Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Discarded Poems, Part One

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.

8:00 PM
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center
50th and Sunnyside, in Wallingford (Seattle, WA)

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