On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Photos by Rob Miller,
tweaks by PEK
Photos by Rob Miller
Leap of Faith Opening Set: Boundaries
Leap of Faith Orchestra
Performs Cosmological Horizons by PEK
Liner Notes by PEK
Twice a year Evil Clown presents the Full Leap of Faith Orchestra in its largest configuration performing a Frame Notation Score by PEK which guides the improvisation... Cosmological Horizons is being presented in a wonderful room at MIT called Killian Hall. Killian Hall is a wonderful room with high ceilings, a great grand piano and a nice live sound. Leap of Faith used this room as a recording studio for a weekend in 1997 to record Leap of Faith - Linear Combinations & Transformations and as a concert venue in 2001 for the Leap of Faith vs the Fringe Concert. Although it being a great room, it is hard to book since it is generally in use during the MIT school year.
So far we have performed 4 of my Frame Notation scores since 2015: The Expanding Universe, Supernovae, Possible Universes and SuperClusters. I am giving all of my Frame Notation compositions for the LOFO astronomical titles - It seems fitting with the scale of these events and fits well with my usual Leap of Faith / Evil Clown titles which largely draw on Scientific and Mathematical ideas. These very special full orchestra events occur only once or twice a year. For each performance I prepare a score specifically for that event which is simultaneously a Density and Sonority map prescribing the improvised development of the work.
These scores are very special compositions intended to solve a very tricky problem of composition for large improvisation ensembles: How do you rehearse complex works for large ensembles when all of the participants are extremely busy? Answer: Compose works that do not need to be rehearsed. The scores use a device call Frame Notation where written English descriptions of the overall sonority desired and simple graphic symbols are given durations on a timeline for each player indicating when and how to play and when not to play. The directions are put in little boxes called frames which are simple enough to be immediately understood by the performers. The players track the elapsed time on a very large sports clock. There is no melodic, harmonic or rhythmic information specified.
This system allows me to compose detailed Events without having to notate pitches or rhythms which would require significant rehearsal to accurately achieve. Skilled improvisers, like the ones I have recruited, can easily follow these instructions to create a highly structured improvisation without the need for specific rehearsal even when the ensemble is quite large as it is here. This allows enormous freedom and decision making for each performer and means that we do not have to rehearse these pieces prior to performance. We rely on all of the work of the overall Evil Clown project to tighten the ensembles' improvisation across its many cross sections while the score provides directions on timing, sonority and transformation.
Each of the scores has continued to utilize the compositional symbols and devices of the previous scores while adding something new to my notational system. Some examples are large texture blocks with much of the ensemble playing auxiliary instruments (like wood or metal texture), using the decay from large gongs as structural divisions of the work to pivot into a new sonority, group action frames assigned to named groups in the ensemble, and changing the scale of the score so each page covers less time on the timeline and therefore can express more detailed events. The events have therefore become shorter on each score, thereby significantly increasing the rate of transformation.
For SuperClusters, I realized that there is no reason why the musicians cannot pay attention to the second position of the sports clock when tracking the time. It is just as easy to trigger an event at 2:17 as it is on a nice round number like 2:30. The difficulty is in clearly expressing the directions with the notation. The solution is to change the scale of the score to one minute width per page - the parts will have two systems on each page with the lower system repeated at the top of the next page to assist with page turns. I have used this scale for the opening and conclusion sections of SuperClusters, and used the 3 minutes per page with 2 minute overlap scale from Possible Universes for the balance of the work (the first two scores used a scale of 5 minutes per page with 2 minute overlap).
For Cosmological Horizons I used the one minute width for 5 sections of the work and developed several new notational devices to specify rapidly transforming sonority. I also added about 20 new group action frames to give many more gestural shapes for the Action Groups to perform. In general, as we have performed these compositions it has become clear that the frame notation is very effective and the ensemble is perfectly capable of executing even very short durations on the timeline. As such, each time I have increased the rate of and the number of transformations in the score. The audience will experience a steady flow of distinct sonorities over the duration of the performance.
All of the other contemporaneous Evil Clown performances and recordings by all of the ensembles - Leap of Faith, String Theory, Mekaniks, Metal Chaos Ensemble and the Sub-Units - are preparation for these full Leap of Faith Orchestra performances. The performances by these smaller ensembles stand by themselves as improvisation performances as well as getting us ready to improvise in a full orchestra setting. Please look for our regular concerts at Outpost 186 and Third Life Studios. Sign up for the mailing list at the Merch Table or send me email at Sparkles@GiantEvilClown.com!!
