"...SuperClusters appeals on at least two levels; the technical aspects of PEK's approach are intriguing and thought provoking. From a musical perspective those techniques translate to a listening experience that seems to change with each successive play of the disc..."
- Karl Ackermann, AllAboutJazz.com
- Dick Metcalf, Contemporary Fusion Reviews
Leap of Faith Orchestra brilliantly bizarre improvised ensemble Leap of Faith Orchestra – SUPER CLUSTERS: I want to say I’m amazed by the discoveries a day can bring… OTOH, though, I’ve been in a constant state of amazement since I emerged from the womb… LOFO is the source of my current wonder, no doubt… the composition uses a graphic notation system called Frame Notation, and the music they produce is full of power, as well as lots of “wide open spaces” – all executed flawlessly, as you’ll witness in the video below:
Leap of Faith Orchestra – SuperClusters
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
LEAP OF FAITH ORCHESTRA With PEK / GLYNIS LOMON / CHARLIE KOHLHASE / ERIC ZINMAN / YURI ZBITNOV / SYDNEY SMART / JOE HARTIGAN / et al - Super Clusters (Evil Clown 9164; USA) This is the fourth major work for the Leap of Faith Orchestra, all of which are based on Dave Peck’s Frame Notation scores. These pieces are not rehearsed since it would nearly impossible to do this, although Mr. Peck has found a way to use relatively simple directions for the many members of the orchestra. Each of the four large works have utilized compositional devices and symbols, adding new devices with each new score. As a longtime fan of big bands or large ensemble music, I am often fascinated by the way certain composers & bandleaders have organized & conducted their ensembles. From the Duke Ellington & Count Basie Orchestras through Stan Kenton, Frank Zappa’s Grand Wazoo and the Globe Unity Orchestra, I am always searching for more of this music to check out. Our newsletter (04/13/2018) started off with a new disc from the Globe Unity Orchestra, called ’50 Years’, a half century since their first recording. In a few years it will be a century since the beginning of the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the 1920’s!?!
As I listen to the new disc, ’SuperClusters’ by the Leap of Faith Orchestra, I am listening to how large ensemble music has evolved over nearly a century. Leap of Faith are less than a decade old and have recorded every performance with upwards of 100 CD’s so far. There are 16 members for this session, which includes the core members like PEK, Glynis Lomon & Yuri Zbitnov plus occasional members like Eric Zinman on piano and Sydney Smart on drums. This disc was recorded live at Pickman Hall, outside of Boston, on December 1st of 2017. Oddly enough, this music is not that chaotic, yes it moves in spurts yet sounds often focused and directed. Considering how many musicians are involved here, there is quite a bit of balanced, thoughtful playing, with skeletal moments amongst the more frenzied sections which rarely last too long before they evolve into something else. Unless you live in the Boston area or perhaps find your way to DMG for a once a year set, you will most likely have a chance to check out Leap of Faith live/ So, you should check out their discs, perhaps 1 or 2 at a time. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Leap of Faith Orchestra – SuperClusters
- Dave Madden, The Squid’s Ear
Have you ever listened to an orchestra warm up before a show and thought, "This sounds pretty good"? A number of composers (Weigl, Varèse) have realized this idea, and the results usually baffle most of the audience unless the latter knows what's happening; it's like a movie with twenty minutes of introductory narration that makes you ask, "Has the movie begun?"
The decades-old, sixteen-piece Leap of Faith Orchestra relishes in this aesthetic here with a neo-aleatoric approach. Ring leader and multi-instrumentalist (focusing on anything with a reed) PEK aka Dave Pek offers his reasoning behind the choice of artistic independence on the micro level: "How do you rehearse complex works for large ensembles when all of the participants are extremely busy?" Providing a loose score with exact timings and scene changes allows, according to PEK, "...enormous freedom and decision making for each performer and means that we do not have to rehearse these pieces prior to performance."
Starting with gongs and miscellaneous bangs, cracks and rattles, the one hour and sixteen-minute begins a meander through a busy marketplace of interdependent colors and motions: Some of the big, staccato gestures resemble those from Messiaen's Chronochromie; others bond together in a flexing wall similar to the climax of Cage's Atlas Eclipticalis; when all hit at once near the 4:30 mark, there is a warzone reminiscent of Varèse's Amériques. With a score indicating points of "turbulence" and "everyone frenzy," cacophony is the best description for this first several minutes and other spots throughout the piece.
