Friday Jams

I just proposed to six of my musician acquaintances that every two weeks we get together and jam, bringing whatever instruments, friends (including non-musicians), and ideas we like. Five have expressed interest, and two have said that they have friends who would be interested, too. Cool! So far, we have two bassists, an acoustic guitarrist, an electric guitarrist (but he’s out of town), two pianists, one unknown, and one non-musician (read: percussionist) who are interested. We don’t really have a drummer, which will make for an interesting sound I suppose. I’m still trying to recruit one.

If hosting poker for the last eighteen months has taught me anything, it’s that if you have eight people interested, anywhere between three and eight will show up. However, unlike Poker, three makes a perfectly good musical ensemble. But what to do if eight show up, which is bound to happen once or twice? Eight people can’t just all improvise at the same time and have it sound like anything, especially when we all come from such varied backgrounds. I’m thinking we might do a George Clinton thing: put one person in the center who audibly conducts the rest of the musicians. Unfortunately we don’t have anyone with as fonkay a voice as he does, but oh well, we’ll do it anyway.

My reasoning for starting the group, other than it just being a neat idea, is that I’ve met too many musicians who say they want to be in a band, but they aren’t currently. Of course, being in a band is a big commitment (such things aren’t good for students), and it can be depressing if you don’t know what to play or can’t seem to get anything good recorded. I just want people to meet other musicians and to have fun playing music, without worrying about what goes on the tape, and without worrying about the heavy commitment side of a band (i.e. if you don’t show up, band practice doesn’t happen). Also, I’m trying to learn how to improvize and to play with other musicians, so this is a way I can do that.

So, I dropped $250 the other day on some recording equipment. The history is: when Max, Namaste and I jammed together, I had a fairly nice instrument microphone, but it didn’t have any range. So we hung it off of a music stand, and put our amps right next to it (Namaste, who didn’t play an instrument with an amp, just sat really close to it). This made for a pretty good recording quality, but it was very awkward, and wouldn’t fly with six people. So I bought a omnidirectional compressor mic, which means I can just stand it up in the middle of the room and it will pickup whatever sound flies by. That was $80. The rest of the money went into buying a microphone stand, a Phantom II (for the power supply to the mic), and some expensive XLR cables. Wow, pro audio stuff could really break the bank, and this stuff is even fairly low-end.

Anyway, here are two solo improvs that I recorded using my new toy. The first was performed on my digital piano, and then heavily post processed with Soundforge. It has a Terry Rileyesque global-tension-curve kind of feel, and might be acceptable ambient music. The second was performed on my digital piano and my midi controller with Reason, for cool three-voice synthy action.


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