Posts Tagged concert

2017: Eons and Gatherings

2017 is off to a roaring good start!

In mid-January, I completed recording for my fifth album, The White Island. It’s all improvised guitar pieces, though I pushed the concept a little for the last piece to be recorded, The Eons Are Closing. (Coolness points if you recognize the phrase!) For this I recorded two spontaneous parts on each of 6- and 12-string guitars, the fretless with EBow, and electric mandolin with octave pedal, then arranged the parts jigsaw-puzzle style. A similar approach was used on Like a Riven Cloud and Mister God, This is Taylor.

The final mixing and artwork are all that remain to be done. I hope to release in the spring. Look for the album’s creation story soon.

Next in the recording queue is one of two classical cover pieces that I’m dying to record.

On the live performance front, I’ve been honored with an invitation to play two of North America’s most important venues in the electronic/atmospheric music world: The Gatherings Concert Series and Star’s End Radio, both located in Philadelphia.

The Gatherings celebrates its 25th year, and has hosted many of the world’s most important musicians in the field, including Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Erik Wøllo, Ian Boddy, Saul Stokes, and guitarist Jeff Pearce – one of my most important influences, for whom I will be opening. My set will be 30-40 minutes.

The concert takes place Sat. Oct. 7, 8:00 p.m., at St. Mary’s Hamilton Village, 3916 Locust Walk, Philadelphia PA 19104.

After the concert, I’ll relocate to WXPN Radio at the University of Pennsylvania, to play an hour live to air on Star’s End, currently in its 40th year, which airs from 1:00 – 6:00 a.m. Star’s End cited my albums The Separate Ones and Souls Adrift, in Disrepair as Significant Releases for 2013 and 2016 respectively.

I hope to see you there! More news to come very soon, as the ripple effects from this invitation are considerable…

 

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2015 in Review: Many Seeds Got Planted

This year’s composition and recording trajectory might best be described as an ellipse. The two focal points were (1) my two live shows in June and July, and (2) an 8-day recording blitz in August. Everything gravitated around those two periods.

I usually take advantage of the statutory holidays from January to May to spend time in The Keep, and that’s when much of a year’s composition work gets done. Somehow, that didn’t happen this year – but I’ll do my best to rectify that in ’16.

This year, it took the two summer performances to get my composition mojo going, with some surprising results. I started each show with a trio of solo guitar pieces, beginning with First Day Apart, and concluding with Fading Angel (which opens the next album, and which was born as a post-First Day Apart live improv), with a new improvisation in between.

Imagine my delight when the two performances, and two rehearsals, yielded three releasable versions of this new improv piece! It was clear at once that an album of solo guitar improvisations should be compiled, which is already nearly half-done. I’ll try one on the 12-string, and one on the fretless, and one on the mandolin…

My wife Dasi, whose photography graces the Divinations and Memory Palace albums, took a bunch of great photos of an early-November sky over Lake Michigan, with the color schemes changing constantly. So, artwork for the improv album is already in hand.

Another releasable artifact from these shows is a riotous version of Rebuild From Memory, which has cemented my resolve to put together a live album someday.

Dasi went camping with friends for two weeks in August. Thus freed from any obligation to keep our apartment fit for civilized habitation, I hunkered down in The Keep and recorded four pieces (about 65 minutes’ worth of music) in eight days. Three of them are for Album 4: Souls Adrift, in Disrepair.

The fourth piece is for a singer friend of mine, and I’ll put the finishing touches on that after she sends it back. That is simply going to be amazing. She’s a terrific singer whom I’ve wanted to work with since I discovered her ten years ago.

Another piece for the Souls Adrift album was written and mostly recorded a few weeks later, so only one piece remains to finish that album. It’s written and just needs to be recorded.

So… what’s the plan for 2016? The answer was somewhat simplified when, in the past few months, I made a critical decision that was a long time coming: after the albums in progress, all new solo work will be written in Just Intonation. A liner note on a Robert Rich album opened that door for me some years back, and I’m finally stepping through.

That has really tightened my focus, which is always a good thing. Some contemplated projects have necessarily fallen away. The Concerto for Ambient Orchestra, in which nearly a dozen of my peers had expressed interest in participating, will now be a solo project – hopefully before 2040…

Another project simply ran out of gas: the covers album I had planned since 2010. Hope remains for three of those pieces, though: one is Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, though I’m still struggling with trying to arrange it for one guitar. Some of those chord changes are simply crazy. The other – and more likely – one is… big secret. It’s going to be a riot, and probably a standalone release. Luckily for me, the original music is in the public domain now. The third one is another work in progress, which I hope will make it onto the live album.

