'New music' and 'performance art' served from the Kitchen's traveling show

If you've been reading about the burst of ''new music'' and ''performance art'' that has hit New York -- but haven't been able to experience it in person -- June could be your month. A brigade of innovative musicians and performers has embarked on an eight-city tour, hoping to introduce their work to brand-new audiences.

The quality of their credentials is assured by the sponsor of the program: the Kitchen Center for Video, Music, Dance, and Performance, which has become a leading New York showcase for artistic exploration.

With a different cast, another tour will travel through the West in November, and a third group will canvass the South next spring.

The current tour kicked off recently here with a concert on the Staten Island Ferry, of all places. While the idea of a ''floating opera'' was attractive, the famous ferry proved indifferent to the demands of art and comfort, lacking any space where performers and spectators could enjoy each other's company without finding themselves crowded and cramped. Technical problems cropped up, too, drawing the program out so long that I had to leave before the last act began - at nearly 2 in the morning.

Still, the odd setting had its compensations. It was a rare treat to watch dancer Lisa Fox glide through the aptly titled ''Floater'' with New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, and rock singer Julia Heyward looked particularly well outfitted in her white sailor suit. And the Kitchen provided for a calm place to relax on the upper deck, where video works were continuously screened.

In any case, the evening demonstrated that the program of the tour -- officially called ''The Kitchen Touring U.S.A.'' - is varied and frequently exciting. While it leans more than it might toward the lighter, pop-influenced side of the current scene, it reflects some of the most fetching new trends in music and performance.

The touring group gives only a sample of the varied fare that's regularly available at the Kitchen. It's not an ideal sampling, in my view, tilting as it does toward rock music at the expense of more drastic and less predictable work that has surfaced in recent years. But if a glimpse of the new and adventurous is what you're after, you'd have a hard time finding a more fascinating or forward-looking group than Glenn Branca, David van Tieghem, Lisa Fox, and the Rock Steady Crew.

Branca is perhaps the most celebrated musician on the slate. He likes to weave dense collages of sound and texture from the superamplified noodling of multiple electric guitars. Van Tieghem's ''Message Received: Proceed Accordingly'' is also on the schedule. Van Tieghem, an inventive percussionist who pounds on everything except drums, ends his act with a delirious dance.

For two years now, the Kitchen has been exporting young artists to such European cities as Paris, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, West Berlin, and Naples. It's good to see the United States and Canada get similar treatment. The diversity of today's arts scene will be the better for it.

The itinerary includes Minneapolis (June 9 and 10), Madison, Wis. (June 12), Chicago (June 13 and 16), Iowa City, Iowa (June 14 and 15), Detroit (June 16 and 17), and Toronto (June 19 and 20).

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