I played the Oakland Freedom Jazz Society's weekly series at Studio Grand last night. Shared the bill with some artists from LA, Ben Levinson and Erika Bell. Was a small turnout. A few familiar faces from the scene. Only one new face. Less than ten in the crowd.
I played first. Yet another totally improvised set. Maybe I should finally start composing. I'm able to predict myself a little more often than I'd like.
Played two pieces. Everything started quiet. Something I love about authentically improvised music is that the total soundscape of the environment becomes part of the music. This happened immediately last night, as the sounds of the restaurant staff next door bled through the wall. It sounded like a hose was washing down the kitchen. Then, some sort of scrubbing sound came from the ceiling. It all happily blended with the music, as did the creaks from the chairs in the space, the cars driving by outside, the whir of unexpected idiosyncratic sounds coming from who knows where.
The first piece moved around a lot. Different gravities and different spaces all interweaving rapidly. Not my best work I suppose. I was so actively seeking a potent space of sonic meaning that I may have missed what I was looking for. I wasn't taking the time to savor the sounds. Active music. Wish I had settled into a single sound moreso and passed on the variety.
The second piece was a focused development of a single idea. Many teachers have told me this is what it's all about. Maybe it is. I'm still not sure. This piece was all about the drone life for sure. I used a cello bow on the low string of my guitar while I laid an e-bow on the b string. Over the life the piece, I slowly detuned both the low and b string, and all these beautiful, bizarre harmonic relationships blossomed unexpectedly. Far out harmonics would be stimulated by the e-bow, and fascinating beating relationships would take place between the harmonics of the lower and and higher string while the untouched strings served as a soft cloud of resonance. I would alter the pitch of the strings by applying pressure to the body of the guitar, or applying pressure to the string above the nut. I love doing that. It's unbelievable how many sounds are in a single string, a single tone even.
Erika and Ben took the stage afterward, supporting one another as they played their original songs. Erika's work sighed with a beautiful melancholy, angelic and tragic. Her soft, clear voice sang amidst subtle grains and alien tones produced by Ben's electronic set up.
Ben's songs on the other hand were extremely catchy and upbeat. I found myself singing them on the drive home. He sang a song about a dog. How many songs do you know about a dog? I couldn't think of any. Except for one whose title I forgot. It's featured in that 90's teen dream movie "Can't Hardly Wait." Does anyone know what I'm talking about?
Ben's set was fun. His on stage persona made me laugh out loud. I've seen him play before and remember one piece of the set was an entire, musically backdropped sales pitch for his merch. It was brilliant. He sold some work. Last night, I bough a shirt.
you can hear more of Ben and Erika here...
Now it's the day after. About to teach into the night. Then I think I'll paint late and dream while awake.