Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Getting Ready for the Snohomish Thumbnail Concert, part one

Went over to the music building at Seattle Pacific University to meet Wayne Lovegrove and practice for the upcoming concert at Tim Noah’s Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish. While we were waiting for the large classroom with the grand piano to become available, we discovered an anomaly in a practice room. SPU has a baby grand piano that’s painted white (“This is the Liberace room,” quipped Wayne) but unlike any other painted piano I’ve tried, it still sounds good.

Wayne and I had an e-mail correspondence going concerning the music we’re going to play. I’d sent him an MP3 of “…into all the world…”, a piece I’d written that implies a kind of world fusion. The piano part is basically the same melody, first played as parallel chords (in the manner of Debussy or Satie) and then four times in the style of the Javanese gamelan (with a gong-cycle played from the piano). It’s been mistaken for something by Lou Harrison, though I wasn’t trying to copy him exactly. I recorded it once about ten years ago in California, with Peter Valsamis and Tom Nunn improvising percussion parts.

I've been listening to "Into All The World" repeatedly to develop a feel for what kind of guitar part would fit. It's such a simple, self-contained melody that subsists on it's own lack of ornamentation that I'm not sure any conventional guitar part or improv won't detract from it. The percussion parts on the recording fit precisely because they're not melodic. I'll try to play actual guitar against the track today and let you know how it goes. Perhaps something with some delay effects?

Wayne wrote that a couple of days ago, but then, yesterday (before the practice):

I think I've found a very nice way to fit a guitar part to "Into All The World", so this is just a note to give you an opportunity to keep that tune in your mind for our meeting tonight. The guitar part is textural, rhythmic, and somewhat percussive (filling the roles of the percussion and gently melodic mallet work on the recording), so it allows the simple piano melody to remain clear while providing a quite rich accompaniment that both contrasts with and complements the piano part. Hopefully!

So I was looking forward to the practice, and I was not disappointed. The guitar part he’d added was beautiful; rippling waves of sound against the piano’s gamelan sounds. However, when we played some other pieces, it seemed to me to be the least interesting of them – mainly because the others were phenomenal. I tried adding a part to Wayne’s piece “Here and There”. I’d never heard it before, but found that it lent itself easily to improvising over; I added a hammer dulcimer part at the beginning, moved over to the piano for a faster part in the middle (against Wayne’s rapid flurries of notes at that point) and then, at the end, an epiphany: another melody can be played contrapuntally against the de capo of Wayne’s guitar part. I improvised it this first time (or actually first two times; I tried to record the result but found that I’d left the recorder on “pause” for the first time through – stupid, stupid!). I’ll probably try to come up with a composed melody for the concert.

We also tried “Oceanic Music”. This is one of my pieces, but it’s really more of a concept than a composition. The “crywire”, a piano modification of my own invention, is not entirely controllable – so any performance with it (including “Oceanic Music”) must be improvised. No matter. I’ve recorded it twice before, once with my own hammer dulcimer over the top (available on my CD “Music from Thousand Oaks”), and once, in a much more atonal/experimental version, with Tom Nunn playing a homemade bowed-percussion instrument called the “space plate” (on my CD “Duets and Trios”, not currently available). I like both of those versions, despite their completely opposite aesthetics; in Wayne’s rendering, the piece will take on its beautiful third form. He added sparse sprinklings of guitar (reminiscent of Ralph Towner) in a strange and resonant low tuning, and gentle percussion from the body of the instrument.

So it looks like we’re going to do “Here and There”, “Oceanic Music” (the first time I’ll have played the latter in concert) along with two solo pieces by Wayne. Also on the program: Two solo piano pieces by Keith Eisenbrey (including his “economical panneumiad” called N), a solo piano piece by Neal Meyer, one of the StormSound pieces (with me on piano), and a set of improvisations (by Keith, Neal, and myself) over prerecorded “compositions” that Keith and I are working on specifically for this concert. In the latter set I’ll be playing the hammer dulcimer, the rondolin, the slab-gongs (maybe) and probably some other miscellaneous and odd contraptions.

The concert, billed as “An Evening of Ambient and Experimental Music”, will be on Thursday, October 14th, 7:30 PM, at Tim Noah’s Thumbnail Theater, 1211 4th Street, Snohomish, WA 98290. $10.00 admission. It will run about two hours, including the intermission.

No comments:

Post a Comment