I am now back in New York after a really great trip to London. Our last gig was part of the Limelight series that happens at the 100 Club in London. It was a really busy and bustling area right on Oxford Street. We knew that we were sharing the concert with Jacaranda, an ensemble of principals from the Brandenburg Symphony Orchestra, who sport a range of unusual instruments such as the alpenhorn and the didgeridoo. (They were a really fun group!)
After getting all of our gear in place, setting up instruments and electronics, I needed to re-start my computer to open ableton/live software program. Well…basically my computer never was able to find it’s hard drive again right then and there. I kept re-starting my computer and getting an empty grey screen with a question mark on it. It was basically one hour until show time and Jacaranda hadn’t even sound checked yet. I was using my computer in the hotel just minutes before, why was this happening??? I knew that my computer was getting old and it had survived all sorts of odd technical problems for me, but I had a feeling this was its last breath of life.
The people from Limelight told me that there was an apple store a few blocks away so I walked there hoping that one of the people at the Genius Bar could find some sort of solution for me. Like all apple stores, there is a lot of attention to service but I knew that if this store was anything like the one in New York, there would be long lines. And I was right–I got to the genius bar (where someone in a blue shirt sent me) and I was #24 in line. There was no chance of getting this figured out. Finally, I found a young guy working on the floor and told him my situation. He said even though he’s not one of the geniuses , he would try to take a look. When I told him what happened and showed him the empty grey screen he basically said that my computer was unsalvageable. (I have everything backed up on a hard drive at home, but no chance of getting it in such short notice.)
He was a very punky kid with really positive energy, so he started cracking me up by giving me a ridiculous pep talk. I guess that was my therapy for the moment for losing my computer (essentially my brain.) I was reminded of how much information we keep on our computer. It made me feel like I was about to start over again.
I walked back to the venue and Johannes and I made some adjustments to make some portions of our performance possible by running things off of his computer as well. It was unfortunately additional last-minute work for Johannes to cover my sorry situation, but I’m glad that it was more or less OK.
The venue was really great and the turn out was also very friendly. Johannes and I wrapped it up and went our separate ways afterwards. I’m glad that Johannes and I still managed to have a good time given the situation. It was a last-minute surprise but we still pulled through!
In just a couple of hours, I will be hopping on a plane to London for two more Sounding Off gigs at King’s Place and Limelight. I am excited to spend some time in London and to have two more shots at our program. I am happy that we will be adding one of the 3rd UnCaged Toy Piano Competition selections, Ananta by Ryan Manchester on our program at King’s Place. The piece is written for toy piano, cello and tibetan bowl.
I am also bringing my mixing bowls to play Double Helix and Hallucinate. We also use the tibetan bowl in one of our arrangement of Virgo from Stockhausen’s Tierkreis. I am realizing that playing mixing bowls is just as essential to my musical voice as the toy piano. I am looking forward to writing more works with it, particularly in an upcoming collaboration I have in April. Keep posted and I’ll write in London!
I recently read a great interview with Anthony Braxton in Jazz Inside magazine. At age 64, Braxton is a well-known composer/saxophonist that straddles the “jazz” and contemporary composition world. (Apparently he cringes when people classify him as a “jazz” musician) It is clear that he is a very articulate and thoughtful musician who considers himself “a student of world music” on all levels, as he says. I took special interest in some of his thoughts and explanations on his career choices that ultimately led to his recording output. He explains that “Documentation…is form of closure. Once a given target project is documented and distributed, I can then go on to the next areas of my music system. “
A very honest and enlightened realization that seem to relate to me at this point in my life was when he identified himself to the character Alberich from Wagner’s Ring Cycle “…I can relate to Alberich [who] makes the decision to give up love after humiliation and to accept power instead. For me, the gambit was to give up the idea of making money from music performance or recording and concentrate on doing the best I could to to advance my work-because as I surveyed the world of performance dynamics for creative music, it became very clear that I wasn’t going to make any money and so part of the gambit for my decision to go forward was understanding that there would be no monetary gain for my music effort. ”
I would hope (and assume) that this is no longer the case for Mr. Braxton(he is a tenured professor at Wesleyan now). But this is a creative force that has recorded over 230 records already in his lifetime! What a true testament to his commitment and relentless desire to make music. Artists like these always give me so much hope.
Last night Glenn Branca performed with his new ensemble at Le Poisson Rouge for the CD release of his sequel album to his ’81 record Ascension. I thoroughly enjoyed his no-bullshit-tell-it-like-it-is character on stage and also in the preview article in the Village Voice this week. This new album titled The Ascension: Sequel, was released on his own label Systems Neutralizers. It was great to read that this album is completely artist made and released, making no record industry/marketing compromises. You want to know that the artist himself is proud of it! The ensemble consists of four guitars, drum and bass with Branca conducting himself.
I would generally say that this music is not what I listen to, but I was happy to be at the show last night. They were an intense and impact-driven ensemble that created walls of sound color that I usually do not experience. It kind of reminded me of a really magnified prism. I know that I miss out on some of the upper-end colors by using earplugs, but my ears had no way of sustaining the length of the concert at that decibel.
Glenn Branca made himself available to sign CD’s after the show. I found out that he actually has a piece he wrote for toy piano! I’m not sure if it is a piece for toy piano and electronics or a recorded track of sampled toy piano with electronics. I’ve noticed that composers generally love or hate the toy piano and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that his creative output had a toy piano in there somewhere. He said something about it not being released, but I hope to follow up on it someday!
Santa Cruz emeritus professor/composer David Cope created an artificially intelligent composer “Emmy” (Experiments in Musical Intelligence EMI) years ago. After facing a lot of criticism and praise from musicians and scientists, he decided to move Emmy to his trash folder because Emmy’s existence raised deep questions in regards to the originality of music composition if it could be created by a Cyborg composer.
“If a machine could write a Mozart sonata every bit as good as the originals, then what was so special about Mozart? And was there really any soul behind the great works, or were Beethoven and his ilk just clever mathematical manipulators of notes?”
After many years, David Cope has created the Emmy offspring “Emily Howell” which apparently creates original modern compositions that are quite good. Click here to read more about this and to hear some sound samples.