Going underground for inspiration 

Have you ever found yourself waiting for BART, wondering just what, exactly, is that person across from you thinking about as she stares off blankly into space?

If she’s anything like Oakland’s resident techno diva Amy X Neuburg, it’s possible she’s crafting a secret musical language inside her head.

Sound peculiar? Well, Neuburg will be the first to admit she’s just that.

"I’m never able to pinpoint where it all began. It’s in your bones, I guess. Some people are weird and some people aren’t," jokes the electronic songstress.

Beginning Friday at San Francisco’s Dance Mission Theater, Neuburg invites audiences inside her headspace to experience "The Secret Language of Subways," an avant-cabaret performance of 12 experimental electronic compositions infused with cellos that explores issues of life, love and war through poetic images and metaphors.

"This is certainly my most ambitious project to date,’’ says Neuburg, 44, of "Subways," which was inspired, in part, by her time spent living in New York and her love of the cello.

"New York has such an enormous variety and number of people who live there. Take the subway, for instance. Here we are, rich and poor, from all these different backgrounds sitting together in the same place.

There’s something that’s so romantic about that to me and I just found myself writing songs and wondering ‘What are all these people thinking about?’" she says.

The accomplished composer, vocalist and electronic musician, who went to Ohio’s Oberlin Conservatory of Music and later earned a graduate degree in electronic music from Mills College in Oakland, has been delivering genre-defying experimental concerts for more than 20 years in the Bay Area. Yet her latest effort, which was conceived of in late 2004, pulls her in an entirely new musical direction.

Neuburg is perhaps best known in the avant-garde circuit for using drum pads and her trusty rack of techno gadgetry to trigger real-time looping and vocal processing for the effect of live sampling in her performances.

In "Subways," however, she relies less on electro-wizardry. Instead, she relies on her four-octave vocal range and the string section, courtesy of Cello ChiXtet’s Elaine Kreston, Jess Ivry and Beth Vandervennet, to create the dramatics.

It’s just the beginning for "Subway," which extends through Sunday at Dance Mission Theater. Admittedly, Neuburg is a little nervous about pulling off the first installment of the show.

"It’s scary, but it’s also the most exciting and edgy. There’s this sense that anything can go wrong, that mistakes and imperfections might happen, but we’ll keep doing this and get better at it," she says. "I hope to eventually record an album and I joked to a friend the other day that when I bring it to New York I should change up the songs to be about BART."


The Secret Language of Subways

Where: Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday

Tickets: $15 in advance, $18 at the door

Contact: (415) 273-4633, or visit www.amyxneuburg.com

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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