Liner Notes by PEK
Here at Evil Clown, one of my primary goals is solving the aesthetic challenges of large improvisation ensembles. Large bands are capable of extraordinarily rich and complex sonorities frankly unachievable with fewer resources. However, this power comes with an associated difficulty if the music is freely improvised: There is a natural tendency to let a very dense texture be developed which, while very rich and interesting, may not demonstrate much development. In other words, it doesn’t transform enough.
In the last 50 years, many very different solutions to this aesthetic problem have been created by a huge host of musicians. Most often, some amount of pre-planning or some amount of real time direction / conducting are used to shape the improvisation, introducing more transformation between sections / movements and giving the work much more apparent development. Even with these controls, there is great difficulty in gathering large units for rehearsal. In my opinion, hard artistic problems are interesting ones.
My solution to these problems is a compositional device called Frame Notation where events are planned against a time-line and tracked with a large sports clock. The directions are simple symbols or English language descriptions of the composed actions which do not specify specific pitches or rhythms. Six of these compositions have been performed since 2015 by ensembles as large as 25 musicians.
The project of this release, Leap of Faith Orchestra & Sub-Units, was designed to advance the interactions of the musician roster in settings from small (2 to 3) to moderately large (10 to 15). At each show we performed four 15 minute or three 20 minute improvisations by different Sub-Unit sections from the Orchestra followed by a 50 minute improvisation by the full orchestra. This is excellent preparation for the Frame Notation Scores both for the players and for my compositional efforts.
Before the first Frame Notation Score, The Expanding Universe, was performed in June 2016, we did four large unit improvisations at the Nave Gallery, Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church. This was a nice room with great high ceilings and natural echo, but the load-in involved some pretty tough stairs. Since we bring a Uhaul truck full of instruments for these shows, this egress issue was a big problem and I looked for other venues.
We next did a series of these shows at the LilyPad. The LilyPad is a much smaller space which could fit 8 or 9 players at most. It was also impossible to load-in before 7 pm for an 8 pm show, which made setting up very stressful. We had a bunch of good shows there… I liked the sound of the room, the piano and having beer available for both the audience and band, but the above problems and the high cost of the room rental made me again seek other venues.
Around this time, I did a recording session with Matt Samolis at Third Life Studios, and was immediately attracted to this room. It is big enough for about 15 players and audience with good egress, a good room sound, and a generous area in the back for cases, etc… Immediately following this event I had Matt introduce me to Susan, who runs the space, and I arranged a residency with shows every 2 months except for mid-winter.
We had 13 wonderful performances in this space between 2017 and 2019. When Susan’s current lease was expiring, the gentrification of Union Square drove the rental price of the space beyond her means and she was forced to let the space go. We are sad to lose access to this great venue, both for ourselves and the many other creative musicians in the Boston Area who have performed there.
The generous area of the stage permitted a great deal of instruments to fit. Every show I loaded the van full with a different package of horns, percussion, and other auxiliary instruments. We set up playing stations where the percussion and auxiliary instruments could be played by any from the ensemble in addition to their primary axes. Along with a simple rule that each player should lay out roughly a third of the duration of each piece, and the ability for players to each use a broader color pallet than they would ordinarily have, the improvisations steadily progressed through highly varied sonorities.
31 different musicians performed on at least one of the 13 shows included in this box set, many performed on more, and some performed on all. This project has really honed our communication as a large improvisation ensemble, greatly benefiting the more recent performances of Frame Notation Scores. As soon as I realized that the venue was not going to be available anymore, I thought that it makes great sense to package this music as a large set – an obvious decision due to the similarity of approach generally and the breadth of the solutions achieved. We will take a bit of time off from this project while I seek a good new venue, but in the meantime, we now have a new document which demonstrates the scope and power that can be achieved by the pure improvisations of larger ensembles.
PEK – 7/15/2019
Yuri Zbitnov - drums, percussion
Kevin Dacey - drums, percussion, electronics
Syd Smart - drums, percussion, electroniic percussion
Steve Niemitz - drums, percussion
Eric Zinman - piano
Emilio Gonzalez - piano
Reverend Grant Beale - guitar, electronics
Chris Florio - guitar synthesizer
Drew Wesely - guitar
Eric Woods - analog synthesizer
PEK tweak of a Catherine Hammond Photo
Leap of Faith Orchestra & Sub-Units
The Complete Leap of Faith Orchestra
& Sub-Units Performances
at Third Life Studios (2017-2019)
Third Life Studios, Somerville MA
57 Tracks on 25 CDs!!! Nearly 25 hours of music!
PEK tweak of a Catherine Hammond Photo
25 Audio CDs Evil Clown 9223
Leap of Faith Orchestra & Sub-Units
- The Complete Leap of Faith Orchestra & Sub-Units
Performances at Third Life Studios (2017-2019)
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff
Click the performance in the list below for the Evil Clown Album Page
and click the cover art below for the bandcamp page for the box set performance
and click the covers down the page for each individual CD's bandcamp page.
