Saturday, June 27, 2009

Woodland Acoustic Orchestra Presents: "Hot Lettuce with Sweet Mayonnaise"!

Set 1 50 megs 
Set 2 30 megs

Here are both sets of June's breakthrough 'Woodland Acoustic Orchestra' performance! Expecting at least a couple of the musicians to arrive slightly after 8pm, I had prepared another short acoustic set to use the gap to test some arrangements. But by 8pm, the core group for the evening -- TQ Berg (Steel-String), Woody Frank (Steel-String), Dennis Jolin (Ukelele, Table, and Bike Wheel), Ian McKagen (Steel String), and Me Woods (Bass-Box and Percussion) -- were completely set up and ready to roll! (At this point, we didn't realize that the Chai House clock was over 20 minutes behind due to a failing battery, but it sure *felt* like we were off to an early start.)

And a strong start it was! With a solid critical mass of 5 players right from the top, we were finally able to explore the new signaling approach that I'd been planning to try as soon as we had enough musicians to pull it off.  This new "breakthrough" system is actually pretty simple: A white-board is set up in front of the band -- facing the stage. Once a groove is established the first player works their way out of the jam and writes a signal (chord-change, time-change, stylistic/structural concept, etc...) on the board. While the composer-of-the-moment is getting their instrument back on and re-entering the groove, everyone is quickly reading and integrating the signal...preparing a musical response to it. After the signaler has insinuated their way back into the groove, they signal the transition. Everyone changes what they are playing in accordance with the signal.  
Any time after this point, the next person in the circle puts down their instrument and writes a new signal on the board -- during which time, the rest of the group can ignore them and just concentrate on developing whatever movement has come from the previous signal. And this group of players definitely rocked it! ...deftly manipulating the abstract system to maximum effect, while keeping enough moment-to-moment focus for expressive instrumental interpretation and some interesting vocal-additions.

I really love the effect of rotating through the line-up with each player contributing creative open-ended compositional direction and the group spontaneously responding! And the written format naturally breaks up the mix (as each player in turn has to temporarily stop to write) and allows the band to communicate without "tipping their hand" to the crowd. 
The audience, not knowing exactly what the syntax of the signal was, picks up only on whatever semantic value it added to the collective groove, unburdened of their own interpretations of how the group "should have interpreted it", yet simultaneously just a wee bit curious as to what words might've provoked the latest large-scale shift in the sound. From informal polling of family there that night, it seems to produce a pleasing mystery.

For the second set, frequent drop-in collaborator William Precht was available to jump on the piano and so we all tuned down the 3/8 of a step to match the average of the Chai House piano's scatter-plot tuning scheme. 
It was a welcome addition, providing a new dimension of rich sustained warmth for the remainder of the evening. At about 10:12, after a third extension of "Super Barista" (still failing to get a reaction out of Erin and Rita :), I glanced up at the clock and was surprised to see that we had already gone so far over time! This, of course, was before Erin told me that the clock's battery had needed changing, and I suddenly realized that our seemingly magic ability to start on time -- and then play such an amazing second set that it appeared to catapult us through some sort of experiential worm-hole -- was actually just the result of the two of them deciding that they should probably wind it ahead to "Ballard Standard Mean" time, in case we looked up for reference.

Anyway, that's just about it for this one from me. Special thanks to Tina for the photos! And as always, I encourage you to add your own show-notes here in the comments.


F R E E L A B said...

...perhaps too much media scares off the comments... :)

What I want to say after another listen on this one is "how much I like the sections where TQ is taking the lead on vocals!" ...and also, "sorry for train-wrecking the 'beatles' signal, Ian" was perfect as it was, and I tried to make it too sad! :( And also: "Foss, are you still following these? You need to come out again and help us get our 'Super Barista' together!...for seriously"

5-Track said...

some scientist went and found a way to slow down light... thus, I suspect, speeding up time... and as such I have not had any, but will someday, when light speeds up and time stops, return to regular perusal of sonic evidence and commentary on same... looking forward to it... be well meanwhile! 5

5-Track said...

sat june 27 woodland acoustic

listening to the beginning of set 1 is like being a water molecule in a benign cloud with the sun shining above and shade below in the process of transitioning in just-slightly-faster-than-geological time into a raincloud, equally benign, the kind of light shower that you want to run around in - on its way to being that, and then, suddenly, about 1/5 of the way into the track, ladies and gentlemen, we have PRECIPITATION!! Yes! Without a major change in character we have moved from an essentially stable and balanced state of being and dwelling into something more active... but it is a brief shower, then quickly we are back to scattered sunbeams, everything a bit MOISTER now in the happy aftermath.

Unexpectedly, the tempo slows, with strangely no loss of momentum - and I surmise a strong and steady wind has actualized, I feel that we are twirling in its heavy push, crystalline waltzes phase-shift tinkertoy-style joyousness - whee! we are a natural wonder.

At this point, it being lunchtime, I went inside - which is just as well as it soon began to lightning! Outside I could see passersby getting smacked headlong with startled birds swept off course. All in the most delightfully loving way!

Also, I suspect I hear zombies.