Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lacrosse, CACAW

I have been long overdue for a blog post.  As of my last post I had a successful show playing the Masada songbook with three different bands at Dazzle in Denver, CO.  The audio from the show can be heard HERE.  There are also some youtube videos up of a few of the tunes from the show.

Since then I also did a transcription/arrangement project trying to work out John Zorn’s game piece “Lacrosse” from studying the liner notes, both from the original vinyl and the Parachute boxed CD set, reading various interviews, watching some interviews online, and watching the Dither guitar quartet performing it on youtube HERE .

After working with John Zorn’s COBRA and trying to arrange Archery in a similar way that I arranged Lacrosse, I’m really enjoying the different ways these pieces manipulate improvisation.  The basic structure of Lacrosse is an intro and outro of specific improvisational material/techniques, with structured solo sections for each member of the quartet performing the piece.  There is some notated material, some of which is optional, but most of the music is made of specific improvisational guides and ideas.  Again these are only my own ideas of the piece from trying to study it, and take them for what they are worth!

In the Parachute recording of Lacrosse from the early 1980s they perform the quartet piece with an extra 5th musician, who doubles up with another musicians part.  When I had a rehearsal with some friends, we had five musicians and tried this idea out, with one of the doubled up musicians doing the cueing, while the other played when the piece dictated it, and followed the cueing.  That audio is also on my site which you can hear HERE The incomplete takes are all rehearsal takes of small sections of the piece, and take 5 was interrupted halfway through by a fire that started in a house on the same block, and so we had a neighborhood full of police and fire vehicles.

I would like to rehearse this piece, or at least my approximation of it, with a band for awhile before putting on some performances.  There is a concert series late on Tuesday nights in Fort Collins for experimental and noise music that this could be a good space for.  The piece also lends itself well for doubling on instruments, or as we did, switching instrumentation around as we got more comfortable with the score and the cueing. 

That’s all for now, I hope to update more regularly in the future, and fill in more past/future gigs/projects that are going on.  I have an idea for an Ornette quartet maybe in the spring to play some shows, since I’ve been doing the Masada quartet for awhile now.  I have some other projects I am getting involved with locally as a sideman in Northern Colorado that I will be updating about in the near future.             

Also, while writing the post I have started listening to CACAW’s new record “Stellar Power” on the Skirl Label.  I'm loving the electronics and the grooves, and can't wait to spin this a lot more!  I try and buy all of the SKIRL records I can after seeing a CD release party in Philadelphia years ago, since everyone one of these seems so unique and specially crafted, with beautiful packing, a spacious mix, and there is only a handful of releases a year, which is incredibly affordable!  There are some vinyl to pick up as well, which I hope they release more of!  You can get Cacaw’s new record HERE, which I just bought the mp3 of, but eventually will probably purchase the physical CD.  Support new music, buy it!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Patchen quote and a Masada show in Denver!

(poster/design by Kelsey Shiba)

Kenneth Patchen Poem:


You have used a word
Which means nothing.
You have given a word
The power to send men to death.
Men are not free who are sent to die.
Only those who send them are 'free.'
You should have freedom stuffed down your fat throats.

I woke this morning and read this Patchen poem in the middle of a book of his called "The Cloth of the Tempest," and thought it was very relevant to our current political situation, especially on a day like today (9/11) and with the possible new war on Syria.  Hearing the word "freedom" in the news so much, especially on fox (faux) news, and how it really doesn't mean anything other than a tag word to separate the so-called "patriots" from everyone else.  Anyways, food for thought!

On a completely different note, I'm playing a Masada show in Denver at Dazzle very soon, September 23rd, a monday night starting at 7pm.  One of the first times I went to NYC I got to see a book two Masada concert at the Tonic with a bunch of different bands playing the music.  I've since transcribed 120+ tunes, played maybe a dozen shows of only that music (even though I've been playing some of those tunes for 10 years), and finally am doing one large and arranged show.  The first group will be the classic quartet set up of bass, drums, alto sax and trumpet.  After that I switch to electric bass, and we play some of the Masada music with two electric guitars, similar to the Rashanim + Marc Ribot music.  Finally there is an Electric Masada approximation which will be both those bands combined plus an additional percussionist and vocalist.  Originally I tried to book half Masada and half Cobra, but the venue didn't want it to be that "out," but I'm happy to just focus on this music.  There is a warm up Masada performance I'm doing with piano/clarinet/bass trio at a Unitarian church in Boulder, CO a week before the performance, so that'll be nice to get me in the Masada music mindset.

HERE is a link to buy tickets to the show, see who is playing on it, and check out more details with it.  I'll probably eventually post the audio on my bandcamp, depending on how well it turns out.  Hope to see you there!

The day before this show Alex Nauman and myself are recording a duo album at UNCO, hopefully another vinyl project, but definitely some kind of vinyl/small batch CD project with a lot of original pieces dedicated to different musician/composers.  My tunes are dedication pieces to John Zorn, Christian Wolff, Jack Kerouac/William Burroughs, Ken Vandermark, Devin Hoff and Ornette Coleman, and Alex has some dedications as well, to Frank Zappa and others.  Should be a fun session! This is a busy month of music, with a lot of great CDs coming out as well, so September 2013, here goes!!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Christian Wolff Burdocks, performance audio and some notes on the piece



The piece was performed in this order: MVT 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 2 (QUINTET), MVT 4, 5, 6, (QUINTET + L.E.), MVT 7 (QUINTET), MVT 8 (QUINTET + L.E.), MVT 9 (QUINTET), MVT 5 (L.E.) overlapping with 1C, 1A (QUINTET), MVT 10 (QUINTET + L.E.). Matt Coyle performs MVT 3 the entire time, which states "Each player makes about 511 sounds, each sound different in some way."

Matt Smiley: bass
Mike Gersten: clarinet
Kristen Dye: flute
Josh Reed: trumpet
Aimee Niemann: violin

Valerie Austin: flute
Danielle Kimbell: accordion, voice
Nathan Ahlers: prepared guitar/effects
Patrick Atwater: bass
Amber Johnson: cello
Brianna Carrasquillo: alto saxophone
Joel Harris: tenor saxophone

Matt Coyle: percussion, keyboards, guitar and electronics

As part of the Aquila Summer Concert Series of Contemporary Music in Greeley, CO at Syntax Spirits on July 11th 2013.


This rehearsal take (part 1) is in this order: MVT 5, 6, 8 (QUARTET + L.E.), MVT 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 2 (QUARTET), MVT 4 (QUARTET + L.E.)

This rehearsal take (part 2) is in this order: MVT 5, 6, (QUARTET + L.E.), MVT 7 (QUARTET), MVT 8 (QUARTET + L.E.), MVT 9 (QUARTET), MVT 10 (QUARTET + L.E.)

Matt Smiley: bass
Kristen Dye: flute
Josh Reed: trumpet
Aimee Niemann: violin

Valerie Austin: flute
Danielle Kimbell: accordion, voice
Nathan Ahlers: prepared guitar/effects
Patrick Atwater: bass
Amber Johnson: cello
Brianna Carrasquillo: alto saxophone
Joel Harris: tenor saxophone

At Matt Smiley’s house July 7th 2013.


The piece was performed in this order: MVT 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 2 (QUINTET), MVT 4, 5, 6, (QUINTET + L.E.), MVT 7 (QUINTET), MVT 8 (QUINTET + L.E.), MVT 9 (QUINTET), MVT 5 (L.E.) overlapping with 1C, 1A (QUINTET), MVT 10 (QUINTET + L.E.). Matt Coyle performs MVT 3 the entire time, which states "Each player makes about 511 sounds, each sound different in some way."

