Thursday, January 21, 2010

Analysis of a COBRA Performance

I was lucky to have a performance today of John Zorn's COBRA at a local coffee shop, which was video recorded. I am now in the process of putting some video clips of the concert online, which I believe was successful! What I would like to do is have a pseudo-detailed analysis of the second take we performed this evening, and link this blog post from the youtube video, so people can see how ordered everything is. For simplicity sake I will refer the musicians as the following:

Percussion 1 - the percussionist on the left
Percussion 2 - the percussionist on the right that is standing
Percussion 3 - the percussionist on the right that is sitting at the drum set
Prompter - that was me, the guy with the cards

If you are watching the youtube video, which is linked HERE, I ordered the musicians from left to right in my list.

All the takes are structured, but also completely improvised. I would say that the performers made most of the decisions of what was happening, and occasionally I would step in and make a call on my own to get us out of stagnation, or just to quiet the group down dynamically.


0:02) Runner is called by PERCUSSION 1, for himself and PERCUSSION 2 and 3, so they could play an improvised trio
0:09) PROMPTER calls Sound Memory 1 so that this could be recalled later on
0:20) FLUTE calls Substitute Crossfade
0:28) ACCORDION, GUITAR, BASS, KEYBOARD, FLUTE, ELECTRONICS all faded in, and the PERCUSSION 1, 2, and 3 all faded out
0:50) PERCUSSION 2 calls Music Change, to keep the same people playing, but to change what they were playing
1:08) GUITAR calls Sound Memory 1
1:10) PROMPTER decides to let the current music continue for a little longer, before this next downbeat
1:33) Sound Memory 1 was given a downbeat for PERCUSSION 1, 2, and 3
1:40) KEYBOARD becomes a Guerilla
1:43) GUITAR calls for a Decrescendo
1:45) KEYBOARD gets ACCORDION and ELECTRONICS to join him and become a Guerilla Squad
1:52) The ensemble starts their Decrescendo
2:00) FLUTE calls for Imitation
2:10) The Guerillas KEYBOARD and ELECTRONICS jump start the Imitation by using Guerilla Tactics and getting several people in the ensemble to Imitate specific players
2:19) The Imitation downbeat is given, PERCUSSION 1 and GUITAR are imitating the voice of ELECTRONICS, along with some other imitations
2:27) PERCUSSION 2 calls for this to become logged as Sound Memory 2, so that this can be recalled later.
2:37) KEYBOARD calls for a Decrescendo
2:45) ACCORDION starts reciting poetry, ignoring the rules because she is still part of the Guerilla Squad
2:48) The Squad Leader calls for Operations 1, which is Divisi, meaning the Guerilla Squad has taken over the game and is in control now
3:10) Divisi begins, all players that are not Guerillas, and were just playing are now droning long tones, like GUITAR is
3:23) A Spy tries to kill the Guerillas off, so that the Guerilla Squad is no longer in control of the game
3:37) The Guerillas guess correctly who the spy is, and KEYBOARD, the Squad Leader, calls for Intercut
3:46) Improvised trio with the Guerilla Squad only
3:50) PERCUSSION 1 is a Spy!
4:05) The Guerilla Squad guesses incorrectly and loses their power, and returns back to the game
4:06) Operations is now over and Pool was called by the Spy, Percussion 1
4:30) PERCUSSION 3 calls Runner for solo ACCORDION
4:36) Solo ACCORDION
4:43) KEYBOARD calls for Imitation
5:05) Imitation downbeat is given, GUITAR, BASS, KEYBOARD, FLUTE start singing to imitate the ACCORDION.
5:15) PROMPTER calls for another Imitation
5:25) ACCORDION, ELECTRONICS, PERCUSSION 1, 2, and 3, are all in
5:28) PROMPTER calls for another Imitation
5:35) The downbeat is given, and GUITAR, BASS, KEYBOARD, FLUTE are all in
5:40) PERCUSSION 2 calls for Sound Memory 2
5:45) Sound Memory 2 is recalled, but everyone forgets what they were doing when it was logged, except for GUITAR, so this, so far, is the first mistake of the piece
6:00) KEYBOARD calls for DUO with PERCUSSION 3
6:20) While this card is in play, PERCUSSION 1 and 2 also start a DUO
6:32) FLUTE becomes a Guerilla, while GUITAR and BASS start their duo
6:43) GUITAR calls Sound Memory 1
6:51) PERCUSSION 1, 2, and 3 start their trio up
6:54) FLUTE, who is a Guerilla, is ignoring the rules and playing over the recalled Sound Memory, which is mistake number two, because Guerillas are supposed to follow the game in instances of Cartoon Trades and in Sound Memories
6:57) PROMPTER calls for Imitation
7:09) PERCUSSION 1 calls for Sound Memory 1, while FLUTE forms a Guerilla Squad with ACCORDION and BASS
7:19) The downbeat for Sound Memory 1 is given and PERCUSSION 1, 2, and 3 go back to their trio, but mistake number three is made, because the newly formed Guerilla Squad is not following the Sound Memory like they should be, and are playing over it
7:22) GUITAR calls for an Abrupt Ending
7:25) An Abrupt Ending downbeat is given and everyone stops playing, although the Guerilla Squad, if they wanted to could continue to keep playing, because they are Guerillas and can ignore the ending rules

So THAT is the piece in a nutshell, even though we have been playing this piece for a year, we still make small mistakes from time to time. The general stats of this take of the piece are:

22 total calls
4 calls by PROMPTER
3 calls by PERCUSSION 1
4 calls by GUITAR
5 calls by KEYBOARD
2 calls by FLUTE
3 calls by PERCUSSION 2
1 call by PERCUSSION 3
1 Operation
2 Spies
2 Guerilla Squads

Anyone still have any questions? Just shoot me a note, or comment and I will be happy to elaborate on anything that this blog post describes.

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