About to turn the ripe old age of 8, Matt McBane‘s crazy idea of a 20-something composer/performer creating an annual new-music festival  in a bump in the road north of San Diego has not only survived but thrived. Something about a last late-summer outing, to an idyllic village parked right at a Pacific beach, seems to consistently draw a crowd from both Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to the south for this three-day affair. And, well, maybe it’s just a little about the music, too… Excellent string quartets, pianists and ensembles mix it up with rock bands, ethnic groups, open-air jams and units that fit into all and none of the above. Given that Matt’s main going concern is the genre-melding group BUILD, all this variety turns out to share threads of the same impulse: “Mr. Classical-Gorbachev, tear down this wall!!”

This year marks the biggest change to date: for the first time the entire Festival will be held completely in the Village of Carlsbad. As Matt tells it, this

means we can present a broader array of music than in the past: from the thoroughly modern classical music of the Calder Quartet and pianist Vicky Chow, to the chamber-music inflected indie-rock of My Brightest Diamond, to the genre-crossing music of Build, Florent Ghys, Lukas LigetiSarah Kirkland Snider and Shara Worden, to the African electronica of Burkina Electric, to the site-specific installations of Red Fish Blue Fish and Terry Riley’s In C. Yet, while the scope of the music presented has expanded, the Festival maintains its traditions that I have found most appealing: the hand-picked artists, the tradition of musicians from different groups collaborating, the Composers-in-Residence (5 this year!), and the commissioning and presenting of new works.

Speaking of composers and commissioning, The video at the top of this story shows this year’s Composers Competition winner, Jacob Cooper. His Big Black Bottom Kind will be part of the grand-finale concert given by the Calder Quartet, which also includes quartets by Thomas Adès and Jacob TV.

Matt, you have a few more words?…

In addition to its hand-picked programming, a big part of the Festival every year is the interaction with the community. Prior to the festival weekend, many of the festival musicians give always-hugely-popular performance-demonstrations for music students in the Carlsbad middle and high schools. This year with the Festival’s new format there will also be many free events open to everyone including the Music Walk and the Picnic Concerts, and there will be many performances by musicians from the community around the Village throughout the weekend.

It all kicks off this Friday, September 23, running through Sunday, and everything you need to know about the who’s, what’s and where’s can be found here.

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