Monday, October 17, 2005

DC Improv Festival: DCIC

Last night I performed with the DC Improvisers Collective (DCIC) in a show called "BoiledDown," part of the DC International Improvisation Festival. The performance was presented by Improv Arts, Inc. and curated by Daniel Burkholder. The concept was very cool: a wide variety of artists (music, dance, theater, etc) - all performing five minute improv pieces.

Since there was no time for set-up or tear-down, we had to do a piece that would allow us to simply walk on stage, play, and walk off. That meant no drum kit and no electric guitar since we wouldn't be able to set up any gear. So, we put something together for bass, tenor sax, clarinet, and percussion. Ben played bongos (with brushes and hands), I played clarinet. We had some kind of structure pre-determined, but not much. I'll tell you what I can of the piece:

1. The piece opens with the bass playing a sort of drone thing with the bow, Sax plays with the drone. This texture returns at the end. (some other time, when I'm feeling less cynical, I'll write more about my theory of the "bring the beginning stuff back at the end and everything works out" theory)

2. The bass, sax, and clarinet are all playing in different, but related, scales. Dan is playing in a kind of ambiguous D mode, Mike is playing some Chinese scale, in A, and I'm playing some modal stuff in G. Plenty of common tones between us, but also nice possibilities for juicy dissonances (of which there were several during the performance)

3. Rest of the piece we make up while we're playing.

I think it worked out pretty well, and this instrumentation was a really nice change for us as a group. We've been playing for a few months with a straightforward jazz quartet (sax, bass, guitar, drums) and this gave us a chance to try something without any instrument that's playing chords - so we were able to do some much more linear types of interacting.

Our piece was pretty somber but I had assumed that most of the other acts on the program were going to be fast paced and lighter given the compressed time for each piece… I was wrong. Many of the dance pieces were slow, and done in silence. There was some heavy stuff… Jen Stone did a beautiful solo movement piece with no sound and very slow / minimal movement. Andrew Suseno did a dance piece with text about grieving for his father who passed away about a month ago, and a butoh style piece by They Can Never Take Our Crow (which I didn't get to see because it was right after us, so we were backstage. oh well).

There was also some humor in the show… Cyrus Khambatta did a funny (and technically stunning) movement improv, and members of Washington Improv Theater did a short scene.

(photos by Enoch Chan)

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