Thanksgiving, Armistice Day, Canadian post Thanksgiving, a general long weekend possibly or just another day in the world and now days after the fact. With that in mind however the community of ImprovFriday artists held their November 25 – 27 open call for musical creativity event thread as they do every week. The events have become so much a ‘family’ that gathering on a day that celebrates family and thankfulness in the United States makes it all seem perfectly appropriate of an artful gathering on it’s own, in recognition and the spirit of music of all of us involved.
With this edition of WhatsNewAtImprovFriday I’m pleased to welcome the guest comments of fellow ImprovFriday member Andrew McCance of the UK. You’ll get to know a bit about Andrew as well as read his reviews of the November 25 – 27 event. Following Andrew’s reviews I [Jim Goodin] offer my own on selected pieces of each artist from the event. I should add that several photographs with this edition are from a recent trip I made back ‘home’ to Arkansas.
First with this edition however we’re going to hear from ImprovFriday/WhatsNew/ImprovFridayRadio colleague Paul Muller in a enlightening and reflective interview article he recently conducted with ImprovFriday member artist, Ken Palmer.
A Look At the Music of Ken Palmer as told by Paul Muller…
In this article I will look at the music of one of our ImprovFriday contributors in-depth. This will be a chance to follow the work of Ken Palmer through the pieces he has posted on IF events over the past year. I hope to be able to do similar in-depth articles on other IF participants so we can know more about the artists who are part of our community each week.
Ken Palmer has been a regular contributor to ImprovFriday for a long time – all the way back to NetNewMusic days, in fact. Ken is a musician located in St. Louis, MO and has had a long career there. Ken graduated from the St. Louis Institute of Music and spent 3 years in Germany studying organ, playing with an orchestra and touring in Germany, Spain and France. Back home in St. Louis Ken joined a jazz quartet and has performed locally ever since, including appearances with the St. Louis Symphony and many other local musical organizations. Currently Ken is involved in a project to record ‘Black Mass’ by Alexander Scriabin and this means learning the music as well as editing and mixing the piece. This has proven to be quite a challenge and Ken has been working on it for the past year. Ken’s ImprovFriday page has more about his background and current projects.
With such a wide-ranging background Ken can fairly claim a variety of influences. When asked to identify his main musical style or form Ken wrote: ”I can’t really answer to a musical style or form – in all the things I’ve written be they piano pieces, songs or chamber music I’ve always approached writing simply by sitting down starting to write and then my mind’s ear leads me along.”
An example of Ken’s jazz piano influence can be heard in a piece titled ‘Easy Listening for Two Pianos’, posted on IF during the July 23, 2010 event. This piece is quietly elegant and even with two piano parts it has the clean lines and intimacy typical of the finer music played in a club atmosphere. You can hear how comfortable Ken is with this form and it is doubtless the result of many hours of performing with a small group. Here is a link to ‘Easy Listening for Two Pianos‘, perhaps among the most conventional of Ken’s IF offerings.
Another influence on Ken’s music comes from East India. An example of this is ‘Facing East‘, posted on the June 11, 2010 ImprovFriday event. The sound here is quite different from the jazz-influenced works – full of exotic rhythms, a darting flute line and a syncopated bass drum. The bass drum booms while the flute zigs and zags, giving a definite overall Asian feel.
Another rhythmic piece along these lines is ‘Greetings From Ghana‘. In this piece there is complex drumming accompanied by a chorus that weaves a series of vocal lines around the changing rhythms. ‘Greetings From Ghana‘ was posted on the IF October 22, 2010 event.
The exotic element and more conventional forces are combined in ‘Chillin Out‘, a piece Ken posted on IF during the August 20, 2010 event. In this piece a solo woodwind takes a sort of winding, futuristic line while the rhythm and percussion sections are more regular. The piano moves in and out of the foreground and provides a counterpoint to the solo, shifting in and out of the exotic. This piece illustrates both the jazz and Asian influences operating together to produce an intriguing sound.
