My Prepared Wire Strung Harp. Click for more sizes
My Prepared Wire Strung Harp

We had a pretty good crowd at the Eye Music show on Thursday, something certainly not to be counted in a mid-week show late in the “holiday season”.  The performances were overall quite nice I thought, my favorites of those I was involved in was Cornelius Cardew’s Tiger’s Mind, which I’ve wanted to play for a long time.  This piece is a textual piece, a poetic little scenario with six characters each played by one of the musicians. Like the script in a play Cardew’s score  includes character notes for each character with motivations, interactions with the other characters and interesting little asides. The interpretation instructions for the piece suggest you begin with a fixed sextet and do a line by line almost literal interpretation of the piece. As you become more familiar with the piece you can work more with the characters nature as outline in the character notes and eventually you stop directly assigning the characters and the players do so themselves. Thus there could be multiple players assigned to each character but as long as they treat the other players as the other characters it all works out.  This piece is basically Cardew’s exploration of improvisation, almost a step by step process from set parts to working with the other players directly.  A great piece that I for one would like to play a lot more.

The Tiger’s Mind

Daypiece
The tiger fights the mind that loves the circle that traps the tiger. The circle is perfect and outside time. The wind blows dust in tigers’ eyes. Amy reflects, relaxes with her mind, which puts out buds (emulates the tree). Amy jumps through the circle and comforts the tiger. The tiger sleeps in the tree. High wind. Amy climbs the tree, which groans in the wind and succumbs. The tiger burns.

Nightpiece
The tiger burns and sniffs the wind for news. He storms at the circle; if inside to get out, if outside to get in. Amy sleeps while the tiger hunts. She dreams of the wind, which then comes and wakes her. The tree trips Amy in the dark and in her fall she recognizes her mind. The mind, rocked by the wind tittering in the leaves of the tree, and strangled by the circle, goes on the nod. The circle is trying to teach its secrets to the tree. The tree laughs at the mind and at the tiger fighting it.

We played just the Nightpiece (Cardew specifies that the two parts are to be played on different days) and our performance of the piece was delicate, sensitive and I thought really beautiful. Not to say that it was reductionist in any way, the score certainly calls for more aggressive playing at times: The Tiger burns; He Storms at the circle; The Tree Trips Amy in the darkThe Mind, rocked by by the Wind…and strangled by the circle; the tiger fighting it. The sleeping Amy, the padding of the hunting tiger, the wind tittering and so on, certainly sets a dreamy and floating stage out of which these points of action arise.

My Table of Manipulators. Click for more sizes
My Table of Manipulators

The bulk of the second set was a performance from the entire ensemble of Earle Brown’s December 1952, one of the pieces from his Folio. I love this piece and have played it with the Seattle Improv Meeting as well as with Eye Music. This was the first time I’ve performed it live though and this was my other favorite performance of the evening.  The score (which you can sort of make out on the cover of the program up there), implies spaciousness, sounds coming as discrete events twinkling out of a sea of silence. The loose “instructions” that Brown includes with the piece are almost entirely about space, approaches for navigating through the events. With sounds completely open and the diverse setups of the ensemble which was in a circle around the audience it really was a sea of sounds that came out of the resonant space of the Chapel. The score indicates that at least in one interpretation the thicker line indicate dynamics, so it wasn’t just a uniform wash of tiny sounds. No there were passages of loud and dense events that due to the nature of the score and the fact that you can play it at any orientation, not to mention the differing pace of each performer, meant they could come at any time throughout the performance of the piece. Overlapping events, loud or quiet would occasionally reach a level of actual density, but more often then not they would provide that joyous collision of sound that combined exceed the glory of the original sounds.  We played this piece for a half an hour, which really is a good duration for the piece, allowing for a nice separation of the sounds but again thanks to the size of the ensemble and the differences in the performers there were never extended periods of absolute silence. Enough I think to allow the very positive addition of the other sounds audible from the performance space but not to a degree that that becomes the piece.

All in a all a good evening of music and one I was proud to participate in. The other pieces were great as well and everything was done well. The audience was very respectful and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Thanks to all for a good evening.