The piece started with the core quintet of violin, bass, flute, clarinet and trumpet playing the five-part mvt 1 (which could be a piece by itself easily!) followed by mvt 2 while the rest of the Burdocks orchestra waited for their entrances at mvt 4.  Matt Coyle, our guest musician from Virginia, was not able to make the rehearsals because of his travel schedule, so I decided to give him a large multi instrument set up, and perform mvt. 3 the entire time (playing different 511 sounds).  Matt’s setup was as followed:  electric guitar, electric keyboard, melodica, chains, snare drum, cymbals, cowbell, tambourine, radio, junk metal, circuit bent noise boxes, no input mixer, recorder, and probably some more stuff I’m forgetting about.  His part blended nicely with the control and specifics of our approach to playing the other mvts, always staying in balance with the direction of the quintet or the large ensemble, while providing short solo interludes between mvts. 

The quintet’s first mvt 1a quietly crept in with Feldman like long tones.  We were trying to match a specific player’s note a minor 3rd or perfect fourth away.  It resulted in a beautifully dark and quiet build, with Coyle’s guitar bending notes into our chords.  At 2:11 in (performance, part 1) the passage of a very close train interrupts the performance PERFECTLY as an interlude between mvt 1a and mvt 1b.  I personally would count these sounds as part of Matt Coyle’s “511 different sounds” from his performance of mvt 3 as a continuous overlapping section between that and the rest of the movements. 

Mvt 1b was a game of catch and mouse musically, waiting for a leader to play a series of notes, and then specific responses, but with the caveat of anyone at anytime becoming the new leader.  It sounds abstractly like it has it’s own logic to it without knowing the score, like cascading waves of sounds, solo then with the group.  This morphs nicely into Mvt. 1c, my favorite, which is splitting the quintet into fuses and detonations, bombs following the fuses.  There is a musical quality that comes out nicely in this text/conceptual idea.  The next mvt 1d got a little screwed up as me and another member of the quintet (we found after the fact) accidentally played mvt 9 while the rest were playing mvt 1d.  They were just similar enough in the text construction of how they worked, that both of us admittingly glanced at it for a moment before playing the wrong one…so it’s improvised loose overlapping of those two mvts!

The first five-part section ends with mvt 1e, one of the only specifically written out melodies in standard notation, that we play unison as a quintet, but in any transposition/range.  This entire time coyle’s electronics are making nice backdrops and interludes to the silences and sounds, and the high frequency tones fit the statement of this unison melody.  There is a great electronic interlude to help bridge the quintet to mvt 2’s stark downbeats.  We did a quick short arrangement of repeating each of the two sequences twice, with different people leading each sequence. 

There is a short snare drum interlude that brings the entire ensemble in, playing mvt 4, which we are playing downbeats together with the person closest to us, then next closest and so forth.  We were supposed to do this with 15 players, but because of the limits of the space I used an 13 piece ensemble, and Coyle did not participate in this mvt, except by other members of the ensemble reacting with his improvised sounds.  I chose a pizz low open e, bowed tremolo ponticello on an open g, and knocking on the wood of the bass as my 3 sounds for the mvt.  Matt’s keyboard bridges us into another mvt, which is mvt 5.

Mvt. 5 reminds me of Edges, but more of a specific version.  Edges is an open score where you can freely more around or stay in the same spot, which is the same as mvt 5, but with direct instructions.  You can freely repeat ideas, but the time between that and new phrase has specific seconds markings so that there is 3, 7 12 or 30 seconds between phrases.  Also someone has to play a long 16th note passage to unlock one of the sections of the piece for all the players.  I felt like this mvt could also easily be played as one of its own pieces.  This was an arrival point for the orchestra to get to and stay at for ten minutes or so.  There is a good variety of waves of sounds, clipped phrases, silences, intrusions, and lots of timbres going through this weedy rough mvt. 