"Whimsy" should also be added when mentioning SuperClusters. For every finger wag of "Academic" seriousness, there is a slinky jazz lick, Looney Toons joke (the work ends with a flurry of kazoo-like buzzes and someone yelling "SuperClusters!"), heavy-fisted piano mashing, and brief musical quote (I think I heard Donna Summer's "On the Radio") just around the bend — all sometimes overlapping. Charles Ives' "two orchestras crash into one another" has nothing on these folks.
Though remarkable for the display of volume and amplitude (particularly during a passage of lugubrious unison of low brass and strings), the more fascinating moments of the work involve solos and smaller groupings of instruments (the accompanying bonus download, GigaParsecs, excels at this) — and being able to focus on smaller bites of this elephant. For example, near 12:30, Pek, cellist / vocalist / hydrophonist Glynis Lomon and drummer Yuri Zbitnov engage in a gnashing set of slow motion, wide pitch dips and bends, polyrhythmic log drum percussion and furious bow work. At 21:00, sultry saxophone purrs over a maniacal series of wooden clacks. Electric guitar static provides a static sound scape under Eric Zinman's keyboard flight. As a bell literally sounds near the 48-minute mark, the thunder storm stops on a dime in favor of gentle metallic taps, spittled mouth piece squeaks, Dave Harris's stomping tuba line, and a crucial element: pause. With such a furious, grandiose scale, silence is striking in SuperClusters.
(Side note: I'm only listing a few band members as I read them on the score. Forgive me, all players not mentioned. If I were to list all your collective accomplishments, the text would fill the pages of Genesis.)
While researching the best way to tune an orchestra, you won't find many examples of "just play." One online forum participant, frustrated with her high school orchestra writes, "My warm-up routines need a shot of adrenaline!" Another asks, "Are there any other ways that I can make my warm-up segment more engaging? Do you think that improvisation can be used as a part of warm-ups? Any ideas for how to incorporate something like that?"
Dave Madden, The Squid’s Ear
Leap of Faith Opening Set: GigaParsecs
Leap of Faith Orchestra SuperClusters
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.
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.
Part / Score: Click Page for hi-res pdf
"… the composition uses a graphic notation system called Frame Notation, and the music they produce is full of power, as well as lots of 'wide open spaces' – all executed flawlessly...
… just superb creative effort that will blow your mind."
- Dick Metcalf Contemporary Fusion Reviews
On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Leap of Faith Orchestra - SuperClusters
Pickman Hall, Longy School of Music, Cambridge MA
1 December 2017
Program: Click on page for hi-res pdf
Audio CD Evil Clown 9164
Leap of Faith Orchestra - SuperClusters
bandcamp: streaming, downloads and CD Mail Order
1) Leap of Faith Orchestra- SuperClusters (1:16:00)
2) Leap of Faith - GigaParsecs (20:56)
(Download Bonus Track of opening set)
Matt Scutchfield - violin +(1)
Junko Fujiwara - cello +(1)
Charlie Kohlhase - saxophones + (1)
On two occasions each year, composer and multi-instrumentalist PEK (David M. Peck), gathers together his Evil Clown collective for live recordings. Culled from Leap of Faith, String Theory, Mekaniks, Metal Chaos Ensemble and their respective off-shoots of each, the players form his massive, eighteen-member Leap of Faith Orchestra. For the SuperClusters session, the group assembled at Longy School of Music at Bard College with a specially written score that takes advantage of the individual sub-groups' previous experiences.
As LOFO had done with their Supernovae (2016) and Possible Universes (2017), SuperClusters entails a single title track composition, here running seventy-six minutes. PEK continues the use of his Frame Notation technique where the score is seen in written descriptions and archetypal symbols within duration bars. The system provides the musicians with instantaneous grasp of their individual performances and an overview of the total piece. Over the course of these large group performances, PEK has tinkered with the technicalities of the process but not the prevailing principle. The piece, though structured by group sections and intervals, is improvised within those parameters.
There are some of the usual array of unconventional "instruments" that PEK favors, such as rachets and flex-a-tones, but in an ensemble of this size, even the most peculiar of them are absorbed into the larger sound. There are few conventional elements in the structure of the composition; melodies are passing shimmers of invention and solos are the exception rather than the rule. Still, there are episodic instances where players and sections stand out -four minutes in, a swirl of brass and horns fills the soundscape, dissipating as quickly as it had formed. At thirteen minutes, Dave Harris' tuba takes the entire orchestra to a point of near silence that breaks out into a succession of subdivision passages. Among them, is an absorbing percussion solo from Joe Hartigan.
