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2016 has been looking like a great year for performances, thus far. On February 20th, one of my bands, the Proenca Ensemble, premiered a brand new composition titled Proenca by composer and author Kyle Gann. Our vocalist, Michelle McIntire, commissioned this new work and we finally were able to present it to the world at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in KCMO.
Lee Hartman, music critic for KC Metropolis, did a write up about the event that can be found here:
Below are a few photos from the night, thanks to a friend of the ensemble, Andy Schwartz:
(Michelle McIntire – vocals, myself on electric bass, and Jenny Wanger – vibraphone)
(Virginia Backman – flute, and Jennifer Lacy – keyboards)
This piece has been challenging on a variety of levels. The music sits in between musical genres, crossing post-minimalism aesthetics with Renaissance troubadour melodic material set in a jazzy lounge ensemble. The text is mostly in English, pulled from the writings of Ezra Pound, but a couple of the tunes are sung in old Provence, a language no longer in existence. With the composer half-way across the country (Gann is an instructor in musicology at Bard College in up-state New York), the ensemble has had to work through a lot of interpretation on our own. Since we are the first group to ever perform this piece, we’ve spent a lot of time working through the music, attempting to let this new musical environment to settle deep within us, the way a rock group might rehearse. Along the way, we had to discover our own ways to bring the music to life, as individual performers, and as a band, because this composition is as new as new music gets.
Now that we’ve premiered the work, we’re flying to New York to perform at the composer’s institution. We have plans to record early this summer, but no specifics have been set at the moment. After that, the future of this ensemble is a bit in the grey at the moment. We’ve worked up a couple arrangements, experimented with a few jazz standards, and begun researching what it would take to do a series of “call for scores” to keep our contemporary chamber ensemble presence alive. Once our recording of Gann’s Proenca is released, I believe we’ll be able to make a stronger assertion of our next endeavor.
The opening act at the Proenca premiere on 2/20/16 was my other band, the Ensemble of Irreproducible Outcomes, also known as E.I.O.
From left to right – Me, David McIntire, Ryan Oldham
As I mentioned in my last post, we’ve been together for over 4 years now, and we continue to push our limits as an ensemble. We pull influences from so many artists and genres that it’s really difficult to pinpoint what we actually do or how we sound. What I can tell you is this: our music is based around being irreproducible, meaning you will definitely recognize one of our compositions from performance to performance, yet each time you hear that same piece, we hope that you will experience it differently. Sometimes our music is wild, crazy, unexpected, and yet sometimes we can be very calm, serene, meditative. Sometimes we’ll teeter on the edge of jazz, or lose you in lush romantic harmony. Either way, you never know what you’re going to get when you’re watching us perform.
To get a better idea of our music, you might want take the time to listen to one of our favorite tunes, Foggy, Foggy Dew, which is an arrangement of a traditional Scottish (or possibly English) folk tune. We recorded this tune 10 times in the studio, and took our most beloved track and placed it on our debut album, Memory and Weather. However, we loved seven of the other takes so much, that we made a bonus disc of that same tune. You can stream all 7 tracks here:
You can also stream Memory and Weather here, though we do hope you consider purchasing the album as well:
On March 12th, we’ll be performing at the Paragraph Gallery, thanks to my studio residency through the Charlotte Street Foundation, hence the flyer that I posted at the beginning of this blog. The concert is free, begins at 7:30 p.m., and will feature compositions and arrangements from each composer in the group. We’re very excited to showcase some new tunes we’ve been working on, as well as perform some of our classic hits.
In other news, I will be performing on a baroque bass, tuned to A415, with the Kansas City Barque Consortium at William Jewel College on March 5th at 7:30 p.m., and again on March 9th at Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center at 11:00 a.m. Learning barque music on a period instrument has really made me rethink how I’m playing music in general. It’s been such a cool experience so far, and I’m really looking forward to these performances.
On the other hand, with all the playing I’ve been and will be doing, it makes it difficult to find time to compose. Hopefully this summer I will allow myself the space to be creative on paper again. Until then, it’s all about that bass.