June 22, 2013
In July of 2012 I converted my 2 car garage into a music studio and performance space. It wasn’t until almost a full year later that I was able to present a listening party to break in the new space. Violahouse presented an intimate listening party with Gun Show, an improvisation-based trio.
The ensemble is viola, Cassia Streb, acoustic bass, David Tranchina, and electric guitar, Alex Noice. This group is mainly improvisational but there are structures and forms that we follow for each of the pieces-even if that means deciding that one piece will be entirely open.
One of the problems with free, improvised music, especially among seasoned improvisors, is that often there’s a sense that there’s no need to rehearse very much, if at all, because we’re just making up the music anyhow so what’s the need to get together? I feel that sometimes these kinds of performances work but more often than not they aren’t that successful. We either hear too many solos all happening together with no yielding the right-of-way to others or, more frequently and worse, everyone being “polite” and not taking enough space so that they’re just making low-level noodley sounds so that all blend together into a boring homogeneous slurry.
With Gun Show, we get together to play and talk through ideas. Often the first few times through a piece it goes really badly and there’s a temptation to just scrap the whole idea. In this instance there are no bad ideas. We try everything in order to see how it may turn out. When you don’t know what something will sound like its easiest to play through rather than sit and discuss what you think may happen.
One of the pieces we performed at violahouse is a 7-minute structure where everyone in the group plays 60% of the time and is silent the rest of the time. We follow a group stopwatch so that our timings are co-ordinated. The material we play is free but the timings are strict. This piece is a challenge to perform because on the one hand you are watching the clock and planning your material while on the other hand you’re listening to what others are playing and seeing how you fit in.