Last night I went to the music building at Seattle Pacific University to practice for the upcoming Seattle Composers’ Salon (7/2/2010). Neal Meyer, guitarist, and I are going to play part of a piece called “Discarded Poems”, which is related to (but not necessarily part of) the StormSound Cycle. It’s a performance art piece involving improvising on slab gongs, playing the walls and fixtures in the performance space, reading poems and “discarding” them as metal pipes rolled across the floor; and making unheard-of sounds with prepared guitar and piano strings – all over an accompaniment of prerecorded, computer-processed sounds originally derived from nature (but altered beyond recognition). More intense than most of the “StormSound” pieces, it belongs by itself in a concert, not as part of that gigantic opus – but nevertheless is derived from some of the same sources.
We talked originally about amplifying the slab-gongs; it turns out (after hearing Neal’s sonorous improvisation) that this won’t be necessary. Besides, there will be two slab-gongs in the concert. The second section is improvised on a graphic score over a microtonal drone. I tried some Gust Burns techniques with the dowels (actually mallets in my case) in the piano; these were beautiful but too quiet for this particular piece. I reverted to some of my usual “inside piano” techniques. Neal prepared his guitar with paper clips per my instructions; the result sounded somewhere between an electric pipa (!) and a gamelan. At first my instructions were to play seventh and ninth chords, which even with the paper clips had a film noir feel, as Neal succinctly pointed out – (strum) “I work in the rough part of town…”. We dropped the chords. There were two versions of the background drone: one is the drone played straight, the other has an extra layer of an out-of-sync hip-hop beat derived originally from a 2002 pop tune (I can picture it now, “…and now for something that you never thought you’d hear at a Composers’ Salon – a Stacie Orrico remix…!”) It didn’t work, however; the “beat” (even in a Steve Reich “phase” version) distracted from what we were playing – the interesting was covered up with the less interesting. So we’ll do the straight no-beat version.
Anyway, the practice went off well, and we’ll see how it turns out in the Salon. And, of course, the Salon is just a warm-up for playing the entire “Discarded Poems” in a full-length concert at the same performance space that I’ve been blogging about on this thing.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center
50th and Sunnyside, in Wallingford (Seattle, WA)