Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Reflections on my own concert, May 24th 2012

This was at the Good Shepherd Center, and featured three of my compositions. My apologies to anyone wanting to read this sooner.

Well, I guess it’s time that I face facts: I am a better composer of graphic scores and installations than I am of conventional through-composed material. This became obvious during this concert: the three “composed” piano pieces in my “Ukiyo-e” set sounded elementary, simplistic, forced, and simply not as interesting or beautiful as the fourth piece in the set (which is based on guided improvisation). However, in keeping with the general failure of this music, even my playing of this last piece was off. I thought it was okay at the time, but when I listened to my recording later, it was obvious that I was rushing the tempo for most of it. …And this is a quiet, slow piece, roughly in the manner of Morton Feldman…! It was all just very bad, and I’ll have to redo these pieces before attempting to perform them again.

The other part of the concert fared much better. These were two ensemble pieces based on graphic scores and instructions (none of which I actually played in…!). The first: “SoundScrolls VII”, played by Bruce Greeley (bass clarinet), Natalie Mai Hall (‘cello), and Mike Sentkewitz (string bass). Altogether they did a remarkable job on this; the “lugubrious tone-fog” that I’d mentioned in an earlier post was gone, replaced by a delicate landscape of quiet sustained drones, rain-like scatters, and quasi-impressionist melody. I can only say thanks to these players for their great performance (with a minimum of rehearsal time). I’ve posted a recording of the piece on my SoundCloud page.

The second: “Four Places on Planet Earth”, with Keith Eisenbrey and Matt Kocmierowski (found objects and percussion). This is a performance piece, where the percussionists play various objects (sorted by material) and consult field guides to determine what (and where in the performance space) to play next. The “four places” in the title refer both to the four places where the prerecorded tracks were made (the Olympic Peninsula, the Great Smokey Mountains, Israel, and Kisakata, Japan) and the four “playing stations” around the concert hall. These don’t particularly correspond to each other. The piece sets up an ever-changing cascade of environmental sounds; the prerecorded material was mostly originally recorded by Jonathon Storm (I edited, multi-tracked, and processed it) and the “live” players add their layers of “natural” sounds as well. “Natural”, that is, except for one of the playing stations, which contains brightly-colored plastic objects that wind up crowding out the sticks, stones, and seashells.

So that was it. I’m looking forward to working with these instrumentalists again, especially since they played so much better than I did…

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