Mvt.6 is the only mvt that I can so far pick out of other recordings of this piece like the sonic youth version, the tzadik version, and the WERGO version.  There is another normally notated melody, and in our version you primarily hear it played at a medium tempo by the alto saxophone.  The rest are playing accompaniments, or playing the melody so slow it’s not as easily discernable.  The guitar and flute are heard in the background also playing the melody not together but in medium tempos.  This seems to slow and fade into mvt 7, a difficult graphic score for quintet.  Mvt. 7 was one of the hardest to follow and rehearse, as you are using a large cueing system with improvised sounds/pitches.  I almost think we could have played it slower in retrospect, in order to stay together.  This reminds me that someone came up to us after the performance and talked about doing an acapella version of Burdocks, which is too bad I didn’t think about that before.  A lot of this music would be perfect for a choir, and having just 1 or 2 mvts that were strictly with voices would’ve worked great (or even with mixed voices and instruments). 

Mvt. 8 was 100 phrases split up equally in the ensemble.  We all wrote lines into our scores and divided the piece into 25 or 26 lines.  That way I assigned everyone 2 or 3 lines of those, so all played something on this mvt, and phrase was repeated.  This could’ve been taken slower and quieter (or more dynamically diverse) with silences, but it works and has nice ebb and flow of different short phrases. 

Mvt 9 was then played by the quintet with myself and the other musician just now realizing we accidentally played that earlier in Burdocks.  I went well at had a special kind of energy after the last few larger blocks of sound mvts.  It accelerates into more sounds and more frantics before a sudden rustling of papers as I recue mvt 5 for everyone.  I decided to extend the piece longer, so going to mvt 5 and having a quieter more spacious approach helped.  No one knew in advance I was going to do this, which is why people had to find their new scores.  While this was going on we had a rather loud audience member chatting us up, which I tried not let get to me, but is apparent on the recording.

Everyone was playing mvt 5, and then I thought we should do it differently, so with the openness of the score description to Burdocks, I overlapped the fuse and detonations of the mvt 1c in the quintet with others playing mvt. 5, we then moved onto the lusher long tones of mvt 1a, behind the backdrop of varied sounds by the orchestra.  The ensemble then melts perfectly into mvt. 10, which is flying, crawling or possibly sitting still, which provides a great uplifting coda to this large behemoth of a piece.

What I think I learned from putting this together, is to take advantage of rehearsals better, in recording more complete “takes” of a piece, as if it’s studio time, just to get more versions of what it’s like to play it, and how the transitions will work as a long scale piece.  Also if I can program it again in the future, now that I’ve done a maximalist version of it performing all the mvts, doing a version with only 3 or 4 mvts, and having them react to each other in different ways, and using orchestration better, different combinations of the same large ensemble.  I think there’s a lot more to get out of this piece, and hopefully I’ll be able to book it on future concerts and find more potential of varied sounds in it.  Vocals will also make a big difference in the performance and execution of the work.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cataloguing the Vinyl LPs

(pic above by Kenyon Brenner, from my recent birthday party jam)

So I've begun the giant project of cataloguing all of my vinyl LPs, mainly for tax purposes and insurance reasons.  However, I have come across the idea of selling the entire collection (save about 100 of the really rare stuff), if I get the right offer for the collection (which is something I will have to do for tax/insurance reasons anyway).  Anyways, I finished the two shelves that consisted of all my music EXCEPT jazz, classical and world music, which is the rock/bluegrass/blues/soul/hiphop/misc section.  I might do world music next, as that is less than a shelf, and mostly great north indian music.

For those interested, here's my MISC LP section:


Donald J Borror – Songs of Western Birds – Dover 22765-0

Frank Herbert – Sandworms of Dune read by the author – Caedmon TC 1565

George Milstein – Music to Grow Plants – PIP ECS 121

Harold Courlander – The World of Man vol. 2 RELIGIONS – Folkways FC 7432

Johan Dalgas Frisch – Cantos De Aves Do Brasil – Sabia MLP 689

Lester Sumrall – And the Demon Answered Back – Sumrall 7145B

Masada – Soundtrack – MCA 1568

Richard Hittleman – Yoga Meditation – Yoga for Health 1964

Sesame Street – My Name is Roosevelt Franklyn – Children Records CTW 22067

Solitudes – Environmental Sound Experiences vol. 6 – Litho DG 82006

Solitudes – Environmental Sound Experiences vol. 12 Listen to the Loons – Litho DG 88012

