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Crafty guitarists

Had an unusual invitation on Friday. An old friend/acquaintance -- part of the Seattle sector of the University of Oregon diaspora -- Facebook-messaged me with 'a weird favor/opportunity': 'Friday night some friends and I are doing 1 hour of improvised music, from 9-10. It always adds an element of "danger" when there is an audience, even of 2 or 3. If you wanted to do us this favor, you would certainly be in line for a beer. Everyone in this little ensemble has trained with Robert Fripp.'

I was somewhat dubious, but what the hell, I hadn't seen him in a couple of years and, indeed, it was happening only a couple of blocks from my house (which is undoubtedly why he thought of me). So I trundled down the hill at 8:50 and at the address given found an office building where I was let in by a young man who turned out to be my friend's 16-year-old son.

"Anyone else here?" I asked.

"I've seen five people with guitars and two people without."

The performance space was a law office that reeked of new carpet. I think there were a total of nine guitarists, and there were three of us, counting the son, who were only there to listen. The third was a woman who introduced herself to me but otherwise didn't have much to say, which was more than fine by me. No need to stretch my social skills *too* far!

My friend also greeted me and then told us, "To make things even more difficult, it's best if the audience sits in the middle of the guitar circle." Oh shit. In the center, at the focus. We waited until they were ready to play before we moved into the circle.

It was a typical avant garde kind of performance in many ways. Very serious (although playful too), with a long stretch of meditative silence before and after the performance. The music itself was improvised in ways I didn't always understand. One method that I did catch onto came at the beginning, when they started by going around the circle playing one note or sound each and then eventually got into a process where the person playing the note/sound would look at another player who had to play the next note/sound. Later in the set all the players started moving around the room in various random patterns and at different rates, which was probably my favorite part of the show. Playing styles mutated from plinking and plonking to strumming to whatever you call it when a guitarist is not plucking the string so much as touching off overtones. There wasn't much -- well, nothing really -- by way of melody or harmony in any of this.

I can't say the music appealed to me all that much, but the performance was mostly interesting. They were all very and verbally thankful for the audience of three, although apparently they did shows at Tuning the Air where 75-200 people showed up. After the music, a bunch of us walked over to Brouwers for a beer. On the way my friend told me that his son had become a big fan of SF, and so I asked the kid who he liked, and he talked about Cory Doctorow and John Varley. I told him I used to run into Varley in a pinball arcade in Eugene. Beers and frites with the musicians was good fun (the son went off to hit the taco truck while he waited for his dad), and they all seemed very interesting and engaging. They wanted to know what I thought of their performance, and I did my best to give them some feedback and asked a few questions. They seemed satisfied and were again copiously thankful.

So, an oddball evening for this old recluse. Odd enough that I felt I should take note.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 27th, 2013 09:45 pm (UTC)
A nice adventure. Glad you noted it herein.
Oct. 28th, 2013 03:07 pm (UTC)
And this morning I remembered that when Rob moved to San Francisco back in 1987 or so, he bought my acoustic guitar to take with him. I'd long since given up trying to learn how to play it myself. He apparently never gave up!
Oct. 28th, 2013 07:37 pm (UTC)
An even better connection.
Oct. 29th, 2013 03:02 pm (UTC)
this sounds just like something from the book i just read. Im gonna review it so ill leave that as cryptic for now :-)
Oct. 29th, 2013 04:00 pm (UTC)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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