The jazz and Asian influences on Ken’s music are quite strong and so many of us were pleasantly surprised when some of his pieces began to reflect the more experimental works that are typical of an ImprovFriday event. The mix and mash are staples of an IF event and often these involve ambient field recordings as well as all sorts of other sounds. For the August 6, 2010 event Ken posted a piece titled ‘Simultaneity‘ that included a piano, night sounds of the forest and what can only be described as an otherworldly arpeggio. The piano provides a psychological anchor while the crickets and spaceship sounds envelop the listener in a sort of mysterious darkness. It is a very effective use of all the disparate elements to create a feeling of apprehension – like walking in the woods at night. You can hear ‘Simultaneity‘ here and I think it is something of a breakthrough for Ken in that it combines the traditional language of the piano with other sounds.
All of us at ImprovFriday have an appreciation of the work of Jukka-Pekka Kervinen and it is hard to think of an artist who is further afield from Ken’s traditional influences. Jukka-Pekka’s pieces are typically created from video game consoles and have a very strong electronic feel. And yet this work has been very influential at IF. In a piece titled ‘Stuck in a Box‘ posted during the September 17, 2010 IF event, Ken produced a piece that is just as electronic as any one of Jukka-Pekka’s game-boy creations. There are no standard musical instruments – save for a low sounding clarinet – and the piece is filled with the beeps and squeaks of electronic tones that fly about as small clouds of sound in a ghostly, empty space. It is as if we are in a different world where the conversations are held between the bits and bytes of electronic signals. Perhaps Ken intended to make a comment here, but the piece does show the effective use of electronic sounds to create a unique atmosphere. You can hear ‘Stuck in a Box‘ here.
The last piece that we will listen to is ‘Life in America‘ posted during the September 24, 2010 ImprovFriday event. In this piece Ken has followed the work of such participants as Adam Kondor and J.C. Combs by combining electronic sounds, field recordings and broadcast segments to create a commentary, in this case on life in America today. We can hear bird calls, rock and roll, a sort of broadcast announcement and electronic beeps and blips that crescendo into a great confusion of sounds. It seems like we’ve come a long way from ‘Easy Listening for Two Pianos’! ‘Life in America‘ can be heard here.
When asked why Ken participates in ImprovFriday he wrote: “It affords me a venue for sharing my creativity which heretofore was unavailable to me – cloistered living is fine for monks, and I want my music to be heard and appreciated.” I think we can all agree on that, and I would add that the chance to collaborate and be influenced by others is another big plus for being a part of ImprovFriday. Just as the music of Ken Palmer illustrates.
Learn more about the music of Ken Palmer at http://www.kenpalmer.net
Very special thanks to Paul for that great look in to the music and world of ImprovFriday’s Ken Palmer.
Introducing Andrew McCance
Mentioned above, joining us for this edition of WhatsNewAtImprovFriday, is guest reviewer Andrew McCance who provided commentary for the work done by the ImprovFriday event participating artists for the November 25 – 27 event. First though as with all of the ImprovFriday member artists, Andrew brings such a rich tapestry in himself to the IF community that I want you to get to know a bit about him.
Andrew McCance, a.k.a. AndyMc… lives in Portsmouth on the South Coast of England, just north of the Isle Of Wight. He started music when he was around 10 after his dad brought him an old air organ. Andrew says he played this now and then followed by soon getting an early computer, a ZX81 which led to some early programming interests. Soon followed a series of machines, the ZX Spectrum, then C64, MSX then AMIGA, which all led to more and more interest in making music and graphics.
Teenage years came and Andrew started doing live improv’s at house parties and quiet pubs. He had the chance then to go into bigger things but wasn’t overly impressed with the lifestyle that would also include so he became a dad instead.
For a while Andrew remained steady in mod music, using an Amiga and it’s 8-bit sampler, all the while immersing more into programming and only playing music for fun. After several years he moved to the PC and eventually working in Cubase. Along with other things this eventually led to joining ImprovFriday.
Andrew says he has always been interested in ambient, sound processing and retro analog synths going back even before his Amiga days but never fully pursued it. Since joining ImprovFriday he’s found he has found the inspiration to open that ‘envelope’ again releasing those early interests and energies into new work.
When asked to describe how he works in creating his music these days Andrew first suggested an analogy with food from the standpoint of going below the surface as in getting into the fundamental content of fine foods. He likes to start with an idea then make as much of it as he can, for example his track Blue World which had a foundation in a public domain whale sound surrounded by sounds that were manipulations of that core sound that developed to becoming his ‘own’. Blue World started from a lake photo posted on an IF event that inspired Andrew’s imagination to visualize himself diving below the water’s surface and discovering the aqua world below leading to his orca fused composition.