All my dreams of classical prestige have bitten the dust, although if some ambitious string quartet or choir should take a shine to me…

Of course, collaborations will be exempt from the JI Directive. Chris Russell and I knew long ago that we wanted to make a second album. It won’t be Memory Palace II. That’s just a matter of finding one more burner on the stove. Another duo with a new collaborator is still at the hopeful stage.

So, 2016 will be mostly about finishing work in progress. Barring something unforeseen, Album 5 will be the Guitar Improv album, and Album 6 will be an initiation/journey story project, inspired by a workshop I played three years ago, which could grow to a double-CD. I entertain grandiose hopes of recording at least some of that in a large church (and using their pipe organ). Album 7 includes the collaboration with the singer, and maybe another guest artist or two. Those albums, hopefully culminating in a live release, will mark the end of a phase – my solo Equal-Temperament composition phase and, hopefully, my recording apprenticeship.

Hopefully before 2040… because the JI World is beckoning, and it promises to be even more exciting than everything that’s happened so far.

2015 was also a stellar year for hearing some of my musical heroes play live, and meeting them for the first time. That would be Steve Roach (twice), Robert Rich (whom I finally met properly at my third concert of his), and long-time Americana idols Eric Tingstad & Nancy Rumbel. Much gratitude for their endless inspiration.

I also got to hear prog-rock demigod Steve Hackett for the first time, a few weeks ago, and hope to do so again. I don’t listen to much rock anymore, but he’s always been one of the cats…

Happy 2016 to all!

GM in Keep, Dec 27-15

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Summertime Drifts, 2 of 2: Under the Picasso, Once More

The second of my two live events this summer was on July 6 at Chicago’s Daley Plaza, as part of the Under the Picasso lunch-hour concert series.

Technically, the stage isn’t under Picasso’s giant nameless steelwork – it’s some yards away. Too bad – I would’ve been grateful for the shade, as the stage baked in a hot and humid high noon. Always grateful for my trusty and good-looking Tilley hat! Some brave souls sat in the hot sun to listen attentively – muchas gracias! Others listened in the shelter of umbrella-shaded tables around the plaza. Cheers to them all, to everyone at Daley Plaza for making it happen, and to Ello comrade Dennis for his support and for lending a hand.

For practical reasons, I went with the minimal rig this time: just two guitars, pedals and the computer. The second guitar was originally just for backup, but since that turned out to be the 12-string, I got some new mileage from it by using it on Sirens of Maya for the first time, which went very well. This piece continues to evolve, as these two concerts have taught me a handful of ways to improve it – after I thought it was done!

eyes cast down Live 7-6-15

Playing First Day Apart. Photo by Dasi.

The opening “farewell suite” of First Day Apart, Intervening Ages and Fading Angel continues to inspire. “Hello, I must be going…”

Rebuild From Memory continues to be a platform for layering parts and technical evolution, with no end in sight. I’m getting better at using the EBow as an airbrush, to add lighter textures (OK, at least some of the time!). It’s too easy to use the EBow like a sledgehammer, to lay the power on thick, so I’m glad to have hit upon this way of using it.

Dasi says I should release a live album, and as always she makes a good case. Thanks to the intense rendition of Rebuild From Memory on June 20, this project is underway. But I think that’s going to be a year or two in the making.

Guitar improvising is also going really well these days, so imagine my surprise at finding that an album of that is suddenly developing, too. (Steve Roach’s Streams and Currents remains an absolute high-water mark in this field.) Four pieces from these two shows and their rehearsals – almost half an album’s worth – are in there.

I’m also looking forward to compiling a live demo CD for purposes of Prospective Gig Solicitation. These two events alone have yielded almost the full CD’s worth.

Here are some highlights. That Christmas-y bit in Rebuild From Memory (starting at the 7.54 mark) is the 7/8 riff from the Rush classic Xanadu. It’s practically unrecognizable, because my attempt to turn off the Illudium Q-36 Perfect-Storm Multi-Echo Propagator was cruelly rejected by the computer. When listening, don’t max out your volume. because the whole thing peaks with a roar about a minute before the end.

