Caroline DeCunzo and Jack Braunstein Stake a Claim in Burlington's Experimental Music Community

Published: April 19, 2017
For the average listener, experimental music is a hard sell. It's usually bereft of the comforting hallmarks of conventional, popular music: catchy hooks, identifiable melodies, etc. So-called "other music" can even be downright alienating to some. But for Caroline DeCunzo and Jack Braunstein, Burlington-based enthusiasts of all things musically off-center, the unconventional is their norm. DeCunzo, 23, and Braunstein, 21, are partners in life and in their creative endeavors. They operate Como Tapes, a not-for-profit cassette-tape label that releases avant-garde music from such local artists as Shepherd of the Choir and Amelia Devoid (a Seven Days contributor), as well as out-of-state artists including Swings and Reformer. The couple also maintains Burlington Gull, a promotional website for DIY happenings in the Queen City, and presents an experimental music series called Pushing a Brain Uphill. The third installment of the series begins on Wednesday, April 19, and continues on Friday and Saturday, April 21 and 22, at Burlington locations. Over the past few years, DeCunzo and Braunstein have worked to help stabilize the local experimental scene. Specifically, they've focused on maintaining spaces for off-kilter music to be produced, promoted and disseminated, and make a conscious effort to diverge from traditional, capitalist structures. The pair recently spoke with Seven Days at a coffee shop in Burlington's South End. DeCunzo and Braunstein's affection and respect for one another is obvious. They communicate both verbally and nonverbally, frequently clarify and interpret for one another, and tend to finish each other's sentences. Both have been interested in experimental music since their teenage years. "I think the most powerful part is the liberating aspect of it," says Braunstein. "It's all about expanding your range of possibility." "It's not prescriptive," adds DeCunzo. She hails from Glens Falls, N.Y., while Braunstein grew up in Cherry Hill, N.J. Both arrived in Burlington in the early 2010s to attend the University of Vermont. DeCunzo graduated in 2016 with a degree in Spanish and global studies; Braunstein will graduate this spring in geography and natural resources planning. They began developing many of the ideals that support their various projects while studying at UVM. Braunstein cofounded Como Tapes with childhood friend Greg Goldstein before moving to Vermont. The latter operates a branch of the label in New Jersey. Como Tapes' website is sparsely designed, with few frills other than a kitschy cassette icon that replaces the user's regular cursor. A link that…
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