My way of working and writing for improvisation recently met some stalwarts of the London improvisation scene. Asked to work with a filmmaker curating an event, I was asked to lead/shape the improvisation. Quite an unusual instrumentation:
Vocals (mostly looped and processed)
‘Electronics’ (mostly a collection of toys and odd effects)
The electronics and laptop were operated by two quite experienced musicians. Though I thought the electronics player was going to be on piano, I didn’t find out till the gig!
Here are two of the films I worked with:
We had a couple of ‘get togethers’ beforehand, hardly rehearsals, as no more than two of the musicians came. This meant I had to be careful in my planning. It had to be playable with no more than a half hour of work, reflect the films in some aspect, a means to open out improvisation rather than restrict and allow enough scope for free improvisation so the musicians don’t resent the material.
The result: some excellent listening by everyone, unexpected techno and the harmonica stealing the show.
The techno was preplanned; the laptop player had seen the film previously and created some different layers. The film was the morphing of an image over the space of 20 minutes. The intensity of the techno slowly increased in line with the film, resulting in a very hypnotic effect.
A surprise gig lead to me rolling out a new quartet earlier than I expected. This group features myself and another guitarist, an unusual instrumentation, but seems to be working well. I think this is mainly due to some good communication and listening. These things can be more important when choosing musicians than having an ideal instrumentation to fulfil.
Yesterdays rehearsal also lead me to think about how other guys rehearse. Are there people still just plowing through a tune till they all get it right? Don’t they rehearse different sections of the group (even in quartets) and pieces individually? Apparently some jazz guys don’t..
However, the group is working well; some great group interplay. I’m looking forward to our first gig on Wednesday.
Due to some wish for catharsis or just plain narcissism I’ve decided to start documenting my musical activities as an improvising performer/leader and composer. As I tend to record everything, expect to hear warts and all rehearsals and gigs… alongside the lamentations of those who play my music. (Recent quote two hours in to yesterdays rehearsal ‘I’m not too sure how long I can go on… My head’s in a really weird space now’.)