If you have burning questions about the cosmology of Sun Ra or the metaphysics of Parliament-Funkadelic, Thomas Stanley has some cool answers. The veteran ethnomusicologist and musician is one of the area's leading thinkers on visionary music — so it makes perfect sense that Rhizome, a venue committed to way-out sounds, recently named Stanley its "scholar in residence." Since September, Stanley has been hosting Praxis, a monthly conversation-followed-by-a-concert series during which he asks his guests "how their work as creators and transformers of society" intersects.
This weekend, Stanley is hosting Sarmistha Talukdar, a Virginia composer originally from Kolkata, India, who will perform what she calls "avant-Indo-experimental" music under the name Tavishi. Stanley says he's looking forward to a "duologue" with an artist who "walks what she talks," but he knows that the cozy physical dimensions of Rhizome itself can lead to bigger group discussions. "You don't have to force audience interaction," Stanley says of his Praxis gatherings. "The audience is pretty much already in your lap."
To forge that kind of intimacy, you still have to cultivate a certain hospitality, which isn't always easy when you're programming music from the fringe. But don't be shy, people.
"Radicals are not cynical people; we're really optimists," Stanley insists. "The absence of war is not a bad idea at all. If the absence of war creates anything like a vacuum, then it is a vacuum to be filled with joy and justice on a scale and in proportions that we've never before experienced." In other words, if you're ready to open your ears and your mind, come in peace. And if you have questions, ask.