As a Carnegie Mellon student in the '80s, I started an experimental-music club to get funding from the student senate. It didn't last very long -- there were only two other members. More than two decades later, Pitt student Sachem Orenda hatched a similar plan with more success: Pittsburgh Electronic Musicians. "I started it last November because I knew some other guys interested in electronic music, so we created an official club through the university."
Orenda's concept was to provide an environment for students to discuss computer programs for music composition or DJing. Besides holding weekly meetings, they've sponsored a performance series on campus, including electro-popster Pfunkt, industrial rockers Agnes Wired for Sound, and IDM/drum 'n bass artist Johnny Jitters.
The club has received unexpected help from a funding source called the Late-Night Mini-Grant. "You can get [support] from them if you do an event on a Friday or Saturday night that doesn't contain alcohol," explains Orenda, "and hold it until 2 a.m. to keep people at that event, so they don't go out drinking."
Not only is that attitude a welcome 180 from Carnegie Mellon's student-body president (who initiated a weekend party bus to more easily transport his constituents to the inebriated South Side), it's also an unintended consequence of most PEM members emerging from the rave scene, where alcohol isn't encouraged.
The next free event is at 10 p.m. Fri., Dec. 4, at the William Pitt Union's Kurtzman Room, and features Pittsburgh-based techno/electro producer Shawn Rudiman with PEM members Degree-Z (Dan Zook, live glitch-hop and dubstep) and Allbe (current PEM head Paul Matthews, spinning electro house).
Though the Oakland events have drawn mainly Pitt students so far, non-students can also attend and join. "Shawn, DJ Strobe and Soy Sos all came to some of the early meetings," recalls Orenda, who's now a Point Park grad student. "We do have one member who's an electronic engineer building his own synthesizer."
The group got 50 people at a recent showing of the film Rip: A Remix Manifesto (starring Pittsburgh's own Girl Talk) at the Assembly Room, so interest is growing, according to Matthews. "We're trying to throw in as many diverse artists as possible, to show people different genres and ways to produce music. So we're open to any ideas, and anyone who's interested in developing any kind of electronic music should consider coming."
The club meets Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. in Cathedral of Learning Room 204. For more info, visit www.myspace.com/pittsburghelectronic.