It's March already? What!
Last month, I had the opportunity to play Tom Johnson's piece "Failing: a Very Difficult piece for Solo Bass" at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. It was for the MMoCA Nights event, and the program was put together by New Muse. The rest of the program was pretty fantastic, as you can see here. The event was very well attended and was a lot of fun. Performers were stationed around the gallery like works on display, and we played in succession, so the attendees could roam from performance to performance. Pretty cool! I even had a fancy placard on my stand.
This week, I'm playing in the University Theater's production of Rocky Horror--a revival of the stage production. This is so much fun. It's every musician's dream to be a rockstar, and it's hard not to feel like one playing this music. We have four performances this weekend at the Wisconsin Union Theater, including two midnight shows Friday and Saturday. Trusting that everyone lasts through this week's cold and flu pandemics, this will be a pretty awesome show.
Speaking of failure and horror, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker continues his attack on the working class of Wisconsin by trying to push through his "budget repair" bill that strips union workers of collective bargaining rights, guts Badger Care (Wisconsin's state Medicaid program) and includes many other reprehensible and asinine provisions.
Protestors continue to rally in solidarity against this bill, in a period of debate that is allowed by the action of 14 Wisconsin state senators who left the state in order to deprive the Republicans of the quorum required to vote on the bill.
Walker delivered from the state capitol this afternoon, where protestors were not allowed in through unconstitutional restrictions enforced by state police. He spoke to an audience of fawning approval, which apparently he smuggled in for his benefit--indeed, I waited in line to get inside the capitol building for 2 hours, and no one was let in.
This ordeal is disgusting.
I just watched a movie called From Beyond, a Stuart Gordon film from 1986. It's based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, and follows the plight of a physicist and psychiatrist who try to control a machine that unleashes unspeakable horrors by triggering the pineal gland, which is the gateway to a sixth sense--apparently the sense of detecting slimy, mutating creatures that turn you into writhing, toothy monstrosities. The film includes a crazy scientist who takes kinky S&M videos of himself, a man being eaten to the bone by a swarm of pineal creatures, heads being devoured, vindictive doctors, faces bursting out of creatures' mouths, and x-ray vision that allows people to eat the brains out of other peoples' heads.
Scott Walker is more disgusting than that.
I know that in this picture I look like I'm laying it down in the back of the bass section in a sixth-grade orchestra, but I'm really laying down a 4-minute sul tasto low D drone for a Weather Duo recording.
Here's a snippet:
Yeah, sounds like that make me believe sometimes that there's hope for this world. That's why I play the bass.
More about that Weather Duo recording here.
Weather Duo @ Stumpfest. photo: Kyle Pfister
It's very trendy these days to find 'unconventional' venues, it seems. Performers and lovers of 'high art' music (things like classical music and jazz--you know, the ones no one listens to?) are worried that their art is dying out. Greg Sandow has a blog devoted to the future of classical music, that addresses some concerns, and groups like Classical Revolution are devoted to revitalizing an audience base for an art form that can come off as stuffy.
I'd like to point out some people in Madison, WI, that are popping out of the woodwork on this issue. There is now a Madison branch of Classical Revolution, which hopes to bring classical music to interesting venues, and for the last year or so, a collective called Surrounded by Reality has been programming events that bring interesting music to, well, any venue that'll have it. Another group, which bills itself as a contemporary music ensemble, called New Muse, has formed with the mission to perform new music in site-specific performances. It will be very cool to see where this group goes, methinks. Their first undertaking was a flash-mob performance of Barber's Adagio for Strings as a 9/11 memorial at the Madison farmer's market. Now, I wouldn't consider Barber to be contemporary music (um, dead) but I have a stricter definition of this than some. The piece was pretty perfect for the mood, also--I wish I could have made it to the event itself.
This past week, I've had the opportunity to perform in a variety of interesting venues myself, with my group the Weather Duo. The nature of this group, wherein we play improvised music with electronics, and a new/contemporary classical vibe, has led us to perform with all sorts of different folks. There's not really a scene for what we do in Madison, so this has allowed us to sort of be musical spies, traveling in and out of different genre cliques. We've performed under the guise of a 'free jazz' group, we've been the house band for spoken-word open mics, we've played living room concerts with folk groups, we've done rock club shows with indie bands, and we've performed with string quartets and the like. I've coined the term 'post-contemporary chamber music' for what we do. This was originally meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but the more we perform, it seems increasingly apt.
On Thursday, we performed at a bar called the Argus with pop-rock sensation Tom Teslik, who followed us with very pleasant minimalist/rock guitar loops and drums under the name Nasty Thom and the Dirty Husbands, and our pals Pushmi-Pullyu, who play adorable electro-pop on computers and synths. Tom chronicled this night in his blog, which you should read, if only because he's a super nice guy.
On Friday, we played as a part of Stumpfest, which was an all-day outdoor acoustic improvised music festival that was organized by Patrick Breiner of Surrounded by Reality. The festival was itself an installation project as a part of the [Park it!] event that was an art festival to celebrate National Parking day. A bunch of parking stalls at Schenk's Corners on Atwood street were covered with sod, and converted to a temporary park. A bunch of awesome improvisers performed throughout the day. Artist Kyle Pfister made a nice little video of Stumpfest:
Weather Duo at Magnus. Photo: Tom Caw
Later on Friday, we performed a pretty remarkable gig at Restaurant Magnus. Magnus is an upscale restaurant that has music often--usually jazz. Last week, composer and DJ Gabriel Prokofiev was in Wisconsin for the American Premiere of his Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra. Gabriel runs a record label called Nonclassical, which in his home city of London, hosts club nights of contemporary classical music. A friend of his in Madison helped to set up a Nonclassical night at Magnus, Friday the 17th. A call was put out to find performers of contemporary music, and this filtered down to the Weather Duo, and we were happy to take the call. Also, two string quartets were arranged by Classical Revolution, and Madison Native, the talented flautist Joanna Messer performed. The Weather Duo did two sets, one at the beginning of the night, and one at the end. Gabriel Prokofiev hosted the event. Magnus was PACKED. I've never seen that place so full. It really created a lot of excitement for us performers and lovers of 'high art' music, because it showed that there really is an interest in it in Madison. Hopefully, we will be able to find enough space for it in Madison, since Magnus will soon be closing. Time will tell if the new place will serve as a place for interesting music, or degenerate into a hipster haven.
I send emails occasionally about upcoming performances. They're very cordial.
mine, all mine! records
Surrounded by Reality