This was the end of my live apprenticeship, so … I’m done with playing free concerts. It’s time to challenge the popular myth that artists should give away their work in exchange for “exposure”.

So the energy’s at a peak, and I’m taking it into the studio! That will be our next subject, in about two weeks…

Set List:
First Day Apart
Intervening Ages
Fading Angel
Sirens of Maya
Rebuild From Memory

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Summertime Drifts, 1 of 2: The Muse Rises!

My first of two live appearances for this summer was on June 20 at Chicago’s Sulzer Library Auditorium.

Short version:

Definitely the best gig yet, a clear step forward.

Long version:

This was the most well-rounded performance yet, with more keyboard parts, more layers, and some best-yet guitar zones.

eyes cast down at Sulzer Library, Chicago, 6.20.15

Ready to bring it. (Photo by Dasi)

As I did for the September 2012 events, I brought most of the gear this time: three guitars, synth controller, lots of percussion, a couple of ocarinas. I should post an studio inventory with lots of photos sometime; it’s kind of amusing, some of the weird things one can make use of.

Highlights were many. I’m especially pleased with the opening half-hour “farewell suite” of solo guitar pieces, so I expect to use this a lot in future. This is: First Day Apart, Intervening Age and Fading Angel. Both of the latter were born as improvs played immediately following First Day Apart (the first in rehearsal for this event, the second in concert in 2012), so the connection is really organic.

This day’s take on Rebuild From Memory was the best live one yet, even evoking soundscape pioneer Robert Fripp at times, and I’m working up technical ideas for ramping it up further…. inexorable evolution. This is definitely going on a future live album, unless it gets replaced by a better version.

I Am But a Fledgling… (part of the Dreamlife suite slated for an album-in-progress) was tons of fun, with ocarinas, lots of percussion, and a hair-raising synth bed. (My wife Dasi filmed most of the 19-minute piece, so we may be sharing some of that soon.) Haven, a solo synth piece which will open the same album, is a serene pleasure to play, which I hope to do many more times.

Four pieces were played live for the first time, including the massive Knife of Karma, Expanse of Heart (with Alannah’s voice clips), and Exquisite Divination of Patterns. I expect to keep playing these, hopefully take them to some new places, and release live versions if all goes well.

The increase in keyboard parts is a most pleasing development, as I’m trying to move in the direction of having a more balanced guitar-synth sound.

The “surprise cover piece” I promised was the Enya song Sumiregusa, with the two melodic lines from another song, Fallen Embers, woven in at the end. This 12-string arrangement went off really well. Too bad it’s owned by a major record label; I’m not optimistic about ever getting clearance to release it.

Here is a 24-minute highlights clip, culled from 9 pieces:

The audience was small but enthusiastic. Special thanks to our friends Lou & Sue, who really appreciate and support the music!

Next up: a report on the July 6 Daley Plaza event.

1st Set
First Day Apart
Intervening Age
Fading Angel
Exquisite Divination of Patterns
Sirens of Maya
Knife of Karma

2nd Set
Rebuild From Memory
Haven
I Am But a Fledgling…
Expanse of Heart
Sumiregusa (Enya)
Submerge/Emerge

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Back in the Game: Live at Archer Heights Library

After a two-year break, it was time to get back on the live wagon, to make sure the wheels were still securely attached. So I jumped at the library’s invitation.

I had planned to play all composed pieces, but it finally dawned (at the last rehearsal) that this was involving too many guitars (four, including the 12-string and the acoustic), so I cut back to the usual two and revamped the program, allowing for a couple of improvised flings.

So I ended up with three pieces from The Separate Ones, two from the next solo album, one from the album after that, and the two improvs. I used just the two guitars, apart from the synth line in Radha’s Tears.

The minimum success threshold for a live show of mine is pretty basic: no power outages, no blue screens of death, no screaming feedback, and no crazy blue notes. So… on this day we’re all good.

Actually, it was one of the better shows. The live take on Sirens of Maya is so pleasing that it may replace the finished studio recording on the next album.

So, we got music to share!

Here is a medley of highlights, also on Soundcloud:

Submerge/Emerge (part of which closes this highlight clip) is free with all Memory Palace digital pre-orders. A download link will be emailed. This ends on Release Day (Dec. 8), though the download link will be good until all pre-purchasers have confirmed receipt.

