On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Liner notes by PEK
Five times a year, a smallish Leap of Faith Orchestra (10 to 15 players) heads over to Third Life Studios in Somerville for an evening of large ensemble improvisation. For the first half of the show, we do four short 15 minute improvisations or three 20 minute improvisations by different trio, quartet or quintet sub-groupings of the orchestra. Then we do a 50 minute improvisation with everyone.
These shows are open to the entire Evil Clown roster of about 50 musicians. So, although we have some steady regulars, the orchestra really is different every time. I assign the sub-units to take advantage of unusual groupings of instruments. I also bring a bunch of auxiliary instruments like wood blocks, hand chimes, bells, slide whistles, sirens, etc., which we distribute though the ensemble to enable players to completely change their sound.
For the longer improvisation with everyone, we have a rule that each player should lay out for roughly a third of the duration of the piece. Together with the broad palate provided by a large ensemble with everyone capable of instrument changes, this rule naturally creates a steady flow of transformations though different sonorities.
For this show none of the drummers from the roster was available. In larger ensembles it is rare for us not to have a drummer in the band and the current core trio includes Yuri Zbitnov on drums. However, Leap of Faith’s early incarnations in the early 90s were drummer-less. First the trio included Glynis, myself and trombonist Mark McGrain, and then Mark left to New Orleans and Craig Schildhauer joined us on bass. Sydney Smart did join in on drums for some of the sessions during that period.
It is interesting in improvisation when the drums are not present, changing the dominant rhythmic environment away from percussive impacts to different categories of interaction. At Evil Clown we also use percussion to create rich textures that are about color and not time-keeping. So, there is still plenty of percussion on the auxiliary instruments in the performance, but no one at the drum set. Also, this time we have both Eric Woods and Reverend Grant Beale on electronics. So this unique incarnation of the Orchestra is comprised of 4 Low Strings, 3 Horns, 2 Electronics and no drum set…
Photos by Raffi
Leap of Faith Orchestra & Sub-Units
- Cloud Taxonomies
Third Life Studios, Somerville MA
3 November 2018
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff
2 Audio CDs Evil Clown 9197
Leap of Faith Orchestra & Sub-Units
- Cloud Taxonomies (double CD)
1. Sub-Unit 1: Troposphere - 20:33
2. Sub-Unit 2: Mesosphere - 20:38
3. Sub-Unit 3: Stratosphere- 20:34
4. Orchestra - Cloud Taxonomies - 50:37
PEK (1-4) - sopranino, bamboo soprano, alto, tenor & bass saxophones, clarinet & contraalto clarinet, dulzaina, English horn, guanzi, contrabassoon, wood & alto flutes, melodica, sheng, game calls, death whistle, aquasonic, gong, metal, wood, hand chimes, clown horn
Glynis Lomon Glynis Lomon (1,3,4) - cello, aquasonic, voice, hand chimes
Duane Reed (2,4) - baritone horn, bass trombone, wood, metal, hand chimes, aquasonic, wind siren
Eric Woods (3,4) - analog synth
Reverend Grant Beale (3,4) - electronics
Albey onBass (1,3,4) upright electric bass
SIlvain Castellano (1,3,4) - bass
Adrienne Schoenfeld (1,4) - double bass
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.