Back to Archives

Composing Utopia with words

Articipatory Music and other weird things

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Last weekend Articipatory Music happened at the Olympia Community Free School during “A giant party for a better world,” the Love, Imagine, Network, Kindness (LINK) Symposium, an extension of “A World Beyond Capitalism,” The Third Annual International Multiracial Alliance Building Peace Conference. An activist folk music collective called Riotfolk performed and a Secret Café fund raiser was held, benefiting a residential permaculture project.  And eight people created compositions, but not made out of notes and played on flutes and guitars.


Articipatory Music was an idea originally born when it’s facilitator (and creator) Michael Gaiuranos attended a summer session with the School for Designing a Society, held on Patch Adam’s Gesundheit! Institute in West Virginia.

Initially, Gaiuranos thought he was going there to compose music with the experimental musicians associated with cybernetics.

The second time he attended the school, he recalls, “I knew I was aiming for something else.”  He credits the school for “encouraging me to do weird things.”

As such, he feels his extrapolation of one exercise he had learned where participants composed responses, one inane and one an elaborate ideal, and then negotiated within larger groups.

“That was the really really really interesting part,” Gaiuranos remembers, adding, “How do you negotiate your Utopia?”

His original idea for Saturday’s event was to have his participants “compose ideal conversation in the context of Utopian ideal society.”

As it panned out on Saturday, however, Gaiuranos thinks possibly the amount of time allotted — two hours — might have been inadequate for carrying out his idea.

As it was, the discussion elicited positive responses, as well as some lasting visual cues for Gaiuranos.

In one activity, the “art lube,” intended to open minds to a more creative direction, the group was asked to compose a five-second response to the word purple.  One individual created a response that alluded to the liberation of kidney beans from a can.  Another had a boy observing the emperor’s purple testicles — a wry observation about the notion of purple as royal, noted Gaiuranos.

Now, Gaiuranos admits his associations of the word purple will forever include that image, as well as Donny Osmond, Alice Walker and Prince.

Gaiuranos, who says, “I compose, but mostly I write — wallow in the self indulgence of it all,” has side jobs directing tarot card reading seminar (for free, at the Free School), as well as conducting writing seminars (not for free).

He also whiles away second Mondays of each month with the Northwest Playwrights Alliance, explaining, “Hanging out with them gives me a reason to write.” 

With the group’s encouragement, Gaiuranos has completed a 100-page full-length play; his immediate plans are to “sit around like a fat lazy cat and wait for the next inspiration to strike.”

He’ll bring the second Articipatory Music to the second portion of A World Beyond Capitalism in Seattle.

For more information, go to, or e-mail

comments powered by Disqus