- PEK, 6/30/2018
Photos by Rob Miller, tweaks by PEK
Photo by Rob Miller
Leap of Faith Orchestra - Cosmological Horizons
Killian Hall, MIT, Cambridge MA
14 July 2018
Review by Karl Ackermann, AllAboutJazz
David M. Peck's (PEK) Leap of Faith collective is brought together in its largest formation of twenty-four musicians for a marathon performance of the leader's Cosmological Horizons composition. This second of two annual performances of an orchestra culled from the Evil Clown label's various groups (String Theory, Mekaniks, Metal Chaos Ensemble, etc.) was held in Killian Hall on the Boston campus of MIT.
As he often does, PEK composes a single, extended piece for the duration of the performance; the title track here clocking a bit over seventy-seven minutes. For several years PEK has utilized his Frame Notation technique where the score is seen in written descriptions and archetypal symbols within duration bars. This allows the musicians to immediately sight their cues as well as providing a view of the larger scope of the piece. To see the score laid out in hard-copy form is to witness a cross between visual art, Gantt charts and complex schematics. Somehow, PEK makes it all work cohesively.
"Cosmological Horizons" opens in a sea of tranquility but that stop is brief. A gong, and gently ringing bells, are joined first by sharp percussive effects, then strings. Reeds and horns build in layers, along with an assortment of PEK's favorite non-instruments. Somewhere around the halfway mark it feels like everything comes together—not in harmony—but in something much closer to approaching chaos. Eric Zinman's piano temporarily re-grounds the ensemble only to have the larger group thunder back with a disembodied ferocity. The construction of PEK's compositions offer few predictable rudiments in the structure of the composition; melodies appear as transitory moments of discovery, barely audible through the collective improvisation. It is experimental, and abstract, and certainly aimed at the open-minded listener.
Cosmological Horizons is also available digitally and includes an additional twenty-one minute track—"Boundaries"—performed by a sub-set of the full orchestra. PEK's Evil Clown label has also undergone an artistic makeover in the packaging of it's releases. Beyond eliminating the jewel case, Cosmological Horizons includes a twenty-three page insert that illustrates the Frame Notation, coding of instrument groups and score. It's a colorful, informative and entertaining visual to accompany the music.
Digital Booklet for CD
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.
Elinor Speirs (1,2) - violin +
Jane Wang (1) - cello +
Silvain Castellano (1) - double bass +
Eric Woods (1) - analog synth, mandolin +
Chris Florio (1) - guitar synth +
(+) wood, metal, aquasonic, slide whistle, rachet, flex-a-tone, vuvuzela, melodica etc.
Leap of Faith Orchestra: Cosmological Horizons
Audio CD Evil Clown 9185
Leap of Faith Orchestra - Cosmological Horizons
bandcamp: streaming, downloads and CD Mail Order
1) Leap of Faith Orchestra-
Cosmological Horizons (1:17:20)
2) Leap of Faith - Boundaries (20:55)
(Download Bonus Track of opening set)
Jim Warshauer (1,2) - clarinets, saxophones +
Zack Bartolomei (1) - clarinets, saxophones +
Charlie Kohlhase (1) - saxophones +
Bob Moores (1) - trumpet +
Duane Reed (1) - baritone horn, bass trombone +
Dave Harris (1) - trombone, tuba
Photo by Rob Miller, tweak by PEK
Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
LEAP OF FAITH ORCHESTRA With PEK / GLYNIS LOMON / YURI ZBITNOV / JANE WANG / ERIC ZINMAN / SYD SMART / et al - Cosmological Horizons (Evil Clown 9183; USA) This is the 10th disc from the Leap of Faith Orchestra, Dave PEK’s ongoing large ensemble that only plays a couple of times per year, just on rare occasions. This is a 24 member version and it was recorded at Killian Hall at MIT in June of 2018. Throughout the rest of the year, Mr. Peck , organizes different versions of Leap of Faith, as well as several offshoot projects like the Metal Chaos Ensemble, String Theory and Turbulence. Mr. Peck records his many projects frequently both live in the Boston area, as well as at home, in the Evil Headquarters Studio. There are than 100 discs of recordings made over the past decade.