I was so chuffed at how Emerge turned out – thanks to its improved structural re-arrangement at the last rehearsal – that I recorded the studio version last night. Six guitar parts, and no looping – all the repeating parts were played through. This allows for variety in phrasing and processing, and liberates me from the metronome.

Concert day wasn’t the best day for photos, but here’s one before:

Pre-Concert Setup

and one during:

Shaping Some Space

Program:

First Day Apart

Fading Angel

Improv 1: Glittering Depths

Radha’s Tears

 

Rebuild From Memory

Sirens of Maya

Improv 2: Submerge

Emerge

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The Receding Horizon: 2012 in Review

Three things are inevitable: death, taxes and year-end reviews…

2012. What a year it was! And it didn’t end early, after all…

First of all, many thanks to everyone who supported my musical explorations this year. Whether it was attending (or helping facilitate) a live event, spreading the word, keeping up with the music online, or whatever – y’all know who you are. Muchas gracias!

This year, I played my first live shows (six in all), which were a major learning experience, significantly changed the way I set up my gear, and yielded one album’s worth of finished music and a second album’s worth of work in progress.

In November we finished recording for the first album, The Separate Ones, completing a nearly seven-year odyssey. I expect to release it (on CD and by download) in late January. There will be a CD Release party at Royal Coffee in Chicago, and a streaming feature on StillStream (details to follow when ready).

In early November, I revisited the recordings of my live show on April 1, the multimedia jam with art painters Royce Deans and Tali Farchi, and determined to release them on yet-to-be-titled Album #4. The recordings need remixing and perhaps a few added brush strokes. Hopefully the entire art package will be Royce & Tali’s work.

With most of 2012’s studio time involving preparation for live events, the only finished compositions to emerge this year were Darklight Canon, which will be included on Album #4, and Snowdance in Starlight, which appears on the Free Floating netlabel’s third Christmas/winter collection, all|is|calm 2012.

In other compilation news this year, my early piece Last of His Breed made it onto two Sound For Good compilations: Oceans and S4G-Mix-I. The latter was a survey of the label’s entire output to that point, so being included was quite a feather in the old cap. Many thanks to Jack Hertz and Crazy Dymond, respectively, for choosing it! Last of His Breed was the last (and my favorite) of four formative early jams which launched my ambient journey in spring 2004.

Mini Djembe and Thunder Tube

Besides changing significantly in its arrangement, The Keep acquired some new gear this year: a Roland Loop Station, djembe, clay pot drum, mini-djembe, thunder tube, claves and a big loud shaker. I also picked up a couple of baskets for rocks and Go stones, cut five new claves from downed branches, made one shaker out of locust bean pods and another out of plastic curtain rings, and bagged fallen leaves for sampling. Many thanks to John Briggs for the loan of a mini-darbuka.

Now it’s time to be a studio hermit for a few months, so I can get some albums finished.

New Toys Dec 25-12

L-R: Centipede, Loud Shaker, Locust Bean Pod Shaker, unfinished Claves

So far, the best-laid plans for 2013 shape up something like this:

Pastimes of Creation, the Keshava-Lila trio album, just needs one more bit of recording. I hope to release it in mid-March.

Memory Palace, a collaboration album with Chris Russell (for which half of my parts are done), for the Relaxed Machinery label.

Album #4, which will be submitted to rM.

By this time, it should be spring (at least), at which point I’ll come out of the cave and play a home concert – at my place. If all goes well, the program will be six improvised pieces from the two September shows, which I hope to have worked up into final form. Those pieces should be Album #5. Highlights of their gestation can be heard on my Events page.

Album #6, Nuances of Illusion, with violinist Ezra Azmon (who tears it up on Like a Riven Cloud from The Separate Ones) providing source material for recycling. These last two will probably be released on my Kalindi Music label.

Then – after a short vacation – work on the long-planned covers album will begin the next phase.

Some compilation pieces and guest appearances are also in process:

Butterfly Effects, the James Johnson recycling album on rM, is cued up for release early in ‘13. My piece Two Fractured Mirrors is included, along with pieces from Altus, Disturbed Earth, Scott M2, Northcape and othersI also dreamed up the album’s title and acted as Info & Project Manager.

I’ll have pieces with Chris Russell (Particles and Waves) and Peter James (in progress) on the second rM artists’ comp, inFUSE, which title struck me through a nice dialogue with John Koch-Northrup and Steve Brand.