PEK points out, in his album notes, "The performances by these smaller ensembles (those mentioned above) stand by themselves as improvisation performances as well as getting us ready to improvise in a full orchestra setting." SuperClusters appeals on at least two levels; the technical aspects of PEK's approach are intriguing and though provoking. From a musical perspective those techniques translate to a listening experience that seems to change with each successive play of the disc. The digital download of SuperClusters includes a twenty-minute bonus track featuring the smaller Leap of Faith group.
…if you aren’t blown away by their performance at Pickman Hall at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA, you more than likely listen to “middle of the road” music all day long. Just kidding, you wouldn’t be here at our magazine unless you wanted to see and hear music that challenges the mind as well as the spirit. The player list is far too long, so check it out on the BandCamp page linked in below.
A preview of the album is available on their BandCamp site, and if you’re even slightly interested in sonic adventure, I would encourage you to do the pre-order on that page right away. Also, if you’re as big a fan of improvised music as I am, you will want to visit their main page on BandCamp, too, where you’ll find a whole host of other performances available.
As you will hear, this is truly improvised music… the frame notation uses graphic symbols to evoke different moods and timbres as the clock (they are watching) progresses through the piece… my friends Davey Williams, LaDonna Smith and Harlan Mark Vale would just love this music, as do I. The intricate weave of bells and gongs into the “attack groups”, as they’re called, epitomizes “creativity on the go”, and is both refreshing and intriguing.
I give Leap of Faith Orchestra a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99… just superb creative effort that will blow your mind. Get more information on their BandCamp page for the release. Rotcod Zzaj
(+) Ensemble Auxiliary Instruments:
bullroarers, claves, melodicas, flex-a-tones, bells, tibetan bowls, rachets, tube-o-phone, rachets, wood blocks
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 (for the performers) for me 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).
video grab tweak by PEK
Leap of Faith Orchestra: SuperClusters
The big new idea relies on this 1 minute scale. The work opens with an accelerando over the first 3 minutes. Six different action groups have unison single attacks spaced on a reverse Fibonacci Series - the attacks get progressively more frequent in an irregular fashion. Each of the attack groups plays their series at a different time-scale. The net effect is a system of irregular attacks increasing in frequency and converging just after the 3 minute mark. Each attack group will also include a single strike on a metal instrument (gong or bowl) that has a lengthy sustain. Some of the time the gong decay will ring out while the ensemble remains tacit, but some of the time a soloist will play a very brief solo from one attack to the next.
The accelerando idea is used again later in the score in the percussion section. This excerpt from 31:00 show the frames used to direct the percussion section in two groups through an acceleration event while the strings glissando and I play the Sheng ... This device is used several more times in the score and then the work concludes with a deacceleration event which is structurally retrograde from the opening. 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, 11/25/2017
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff
Photo by Raffi
Dedicated with Loving
Memory to Ruth Lemon
Nov. 7, 1930 - Sept. 26, 2017
Poster: Click for SuperClusters Promo Page
Leap of Faith Orchestra Performs SuperClusters by PEK
Liner Notes by PEK
Pickman Hall is a truly state-of-the-art chamber music auditorium at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA. Peter Cassino, who played the piano part in the first two PEK scores for LOFO, is the Chair of the Modern American Music Department at Longy and has an excellent improvisation ensemble with Glynis Lomon. He has generously offered us the use of this fabulous auditorium. Thanks so much Peter!!
We have now performed 4 of my Frame Notation scores: SuperClusters, The Expanding Universe, Supernovae and Possible Universes. 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 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.
“...Oddly enough, this music is not that chaotic, yes it moves in spurts yet sounds often focused and directed. Considering how many musicians are involved here, there is quite a bit of balanced, thoughtful playing, with skeletal moments amongst the more frenzied sections which rarely last too long before they evolve into something else…”
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
“… Starting with gongs and miscellaneous bangs, cracks and rattles, the one hour and sixteen-minute begins a meander through a busy marketplace of interdependent colors and motions: Some of the big, staccato gestures resemble those from Messiaen's Chronochromie; others bond together in a flexing wall similar to the climax of Cage's Atlas Eclipticalis; when all hit at once near the 4:30 mark, there is a warzone reminiscent of Varèse's Amériques. With a score indicating points of ‘turbulence’ and ‘everyone frenzy,’ cacophony is the best description for this first several minutes and other spots throughout the piece…”
- Dave Madden, The Squid's Ear
Squidco Blurb May 2018
Leap of Faith Orchestra: SuperClusters
The 4th work using composer, band-leader and multi-instrumentalist David Peck's Frame Notation Scores for his large ensemble Leap of Faith Orchestra, his graphic notation allowing exceptional, unexpected and truly unusual results in large-scale improvisation, an amazing evolution of the big band concept executed by the some of the finest players in the Boston area; amazing!