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Oct 102012

I’m short on time at the moment, but I wanted to post something quick about Thursday’s Zeitgeist Indeterminacies with LaDonna Smith and Davey Williams. It’s a can’t miss!

Here’s what moderator Brady Sharp had to say about the show over at Voight-Kampff Music:

Davey Williams started playing guitar at age 12.  Throughout college, he played in a number of jazz and soul bands.  Davey went on to join Curlew in the late 80s, led by saxohonist George Cartwright, and whose revolving membership included Fred FrithBill Laswell, and Tom Cora among many others.  Curlew, along with Last Exit, Naked City, and others were one of the seminal bands to form the “Knitting Factory Sound” in New York.

Since Curlew, Davey has been in many punk rock and improvisational groups, and worked extensively with drummer Ikue Mori and the legendary Col. Bruce Hampton, ret., among many other.  He’s also a freelance writer and music critic.

LaDonna Smith is a classically-trained violinist, violist, pianist, and music educator.  She’s performed since 1974 with such notables as Davey Williams, Derek BaileyEugene Chadbourne, John Zorn, Jack Wright, Toshi Makihara, and countless others throughout the years.  She’s toured extensively around North America, Europe, Russia and Siberia, China, and Japan.

LaDonna is the Director of the Birmingham Suzuki Violin Association, on Faculty at the Central Pennsylvania Suzuki Institute, is a current adviser for the International Society of Improvised Music, and publisher/editor-at-large for The Improvisor: the Journal for Improvised Music, started with Davey in the mid 70s, and continuing to this day on the web.  She is an active organizer of concerts and festivals in the Birmingham area.

LaDonna and Davey met at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and they fell into a crowd which included Craig Nutt(now in Nashville).  They proceeded to create their own form of music based on Dada, Surrealism, and experimental ideas in general.  What came out of that was a live album called “Raudelunas Pataphysical Revue” by Ron ‘Pate and the Debonairs, featuring the Reverend Fred Lane, a strong concoction of meandering big band music, free improvisation, and industrial noise, combined with surreal Vaudevillian wisecracks and soliloquies.  They soon discovered Derek Bailey’s “Topography of the Lungs”, FMP Records, and the whole European Free Improvisation movement that was developing simultaneously in Europe as they were.  They formed their own record label TransMuseq, and they put on many surrealist theater and other events in the Birmingham area, forming long term relationships with similar artists around the world, and they toured the world together for many years as the Trans Duo.

It’s always a special treat to see these two improvising jewels of the south play together.  Expect lots of humor, storytelling, and amazing extended instrument technique, followed by the usual insightful discussions that “Indeterminacies” offers.

More info on the Facebook event page.

Indeterminacies with LaDonna Smith and Davey Williams and  moderator by Brady Sharp
Thursday, October 11th, 6pm sharp, free show

Zeitgeist Gallery
1819 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN


Sep 062012


Rodger Coleman. Photo by Kim Sherman.

Tonight at 6pm, Zeitgeist Gallery‘s fantastic Indeterminacies series is kicking off the fall season with a free improvisation duet between Nashville pianist Rodger Coleman and Richmond, VA drummer Sam Byrd. Rodger writes the excellent music blog Nu-Void, and I believe I’ve seen him in attendance at every Indeterminacies show.

The discussion will be led by composer, former Indeterminacies guest, and Vanderbilt professor Stan Link. Up until this year, I released the Indeterminacies shows as podcasts, and you can hear Stan’s among the rest. (I had to stop because of time constraints.)

Rodger wrote a commentary on his upcoming performance at Nu-Void. It’s a really thoughtful read, and I recommend you check it out. Like any self-reflective artist, he begins with trepidations:

On Thursday, September 6, I will be playing improvised piano/drums duets with my friend and former bandmate, Sam Byrd, at the opening Indeterminacies event at Zeitgeist Gallery. This will be first time I have performed in public since the dissolution of UYA in 1995 and the first time on piano since…when?…1984? I can’t remember. I’m a little bit nervous—not so much about the music (Sam always inspires me to play beyond my abilities—which is why I insisted he travel from Richmond to join me)—but more concerned about the discussion segments, which will be led by Vanderbilt professor, Stan Link. Stan is a good friend and I’m sure he’ll go easy on me, but he is a brilliant and articulate composer with deep suspicions about the whole notion of improvisation as a legitimate artistic practice. Of course, this is what makes Indeterminacies unique: these are not concerts per se; they are investigations into the phenomena of performance and reception, critical thinking and audience participation. The result is unscripted, deliberately indeterminate and always challenging. We will be required to explain and, perhaps, justify and defend whatever it is we’re doing from rhetorical attacks from Stan and a potentially hostile, disapproving audience. Maybe not, but I’d be disappointed if we weren’t.