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology - American Bird Songs vol. 1 – CH-1082B

The Hobbit – The Rankin/bass production of – Disneyland Records Storyteller 3819

The Peterson Field Guide Series (3LP) – A Field Guide to Western Bird Songs – HM5

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Soundtrack - Ode SP-77031

Vaclav Nelhybel - Traditional Harmony – Folkways FT3604

Walt Disney’s Uncle Remus – Uncle Remus – Disneyland 1205

Friday, April 19, 2013

Aquila Concert Series (Greeley, CO) Kickstarter, and some COBRA

HERE is the link to my friends' kickstarter fundraiser for the Aquila Summer Concert Series of Contemporary Music!  It's a great cause, helping to put on a lot of concerts of contemporary music in different venues in Greeley, Colorado.  I'll be curating one of the concerts, programming Christian Wolff's "Burdocks," a piece I've been wanting an excuse to perform for awhile!

One other quick note, I've been hesitant for awhile to post this, but here is the audio of the very first UNC Cobra Ensemble, in the early days.  That's all the info/details I'll give you, but keep in mind, this group rehearsed A LOT, and figured out this piece COLD, hand signals, guerillas, squads, operations, you name it, we knew this outside and in!!  It was by far the most advanced, and then after that we had a lot of REALLY GREAT incarnations of the band, one I remember we had THREE BASS CLARINETISTS as part of a dozen person or so ensemble.  Wow...one day I'll post the video, one day...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wrap up with the 2013 Open Space Festival at UNC

So the festival with Alvin Lucier happened, and went wonderfully well this year.  I've got audio here to download/stream for free here of the most of the thursday concert, and my piece that was performed on the friday concert.

Youtube links from the open space concert on thursday night:

composition for pianist and mother
shadow lines
tribute to james tenney
80 plus for alvin lucier
greeley memory space

Enjoy the audio/video!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Street Corner College by Kenneth Patchen (and music)

"Next year the grave grass will cover us.
We stand now, and laugh;
Watching the girls go by;
Betting on slow horses; drinking cheap gin.
We have nothing to do; nowhere to go; nobody.

Last year was a year ago; nothing more.
We weren't younger then; nor older now.

We manage to have the look that young men have;
We feel nothing behind our faces, one way or other.

We shall probably not be quite dead when we die.
We were never anything all the way; not even soliders.

We are the insulted, brother, the desolate boys.
Sleepwalkers in a dark and terrible land,
Where solitude is a dirty knife at our throats.
Cold stars watch us chum
Cold stars and the whores." 

And HERE is a recent recording of mine dedicated to Kenneth Patchen with excerpts from the journal of albion moonlight.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Early Influences AND does anyone want a transcription?

I am currently listening to Cecil Taylor and Max Roach on vinyl…thinking about trying to eventually play bass along with it (talk about a power trio!).  I’ve heard this before, but it hasn’t hit me as powerfully as hearing it on the wax going through some nice speakers.  This is a heavy record (with myself hearing a little Barry Altschul in Max Roach’s accompaniment, or visa versa, or something like that…) 

I wanted to write on my early influences in music, as I was thinking about the album that really got me into practicing and wanting to pursue music as a career.  Well, to start at the beginning…

As a child I really only liked country music and oldies (parents’ musical influences), and one of my first memories is of singing an Alan Jackson song on the school bus, on command (older kids got a kick out of it, and had me sing it to them).  I remember getting a few little instruments/toys, some electronic drum sticks, a harmonica, and noodling on my grandmother’s piano from time to time, while singing a lot.  I sang in choir, and remember some all county event....

In middle school I started playing drums, and guitar/bass in 8th grade.  In high school, junior year, I picked up the upright.  Halfway through high school, when I started playing double bass, was when I got serious about music, as switching to double bass was myself saying to myself, “I want to play this in college.”  I quit drums around the same time (couldn’t get into practicing it), and was seriously studying the double bass and the electric bass.

