada

Led by Deep Listening certificate holder Kathy Kennedy in the remote reaches of Quebec near the sea. Kathy calls it an "ear cleaning" experience for musicians and non-musicians, and includes many Deep Listening exercises, vocalizations, and practices of acoustic ecology.

Situation: Residential retreat. 12 people maximum.

Money: Course fee covers overnight and food. Last year it was $500 per person.


Chosen Vale Seminar | June | Enfield Shaker Museum, Vermont

While closer to a traditional summer music course, the strong sense of community and connection among the participants goes beyond what is possible in an academic setting. There are two seminars that usually run back-to-back, the trumpet seminar and the percussion seminar. Participants take meals together, and there are masterclasses, concerts, and a fair amount of informal sharing among participants.

Situation: Residential music course.

Money: $2300 for two weeks includes food and a room in a historic Shaker lodge.


Olomouc Seminar | one week in the Fall | Olomouc, Czech Republic

For the past ten years, Bernd Herzogenrath, professor of American Studies at the Goethe University Frankfurt has organized a week-long seminar in Olomouc, Czech Republic. Each year has a different focus, and he invites visiting lecturers/artists to give presentations. Scheduled programs take up four hours each day; the rest of the time is centered on meals and informal social time, where students and visiting lecturers/artist have vital exchanges. The focus combined with a relaxed atmosphere allow for surprising connections.

Situation: Seminar with daily lectures/presentations

Money: For non-Goethe University students (only four spaces available) €100 per person plus meals and modest overnight in a former Olomouc University dorm now operating as a hotel (about €400). Double rooms with shared bathroom and access to a kitchen.

Info: herzogenrath[at]em.uni-frankfurt[dot]de

AuthorCraig Shepard