. . . is a day in Nice-land! Well, nine days, actually.
. . . is a day in Nice-land! Well, nine days, actually.
There are certain pieces in the saxophone repertoire that I’ve continued to put off learning again and again. Well, it’s not really that I’ve put them off; I’ll take them out semi-annually vowing to dig in, saying to myself that “this is the time I put this to rest, haha!” only to file the music away on the shelf to be confronted another day. (This is also evidenced by the several unfinished drafts of this very post that have accumulated.) It’s a strange relationship I have with a only a few pieces. Tre Pezzi by Giacinto Scelsi is one of them, as is the work currently on my stand and pictured above, Berio’s Sequenza VIIb. The problem is that I hold these works in such high regard that I feel to play them any less than perfectly would be doing them a gross injustice. It sounds neurotic, yes, I concede that, but what stops me from following through with them is that I think that I’ll never play them as well as they
should deserve to be played. Adding to this obsessiveness in the case of the Berio is that there are 6 different fingerings for C# (concert pitch B). What’s the big deal? Well, there’s a B that sounds through the entire work and making sure that all the fingerings are perfectly in tune is quite challenging:
The effect is really cool, but it’s enough to drive an intonation eccentric up a wall. But here it is: I am learning Berio’s Sequenza VIIb. Hopefully by declaring this publically, I’ll be bound to some kind of nebulous ethical agreement in which going back on my word would constitute a serious breach of something. The occasion for my performance of the piece will be revealed when we announce Mobtown Modern’s second season.
Wish you knew more about Thomas AdÃ¨s? Check out Molly’s wonderful profile of him in today’s Washington Post.
Mobtown Modern’s first season came to a close last Friday night with an exciting concert performed for a packed house. Once again, we were overwhelmed with the coverage of the show, which included the following wonderful reviews:
Dynamic Minimalist Program by Mobtown
by Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun
Performing Arts – Mobtown Modern
by Charles T. Downey, The Washington Post
The Mob Hit
by Devin Hurd, Hurd Audio
Many thanks go to all of our musicians for giving so much of their time and talents to help make each concert such a success. We’re also grateful to Mack MacLaughlin for making us sound good and especially to Guy Werner for his visual and lighting wizardry, which made the space really inviting. And of course, we love Mike Fila from Himmelrich and Irene Hofmann, executive director of the Contemporary Museum for embracing the series with such passion and enthusiam.
We’re already looking forward to an exciting second season, which will include 6, count ‘em, 6 concerts beginning on September 9th. And we’re also putting the finishing touches on a spiffy new website that will launch in conjunction with our 2008-2009 season announcement. As always, stay tuned for details!
Here are the top 6 reasons you shouldn’t miss Mobtown Modern’s concert this Friday:
Mobtown Modern’s fixing to have a great show this Friday at the Contemporary Museum. Here’s what’s come in so far:
And don’t forget to tune in to WYPR’s Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast this morning (Wednesday) at 9 a.m. to hear our conversation with Tom Hall about the series and Friday’s concert.
Update: And if you subscribe to the Urbanite magazine’s bi-weekly email newsletter, you’ve no doubt seen the event featured under the heading “Less is the New More” and also as a Thing To Do on their website.
Update 2: Click here to listen to Mobtown Modern’s segment from Maryland Morning.
Sometimes I feel like experimental improvisers are a lot like alcoholics—they don’t know when to stop. I go to a lot of improv shows and in general I leave vowing to never speak of what I’d just witnessed and wishing for that 2 hours of my life back. Now that’s not to say that there couldn’t have been some supremely beautiful or bona fide compelling moments within that two hours, but I think that the old adage “you should leave your audience wanting more” should start being heeded. Maybe I’m being a little unfair, but if I’d heard a coherent, cohesive one-hour, or 45-min, or hell, even a 30-min improvisation recently I’d be less inclined to raise my voice.
In most of the long form improvisations I’ve heard in the not so distant past there seemed to have been several moments when the session could have ended to make a cohesive statement. Instead, these cadence points arrive and inevitably someone on stage gets a little too self-indulgent and mistakes the natural end of a piece for a big solo opportunity. What follows is generally a very similar process to what had just unfolded: 1) the players start mimicking the sounds that are already happening, 2) then they gradually begin introducing something contrasting, 3) and commence a really long build-up that may peak up to 10 times, 4) followed by a very slow decrease in activity and volume, and finally 5) the audience sits rigidly during an uncomfortably long silence praying that no one on stage is inspired any more. I love it when the musicians finish one of these long pieces and then look around at each other on stage and then invariably say, “Should we do another one?” That’s the best. Though I believe that nearly every audience member wants to scream, “NO!!!!!!” nobody ever says anything. Then the players decide to do a “short one.” And the band plays on. And on. And on.
But rather than just complain here, I’d like to make a sugggestion: what about a time limit? Rather than basking in the comfort that you can ramble on for over 30 minutes hoping that inspiration may strike if it’s failed to up to that point, why not try and aim to create a solid, focused, complete, and meaningful statement in, let’s say, 10 minutes? Hardcore folks probably won’t like this idea since it imposes an unwelcome parameter in a musical genre that tends to shun any kind of constraint. But I think that would be more challenging for the players. And likely more engaging for the listeners. Parameters like duration (of the shorter variety) might be worthy considerations for free improvisers who haven’t matured enough yet to sustain a long form session.
N.B. Lest I come off fractiously here, I call your attention to this post, which sort of outlines my take on improvisation based on my experience studying with Yusef Lateef and doing my own playing both in a jazz and free/experimental style.
Mobtown Modern takes to the radiowaves! Tune in to Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast on WYPR 88.1FM this Wednesday at 9 a.m. to hear Erik and I talk with Tom Hall about the series and our upcoming concert.
Here’s a list of must-haves for the new music performer who frequently plays in “non-traditional” (ugh, I hate that term) spaces:
1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.
My link in this chain comes from Alec Wilder’s Letters I Never Mailed: Clues to a Life:
“Or perhaps I should take a long train trip and calm down. [Alec] [Dear Eddie:] Have you any idea what you did to me when you sold that house down in Berks County? I’m well aware that it was yours to sell and that my sole equity in it was a garden.”