Whitney Johnson stands onstage amid a black-and-white projection of wavelike forms, bent over a small white-draped table with several electronic instruments and a lit red candle on top of it.
Whitney Johnson Credit: Meg T. Noe

For more than 15 years, the music of violist, keyboardist, and singer Whitney Johnson has been a powerful through line connecting various local underground scenes. Since 2009 she’s been developing the outstanding solo project Matchess; she’s been a member of a dizzying number of groups, including the 1900s, Verma, and Circuit des Yeux; and she’s launched collaborative projects such as Damiana, a duo with Natalie Chami, aka TALsounds. Early in March, she performed as part of the first live show by yet another noteworthy new group, Who Is the Witness?, whose lineup also includes Tim Kinsella, Jenny Pulse, and percussionist Jon Mueller.

On Saturday, April 1, Johnson will present what might be her most ambitious work yet, The Tuning of the Elements, in Bond Chapel at the University of Chicago. (The concert’s two presenters, the Renaissance Society and Experimental Sound Studio, originally scheduled it for March 2020, but they had to cancel due to the arrival of COVID-19.) The Tuning of the Elements is a durational work for eight-channel electronics and a string quartet that includes Johnson as one of its two violists. According to the press release for the show, the electronics will create four distinct spatial areas of binaural beat patterns that surround the droning strings. “Visitors are encouraged to choose their own paths through the environment over the course of four hours,” it says, and “activate and participate in the open-ended experiment of the piece, testing its potentials and tapping into variously relaxing and stimulating energies.” Admission is free, but you need to RSVP online in advance. 

Like lots of you dance-music maniacs, Gossip Wolf first heard the booming sounds of Chicago DJ, producer, and Latin-juke pioneer MaddJazz (aka Jorge Ortega) when he was with legendary Pilsen crew Ghetto Division in the mid-aughts. This wolf has been grooving nonstop to five propulsive new MaddJazz tracks that local label Midway Hustle Records dropped in December on Soundcloud—and earlier this month, it finally released the same songs on vinyl under the title Introspection. On Friday, March 31, MaddJazz and Midway Hustle will celebrate with a release party at Emporium Arcade Bar in Wicker Park, including a DJ set from the man himself—expect a dance floor packed with folks getting down like no one’s watching!

This Friday’s show at Emporium in Wicker Park is a release party for the MaddJazz EP Introspection.

Earlier this month, experimental musician Andy Ortmann released Take Root, a plant-themed record by his long-running Panicsville project. The noisy synth EP, created by Ortmann and current Panicsville partner Anthony Janas, includes two pieces by composer Mort Garson that the group adapted for a tribute to Garson’s cultishly beloved 1976 electronic album, Mother Earth’s Plantasia, at Garfield Park Conservatory. Ortmann’s Nihilist Records label has issued Take Root digitally and in a clear vinyl edition of 105 copies, each of which comes with a Venus flytrap seed. You can buy a record in person on Saturday, April 1, when Panicsville play the Burlington—they’re one of the openers for notorious Saint Louis-born punk band Drunks with Guns, whose current lineup features Chicago contrarian Weasel Walter on drums.

One of the digital editions of Panicsville’s Take Root comes with a baggie of grass seeds.

Got a tip? Tweet @Gossip_Wolf or email gossipwolf@chicagoreader.com.