The 13 Original Releases in chronological order - click the cover for the bandcamp page
Liner Notes Excerpt by PEK
"... 31 different musicians performed on at least one of the 13 shows included in this box set, many performed on more, and some performed on all. This project has really honed our communication as a large improvisation ensemble, greatly benefiting the more recent performances of Frame Notation Scores. As soon as I realized that the venue was not going to be available anymore, I thought that it makes great sense to package this music as a large set – an obvious decision due to the similarity of approach generally and the breadth of the solutions achieved. We will take a bit of time off from this project while I seek a good new venue, but in the meantime, we now have a new document which demonstrates the scope and power that can be achieved by the pure improvisations of larger ensembles." (Full Notes Below)
Composer and multi-instrumentalist, PEK, set his sights on something bigger with the Leap of Faith Orchestra's Supernovae. The previous incarnation of the LOFO expands from the fifteen musicians on The Expanding Universe (Evil Clown, 2016) to twenty-one players on this new outing. Another noteworthy element of this project is PEK's use of Frame Notation where the score is seen in written descriptions and straight-forward symbols within Duration Bars. The system provides the musicians with immediate understanding of their own parts and the higher-level arrangement of the music.
Supernovae consists of a single track composition running just under eighty minutes. The digital download includes a bonus track. Though the extended piece is not broken out by formal movements, there are clear delineations within the score. PEK's ensemble—not surprisingly—includes enough non-traditional and weird instruments to compete with a Dr. Seuss orchestra. Though they are not playing in a vacuum, that group of instruments dominates the first ten minutes before strings and reeds make themselves more clearly heard. Forty-five minutes in, we have the first case of prolonged melody, darker and more subdued than the overall tone of the first half.
Supernovae gives way to free improvisation overlaying the melody. Eventually the piece introduces a brilliant percussion passage before it reintroduces the non-traditional music elements, but here in a more refined manner. As with all of PEK's compositions, there is—behind the scenes—a painstaking amount of organization that is not always evident in the listening. That is part of the beauty of this album; the non-traditional approach to instrumentation and the lack of adherence to Western structure continue to make the various iterations of Leap of Faith consistently interesting. And interesting look at the written score can be viewed at http://www.evilclown.rocks/lofo-supernovae-score.html.
On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Helix (18 March 2017)
Surface of Revolution (13 May 2017)
Differentiations (22 July 2017)
Power Series Expansions (28 October 2017)
Vertices (25 November 2017)
Refuting Laplace's Demon (24 March 2018)
Deductions (5 May 2018)
Inferences (7 July 2018)
Retrocausal Strategies (1 September 2018)
Cloud Taxonomies (3 November 2018)
Probability Clouds (23 March 2019)
First Principles (12 May 2019)
Virtual Particles (6 July 2019)
The Orchstra varies in size from 7 to 14
The Sub-Units vary is size from 2 to 6
Probability Clouds is a single 70 minute
improvisation by the full orchestra
Each of the other performances is comprised of
CD1: four 15 minute or three 20 minute improvisations
by different Sub-Unit sections from the Orchestra
CD2: a 50 minute improvisation by the full Orchestra
Third Life Roster
PEK - clarinets, saxophones, flutes, double reeds
Zach Bartolomei - clarinets, saxophones, flutes
Dan O'Brien - clarinets, saxophones, flutes
Charlie Kohlhase - saxophones
Jim Warshauer - clarinets, saxophones, flutes
Matt Samolis - flute
Bohdahn Shevchenko - bassoon
Devin Lomon - harmonica
Bob Moores - trumpet
Eric Dahlman - trumpet, overtone voice
Steve Provizer - trumpet, baritone horn
Kat Dobbins - trombone
Duane Reed - baritone horn, bass trombone
Zack Grass - tuba
John Baylies - tuba
Glynis Lomon - cello, aquasonic, voice
Matt Schutchfield - violin
Silvain Castellano - bass
Adrienne Schoenfeld - bass
Albey onBass - electric bass
John Voigt - bass