There are many possible situations for playing ambient-atmospheric music live, so I thought it might be of interest to describe a different one now and then.
This time, it was background music for a small art show. The venue was Healing Foundations, a Chicago acupuncture studio with an artistic streak. Thanks again to Rebecca and Lisa for inviting me! Given the small space, there was no question of taking my entire rig. I left the keyboard at home and took just two guitars and some percussion objects, along with the computer setup. It’s not a limitation, it’s an opportunity…
With three hours of playing time available, my set list included several places for improvising, with backdrops of atmospheric elements drawn from various recording projects.
Differences between a background performance and a concert include the importance of pacing. In a concert it’s essential; in a background, not so much. Not being the center of attention restricts the music’s dynamic range, but allows a much more easygoing approach.
It turned out as one of those nice win-win situations. Everyone enjoyed the show and the music, and customer satisfaction was complete. For my part, playing live is always a thrill of discovery, which can never get old.
This day had two musical peaks. One was Primitive and Prime, a piece from my forthcoming Memory Palace collaboration with Chris Russell. I really like that groove, and I messed with Viola (my fretless guitar) over it. This and one other Memory Palace track will probably see regular live work, especially in concert situations.
Other originals included First Day Apart, Rebuild From Memory and Radha’s Tears, all from my forthcoming first album The Separate Ones.
Any time I play live, I’ll want to play a personal favorite by one of my musical sensei. This time I tried three pieces. By the way, I haven’t heard of anyone rendering any of them with guitars – let alone one live guitar, so these may be milestones of a sort…
One of these – the other highlight of the day for me – was Fratres by Arvo Pärt. I find its austere, yet ecstatic mood irresistible. I arranged the string quartet version for electric guitar with a synth drone, and am keen to play it live often as possible. It’s slated for a covers album which I hope to record next year.
Here is a clip of highlights. I hope you enjoy it.