Piano in the Woods 6
6th October 2013
Another of these fascinating monthly offerings from Sam Bailey playing on the rapidly decaying outdoor piano. This time it was in collaboration with a Scandinavian poet called Juha Virtanen from the Zone collective, who read from selections of his poetry glued all over a giant sheet of cardboard he was clutching, some quite abstractly grotesque, disturbing, dystopian imagery involving a lot of specialisd vocabulary drawn from the worlds of technology, surgical medicine, microbiology, mathematics, subatomic physics, etc. Elements of found poetry and cut-up techniques were seemingly involved (the latter going on in real time, as he was improvising from his array of printed work). Interesting stuff, which reminded me of Nick Land's Fanged Noumena (the extraordinary volume Miriam, Tom and I used to bibliomantically generate titles from in for our Random Article project when we didn't have access to Wikpedia)... so much so that I gave Juha my copy after the performance as I think he might get a lot out of it.
His delivery was intentionally fragmentary, disjointed, unnerving...and he became quite animated, almost possessed, crouching down over his cardboard sheet and violently enunciating these twisted streams of language while Sam sat cross-legged on the ground torturing the poor pianoforte (via its strings, as the keys have all siezed up) with a handheld electric fan, EBows, strings, screws, kitchen utensils and other vibrating objects. It was around twilight, so the birdsong was quite noticeable too. An assortment of local poets, academics and avant-garde enthusiasts sat in plastic chairs amidst the dead-standing rosebay willowherb and bracken listening intently to this. I'm not sure if anyone was filming or taking photos, but Sam and I both made recordings which he's mixed together and posted on Soundcloud:
There should be some documentation appearing soon on the Piano in the Woods webpage, so watch out for that. The next one (just before I head off to New Zealand for a little while), Sam tells us, will involve an improv choir distributed around the woods, this one taking place after dark.
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Sam's last Free Range event at the Veg Box Cafe (Thursday 17th October) was a particularly good one. A single prepared piano improvisation from the man himself (always different, always interesting) followed by the free improv duo of Tom Jackson (clarinet) and Benedict Taylor (viola) and then Tom, Benedict and David Leahy (highly physical double bass playing). No conventional melody or rhythm to be found of course, but this wasn't what Vicky used to call "plinky-plonk" music (and which Melski calls "tinky-bonk" music!), it was fiery, dynamic, daring and often hilarous, reminding me of the best of that peculiar genre of unhinged 50's/60's American cartoon music. They just dive straight into what at first seems like it could only descend into sonic chaos, but within seconds it stablises into something almost supernaturally coordinated and which is able to skillfully surf around on the edge of chaos. Brilliant!