Stan goes on to quote Christopher Small in his book Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening. I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately on the nature of art, aesthetics, and the limits of our judgement calls, and Small’s quote really struck a chord with me:

Music is not a thing at all but an activity, something that people do. The apparent thing “music” is a figment, an abstraction of the action, whose reality vanishes as soon as we examine it at all closely. This habit of thinking in abstractions, of taking from an action what appears to be its essence and giving that essence a name, is probably as old as language; it is useful in the conceptualizing of our world but it has its dangers. It is very easy to come to think of the abstraction as more real than the reality it represents, to think, for example, of those abstractions we call love, hate, good and evil as having an existence apart of the acts of loving, hating, or performing good and evil deeds and even to think of them as being in some way more real than the acts themselves, a kind of universal or ideal lying behind and suffusing the actions. This is the trap of reifications, and it has been a besetting fault of Western thinking ever since Plato, who was one of its earliest perpetrators.

When we say a piece of music is “good” or “bad,” some of us mean more than an aesthetic choice. Some of us really believe that the work is intrinsically, inherently imbued with this quality. “Mozart’s music is beautiful, and if you don’t agree, you are wrong.” (Substitute Mozart with Brittany Spears, Kandinsky, or any other artist.) But an aesthetic judgement means nothing without an observer. And observers see reality through their own customized filter of life experience and perceptive and cognitive uniqueness (for example, the degree one is able to perceive pitch or taste bitter). I get an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach when art professors authoritatively stamp good and bad, right and wrong. But this doesn’t mean the role of critic or theory professor is useless. Because of the professor’s point of view, not in spite of it, she can steer students towards different approaches in understanding. The professor can make comparisons and present an aesthetically constructed narrative. But we have to be careful to not see it as gospel. It’s a point of view. The aesthetic judgement is just a link between the observer and the observed. It’s not an inherent quality of either.

In other words, if a person’s opinion contributes to your understanding and appreciation of a piece of work (whether that person is a professor or a blue-haired teenager), take it. If it doesn’t, leave it.

And if they say you are wrong, tell them to go fuck themselves.

Do read Stan’s commentary. The aesthetic link between me and it is this: “It’s great.”  I really look forward to tonight’s Indeterminacies.

More info on the event’s Facebook page.

September 6th, 6pm
Indeterminacies with Rodger Coleman, Sam Byrd, and Stan Link

Zeitgeist Gallery
1819 21st Avenue South
Nashville, Tennessee

Apr 292012

Yes, THAT TERRY RILEY!!! Zeitgeist Gallery have pulled out all the stops for their May INDETERMINACIES. Anticipating a large response, the FREE event will take place at the The Blair School of Music.

From the Facebook event page:

Indeterminacies has partnered with, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, the Blair School of Music and ArtNowNashville.com for a special conversation with world renowned composer Terry Riley and award winning music critic Tim Page and NSO conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. ArtNowNashville writer John Pitcher will moderate a lively conversation.

The following weekend the Nashville Symphony Orchestra will premier a newly commissioned Terry Riley work for electric violin performed by Tracy Silverman.

Special thanks to John Pitcher for organizing this event.

A discussion with Terry Riley, Tim Page, Giancarlo Guerrero, and John Pitcher
May 1st, 6-8pm, free and open to the public
Steve and Judy Turner Recital Hall at The Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt
2400 Blakemore Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee

Apr 112012

The second Indeterminacies show of the season looks amazing! KYLE BAKER, who curates the experimental audio gallery SoundCrawl each October, will moderate.

The Indeterminacies Facebook event page has the details:

MICHAEL GARDINER is a music theorist and a laptop composer/improviser. His research interests include aspects of musical space in 12th century chant (with an analytic dissertation on Hildegard von Bingen), Japanese noh theater, and computer generated images of musical sound. Michael’s articles have appeared in Current Musicology and Sonus and his recordings are available on Centaur and Visceral Media labels. His project for the postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh involves the separate analytic space (or heterotopia) that emerges when theory looks at processes in place of musical works through unlikely, even incongruous pairings of genres. Some of these pairings include: overlain vector-screens in jazz pianist Art Tatum’s improvisations and Richard Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture; Francois & Louis Couperin’s 17th century conception of the keyboard suite and the iPod’s modular construction; and sonic-landscape studies through the field recordings of Francisco Lopez and the orchestral works of Gustav Mahler and Olivier Messiaen. He also looks forward to many wonderful conversations…

This FREE event happens at 6pm on Thursday, April 12 at Zeitgeist Gallery in Hillsboro Village. See you there!

1819 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212