And now here are Andrew’s review thoughts about the work produced by the ImprovFriday member artists during the event thread, November 25 – 27.
Winter – You have captured such a crisp sound there Pete and you’ve kept it from cluttering on a loop. – Andrew.
My Fathers Voice – This is great Adam, I really enjoyed this and this is something you can truly treasure for ever. – Andrew.
Piece 112610 – This deserved a name imo. 🙂 – AM.
Waning Gibbous – When I first heard this I thought oh this isn’t experimental but as it flows through to the end you hear why it is. – Andrew.
Vortex/Jumbie – This was simplistic but to great effect, I’d only say that the talking of reverb and making of the track pulled me back out of the place I went when listening. – Andrew.
A Pumpkin of Pies – The organ on this Paul is great, I felt like I was at the back of the church listening to you recite, is it vst? – Andrew.
– I think the way you got things sounding in reverse that actually were not in reverse is excellent, it seems so good it is hard to explain to people it’s not actually in reverse. 🙂 I know you said it doesn’t sound forward when you reverse the track but I still think you should reverse the track and call it Forward. Tracks with a meaning, like an abstract of something always hear back better over time. – Andrew.
Happy Holidays – This is great Ken, and great playing too. An average listener maybe won’t realise the effort that goes into being able to play like that, but for us musicians it maybe more appreciated. – Andrew.
Notr**ever***sedes_revert+oN (feat. Richard Sanderson & Lee Noyes), this is great Lee. – Andrew.
IF Winter – I’m mentioning one of my tracks as I like it as much as the others here but I think I was a bit low on the volume on it. – Andrew.
Three Rivers, I loved this Norbert, it’s great. – Andrew.
Play Before Juno and Play After Janus – I love that first one, works really well, then the second works great too and ya feel like you was really feeling it when you made it. This normally shows when you hear the patience someone had in their piece, with out it it can sound rushed and wrong. These two were up there amongst my most favourites of this week. – Andrew.
ym-glitch #1 – Once Jukka I had a Roland RA50, when using a PG1000 into it via midi it achieved a similar sound, I would sit for hours just making this type of sound, this track of yours takes me right back. – Andrew.
In the Context of Ice Crystals – The picking really does give it a feeling of ice pinging or snapping of some kind, but I get the from the picking an idea of ice, not sure if that was the aim but that’s how I feel it. – Andrew.
Roger “ErocNet” Sundström
Winter and Morning Song and Happy Man (feat. Steve Layton,Bruce Hamilton) and Low Duct (feat. Jérôme Poirier) – I love ya Winter abstract Roger and also the Morning Song, the Happy Man is great, is it a mash or mix and is there any of your stuff in there? Also you are twice in the list, i had to come back to this to add Low Duct. 🙂 – Andrew.
Ben.improv.Nov.22.2010 – When I started listening Ben I first worried they were a bit forced this week, but then I got to this one and relaxed right into it. – Andrew.
Scale 6 – Paul this is great m8, I love this, it reminds me a bit of Blade Runner Theme music, which is some of my all time favourite, I don’t listen to music often so some pieces stand out for me above the rest, this is one of them. – Andrew.
Somersault Drums – I liked this Steve when I heard it for the first time on Facebook, it’s also sounds great in your Down the Wires Mash. – Andrew.
Choir and Strings Improv. and Solo Piano Improv. and Sitar Improv. and Father’s voice on a Relativistic Train (feat. Jim Goodin, Steve Moyes, Adam Kondor, AndyMc, Shane Cadman, Jukka-Pekka Kervinen) – Chris with out sounding wrong, when I listen to your works it reminds me of me, and I feel very comfortable and at home listening to your works. Sorry for the renaming here, the titles were a little long on the posts so I shorted to best I could. – Andrew.
Wow Andy, really personal and immediate thoughts on all the wonderful work created over the ImprovFriday event thread of ‘thanks’, November 25 – 27. Thanks so much for contributing to WhatsNewAtImprovFriday this edition as well as introducing yourself to us.
