Over on Dreamwidth (and on Livejournal, too), a couple of different people commented about really liking nwcMUSIC this year, despite the fact that a lot of it is not to their specific tastes.

I wanted to elevate one of my responses up to blog top, because it really addresses what I’m trying to do with this show.

We really have two core philosophies here. One, we’re participatory culture. That’s the easy one. Our daytime programme reflects that; we’re mostly workshops, and even our talking-heads panels are about doing things. But that’s not the big idea today.

The big idea is tied into our second core philosophy. It reflects an… the phrase “anti-specialist mindset” is too strong, and misleading, because we like specialists, even if we don’t specialise as a festival. It reflects an intent of intermixing with an agenda.

Let me start from the beginning. Norwescon, historically, was the largest gathering of the geek tribes throughout Cascadia. It’s not the largest geek/fan event anymore, not with PAX and Sakuracon around*, true; but those are specialised events. Norwescon is still, to this day, the largest gathering of all the tribes, bringing in a little bit of everybody.

I want nwcMUSIC to represent that. Not reflexively, not just to fit, either; I have a goal. Not every organisation can generalise, or should try; specialisation isn’t just for insects, sorry. Sometimes it’s valuable. But Norwescon already generalises – Last of the Gencons – so it’s a particularly good place to do what I’m trying to do.

There’s a downside to the smorgasbord, of course; there’s always going to be stuff people categorically don’t like.

But the upside – ah, the upside is that you get this fantastic intermixing and interplay. And then, if the stars are right, you get this communication, this transfer, where people start taking notes about the stuff they like and taking those back to their specialised groups, where you get even more ideas and more creative frission, and it builds, turning into an energy – one we’re finally starting to see.

That Cypher vs. Housefilk: FIGHT! thing was a small, largely-unnoticed breakthough. A tiny panel, on a Sunday afternoon, with a small number of somewhat sleepy people there… and one person in that little audience listed it on Facebook as the highlight of their whole convention. So have a couple of the panelists. Why?

Because it had that energy.

That moment.

That spark.

[insert Agatha Heterodyne laughing manically here]

That’s what I’m going for. A music festival? That’s great. It’s worth doing by itself as a cultural and educational event, absolutely.

But it’s the those moments of lighting that I’m really hoping to trigger. I can’t unleash skyfire on command; it’s too random, too elusive, too chaotic in nature to engineer outright.

But I can sure as hell charge up a room and see what happens.

I don’t just want this thing to be good. I want it to be magic.

*: While certainly larger – and in PAX’s case quite a lot larger – they aren’t as many times larger than us as people think. They issue gate numbers, while we issue membership numbers. People compare them to each other, but that’s wrong; they’re counting totally different things. For example, if one person goes to Sakuracon for three days, that’s three in gate – because gate is person per day – despite being one member.

They didn’t make this system up, it’s traditional for convention-centre and fair events. They aren’t cheating. But as you can see, it’s a wildly different counting system.

If you counted Norwescon in “gate” fashion, it’d be around 11,000 (our gate), rather than 3250 (our membership). I’ve been trying to get the concom to issue gate numbers too, because right now, people are comparing apples to oranges in a way that makes us look smaller than we are. I’d like it if they compared apples to apples – it really matters to some of our pros.