Kennedy Center celebrates modern art with inaugural Direct Current festival

Media Credit: Arielle Bader | Hatchet Photographer

Now through March 19, the Kennedy Center will bring together stage performances, panels and workshops in Direct Current, a festival that combines activism, electronica and video games.

The Kennedy Center is replacing its typical performances of operas and ballets with a two-week celebration of modern culture.

For the first time, the Kennedy Center will be putting on Direct Current, a festival that combines activism, electronica and video games. Now through March 19, the Kennedy Center will bring together stage performances, panels and workshops to explore the intersections of dance, film and music.

Events will take place at the Kennedy Center and various well-known D.C. locations like The Phillips Collection, Dupont Underground and the 9:30 Club.

From percussion to a pop-up party, Direct Current offers something for everyone. Here are some of the most eclectic events from the venue’s new contemporary festival.

DIY-Junkestra: Instrument-Making Workshop
Turn trash into treasure at DIY-Junkestra Friday, a workshop where participants will create and take home instruments like drums made of recycled materials.

Inspiration for the workshop came from composer and musician Nathaniel Stookey and his composition “Junkestra,” where he performed using items solely from the San Francisco Dump. The dumpster items were transformed into musical instruments for Stookey to write his composition, played by the San Francisco Youth Orchestra. Like Stookey, workshop-goers will also make art out of uncommon items.

The workshop will be led by John Bertles, the co-founder of Bash the Trash, an organization that uses repurposed musical instruments to educate people on the intersection of art and science throughout the United States.

The Atrium at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW, 7 p.m. $15.

Madrigals Meet Minimalism
Madrigals, a vocal arrangement dating back to the 16th century, meets modern, sparse electronic music at a pop-up party Friday. Prepare for eclectic music, dancing and of course, drinks.

Hosted at Dupont Underground – the abandoned trolley station turned event venue – Madrigals Meet Minimalism will feature the Washington Chorus – a 200-person D.C. chorus that has won two Grammys – and Chicago-based DJ Justin Reed. The two groups will perform a vocal mashup of choral voices and electronic music. Reed hails from Illmeasures Collective, a group of artists in Chicago aiming to educate the public about electronic music. The performance will combine two unlikely musical genres with lighting and projections.

Dupont Underground, 19 Dupont Cir. NW, 10 p.m. $10.

From Bits to Brass: A Symphonic Adventure through Video Game Music
The Gamer Symphony Orchestra at the University of Maryland is coming to D.C. Saturday to combine video games and music into one. Unlike other orchestras, The Gamer Symphony Orchestra translates 8-bit video game music into orchestral compositions, From Bits to Brass.

The student-run orchestra is the first collegiate ensemble that plays only video game music. After getting their start at the University of Maryland in 2005, their ensemble has grown to a full orchestra of more than 100 musicians, 30 of which are singers. Prior to their performance at Millenium Stage, The Gamer Symphony Orchestra played at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and University of Maryland’s Dekelboum Concert Hall. In the past, the orchestra has incorporated music from popular games like League of Legends, Pokémon and Donkey Kong.

Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW, 6 p.m. Free.

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