A manila envelope sits on the table in Bryan Day's work room. It's addressed to someone in Australia and contains a few CDs from Day's experimental music label, Public Eyesore. He's sending them off as a return trade to a guy who had mailed him a bundle of CDs a few months back.
"This is how a lot of this works," he explained.
The "this" is his music and art trading habit. Day started getting into the mail-art scene during his high school years in rural Iowa. He'd find an address in a catalog and send off a package of his own cassette tapes and creations, hoping to receive creative art and music in return.
"Mostly it was just sounds. It wasn't necessarily music in the traditional sense," he said of the tapes he received. "Some people are really finicky about what they call this stuff, but I don't know if you call it music or not, what I deal with."
Day, who builds his own instruments but doesn't play the traditional variety, has been working with this kind of music for years. And since moving from Omaha to Lincoln in 2009, he's established himself as one of the city's go-to guys for all things experimental music.
That's how he fell in with Ember Schrag, founder of Lincoln venue Clawfoot House. She had recently started an avant-garde music series called Experimental Issue and wanted Day to perform. The two instantly hit it off and began curating the series together.
"I thought, ‘Well gosh, he's met a lot of people through the work that he's done with his music and Public Eyesore, and I have this venue going,'" Schrag said. "So we sort of wrote down a list of what would be really really cool, who would be just a really amazing artist to bring in here."
Since the series began last spring, Day and Schrag have hosted acts including avant-turntablist Maria Chavez, multi-instrumentalist Amy Denio, percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani and the Chiara String Quartet (who is playing Sunday at 8 p.m.) .
With workshops, literary events, puppet shows, potlucks and plays, as well as the monthly Clawfoot Salon for female musicians, Clawfoot House has already established itself as a staple in Lincoln's house show scene. But the Experimental Issue series is a giant step forward in exposing Lincoln to a group of artists who, Schrag and Day hope, will test the city's limits of creativity.
"We're starting to have the ability to make it into something else," Day said of the venue."We've thought of turning it into some gallery kind of space. A multipurpose but forward thinking, modern gallery space."
The art from last month's Jad Fair exhibit still hangs on the wall, but it will soon be replaced with this photographs from Justin Clifford Rhody's "Bad Buddhist" exhibit. Rhody, from Bloomington, Ind., will play with his band, DBH. Also performing is Lincoln's Jessica Lindsey on bass clarinet, Omaha's Dereck Higgins and Day and Jay Cramer's Seeded Plain.
"It's just really awesome to bring people together to experience some music and some art that is really excellent," Schrag said. "And it's cool for us to get to see it in our home."
Reach Liz Stinson at email@example.com.