Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Cubes

From Paul Fowler: This year I'm using my new favorite toy for the laptop work that I'm doing. They're called Audiocubes and they're made by Percussa - They're an extremely intuitive performance interface for the computer. Through the use of infrared sensors on 4 of the sides, controller information and note information are sent to the computer. There's much more to it, but this is the gist of how I'm using them in the concert.

I sought these out after doing a fair amount of live laptop work in which the performance aspect, when compared to a violinist's or percussionist's movement, was extremely weak — if not completely uninteresting — "Yeah, I play faderbox!" Ha! With the cubes, the audience can see how the sound is being shaped while they hear it... For example, if I strike one side of the cube and then move my hand back, a sound is triggered and then gets quieter and the color of the cube becomes lighter. It's as if one could carry around a computer screen with all the sound wave and volume graphics and then use their hands to shape the sound.

Despite the parlor trick attractiveness, I am astounded by the usefulness of these little cubes and look forward to exploring more ways of playing with them....

Friday, May 21, 2010

At Last

From Paul Fowler: Once the contest songs were in, I chose to arrange At know, the Etta James tune that Beyonce performed at our president's inauguration, and Christina Aguilera performed regularly during one of her tours. That song that gets hollered through a Martini laden mic at karaoke — just about every torch singer on the planet has done it. It's one of those tunes that everyone knows, even if they don't know: they know. And that sort of cultural saturation is the beauty of the "standard." We've all got some emotional history with the song, and it makes for a richer, more saturated, communal experience.

In my years as a jazz pianist I'm sure I've played this tune hundreds of times and it's been requested way too often. I can count on the audience singing along, or the mental vinyl spinning the original recording. So I didn't want to obscure the melody. And due to the fact that it's nestled between the quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto and an amazing aria by Monteverdi, it seemed most fitting to take advantage of it's became a mashup of sorts. The final chord of Verdi's quartet is resampled throughout the piece, as a kind of memory that forces it's way into the sentiment. The bassoon "sings" the famous aria during the trumpet's second statement of the tune. When the bridge hits, the arrangement weasels it's way out of the Verdi and the final recap of the tune is strong and perhaps too bold, with the classic 12/8 piano riff a la 1950 played by the winds and thick arpeggios from the strings. I hope the piece has a kind of humor and richness.... As that seems to be my experience with standards. We mustn't take ourselves too seriously for too long.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

WNYC Soundcheck on Thursday!

Paul Haas and Emeline Michel will be interviewed in advance of the Tweetheart concert this Thursday, May 20 at 3pm by John Schaefer on WNYC's Soundcheck program. Emeline will also sing with members of her band - check it out!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's heavy...

The magic moment has arrived. I'm holding the full score for Tweetheart in my hands, just printed. It's 11x15 inches, about 3/4 inch thick. Weighs a pound, maybe a pound and a half. Very exciting. 24 pieces in total, the longest of which are 7-8 minutes in duration. Most are shorter.

The singers and I started working together about a week ago. The orchestra meets for the first time this Wednesday, which is the day that all the lighting and video production equipment gets delivered to Church For All Nations. Special thanks to the Park Avenue Armory for letting us rehearse there.

It's a 32-piece orchestra, which is fairly standard for us. Unique instruments abound, including a bass theorbo and multiple laptops. Harp too.

Can't wait for the performance. Get your tickets by clicking here.

Student Tickets Available

Student tickets for Tweetheart are now on sale - $10 each. You can buy them here. Please note: you will be asked to show your valid student ID at the door.

Monday, May 3, 2010


OK, sorry for the slight hiatus there. We are back in contact! For the past month and a half, my co-conspirators and I have been composing new works for the Tweetheart concert. For my part, I've written a 10-minute work called "Coming Home", as well as multiple arrangements of pieces by composers as diverse as Monteverdi and Jonathan Coulton. Wynne Bennett has written "Swimming for Johnny" and arranged Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U" (that's right, Sinead O'Connor made it popular). Paul Fowler wrote "On Compassion" and arranged Etta James' "At Last", and Grayson Sanders wrote "Shards" and arranged Bjork's "Cover Me".

Some trivia:

All of our pieces use laptop, sometimes to sample and process live what the orchestra is playing, sometimes to insert pre-recorded/manipulated material.

Each of us took about a quarter of the concert (using the pre-existing works on the program as a skeleton) and composed material to "sculpt the flow" of the experience.

This was pretty insane - so much material to complete in a VERY limited timeframe (we started composing in mid-March). However, the end result is astonishing, if we do say so ourselves, in really works. We set out to traverse an entire lifetime musically, viewed through the lens of love, in its many and varied forms. The result is absolutely, and organically, that. A big thank you to Wynne, Paul F, and Grayson - very excited to hear the results somewhere other than in my mind!