Friday, 3 February 2012

IMOO Orchestra - 21 piece Improv Big Band!

Can this get any more exciting?
If you are in Ottawa and up for for something out of the ordinary, you will not want to miss this event on saturday! Jesse Stewart, formerly from Toronto is a professor at Carleton University in the Music Department, and is one of the city's strongest musical experimentalists. Jesse is known for coming up with great, interesting and unique ideas and then... (and what sets him apart) he actually goes out there and finds a way to make it happen. This project is no exception, wherein Jesse figured out a way to put together some of Ottawa's strongest improvisers all on one stage. Jesse is working closely with Craig Pedersen and Linsey Wellman among others, who have been co-producing many shows featuring experimental and forward-looking music in the city. Their series and concept is called the Improvised Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais (IMOO). The show will be an amazing collection of musicians:

David Broscoe—bassoon, bari and alto sax, and clarinet.
Phillipe Charbonneau—bass
Rebecca Danard—clarinet and bass clarinet
Michel Delage—drums, alto sax, guitar, accordion, aux percussion
Wayne Eagles—guitar, loops, electronics
William Echard—synths, electronics
Mike Essoudry—drums, clarinet
Jennifer Giles—keyboards
John Geggie—bass
David Jackson—guitar, computer, electronics
Gillian Kirkland—accordion
Jack Litster—drums, aux percussion
Rory Magill—drums, percussion, trombone
Mark Molnar—violin, viola, and cello
Craig Pedersen—trumpet, electronics
Ryan Purchase—trombone
Adam Saikaley—electronics
Bernard Stepien—tenor sax, accordion
Jesse Stewart—drums, waterphone, bird calls, found objects, conduction, Artistic Director
Lillian Studt—keyboards, synths
Linsey Wellman—saxophones, flutes

Jesse was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on music and what you might expect

Jesse took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some question about what we might expect:

1.     This is going to be a large group… lots of energy to rein in. What can we expect on Saturday?

The greatest challenge in a large improvising ensemble is trying to ensure that everyone is able to hear--and listen--to everyone else. I once read a sociological study that said that in group conversation, it is common for up to six people to have a conversation about one topic with everyone contributing to the same conversation. However, when a seventh person is added, the group normally splinters into two or more conversations. I think a similar thing tends to happen in musical conversations in improvising ensembles greater than five or six. That is not to say that it can't be interesting to have more than one musical conversation taking place at a time, because it can. But personally, I wouldn't want to hear an entire concert of multiple simultaneous conversations; such performances tend to get rather boring after a while, to my ears at least. So we need to find ways of ensuring that we listen to one another and that we enter into purposeful musical conversation with one another. There are many strategies for doing so. One way of course is to have a notated score that coordinates the individual parts of each member of the ensemble. But that is not the focus of the IMOO Orchestra and not what we will be doing on Saturday. Rather, the music will be improvised—conceived of and sounded in the moment—within several loose musical parameters that are designed to ensure that we will all be able to listen to one another and generate musical ideas accordingly. So, for example, I will conduct several pieces using a variety of hand signals that we have worked out. Simple cues like play a sustained tone, play a solo, play a groove, etc. The members of the group improvise within those parameters, coordinating their musical statements with those of their co-performers.

2.     You always have very clear ideas of about how to come up with creative musical situations. What is the inspiration behind this project? Is there a certainapproach that you are taking to the group?

The idea for the IMOO Orchestra was really inspired by the wonderful work that Linsey Wellman and Craig Pedersen have been doing through the IMOO (Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais) concert series that they have been organizing at UMI Café. I have performed as part of the series a few times, but I don't get a chance to get out and hear other Ottawa improvisers as often as I would like. So I thought it would be a nice idea to organize a large improvising ensemble that would include as many Ottawa improvisers as possible in order to provide a forum for us to get to know one another better both musically and socially and to explore large-group improvisation.

3.     Are there artists in this city that you think are doing something really special?

I hesitate to single anyone out because I think everyone is doing something special. I certainly feel that way about all of the musicians in the IMOO Orchestra. To my mind, what makes a performance special has nothing to do with the style or genre of the music, nor even the virtuosity of the musicians involved (although there are certainly many musicians with a very high level of musicianship in this city). Rather, the thing that I value most in musical performance is a sense of commitment and sincerity in the music. And by that yardstick, the vast majority of the musicians that I have had the good fortune of hearing and working with are indeed doing something really special.  

4.     How do you feel about the concept of a Winter Jazz Fest as we head into its first year?

I think it is wonderful. I am particularly pleased to see that so many local musicians are represented in the Winter Jazz Fest lineup.

5.      What inspires you these days? Is there something you are working on at the moment that you’d like to share?
I have been working on two long-term projects: one is a series of 118 compositions, one for each known chemical element in the universe. Each piece has a different tuning system in which the number of pitches is equal to the atomic number (or number of protons) in the corresponding element. So only one pitch for hydrogen, but 118 pitches per octave [!] for Ununoctium. The rhythmic structure of each piece is derived from the electron shell diagram associated with each element. So that is a big project that involves a new approach to tuning, harmony, and rhythm. I have come to see it as a generative system of sorts because each musical atom can be combined with other musical atoms to create musical molecules (what I call "musicules"). I hope to premiere some of those pieces in 2012.

The other main project I have been working on is extending the drum set in new ways. I spent many years developing an expanded musical vocabulary for the drum set through the development of so-called "extended techniques." In recent years, I have made fewer discoveries along those lines on the drum set itself, so I have been trying to extend the drum set in other directions by incorporating other musical instruments including congas, cajon, turntables, vibraphone, and electric guitar. This isn't quite a "one man band" thing as I think of all of these added instruments as extensions of the drum set itself, a means of opening up new timbral, melodic, and harmonic possibilities. 

The IMOO Orchestra will be performing on
Feb 4th at 15:00
Club Saw
For tickets and more info

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