Inside the Performance | PART TWO: expect the unexpected

Before writing a single musical note for this grant period, I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful performance space of the New Works Exhibition prior to the event. This gave me a fun challenge to compose music that fits the acoustics of room. The room is massive, with high ceilings, and plenty of space from wall to wall. A simple squeak of a shoe or snap of finger fills every curve, corner and gap in the building.

I wrote music for my trio La Lucha that includes, both acoustic and electric instruments: electric piano, electric bass, two synthesizers (one lead & one bass), drum set & ether-pad (tonal soundscape on a handheld tablet). One piece, three musicians, lots of sound to play with.

The idea of the piece we performed is to use a wide range of dynamics; the softest soft, to a full & growling presence. With an understanding of the acoustics, we could play with the sound and colors created in the whole building. We rehearsed and record our performance in the space a few days before the event, so this gave us a unique chance to test run the sound. The music certainly sounded immense and full, even with the slightest volume adjustment. Without a discussion, we understood the gravity of the room and how best to balance within each other.

On the evening of the New Works Exhibition, it was truly inspiring to be surrounded by all the art created by my co-grantees. There was electricity in the room as family, friends and other supporters of the arts mingled, viewed, experienced, discussed and contemplated the environment they’ve just entered. Half the gallery space was setup with visual art and the other in a performance style, with chairs facing the makeshift stage area. The performances included: Poet, Gloria Munoz (solo reading); screenwriter, Jeff George (4 actors); and myself (3 musicians).

I expected inspiring work from my peers. I expected I’d forget something. I expected I might spill my drink at some point. I expected the dynamics of the room could be fickle and a slight challenge. I did not expect half the audience to be inattentive and talkative. I don’t expect silence and I would never force such a thing. I do hope for appreciation and understanding for the art being presented, specially at a one-time performance, in which each guest was invited.

There were about 60 seats setup in the performance area, in which those audience members were all present and listening. On the other side of the event space, attendees socialized and seemed unfazed by the live performances, which at times became drowned out by the humming echoes of laughter and chatter.

When the time arrived to perform my composition, my musicians were completely aware of the acoustic imbalances and played beautifully to the room, by offering a full range of sound. We gathered energy from those listening in the chairs and standing against the walls and projected a new feeling into the notes back at them. A feeling that wasn’t or couldn’t be rehearsed. It felt good, it felt fresh and it was unexpected to our own ears.