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Princeton music festival features post-classical, contemporary pieces

The Desdemona Quartet practices before they perform the last act of the Unruly Sounds Music Festival. 
Photo courtesy of Isabel Ting.
The Desdemona Quartet practices before they perform the last act of the Unruly Sounds Music Festival. Photo courtesy of Isabel Ting.

A low, Celtic-sounding hum, almost imperceptible over the rush of traffic, buzzed in the middle of Hinds Plaza next to the Princeton Public Library. Over two dozen spectators sat in their chairs in the middle of the plaza, sharing earphones with the person beside them as the hum grew louder and changed in pitch. The spectators were the performers, and they were all humming in unison. 

This was Arone Dyer’s choral piece, “Dronechoir,” one of the highlights of Unruly Sounds Music Festival. The annual festival, now in its fourth year, features a variety of post-classical, contemporary grooves, local artists, and original music from the University’s graduate music program. 


In Dyer’s piece, the female performers were connected through a set of instructions on a shared Dropbox file that detailed musical cues and pitch changes for the performers to follow. Aside from the Dropbox instructions, the piece was entirely improvised — it was not rehearsed and the performers had never met before.

Dyer’s piece has been successful in other places like Berlin, explained the director of the festival Mika Godbole. Godbole added that the choir is supposed to include women of all backgrounds, “preferably as diverse as possible.” 

The festival lineup also included the electro-country performers, Owen Lake and the Tragic Loves; Korean-American composer and multi-instrumentalist, Bora Yoon; the percussion duo, Arx Duo; Anaglyphs; SMPL; Triplepoint Trio; the electro-Kraut band, The Miz'ries; the indie-neo-folk group, Damsel; New Jersey songwriter, Matt Trowbridge; the punk-jazz band, Joy on Fire; and the New York City-based ensemble, Desdemona Quartet. 

Godbole described the event as her “brainchild.” The idea for the festival came to her after an argument in a bar with one of her friends, she explained. Her friend had said that he didn’t like “new music,” and Godbole realized that many people thought like him. She wanted to change their minds. 

“This music, I want it to reach other people,” said Godbole. “It can trigger you to do things, feel things, and move in a certain way.” 

"New music is not always unpleasant," Godbole said. "This type of music can be really cool."


When asked what genre this festival’s music falls into, she categorized it as “stuff not written by dead white guys.”

All of the performers, aside from the choral group in Dyer’s piece, are Godbole’s close friends. The performers are all supportive of each others’ musical endeavors, she said.

Jason Treuting, a drummer for SMPL, explained that he travels a lot and often misses the performances of the aforementioned artists. However, the festival allows him to see all of the bands perform in one place. Treuting has performed at the festival each year since its inception in 2015.

Some of the spectators were returning attendees, while others stumbled upon the festival for the first time. However, many shared a passion for music.

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Director Mika Godbole poses in front of the board of lineups in Hinds Plaza. Photo courtesy of Isabel Ting.

Haim Soicher, a physicist from Lawrenceville, New Jersey, attended the event for his second year. He heard about it this year through an advertisement featured on U.S. 1, Princeton’s business and entertainment weekly newspaper.

He knows Godbole through his involvement with McCarter Theatre, where he became an usher three years ago. 

Soicher added that he has been playing the violin since the age of seven and that “music is a part of [his] life.” 

Another attendee, Eileen O’Neil, from New Hope, Pennsylvania, also said that she loves music and that the festival was a great way for her to spend time in Princeton with her friends, Lynne and Paul DeLisle. 

Lynne DeLisle added that she looked forward to hearing new types of music at the festival and that the warm weather was a plus. The DeLisles are from Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

Godbole said that she encourages students from the University to attend, since many of the performers are their peers. 

Several audience members were spotted with novels or e-books in hand, while nodding to the beat of the music. 

In fact, Godbole said that the best thing for an audience member to do is to “bring a book [or] a beverage and sit all day.” 

“[I] love this vibe that people can just walk by and bring their dogs and kids,” agreed Anica Mrose Rissi, a fiddler and lyricist for the band Owen Lake and the Tragic Loves. “They can sit all day or listen to a song or two — it feels like a real community event.”

Spectators are seen reading, socializing or enjoying beverages as they listen to music in Hinds Plaza. 

Photo Credit: Isabel Ting / The Daily Princetonian

Rissi has performed for the festival all four years.

Godbole hopes to expand the festival to include bands and composers in Trenton. She comes from a middle class background that financially allows her to pursue music, but she acknowledged that there are people who can’t afford to do the same. 

“We’re so privileged in this community,” said Godbole, “but there are people who don’t go to this kind of stuff, and I want to take it to them.” 

Godbole emphasized that the point of this festival is inclusivity and explained that she disliked going to concerts where she doesn't feel wealthy or smart enough to attend. 

“You feel like you don’t belong, and I hate that,” said Godbole. “I just want everyone to feel like they belong with all this craziness that happens. It’s beautiful, and it’s a place for everybody.” 

Godbole’s favorite part of the festival is “watching everyone do their thing and watching the audience enjoy it.” 

She pointed out one of the saxophonists that was playing on stage. Godbole said that the saxophonist is usually very “quiet and introspective,” but on stage, she is “rocking it.” Godbole loves seeing different sides of musicians come to life when they perform. 

The festival is not held for profit, and Godbole admitted that she usually loses money from the event. When she is not organizing the festival, she works at Labyrinth Books, teaches for Westminster Conservatory of Music and Rowan University, and plays for Mobius Percussion, a New York City-based percussion quartet. 

The event heavily depends on funding from its sponsors, which include Princeton Public Library, Princeton Sound Kitchen, Small World Coffee, and Princeton Record Exchange. 

The festival was held on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Hinds Plaza. The festival is held annually either in late September or early October, according to Godbole.