Musically around this time, I had been playing in a rage against the machine style band, some various jambands and singer songwriter groups, while taking a little work playing musicals, church gigs, etc…  When I started buying/listening to music it started with hip hop and rock, and before too long I noticed I was listening to classic rock and jamband music, with a little bit of jazz and jazz fusion.  The first big show I remember going to was to hear the Dave Matthews Band with Neil Young and Soulive.  With my listening habits, I realized I just really liked improvisation (still do!!), and could only hear it accessibly through DMB, Phish, Grateful Dead, Flecktones, and similar bands (moe, widespread panic, allman brothers, etc…). 

THE main influence really struck when I heard Victor Wooten’s “A show of hands.”  I immediately started devouring lessons online on his technique and approach.  I remember sitting in my basement working on thumb strokes and finger tapping, while then putting those down, and working on beginner etudes for double bass.  The virtuosity just hit me hard, and I had been listening to Satriani and Steve Vai around the same time, I just wanted to practice and achieve a thing like that! 

I have a come a long way since then and through a lot more musical and non musical influences, which you can obviously see some of them below in what I've worked on over the last 8 years or so. 

I’ve been recently cleaning up my transcriptions, codifying the look to them (with the tempo marking, soloist, album it’s on, slurs, etc…) and so I present to you my list of transcriptions (that are clean, some are half started, or old hard to read things, etc…).  I used to have a lot more from my undergraduate, but it appears I’ve lost some various Mingus, Lafaro, Haden, Dave Holland, Ron Carter and Miles Davis solos.  Shoot me a note at 1smileymn@gmail.com and I’ll send you pdfs of anything on this below list.  I’d be happy if anyone else got something out of these!

List of my jazz transcriptions:

40+ Ornette Coleman tunes

100+ John Zorn’s Masada tunes

Chet Baker – trumpet solo on “My Funny Valentine” from “Complete Pacific recordings of Gerry Mulligan)

Ray Brown – bass solo on “Night Train” from “Oscar Peterson – Night Train”

Bob Brookmeyer – trombone solo on “Someday my prince will come” from “Bob Brookmeyer and Mads Vinding – Together.”

Paul Chambers – all bass lines on “Miles Davis – Relaxin,” bass solos on “New for lulu” from “Sonny Clark – Sonny’s Crib,” “Bird Feathers” from “Gil Evans – New bottle, old wine,” “Moment’s Notice” from “John Coltrane – Blue Train,” “Tenor Madness” from “Sonny Rollins – Tenor Madness,” and “Landslide” from “Dexter Gordon – Dexter Calling.”

Scott Colley – bass solo on “Is What It Is” a contrafact of “What is this thing called love?” from the album “Scott Colley – Subliminal.”

Miles Davis – trumpet solo on “Now’s the time” from “Charlie Parker – the complete savoy recordings.”

Steve Davis – bass solo on “Summertime” from “John Coltrane – My Favorite Things”

Drew Gress – bass solos on “OK Chorale” off of “Ben Monder – Flux,” “Small Feats” and “Peacock Park” off of Gary Keller’s “Blues for an old age.”

Charlie Haden – all bass lines and solos from “Keith Jarrett – Jasmine,” bass solos on “Waltz for Ruth” and “Our Spanish Love Song” from “Pat Metheny – Beyond the Missouri Skies,” “Take my hand” from “Hank Jones – Come Sunday,” “Blues for Pat” from “Pat Metheny – Rejoicin,” “Now is the hour” from “Charlie Haden – Now is the hour,” “What is this thing called love” from “Paul Motian – On Broadway vol. 1” and complete bass lines from “Congeniality,” “Peace” off of “Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come,” “Blues Connotation” from “Ornette Coleman – This is our Music” and “Motive for its use” off of “Ornette Coleman – To whom keeps a record.”

Dave Holland – bass solos on “Kind Folk” from “Kenny Wheeler – Angel Song” and “When you’re smiling” from “Bill Stewart – Think before you think.”

Dave Hofstra – bass solo on “Step Tempest” from “Philip Johnston – Big Trouble.”