I’ve submitted a piece, Radiant Perception, for the Free Floating compilation a.m. If it makes the cut, a.m. will be the fourth Free Floating collection to include a piece of mine. Radiant Perception was the immediate follow-up to Exquisite Divination of Patterns (from Conception), and these – along with Crystalline (from all|is|calm 2011) – form a clearly-bound trilogy of softsynth pieces.

So far, the only live events I’m contemplating for ‘13 are a repeat at Daley Plaza and hopefully expanding the Carving Through Shadow workshop into an all-day deep dive. I’m always open to offers, of course…

Finally, as usual, it was a great year for music from my peers. In December alone, Steve Roach, Steve Brand and Max Corbacho all released awesome new work, to end the year on a high chord. Other releases of note came from Robert Rich, Lucette Bourdin, Andrew Lahiff, Chris Russell and Peter James. Low Volume Music by Steve Roach & Dirk Serries (returning from a ten-year hiatus) was the year’s coolest surprise and a major highlight.

Bring on the lucky ’13!

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A Fledgling, New to Flight

After a five-month break, during which I played only one live event (a laptop-driven atmosphere for an art show opening in mid-May), I emerged from The Keep in September for a workshop and my highest-profile concert so far.

Having determined to begin exploring a more earthy, tribal sound, I recently added a djembe and clay pot drum to the percussion section. And for these shows I finally got to bring along my keyboard controller, as there were no space constraints. So I had the artistically-necessary feeling of leaving behind the safety of the nest. This timing was perfect, especially given the nature of the first event.

September 15: the Carving Through Shadow workshop was an exploration in going within and expressing the journey through drawings. I’ve been keen on working in such a situation since I started playing live, so I was jazzed to finally have a chance to give it a try.

The music followed the workshop’s three-part program:

1. Getting Comfortable was a purely atmospheric, slow-moving and fairly minimal synth zone. It’s a great pleasure playing around in this mode.

2. Getting Uncomfortable, an inward descent, got down, dirty and earthy. The whole percussion section came out for this.

Getting past some discomfort of my own, I finally undertook to use my voice as an instrument, to open another door inward. Immediately, a couple of the participants joined in, giving voice to their own work. That was a good start, for a direction which I hope to pursue down the road. (Anyone know an overtone voice teacher anywhere near Chicago?)

3. A New Way was about coming back up to the surface and integrating what was discovered. For this I used mostly layered guitar loops.

The energy was good all around, as everyone came ready to go for it. Many thanks to expressive arts therapist Eve Brownstone for running the event, and to everyone who took part!

Set List:

1. Haven
2. Inanna
   First Day Apart
3. Emerge

eyes cast down Live Rig

September 25: Music of Many Worlds – concert at Chicago’s Daley Plaza, under Picasso’s famous unnamed steel giant, as part of the Daley’s lunch-hour concert series.

Chicago Picasso - Photo by J Crocker 2004

Photo by J. Crocker, 2004

This show also celebrated the one-year anniversary of my move from Toronto to Chicago.

To help capture the mood, I picked up a wonderful eagle T-shirt from the Amerinkas gift shop. So now it’s a feeling of leaving the safety of the eyrie – hopefully to soar.

Apropos of this, the most exciting development from this show is the Fledgling suite, which came about of its own volition. Three pieces that were intended to be separate simply drew together (both musically, and as a concept, when their titles turned up). The middle one, First Expanse, is modeled on one of those formative studio jams from Spring 2004 (see my First Iterations blog).

Like many pieces from this year’s shows, these are works in progress, hybrids of composition and improv, trying out some cool ideas. I’m excited to see how they move forward; Fledgling could end up being the centerpiece of an album as well as live shows.

eyes cast down Live at Daley Plaza 9-25-12

The program was completed by guitar staples First Day Apart and Radha’s Tears, which will open and close the Separate Ones album, along with one cover: Future Tribe, from the Serpent’s Lair album. I’ve dreamed about opening live shows with this piece for years. Hopefully I’ll really nail it sometime, so I can send it to Steve and Byron.

Along with taking photos, my wife recorded about 20 minutes of video on her iPad, some of which I will post as soon as I can get it together.

Big thanks to the team at Daley Plaza for helping to make this happen!

Set List:

Future Tribe (Roach/Metcalf)
First Day Apart
I Am But a Fledgling…
First Expanse
… New to Flight
Radha’s Tears

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