Another week’s worth of music writing on Sound Directions condensed here for your pleasure:
Sounds Like NowA blog by saxophonist Brian Sacawa
Archive for Blog: Winter 09
More musical goodness this week at Sound Directions:
- Improvisers Anonymous
- Wait, But Is Renée Fleming Gonna Ruin It For Everyone By Making Us Look Like Sellouts?
- 10 Important Questions About Renée Fleming’s New Indie Album
- Design Your Own Renée Fleming Indie Album Cover And Win A $50 American Apparel Gift Card
- My Ignite Baltimore Talk, Transcribed
- Who The Hell Stole Vijay Iyer’s Watch At The Stone?
Your weekly digest of music goodness from my Sound Directions blog:
This week’s roundup of music-related fun at Sound Directions:
New project alert: I’m writing the Sound Directions blog for the Baltimore Sun‘s Charm City Current site.
This is hysterical. Man, I love Jon Hamm.
Last Wednesday Erik and I presented our arrangement of Stockhausen’s Tierkreis. The performance went extremely well and I think we were both very pleased with the outcome. In many ways it was a new experience for me when I place it in the continuum of my musical career and trajectory thus far. For one, it was definitely the most collaborative project we’d undertaken as Hybrid Groove Project. Erik composed the beats and I composed the saxophone parts that were extra-curricular to Stockhausen’s melodies. The actual arrangement process was a completely collaborative effort. We even kept a massive Google Doc so we could share ideas and update existing structures instantly.
This was also the first time that I performed with an involved electronics setup. I used Ableton Live 8, which I controlled with an Akai APC40, Behringer FCB1010 foot controller, and M-Audio Axiom 25. What’s funny is that I thought I’d hold off on getting the APC40 until after this show, since I thought it might be a little overkill and that I could just control everything with the FCB1010, but I’m glad that I decided to take the plunge before the show (Guitar Center giving me the Xmas sale price after Xmas also helped). Having multiple ways to control, manipulate, and perform the software was absolutely invaluable for this performance.
I have to say that working with Ableton and the various controllers named above was and is an awesome experience. I was prepared for it to be a nightmare, having worked peripherally with electronics over the last 10 years. However, nothing about it was hard. Everything worked right out of the box, which was shocking (to me), but extremely welcome! What I was not prepared for was the extra dimension this added to the act of performing.
Suddenly, not only did I have to play the saxophone, but I also had to learn new coordinations, whether it was playing an involved line on the sax while simultaneously launching clips and/or activating effects via the foot controller or simply having to ingrain the order of events and what sequence to launch various things with via various devices. A majority of this came from the fact that this was an hour long project, making the scope of everything just a bit larger. But it certainly engaged me in a new kind of problem solving that directly impacted the performance and execution of the music. I had to actually spend equal, if not more, time practicing the sequence of events and execution of the electronics than I spent on practicing the instrumental parts (did I mention that I also played synth, toy piano, and a variety of percussion instruments for the project as well?).
Our performance of Zodiacrobatic on Mobtown Modern won’t be the last time we play the work. It was conceived as a concept that we could tote around to different places. It is also a living thing that will continue to evolve over time. Though we spent a great deal of time planning the dramatic arc of the piece and structuring each melody, we also left ourselves latitude and flexibility within certain movements to allow for improvisation and recomposition as the mood strikes us. I imagine that as we continue to perform Zodiacrobatic we’ll become more comfortable and free in performance. That’s what I’m looking forward to.
As a coda to these reflections, we received wonderful coverage of the event, thanks in no small measure to the extreme professionalism of Mike Fila and the team at Himmelrich PR. A day prior to the performance Erik and I appeared on WYPR’s Maryland Morning, where we got to talk with Tom Hall about the project. And we also garnered some very nice reviews from Charles T. Downey of the Washington Post and Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun.