Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bird. Fly. Yellow. Has Recorded an Album

I should have written about this a week ago, but something excellent has occurred – one of my bands, Bird. Fly. Yellow., went into the studio and recorded an album! What a thing! We went into The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn on October 6 at 11:00 a.m. Ten hours later, we had 41 minutes of hot jazz on our hands.

For those who don’t know, Bird. Fly. Yellow. is a quartet that consists of Dan Blacksberg, trombone; Dave Flaherty, drums; Bridget Kearney, bass; and me on the trumpet.

It was probably the most successful recording session I’ve had (I’ve had not many, but meh). The first time the band had recorded it was a bit of a failure. We got together in February and attempted a session in the basement of Dave’s apartment. It just didn’t work – Dan was sick with the cold, my face decided not to work properly that day, and the band was having an off day overall.

A combination of factors contributed to a successful session last week: 1. A comfortable studio environment, fostered in no small part by our engineer, Aaron Nevezie; 2. the fact that we had to pay for the studio time (the “this better be good” factor); and 3. being well prepared for the session.

We preceded the session with two gigs – one in Philadelphia, and one in Brooklyn. We played mostly the same material for both gigs, but the performances were surprisingly different. The first, in Philly, was loud, loose, fast, and wonderful. The second was more reserved and “straight-ahead” – good, but a bit rigid. We decided that we needed to loosen up more for the session – play more freely than the night before in Brooklyn, but not as aggressively as our night in Philly.

We definitely loosened up. It was a wild and wooly session – perhaps at times bordering on outrageous, but overall the music was very fun, inspired, and actually quite embraceable. We played with the right amount of slipperiness, which I’m particularly happy about.

Probably the most important decision we made was to play the session in a series of “live sets.” It was agreed upon that we should not go back to re-record songs until each set was completed. It worked. It took us almost one whole set to get settled into the studio atmosphere. By the second set, we felt very comfortable, more like a live band. We did a total of three sets, plus some extra takes of a couple songs.

I am excited to put this music out for public consumption. It might take a while, but we’ll see if we can get it released on a small label. I will let you know if and when this happens!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dual, Divergent Influence: Objectivism and Surrealism

Recently I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my divergent tastes in 20th-century poetry and what that may mean for the writing I produce. On the one hand, I enjoy the wild, fantastical power of the Surrealist movement, and on the other hand I have a great respect for the reserved, particular Objectivist school and its affiliates – George Oppen in particular, on whom I will be giving a lecture at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in a couple weeks. Oppen seems to always be searching to get to “the heart of the matter” – that is, his poetry, his language is always a most economic distillation of experience. To put it in physical terms, he packs an incredible density in the relatively small volume of his poems. It is a poetry that is not designed to dazzle but rather to accomplish what he would call “clarity.” From a reader’s perspective, the “object” of the poem may not be incredibly clear (at least upon the first reading), as this clarity is incredibly personal, and in fact goes to such a great depth that it is pushing each word on the page to perform a massive duty. No word, no matter how small, is insignificant. There is no “filler.” It is, to my mind, the poetic form of implosion.

The surrealist attitude is in some ways the diametric opposite of objectivist works. I’m going to speak in broad strokes here: surrealist art is post-romantic, decadent, expansive, highly symbolic, and gives the most “speaking power” to the dream. To say that the difference between surrealism and objectivism boils down to “the psychological vs. the physical” is dangerously over-general. But perhaps it is the objectivist who views his/her psychological state as a physical fact that reveals its humanistic and “spiritual” aspects. I believe the surrealist moves in the opposite direction – the spiritual manifesting itself into objects and symbols. Through automatic writing, the surrealist poet is exploring the psyche by allowing all that is hidden in the brain to rise to the surface, free of scrutiny. Oppen, I think, would rather scrutinize each thought, each droplet of language that forms from the brain. As Williams said “A chance word, upon paper, may destroy the world.”

I’m sure I’ve made a number of miscalculated assessments, but I nonetheless find this perceived dichotomy [of objectivism vs. surrealism] problematic. Surrealism and Objectivism, as movements, are no longer active, but their influence has been inescapable in the world of innovative poetics. In fact, aspects of these styles have already been successfully merged (Leslie Scalapino comes to mind – especially her series “Instead of an Animal”). It looks like I will need to research more contemporary poets in order to get some fresh ideas.

A book was recently published on the subject (Poetry and Language Writing: Objective and Surreal, by David Arnold), which I plan to pick up in the near future.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gregory Corso and "Seeing Something New"

…or you could see something new. And by seeing that something new that’s here that nobody sees, and you illuminate others, then you’ve got it made.

- Gregory Corso

I am particularly taken with the “seeing” aspect of this quote. It implies, to me, that whatever you are creating is not only a creation but an act of observation, of giving credence. The World is the subject, a place we are in disbelief of, though it occurs again and again without regard for our ability to understand it. What Corso is speaking about here is something like a prophetic act.

Here is the url for the video from which the above quote is spoken:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

An Introduction

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

I often have a penchant for rambling about things that interest me, and perhaps what most interests me is this thing called the “creative process.” So I’ve decided, with some encouragement from my friends, to create a blog to which I may dedicate, in a more concise form, my “extroverted monologues.”

I most comfortably consider myself a musician. I believe this position (and occasional disposition) will dictate what I write to a large extent. I hope to write some concert reviews, album reviews, maybe even do an interview or two.

As for the “rest” – this will consist of subjects of near-equal importance to me, such as poetry or film. This is my first real foray into essay writing (for fun, anyway). I believe I’ll get the hang of it, and I hope you will get something out of it as well.