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OPTION Music Salon at Experimental Sound Studio

A weekly concert & discussion series putting into dialogue a cross-section of the most exciting contemporary musicians working today.


Option is a weekly music series on Monday nights at Experimental Sound Studio. Its programming explores contemporary perspectives on improvisation and composition in a ‘salon’ format. Organized and curated by Chicago musicians Ken Vandermark, Tim Daisy, and Andrew Clinkman, the schedule of concerts and talks represents an insider’s point of view toward what is currently most exciting in the fields of music and the arts.

Since the first performance and discussion with UK drummer Paul Lytton in June 2015, there have been over 60 similar performances giving artists the opportunity to present their work through their music and words. The concerts are held in an exceptional listening environment and audiences are given the rare chance to ask questions directly to the artists about their work, influences, and processes. These conversations have been extraordinary and historic.

OPTION has presented a cross-section of the most exciting contemporary musicians working today, including:
Joshua Abrams, Jason Adasiewicz, Tim Barnes, Amanda Deboer Bartlett, Johannes Bauer, Jaimie Branch, Anthony Coleman, Sylvie Courvoisier, Hamid Drake, Christof Kurzmann, Ingrid Laubrock, Paul Lytton, Mat Maneri, Joe McPhee, Andy Moor, Joe Morris, Paal Nilssen-Love, Jeff Parker, William Parker, Tom Rainey, Dave Rempis, Steve Swell, Nate Wooley, Katherine Young, and Michael Zerang.

A Unique Avenue Within The World of Music Preservation and Presentation
With a local/national/international approach to programming, the series brings featured artists to perform 1-2 sets each night. OPTION interviews take place afterwards in a “musicians-interviewing-musicians” format and are all archived by ESS and made available online. Both concerts and interviews are streamed live at the time of performance on the ESS website.

This unique format documenting performance and discussion has proved vital and indispensable to both artist and audience alike:
“The intimate conversation that followed was very important—I was able to meet and thank the audience that has been supporting my work the past twenty years… The music was excellently recorded and videotaped as well as streamed over the Internet to those who could not make the concert. All in all I think that ESS is invaluable to the Chicago music scene; in fact, it is a unique avenue and organization within the world of music preservation and presentation.”

More audience and artist testimonials here.
+ Artist interview with William Parker here.
+ Pianist Dave Bryant discussing his experiences with Ornette Coleman here.

After a brief hiatus, the OPTION Music Salon returns March 6, 2017 for an exciting year of programming. Confirmed artists include:
Zeena Parkins
Ikue Mori
Chad Taylor
Joe McPhee
Mark Feldman
Jeremiah Cyerman
Jasper Stadhouders
Charles Rumback
Steve Marquette
Macie Stewart
Charlie Kirchen

Experimental Sound Studio is a non-profit, artist-run organization focused on sound in all its exploratory cultural manifestations. To this end, ESS presents eclectic performance and installation programming, workshops, and artist talks year-round — both in the various spaces within the studio (including its beautiful garden) and at various partner venues throughout Chicago. More about us.

Project Media

Captiva Pieces for Acoustic Harp No.1
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Features: Zeena Parkins

The Captiva Pieces for Solo Acoustic Harp were originally composed for choreographer Jennifer Monson, while Monson and Parkins were in residence at the Rauschenberg Residency on Captiva Island. They were made in response to their work together for the piece In Tow which was presented by Danspace Project at St Mark’s Church in NYC in Sept/Oct 2016. Part of the research involved improvisational strategies for movement and sound inspired by time and rhythmic patternings from a 24 hour Tide Cycles. The research led to the setting of this material.

Jeb Bishop /Joshua Abrams / Hamid Drake at OPTION
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Performance at the OPTION Music Salon on April 11, 2016. The first of two sets from this longstanding trio, this video shows the quality listening environment and intimate space of Experimental Sound Studio’s Studio A and demonstrates the excellent video/audio quality of the series’ live-streams made available to audiences around the world. Suggested listening: 2:15-6:15; for a more energetic section: 20:00-23:00.

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Features: Chad Taylor

Performed at 6BC Gardens – Arts for Art, NYC – October 2, 2016. Chad Taylor – drums // James Brandon Lewis – tenor saxophone. Please cue at: 20:05-23:05. Further listening to a more introspective section and demonstration of Chad Taylor’s versatility and kalimba playing, please cue at: 16:40-19:45.

Start and End Dates



Chicago, Illinois

Project Created By

Chicago, Illinois
Born in Warwick, Rhode Island on September 22nd, 1964, Ken Vandermark began studying the tenor saxophone at the age of 16.  Since graduating with a degree in Film and Communications from McGill University during the spring of 1986, his primary creative emphasis has been the exploration of contemporary music that deals directly with advanced methods…

In Collaboration With

Venue and Collaborating Organization
Chicago, Illinois
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


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