1/24/14: Tackled the 7th piece for the large band project and it was inspired by the dream of the “Whirr & Click” piece that I had the night before. I got 2/3rds of the way through it and then got stuck, unable to figure out how to conclude the piece, what to do with a “Scelsi quadrants” idea and the improviser/percussion so that it would lead to a complete finale. I’ve continued with the concept that each piece explores its own specificity, and the 7th chart works with new music ideas and rows (primary, retrogrades and inversions) to construct the melodic material. That evening I performed with the quartet with Russ Johnson, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Tim Daisy at Constellation- the first time that I actually worked in the main room at that venue. If the volume level came up to much the horns tended to “shut down,” which was odd for such a large, open, and slightly reverberant room, but otherwise the sound was really fantastic to work with. The concert went well, a nice crowd of about 50, which was a pleasant surprise. Bringing in the new pieces was a bit problematic in regards to the way the sets were organized (things got bogged down in the second set with too many “similar” events happening, and the first set was too long with 6 compositions), and some parts of the arrangements were either tentative or forgotten. Overall, however, it was a good gig and it was nice that some musicians came out to listen (the other members of the Chicago Reed Quartet, for example). Stayed until closing talking with Tim, Dave Rempis, Nick Mazzarella and Kate Dumbleton, exchanging tour stories- was happy and fun.
1/25/14: Finished work on #7 for Audio One; was somehow able to compose myself out of the corner I created by the end of the writing process on the day before. When I left for Milwaukee with Tim Daisy to perform with the quartet again I was elated because of this. The group had a packed house for our concert at the Sugar Maple (50+) with almost a “festival vibe” to the room. My concentration was shot on the charts and I’d occasionally lose track of my location in the parts. I’m sure that this was due to the intensity of the compositional process during the last couple of weeks. The playing/improvising aspect of the performance went extremely well, the changes we made to the set order improved the flow of the music, and the band was more cohesive and driving than the night before. We got a standing ovation after the performance! Afterward I went to the Palm and John Dereszynski gave me the parts he had put together for the next 3 Margots songs (Besame Amour, Baby Blue, Miedo), which Adrienne Pierluissi and I listened to after closing time- John again did a brilliant job of interpreting my ideas and musical lines to come up with the right harmonic accompaniment (the way he figured out what I meant on Baby Blue, with The Kinks reference was particularly impressive).
1/26/14: Discussed the Okka 6 schedule with Bruno Johnson and Adrienne; we finalized the program, which came together very quickly over breakfast in Milwaukee- the plan looks great, just need to double check with the musicians that the lineups we’re thinking about look good to them too. After getting home I had a great composing day, starting and finishing the 8th piece for Audio One in an hour and a half, now there’s just one to go! Watched the Grammy’s with Ellen and friends, the glance into the state of popular music was a bit grim. Ended the day by trying to watch Michael Haneke’s, “The White Ribbon,” but after 30 minutes the internet crapped out and I couldn’t continue to stream the film. Then I switched to “The Gatekeepers,” by Dror Moreh, which Adrienne had recommended, a documentary that interviews the various directors of the Shin Bet in Israel, and the mutual catastrophe that’s going on in that country and with the Palestinians: fascinating, informative, and heartbreaking.
1/27/14: Racing against time and complete the 9th piece for Audio One; now just need to copy out all the charts… Watched first two episodes of the third season of Breaking Bad with Ellen, things seem to be revving up plot-wise, which makes it more captivating (the “character studies” are well done but I don’t connect with them for some reason). Was able to see Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon” which was another excellent film, and completely different from the others I’ve seen- each is it’s own thing, kind of like Kubrick or Godard. Realized that for the last year I’ve had Haneke’s “connection” to Bernhard all wrong, it’s actually Peter Handke! I feel like an idiot sometimes, but in the end it was a good mistake to make, it helped motivate me to watch his films, which have been a revelation.
1/28/14: Finished Walter Benjamin’s, “Illuminations.” Completely amazing and thought provoking, and almost impossibly contemporary in it’s analysis of culture and politics. I need to re-read the last two articles, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” and “Thesis on the Philosophy of History,” they contain a ton of ideas and complexity- it would be great to get a better handle on his thinking. From there I want to dig into Hannah Arendt, who wrote the introduction (brilliant), and who Nate Wooley recommended to me. I’ve been re-reading “My Prizes,” which is contained at the end of Thomas Bernhard’s, “Gathering Evidence.” That collection of essays is so acute, so accurate, it’s even more impressive the second time. I want to keep digging into Bernhard, there’s something there that excites me like Beckett (the specificity of expression?), even with his obvious differences, so I began reading a collection of his plays called “Histrionics,” the first which was “A Party for Boris.” Very interesting to see the connections with his prose, and all the differences- all seems to be expressed without description, it is what it is onstage. Otherwise I spent the day transcribing Audio One parts, and only got through two pieces (“Circular Ruins” is six pages long- ridiculous, but unintentional in its length, that’s just the way the piece played out) by the time rehearsal with the band hit (with Jason Adasiewicz, Josh Berman, Jeb Bishop, Tim Daisy, Nick Macri, Nick Mazzarella, Jen Paulson, Dave Rempis, Mars Williams). It took us the full 3 hours to just cover these two compositions, so now I was in a bit of panic about getting through the other seven, both in copying and in learning, AND having enough material to perform (was going to utilize some of the Midwest School charts, but I don’t know if we even have time to review them…). Rehearsal went well, but it’s a lot of work, and though I tried to make things as clear as possible, there are so many unconventional ideas that the arrangements seem to be more baffling than I had hoped. After finishing I ate a late dinner and worked out the third piece, almost finishing everything, and went to bed.
1/29/14: I got up early to complete the transcription of the Audio One piece from the night before, which took longer than hoped because I had to deal with someone from the phone company coming to the house to figure out why our phones don’t work; seems there is an electrical short of some kind that would take forever to locate, so we need to go wireless in the house with the phones. Went to Kopi Cafe in the neighborhood to keep copying, working as quickly as possible but feeling the net of time tightening around me- it will be impossible to complete more than another 4 pieces by rehearsal, which leaves another 3 to possibly copy and rehearse on Thursday… There is simply too much material to contend with, I over compensated in the fear of not having enough music to fill 3 one hour sets at the Green Mill- now there is more music than possible to address. Jen Paulson helped me make xerox copies so I got done before the rehearsal started. Working hard we still only got through 3 of the 4 new compositions during the 3 hour rehearsal- the music is extremely detailed and varied, it’s demanding more than I expected from everyone (lots of opposing forces in action, so different groups of players are working in parallel, there isn’t just one simple through line narrative to follow). We haven’t even looked at the Midwest School parts again. The rehearsal finishes with my realization that I’m going to have to completely restructure my original strategy, possibly eliminating the longest of the 6 finished compositions, the solution may be to go with 5 originals and possibly 7 Midwest School charts, which was disappointing to me but I couldn’t see a way around it if we were going to play the material well enough at the shows. I compartmentalized the cueing leaders in the band to Jeb Bishop (for Josh Berman and Jen Paulson) and Dave Rempis (for Mars Williams and Nick Mazzarella), which has given me a better ability to focus on the overview of the compositional trajectory in performance. This also allowed the rhythm section (Tim Daisy, Nick Macri, Jason Adasiewicz) to consider more spontaneous options under soloists, etc. After the rehearsal I hung out with Mars, Nick Macri, and Tim at the Hopleaf, completely burnt out.
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