Sam Jones – complete bass line to “SKJ” from “Bags meets Wes,” bass solos on “Star Eyes” from “Dexter Gordon – The Jumpin’ Blues,” “Gypsy Blue” from “Freddie Hubbard – Open Sesame” and ”Jeannine” from “Cannonball Adderly – Them Dirty Blues.”

Clifford Jordon – sax solo on “Tulip or Turnip,” off of “Carmen McRae – Any old time.”

Red Mitchell – bass line and solo on “What is this thing called love?” on “Hampton Hawes – Trio vol. 1.”

Gerry Mulligan - “My Funny Valentine” from “Complete Pacific recordings of Gerry Mulligan)

Scott Lafaro – bass lines and solos on “Victor Feldman – The Arrival of Victor Feldman,” “Hip,” “Wrap your troubles in dreams,” and “For Real” from “Hampton Hawes For Real, “Come Rain or Come Shine” from “The complete Pat Moran trio sessions,” and the bass solo only from “Bee Tee’s minor plea” off of “Booker Little Time.”

Wayne Shorter – sax solo on “The Big Push” from “Wayne Shorter – The Soothsayer.”

Wilbur Ware – bass line and solo from “Softly” on “Sonny Rollins – a Night at the Village Vanguard”

Butch Warren – bass solo on “Out of the Night” from “Joe Henderson – Page One” and complete bass lines on “Thelonious Monk – Live in Tokyo, disc one.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Session

bandcamp site

Above is the link to click my recordings I have made over the last 2 weeks, in the album marked "the avant garde."  I set up shop in my new house's living room, with various mic placements, and a LOT of different instruments to record the following new music compositions:

John Cage - Four6

a 30 minute piece based on 12 different segments of sound no longer than a minute and half each, using a stopwatch to coordinate the timings.  I recorded this on 4 different multi instrumental setups.

John Cage - Radio Music

a 6 minute piece for 1-8 radios, that I recorded with 8 different radio parts, using 4 different radios (twice each).

Christian Wolff - Edges

I made this a 10 minute piece (it's of indeterminate length), for 6 multi-instrumental set ups.

Christian Wolff - Exercise 1

This exercise is the first of many of Wolff's exercise pieces, playing a unison line loosely unison, and with any clef (I used half of the instruments on treble and half on bass clef) that I recorded on basses, guitars, keyboards, drums and vibes.  My version is considerably slower than most available recordings of it.

James Tenney - Form 3

This is 14 minutes long, and is another stopwatch based piece, where I utilized 16 tracks of basses, guitars, keyboards and vibes.

I may add more tracks if I record anything later today or tomorrow, and will try to remember to add the details to the blog!  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Free Jazz Standards AND Christian Wolff’s “Burdocks”

The first topic is on playing standards “freely.”  I have a possibility of some open gigs in Fort Collins this summer, and want to try to experiment with the trying various techniques to free up tunes.  So far I have the option of picking various trio to quintet sized bands, with some combination of two drummers, or two bass players, trumpets, saxophones, keyboard, guitar, trombone, and flute.  The idea I have for it is that there are no charts for starters, and then to try varied parameters:


-Play free, whatever standards happen happen

-Play free into a specific tune (called in advance)

-Play a tune and it gets free towards the end

-Play a tune, free changes

-Play a tune without time/rubato, but keep the changes

-Everyone plays different tunes at once

-Pick a composer, play a free mashup of their tunes

-Play a tune, opposite tempo/feel (ballad fast, bebop tune slow, latin tune swung)

-Play a tune, make all the chords the same quality

-Play a tune in time by horn/guitar, rhythm section free behind it

-Play a tune, any/multiple keys

-Play a tune in different meters

-Play a tune, rhythm section keeps form/time and the soloist plays free over it

-Everyone plays tune melody in “unison” (freely, rubato), repeating it, for a drum feature

-Play a tune in a halting manner, everyone keeps form, follows who is playing the head (like monder/bleckmann’s I remember you)

-Play a tune, everyone plays a different tempo, try to keep “form”

I would like to make sure all the musicians look over these, and add some of their own ideas to the list, and we try them out tune after tune, while always going back to the main idea of starting free, and letting tunes happen. 