And now for a few thoughts of my own about some of the work from the same weekend.
Winter – Takes me back to my years in college with a then worn 1968 Volvo 144 sedan that I had, much irony here that I would own a Swedish automobile and later to have several connections with Sweden in my years that have evolved. The cold winter cranking away as the coils resist igniting, was like that in January in Arkansas Peter and there is much rhythm here in your ‘found’ experience. – Jim.
My Father’s Voice – Loved this Adam as partly it made me wish I had a recording of my dad’s voice as I gather this to you or somebodies. I have pictures and I think some video somewhere but the idea of preserving a voice for your offspring is something well thankfully for the net I have done. That said thoughtful editing as always in your pieces with some sounds of winding spring like tones as the dialog moves on, perhaps echoing an aging clock winding down. – Jim.
Piece 112610 – Lovely piano in a Winston style Shane led in by a gathering of sorts, voices in a room, fades to the stellar tones, suspended, reflecting and we give thanks. – Jim.
Waning Gibbous – Wow ‘Little old band…’ ringing a bit here and welcome first time participant or possible returning Mr. Ken Ficara. Feels like a street band here and nice crunch in the guitars. Also hearing Bo Diddley in this one at times. Nice fun piece to balance the darker this week. Great development as multiple guitars converge. – Jim.
Vortex/Jumbie – The wind and tapping, a rattle on a bottle, somewhere in the West a hundred fifty years ago. A rattler passes by in the dry dust of south Texas and suddenly it feels we’re in a large hall, preparing for a religious setting or order, it is indeed a ‘vortex’. – Jim.
A Pumpkin of Pies – Nice organ tones for the holiday Paul with a sense of a processional entrance for an observance yet offers the color of a movie reel at times in it’s periods of resolve. Your middles tones have a nice airy buzzy sound to them that makes me wonder if this is a physical or digital sampled that you play each week. Nice esculating arpeggio near end as if running up the stairs, for more pumpkin pie of course. – Jim.
No Reverse – Richard welcome, I think this thread was your first but forgive if you were at IF sooner. Great to have you regardless. I hear Bob Fripp and feel elements of his wonderful beginning in ‘Let the Power Fall’, going on as your piece begins. Fundamental hertz going on here in terms of tonal cycles all exploring the reverse envelope, a favorite place of mine to be. – Jim.
Interlude – Synth or angelic voices leading in with distant kettle or snare drums all giving focus to a cool plucked kalimba or African string harp growing largely intricate as it develops. The voice patch continues to underscore. – Jim.
Opa Cupa: Suspended Mouth and Tongue Pattern – The space of the vast lower hemisphere landscape as stellar and the sound of silence in between the well placed tones of Mr. Noyes. Lee this piece and many of your wonderful scapes feel as if you are in a room wondering around finding sound elements and the things that produce them that you’ve never known before and you just happen to pick them up, pluck them, hit them, all at just the well placed time. This one no less. Also feels at times like you are and Kavin are on the same stretch of the old West a hundred fifty years gone by. – Jim.
IF – Sore Thumb – The sound of ‘well placed piano’ Andrew, lovely and intricate as if peering through curtains, looking towards the Isle of Wight. One of the beautiful things that happens on IF is by chance, by subconsciousness, by shared muse we each can strangely find each other in the pieces we produce. You have found Shane in this one and he you. – Jim.
Piano impro. Fantasy – Lovely Norbert. Sure it echoes George Winston at times who I happened to really dig when his sparse melodic sound first appeared. Your sense of harmony gives more sophistication and this piece has a great melodic haunt to it sounding at times with color of pieces like Dancing in the Dark but returning to the more New Age alt-classical new music color typing our times. – Jim.
Legs – Wonderful distortion color all through this one. As I’ve come to know I think this is all manipulated cello which Mr Moyes does so well. This one feels like a walk through the forest at twilight, owls, birds and mystery encircles. – Jim.
Play after Janus – Drones as if planes over head flying through deserted lands in search of or feels terestrial as the piece moves through with sounds of rubbed metal. Perhaps all processed and stretched piano tones and well crafted as Professor Combs usual. – Jim.