Whereas practically everything performed & recorded by Leap Of Faith & the offshoots is improvised, Mr. Pck spends several months preparing for his orchestra concerts. A thorough explanation of the score is explained in the extensive liner notes, as well as pictures of the scores and musicians involved. Unlike earlier Evil Clown discs (which are CD-R’s), this one is a real CD in a lovely digipak with a thick booklet. Most impressive on many levels. As someone who genuinely appreciates large ensemble/big band music, I am awed by how much work Mr. Peck has put into this serious piece. The piece starts off somewhat chaotically, yet somehow there sounds like certain subgroups are being directed. Chattering reeds & horns, seesawing strings, layers of percussion erupting, colliding and interwoven thoughtfully, explosive Cecil Taylor-like piano… Considering how many musicians are involved here (24 by my count), it is amazing at how focused, engaging and thoughtfully balanced this is. No one really solos at length although there are bursts of well-placed solo bits: synth, piano, assorted reeds, double reeds & brass, strings and a plethora of percussion. Mr. Peck has also mastered the art of recording so that we can hear the entire orchestra clearly throughout, no easy feat. It is actually hard to believe that this is so a large an ensemble since certain sections are actually sparse in part. An outstanding effort on all fronts so grab your copy today. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Review Excerpts: Full reviews and links below:
"After forty years (+) of reviewing music, both “straight-up” and “out there“, I can truly say that the music from LOFO is different than anything I’ve ever listened to… …if you claim to be a fan of adventurous improvised music, this album (and their entire series, in fact) MUST be in your collection – it’s some of the best creative energy I’ve ever heard, and that’s saying a lot, because I’ve not only listened to a lot of such, but did (in fact) perform some of my own madness back in the day! ..."
---Rotcod Zzaj "
Unlike earlier Evil Clown discs (which are CD-R’s), this one is a real CD in a lovely digipak with a thick booklet. Most impressive on many levels. As someone who genuinely appreciates large ensemble/big band music, I am awed by how much work Mr. Peck has put into this serious piece. The piece starts off somewhat chaotically, yet somehow there sounds like certain subgroups are being directed. Chattering reeds & horns, seesawing strings, layers of percussion erupting, colliding and interwoven thoughtfully, explosive Cecil Taylor-like piano… Considering how many musicians are involved here (24 by my count), it is amazing at how focused, engaging and thoughtfully balanced this is. .... An outstanding effort on all fronts so grab your copy today."
---Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
"As he often does, PEK composes a single, extended piece for the duration of the performance; the title track here clocking a bit over seventy-seven minutes. For several years PEK has utilized his Frame Notation technique where the score is seen in written descriptions and archetypal symbols within duration bars. This allows the musicians to immediately sight their cues as well as providing a view of the larger scope of the piece. To see the score laid out in hard-copy form is to witness a cross between visual art, Gantt charts and complex schematics. Somehow, PEK makes it all work cohesively.... ....The construction of PEK's compositions offer few predictable rudiments in the structure of the composition; melodies appear as transitory moments of discovery, barely audible through the collective improvisation. It is experimental, and abstract, and certainly aimed at the open-minded listener."
---Karl Ackermann, AllAboutJazz
Program: Click on page for hi-res pdf
Part / Score: Click Page for hi-res pdf
By Dick Metcalf, editor, Contemporary Fusion Reviews - August 27, 2018
Rich sonorous frame notation improvisation Leap Of Faith Orchestra – COSMOLOGICAL HORIZONS: After forty years (+) of reviewing music, both “straight-up” and “out there“, I can truly say that the music from LOFO is different than anything I’ve ever listened to… I first reviewed their “Super Clusters” in the spring of 2018, and gave them ultra-high marks for their creative juice… on the new release, they take things even further into the “strange-o-sphere” with PEK’s “frame notations scores” as a sort of map to the outer limits, if you will… there is only one way to review such music – at FIRST LISTEN, because otherwise, it won’t be a “real” review… rather, it will be full of cliches and “considered opinions” that have nothing to do with the high splendor they are squeezing out of the notes for your sonic adventure… ergo, before you read the rest of this review, find a room where you can listen to (and watch) the entire hour and seventeen minute performance in the video they recorded for the piece…
…if you claim to be a fan of adventurous improvised music, this album (and their entire series, in fact) MUST be in your collection – it’s some of the best creative energy I’ve ever heard, and that’s saying a lot, because I’ve not only listened to a lot of such, but did (in fact) perform some of my own madness back in the day! Since you’re there already, be sure to SUBSCRIBE to PEK’s YouTube channel, too… some really great videos there! The player list is there, too.
What’s very impressive for me (since I’m a keyboard player) is the piano work that seems most prevalent at around the 21:00 minute mark… of course, you’ll want to be listening/watching with your headphones on, or you’ll miss some of the amazing creations achieved here… if you haven’t realized it yet – I am a dedicated fan of this kind of music… and LOFO is my favorite, to be sure!
In addition to the YouTube channel indicated above, you will want to check some of their other locations to stay current… their Evil Clown website; the page for Cosmological Horizons on that site; the Evil Clown Facebook page; and their BandCamp page.
Don’t hesitate to jump off into the void… this band gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00; which means they also get my “PICK” for “best guided improvisation”. Rotcod Zzaj
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff