Thursday, March 25, 2010

Invisible Idiot

This hole you see has been a distraction for me. I discovered it less than 24 hours ago. It was dug about two years ago by a performance artist, in the woods near Devils Hopyard State Park, East Haddam, CT. A group of students was touring the environmental installations here, when we "stumbled" upon it. The photos show part of an installation that was called "Two Rivers Roar." Below the picture of the hole, is a photo  taken about 17 feet away, where one of the PVC pipes originates. The other one also originates about 17 feet away. From what I have been told, there is a geological fault line in the area, a characteristic of the glacial moraine which gives the topography its salient characteristics. An old friend, on whose property I am a guest for a few weeks, sent me a youtube link a couple weeks ago. It had Marco Mazzini playing contrabass clarinet. I only have a bass clarinet. So when I saw the pipes leading to this hole, I wondered, could I get a bass clarinet, or soprano clarinet, sound to go through the pipes and come out the hole? A devil's errand,to be sure.

Needless to say, this is not what I had planned for my visit here. I had planned to finish a play I had begun some years ago. Since I am so easily distracted, I brought my clarinets along to work on some solos as well. Sounds like a plan to fail but I am no Jaromir Hladik. You can read elsewhere about his success.

Back to the hole. With a hole like this, some PVC pipe, and some clarinets, the first thing that would come to anyone's mind (of course!) is, can they be joined up? Can a big sound be made? My first thought led me to the decaying waterworks of urban America. In one of my hometowns, there exist no surveys or schematics of the iron or clay sewers built as recently as the 1940s. Good thing we have video cameras, huh? I may need one. But, the first thing I have done is write to the performance artist who put these pipes in. I hope to hear back from her. I just want to know if the pipes are continuous and how they are angled. If they have holes, or open sections, it would be like putting sound into the dirt, right? Totally futile.

I don't even know if the breath from one set of lungs (or two sets in the case of a duet) can sustain a sound the 17 foot length of these pipes. But, it should would help if the PVC pipe is clear and tight. I should ask my friend if he has a sewer type video camera lying around.

On the receiving end, this wonderful hole, I would like for the hole to broadcast the sound in whatever form it comes out of the pipes. I guess the hole would need to act like a speaker, but I prefer the term "sound chimney." Anybody know how to build a sound chimney? Of course all chimneys should be "sound." But I am talking about human exhaust gas, co2, breathed through these various lengths of cylindrical bore, and vented in such a way that the music could be heard as far away as possible. Some philosophers say that music predated language. I open up this discussion: what could be put in the hole? Should the end result be a composition, a performance, or an installation? I await counsel.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Where the note ends

The last time I took clarinet lessons was in 1988, and it was with two good college professors who knew their stuff. More than 20 years later, I'm having the opportunity to study with a master musician, one of whose many talents is representing the sound of the clarinet to millions of television viewers. After hearing him on records since the 1970s, it was my first chance to see this guy (I haven't asked his permission to write about him so you'll have to guess) last month, where he was in the guitar player's group. I knew I was going to see a master sideman at work, but I had no idea how profound. He led the band without leading it and has an incredible musical partnership with the guitar player. Even better were his telegraphing of dynamics, harmonic cues and resonance. I can't begin to tell you what it is like to have a lesson with a master musician. Well, many people can tell a similar story I'm sure.
It's making me thing of resonance, which seems to have something to do with the origin of the sound, something you can have control over and even increase resonance.  On clarinet, it's a great thing to imagine. But strictly speaking, resonance, is how the note is ended. "Prolongation of sound by reflection or vibration of other bodies."
Nothing does this like a violin or drum, or a harp. The thing itself is vibrating, and some of those vibrations are going to be caught by the audience's eardrums. Resonance is going to happen.

 Listening to my clarinet teacher's sound on a couple of his latest CDs, there is a way to make the clarinet resonate, and he is doing it. I am hoping some of this great articulation is transferable!


I'm thinking about practicing diminuendo on clarinet. And how to make sure the note ends with resonance.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Conway NH ain't no place for the weary kind



 The Oscar nominated song takes on new meaning in Anytown, USA

A Conway New Hampshire record store owner is standing up to the economy with a message that everyone can understand. It's the Oscar nominated song "The Weary Kind."
And, a connection to the movie the song is from.
I'm on his mailing list cause I shop there and have a book room in the back.
Here's a mail he just sent:

Hi, all
I'm looking forward to this Monday's Open Mic at the library, hope you are, too! Featured performer will be Andy Davis, a seasoned storyteller, sharing his global adventures in prose. Read more about Andy here!
After Andy's performance, the mic will be open to poets & songsters of all genres.
Throughout the evening, I'd like to share with you a few personal anecdotes that relate to the movie "Crazy Heart". which may win the Oscar on Sunday Night, and is currently being shown at the Majestic Theater/Conway Cafe in Conway Village. The late guitarist/songwriter Stephen Bruton collaborated closely with T-Bone Burnett in the making of the movie, in music & inspiration. Some say Jeff Bridges character was loosely based on moment's in Stephen's life, but it's all hearsay, and could be applied to any musician who struggled to make it, then struggled to maintain. Stephen died last summer during the making of this film
Back in the 70's, living in Texas, I worked a few years at Record Town, in Fort Worth, which was owned, and is still operated, by the Bruton family. You can read a bit about it here. This store was where i became enamored with the record business, and why my record shop on Main Street exists today. Listening to the theme from the movie "The Weary Kind", I'm reminded of how true the lyrics are, how they resonant to the common man, in even these times, & in this economy, in our town.
I'd like to share my rendition of this song at the end of the open mic, and would love for anyone who feels it to join me as well. There's a great YouTube link to song, with lyrics. Bring your guitar, tambourine, marxophone (Katherine?), or just sing along! And don't forget to see the movie at the Majestic this week...Joe Quirk has even offered to provide some finger foods from the Conway Cafe to us all Monday night!.
See you there,
Harlan