Jim Goodin and Steve Moyes
Grapes of Wrath
– Rule of thumb in this blog is Paul and I don’t review ourselves or each other unless we are in a mash. The recent duo setting with fellow IF’er Steve [Moyes] is within reach re the rules. This was a near end section in our recent NinJam, a session of cello and violin improvisations. This section felt a mix of old world trudging as if fleeing Nazi Germany in WWII or more to my heritage of my Mom’s people leaving rural Oklahoma. The wind blows changes at the end. – Jim.
Cruyingonds – Wow Jukka. From the man who came to us through the arcade, the GameBoy, the 8-bit, the graphic scores and now another surprise. Guitar echoing Bill Frisell, Jeff Baxter and probably Henry Kaiser at times as it dances about a flute voice almost if playing cat-mouse in the fields of northern Finland. – Jim.
Roger “ErocNet” Sundström
Song 101125 Nyckelharpa or hammered dulcimer or who knows in this one. Sounds are plucked and wound with really nice melodic color developing about 2/3rd’s the way through. – Jim.
Ben.improv.Nov.22.2010 – Pensive Rhodes notes set the stage in Ben’s pre-Thanksgiving improvisation with lower tones emerging sounding like chardes of earth breaking away. The subtle intensity grows reaching a rhythmic near end conclusion of the sound of many hands trading brittle clusters as they wind down to a simple nicely muted ending. – Jim.
Plaque Friday – A trap kit exploring with really cool deep kettle. Feels like a ‘DeJohnette’ played feel at times and real drums but got a feeling this is all sequenced or ‘played’ drum samples which says a lot Bruce as it sounds nice and real sir. – Jim.
Ben’s Winter (feat. Roger Sundstrom and Ben Smith) –
Man the sun sets all over the world or in Paul’s case it’s rising I think in the early morn of southern California but here in the east Ben’s acoustic tones are like the light gently dancing across the towering Manhattan skyline and pensive New Jersey fields and yet 6,000 miles away Roger creates in brief daylight of the Swedish winter skies, all wonderfully mashed Paul, keep exploring this journey my friend. – Jim.
Songs of the South in the North (feat. Peter Thörn, Norbert Oldani, Roger Sundström, Jim Goodin, Andrew McCance, Kavin Allenson) – Cold winter there with the engine grind but warms up nicely in this mix weaving from the green land of Scandinavia to the hills of rural Virginia, colored by sophisticated piano notes flying loosely through the canvas of English descent to New England. As the engine intensifies ‘Leon Redbonish’ tones emerge from the southern region along with tribal percussive energy from across the seas again. A ‘World’ adventure in this mash. – Jim
Roger “ErocNet” Sundström
Morning Song 101127 – Really great colours Roger. Love the density in your enveloping almost baritone like guitar here, maybe detuned a bit. Lot’s of depth and space throughout this one. Thinking both Ry and Bill on this one as you often ring. – Jim.
Willows improvisation on a theme for solo GR-20 guitar synthesizer … – With tonal drift between the frets at times, the southern churchy sound in the trees is as eloquent as a Faulkner read on this ‘blue-tuning’ guitar snyth spin by Chris. Lots of interesting color here and in all his pieces for the day of thanks. – Jim.
It was an excellent weekend, much creativity and just frigging ‘heart’. If you just stumbled upon this blog and have journeyed this far, come see us and join us, the creativity and thought abounds on ImprovFriday.
And it wouldn’t be a WhatsNew blog edition without leaving you with the solo pieces Paul and I created for the weekend. Though we don’t as a rule provide our responsive thoughts here are our responsive tones.
In closing let me mention our ImprovFriday Radio podcast series which is easily found at http://improvfridayradio.podomatic.com as well as in iTunes by searching, ImprovFriday Radio. Each month Paul and I take turns hosting. This month the present episode up is the feature interview I conducted with ImprovFriday member artist Steve Moyes. In the hour plus Steve talks about his work with the cello, looping, his involvement in the ‘Gathering’, thoughts about music and all the colours in his worlds. Check it out at ImprovFridayRadio.Podomatic.com.
And please visit our ImprovFriday website on the Ning network to discover more about our community of creative musical artists. We are located at http://improvfriday.ning.com. Till next time, keep your ears and hearts open and happy holidays this season…
Jim and Paul