Thursday, June 29, 2006

Another benefit for Joe's

Last night, I performed in another fundraiser event for the new Joe's Movement Emporium, now under construction in Mount Rainier, Maryland. The event was held at Busboys and Poets, which was very nice. Their meeting room / event space is actually a plush little venue - good sound equipment, a baby grand piano, good food and drinks, and a secret not-on-the-menu vegan calzone.

Since the focus of the evening was raising money for the Joe's capital campaign, performances were brief, and varied. Between the holistic belly dancers and the Thai dance troupe, Improv Arts (which is going to be one of the resident organizations at the new Joe's) trotted out members of its music ensemble, the DC Improvisers Collective. Or, in more frank terms, Daniel Burkholder is out of town, so instead of doing our usual "five minute duo improv" dance/music piece that we often bring to these freebie events, I needed to pull something together myself. Happily, Dan Barbiero and Ben Azzara agreed to play with me - even though we were only going to play for five minutes and we weren't getting paid.

We weren't able to schedule rehearsal time together before the show, so we played one of my existing pieces, "shut up and listen." It's originally scored for electric guitar, cello, and laptop. I shared the score and recording with Dan last year, and he made his own version for double bass instead of cello. He did a beautiful job with it, and I really like his take on the piece. Hopefully, we'll have a chance to record it sometime. Ben added hand percussion (bongos, played with hands and brushes) and that worked out really well.

If you're curious, a pdf of the score is online here, and a recording of the guitar/cello version is on my myspace page.

So a big "thank you!" to Ben and Dan for their generosity - and here's hoping we helped raise some money for Joe's...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Philadelphia Mint

Cameron and I spent some time this weekend working on our Eigenvalues project, and we made this recording of a new piece... Cameron wrote the poem during a performance I was in back in the beginning of April. I was playing with a group of improvising musicians from Philadelphia in a project called Sound Exchange, led by Pauline Oliveros. Our first concert was actually a concert by Dr. Oliveros' "Deep Listening Band," but we all played with them during the second half of the evening. She titled this large group piece, "Philadelphia Mint" - so since this piece of music inspired the poem, Cameron borrowed the title.

The music is done live with laptop, clarinet, and a bamboo thing I call my "Tibet Store Flute." I start with the bamboo flute, which is processed and looped, transposed down one octave. This material makes a smooth transition to the clarinet, and helps tie in the text references to various wind instruments. As for the notes, that's all improvised.

I think this is a nice addition to our repertoire, since it has original text (as opposed to found text), and it's also quite personal - where our other pieces are more detached.

It's also up now on our myspace page. We'd love to know what you think.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


As some of you may know, Cameron and I have been collaborating on text / music pieces. We have a band-name of sorts and now a brand spankin' new myspace page. We even have a gig coming up in September. So be our friend and visit our new Eigenvalues page.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

DCIC at the Red and The Black

Tuesday night, DCIC played at a new venue in town: The Red and The Black (12th and H Streets, NE). It's a nice room - small, but warm and inviting. I think they're planning to have rock shows in there, which will be way too loud for the space -- but it was perfect for us.

The three of us fit nicely on the small stage, and we could really hear one another well -- which makes a world of difference. I felt like our playing was really focused - and the group listening was happening nicely. The recording session we just finished turned out to be a great exercise for us - I think the trio lineup is working really well.

Sadly, I forgot to bring any recording gear, so the performance wasn't documented at all. Oh well. I guess you had to be there...

We were opening for a trio from Switzerland called Day and Taxi. I wrote a few thoughts about their set on my other blog.

We just got some exciting news -- we'll be playing at Fort Reno on July 31st, opening for The Evens!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

DCIC recording session

Last weekend, the DC Improvisers Collective recorded our new CD. We spent two and a half days at Silver Sonya with T.J. Lipple, working very hard. I mean, it was great fun, but we really did work and work and work. We started Friday evening, setting up and getting sounds. The fact that T.J. is a genius was obvious from the start. Our group is somewhere between jazz and rock, and he got the perfect sound... not close mic-ing everything, so we had a spacious jazz sound, but kept a ballsy rock feel. Hard to explain... but you'll hear it when we get the mastering done.

We spent about 11 hours on Saturday recording. So, we had plenty of time to document what we usually do, and then still had time to try some new things, and to just plain push ourselves to keep improvising and inventing new music after we had exhausted our usual habits. This included an interesting excercise where we did three short pieces in layers - with one of us recording a track, then the other two adding overdubs -- removing the dynamic interactivity of group improvisation and replacing that with one-way communication. I think one of those three will end up on the album, but we'll see... we haven't figured all of that out yet.

Sunday was a twelve hour day of mixing. That can be pretty tedious, but T.J. brought the mad skillz and total concentration and burned through it. We left with over two hours of material mixed. Now we have to decide what "makes the cut" and goes on the album, and what gets left on the metaphorical editing room floor, or gets saved for the outakes that get slapped on the re-issue (that's a joke), but seriously, we can probably use some of the "out-takes" as bonus stuff to give away online or something... we'll get that figured out.

Of couse I couldn't be happier. The session was far more productive than I expected and the recordings sound really wonderful. Once we figure out what goes on the album, we have to go back to the studio for mastering... then we'll have some things to share.

Mike totally rocked all weekend. He pulled out some wild tenor playing, plus several gorgeous pieces on bass clarinet, and several interesting tracks on his new saxello (a wacky hybrid soprano sax thing).

Ben brought his "a-game" too... monster playing, including some cool hand percussion and toy xylophone in addition to his drumset work. Plus, his previous studio experience helped us all in terms of making the best use of the time, and keeping things from getting stressful.

So we still have some work to do - figuring out what pieces stay, and which ones have to go, then mastering, then figuring out how we want to release this thing... so that may take a little while. In the meantime, we're playing next week opening for the Swiss trio "Day & Taxi" and then in August with Greg Osby. Really. But that show happens to be smack in the middle of my little "mini-tour" with Fending/Matis, so I might miss that show. We'll see.

Ok, I can't wrap this up without the obligatory "playing the guitar with a vibrator" photo.

And here's a shot of us in the control room. You'll notice the three of us have very silly grins on our faces? That's because we can't believe how good TJ made us sound...

Photos by Travis Miller