This free jazz standards idea by the way is mostly influenced by Ellery Eskelin’s Trio New York album. 

Now on Christian Wolff’s “Burdocks.”  I have stayed up a few nights ago and analyzed the piece, and took notes on how to perform the work.  Eventually I will try and check out the recordings that exist of it, and if there are any notes on the specific arrangement.  I have a chance to play it this summer, as part of the Aquila Concert Series in Greeley, Colorado.  So far I devised a plan to have a minimum of 15 players total, split up into various groups.  The piece itself is comprised of ten sections that can be arranged in any way, with various overlapping, sequences, and pauses between parts.  In section IV, it calls for a minimum of 15 players, and so I would like to try and put on a performance of “Burdocks,” using all the material given.  So of an orchestra of 15+ performers, it seems to make sense to have a serious quintet within that, that could rehearse twice as much as the rest of the performers.  The entire 15+ orchestra could perform sections III-VI, VIII, and X, while this quintet could perform with the entire group on those pieces, and play sections I, II, VII, and IX, almost as if the entire piece is a concerto for quintet and large ensemble.  Within this, if there are additional players that want to be part of the performance, but couldn’t make rehearsal, they could perform Section III throughout the whole piece, which is instructions to play 511 different sounds, each different in some way.  This to me is a very Scratch Music element, mixed in with the open modular form of the entirety.

Burdocks itself uses various notational schemes for each section.  Section I is almost an entire mini-piece within itself, being a 5 part section, within a 10 sectioned piece.  Performing this section only would have more than enough material for a full performance.  Section II is coming out of Wolff’s cued notation, and is an easy to read graphic notation, for 3-5 players.  Section III was mentioned above, and can be played by any number of musicians.  Section IV involves 15+ players, all  listening across and playing sounds individually with every other person’s sounds in the orchestra.  Section V reminds me a lot of Edges, with various notations, and the ability to jump around the page fairly freely, with specific timed pauses in between sounds (or none).  One part of the page cannot be played until a specific sixteenth note figure is played.   This also has a lot of material in it, and could be performed as the a solo section.  Section VI is a specific melody and accompaniment arrangement, that can be fairly free.  Section VII is similar to Section II in the notational style, but more dense and complex, and would take a bit of rehearsing!  Section VIII is a page of 100 varied melodic, rhythmic, graphic notations that are all to be played only once by anyone.  Section IX is chain of trading off 1-2 sounds within a quintet.  Section X is a short poetic figure that’s open to interpretation. 

I like the idea of performing it straight through, with the way I described split between a quintet playing some by themselves, and then joining the ensemble for the rest of it, while a few players play 511 different sounds through the entire piece.  But other than Section III constantly being performed throughout, Sections I-X will be performed in order, omitting Section III.  Depending on the venue of the concert, there may have to be a way to split it up into part one and two, or perform this idea, and then have a few other arrangements worked out in advance, and try different combinations of overlapping movements.  The piece seems like it could get a lot of mileage out of it, with a group of dedicated players, performing it frequently with different arrangements each time, finding unique ways to meld the music together.   

As of right now the main recordings I know of Burdocks are:

The sextet version from 1972 on the Wergo label by Christian Wolff, Frederic Rzewski, Gordon Mumma, David Tudor, John Nash, and David Behrman

The Tzadik release from 2000 features Joan Jeanrenaud on cello, Gordon Mumma on French horn and trumpet, Fred Frith on guitar, Miya Masaoka on koto and electronics, Christian Wolff on melodica and piano, William Winant on percussion, and Bob Ostertag on sampler. 

There is also a 1999 version from the Sonic Youth’s “Goodbye 20th Century” featuring Christian Wolff, Christian Marclay, Jim O’Rourke, Kim Gordon, Lee Renaldo, Steve Shelley, Takehisa Kosugi, Thurston Moore, William Winant.