Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thoughts after attending Grizzler rehearsal

I'm a member of a large ensemble called Grizzler which is led by Dave Gross. We had a rehearsal on Sunday evening at Lou Cohen's house. There were 9 of us at the rehearsal.

One of the things we worked on was trying to (during the course of a piece) not play for an entire minute (as an ensemble). I made a couple of comments during our post-play discussion about what I observed during the improvisation.

Before the minute of silence actually occurred, there were at least a couple of "false starts" during which some members of the ensemble made a conscious effort to institute the minute of silence. These false starts imbued a certain pregnancy to the music which I actually found quite exciting.

It seemed to me that once we got to the minute of silence, everyone was really ready for it. But that could be because I was really ready for it. What do I know.

I was surprised at how well I thought that the exercise worked, because personally, I'm not that interested in the aethestics[sic?] of silence.

I have two main approaches to improvising within a group. The first is to be an active collaborator who seeks to blend sound effectively. In other words, I'm not always looking to stand out, I'm looking to add things that make the music as coherent as possible. I don't mean accesible, I mean that what I'm doing makes some sort of sense compared to what other people are doing.

Now, there are times when I will do the exact opposite, usually for the following reasons: 1) To make a point 2) To challenge the dominant paradigm 3) Because I deserve it since I've been a team player for most of the rest of the time. A further explanation:

1) To make a point - another of saying "For the heck of it", "Because I can", "I got kind of bored", "I wanted to see what would happen".

2) To challenge the dominant paradigm - To challenges the expectation of what the ensemble will sound like or what I will sound like.

3) Self explanatory

The other main way that I play is to see the improvisation as a series of events, to interpret those events, and to react to them. I often watch other players very closely and react to what they do. This happens a lot with drummers. I just wait for them to hit the hi-hat, or the ride. I literally wait for the moment when they do it and that's when I play. I keep an eye out for visual cues as well as musical cues.

Improvisation for me is a serious and solid study into the aethestics[sic?] of interaction. That's how we build collectively as a group of musicians.

So there you have it, a look into what goes in my brain when I'm playing with other people.

1 comment:

senorton said...

Hey Forbes,

Those are lovely observations! I was also struck by the experience of performing that piece. What i found even more interesting was how difficult it was, initially, for the much larger ensemble on Sunday evening at the Piano Factory. I think the combination of trying to coalesce quickly out of the formless pre-gig inertia and not being right in the rehearsal head-space made it difficult for everyone to get their heads around the idea. But after an unsuccessful try and some clarifying answers to follow-up questions, folks performed the 3 minute piece very solidly.

Anyway, your descriptions of your thought processes during improvisation are great: i can so relate to the idea that "there are times when i will do the exact opposite". In improvising, whenever a directive is expressed or when a direction enters my mind, it's always struck me that the exact opposite approach is always also immediately available.

Also, i just wanted to say that it's a real honor to play in this group with so many fine improvisors such as yourself. I looking forward to more with much anticipation!


Steve Norton