Pen and Paperweight

In addition to Not Quite (written for a previous gig), Pen and Paperweight are the two songs I wrote for the Mr. Tako set. Both of them are attempts to present one discrete idea in the written music, with the improvisational element stemming from that one idea.

For instance, in Paperweight (score, sound), the idea is about pacing: repetitive, improvised monads are balanced against periods of space in an attempt to establish a compositional balance between the two. For the guitar part, a big part of the piece involves keeping the repetitive ideas on the left side roughly equivalent to the space on the right side, treating both as equal parts of the improvised composition. The drum part is supposed to improvise throughout, responding to this. Finally, there is a written ending to bring a sense of balance to the alternating sections.

This piece combines two approaches to improvisation, each of which stem from the compositional idea of balance and form: in the song itself, the guitar is improvising both what monads to play on the left, and how long each section should be. The drums play a more open role that is both supportive and soloistic.

With Pen (score, sound), the one compositional idea is a relatively quick, flowing chord that is rhythmically interrupted by the dotted eighth notes. Finally, the interruption wins out, collapsing into a chord that sets the tone for a free improvisation. The opening material returns at the end, if it wants to. The improvisation, being open, is only informed by what has come before it.

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Mr. Tako

Last week, Aaron Quinn put together a show at Kafe Kerouac with three sets: solo guitar, guitar/drum duo, and Alex’s band Small Songs.

I’m the other half of the drum and guitar band, which is called Mr. Tako. We think the recording came out pretty well, so we have put it on the internet.

The special thing about duo playing, for me, is that it is perhaps the setting that is most transparently improvisatory. What I mean is that there is nothing in standing in between the interaction of the two players, either in the music-making process or in how the audience hears the music. It is easier for the musicians themselves to interact (one is tempted to say ‘communicate’, but I dislike the connotation that there is a conversation happening when people improvise) and it is also easier for the audience to experience the twists and turns of improvised music since there is never really an overwhelming amount of auditory information; it’s just two instruments.

We wrote some music for this gig, three tunes each plus a free song to start. I’ll post a little bit about my charts later in the week. Hopefully, we’ll get to do this again soon.