Louisville Arabic Orchestra

New York Arabic Orchestra

I like the sound of that.  Amidst all the hustle and bustle surrounding recent events with the Louisville Orchestra and Kentucky Opera (which likely won’t have an orchestra for their next production) and with the Louisville Bach Society‘s finally closing shop this past May, things are looking grim for large scale music/arts organizations.

But this isn’t going to be a post about the doom and gloom locally, but one about something I’ve been thinking about for some time: a large scale non-Western organization.  I don’t know if I would want to end up calling this an “Arabic Orchestra” and solely focusing on art music from that region, but it’s a placeholder for now.  What Id ideally like to see is a truly international ensemble which focuses on art musics from all around the world.  Similar to the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra or the MESTO Orchestra I’ve talked about in past posts (though on an even bigger scale).

An Arabic Orchestra seems natural given most of my association with folks throughout the US who are interested in music from that part of the world but also because of how quickly ensembles like this are growing and emerging throughout the US.  But mostly because I’ve recently tapped into a local population of musicians who might be able to populate such a group.

Sadly, organizations like the League of American Orchestras and the infrastructure of the arts in the US is generally Eurocentric (for good and ill) which makes almost all such endeavors rely on very local and grassroots level.  But seeing how much the Michigan Arab Orchestra and the New York Arabic Orchestra have expanded their reach and/or shifted their operational models on how the typically Eurocentric ensembles work, it is encouraging to see that some of that infrastructure can also be useful.

Of course, a full scale orchestra is a discussion for later.  Right now I and some of my cohorts in Ahel El Nagam want to get a regular Middle Eastern music meetup going where we can start to draw in the local musicians who already play in these traditions or just musicians that would love to learn more about it.  While this picks up I will be sorting through different logistic/economic factors and talking and reseraching A LOT with the folks who are currently running ensembles/orchestras like this in the US (e.g. Bassam Saba, Michael Ibrahim, George Boolos, Scott Marcus, Ali Jihad Racy) or educational resources for this music, and connecting with the more local/regional talent (e.g. Members of Salaam in Bloomington, IN; George Wakim in Lexington, KY) in ways so that we can maximize potential.

Until then, all I can do is watch what is happening here and help how little I can with the resources I do have.

Playing without music and improvising

Jon Silpayamanant playing with the Eastern Caravan Group at Cafe D'Jango in Bloomington, Indiana (Sep 4, 2011)

So last night I had the opportunity to perform with the Eastern Caravan Group in Bloomington, Indiana.  I was sent a handful of sheet music to work with just a couple days ago, but ironically I ended up using practically none of them.  I was initially just invited to perform whatever I was comfortable with from the music sent but as soon as I heard a tune announced that I knew (albeit, in a completely different key) I reached for my cello and looked at Shahyar Daneshgar (the de facto leader of the esnemble) and he just nodded and smiled.

So what was supposed to be a small guest appearance with the group by me ended up with me playing the whole evening (minus the first couple of tunes) with the group.  And it was an absolute blast.  The two or three tunes the group played that I did know were all in different key areas than I had learned or performed and the arrangements were completely different but that hardly mattered to me, apparently, as I seemed to have no problems transposing the melodies to the new tonal areas without much effort (which actually surprised me, even).  And as Shahyar Müellim had, in our initial correspondence, wanted me to play more in the bass range, I was also transposing down two octaves.

The whole evening was like that with the exception of a popular Azeri dance tune we played for one of my partners in Raks Makam who happened to be able to make the show.  I was alternating between playing bass function (when chordal harmonies were somewhat implied) and playing the melodies (by ear and in real time) down two or three octaves.  The gel holding the two alternating functions together were improvisational transitions or elaboration/ornamentation of the bass or melody line.

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Performance: Kermes @ the VID

me with Kermes after our show at Cafe D'jango 18 March 2011

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the The VID in Bloomington (IN) when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with a group founded by Maja Radovanlija, Kermes.  Yeah, I know–it’s getting to the point that I’m posting about shows more often than blogging–this happens to me from time to time when I’m performing more often than not.

Here’s the blurb from the facebook event posted by the folks at Peasant Disco:

Kermes, B-town’s own Balkan band will open our 5th Birthday Celebration this year followed by some Peasant Disco favorites from the years past.

We will also be wrapping up some Navruz festivities with a bit of Central Asian flare on the dance floor.

Cover is $5 at the door, 21+ venue

More info @:
http://www.kermes-music.com/ or on facebook

Performance: il Troubadore @ Cafe D’jango

Cafe D'jango fliers with two of my bands back-to-back on consecutive nights!!

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the Cafe D’jango in Bloomington (IN) when this autoposts.  Yeah, I know I was just there last night, but tonight it’s with il Troubadore.  The perks about being in multiple active groups is being able to do things like playing the same club more than one night in a row but never really repeating a piece or even musical style for that matter.

We’ll be performing from 8pm till 11:30pm tonight (18 March 2011).  Cover is $5 and the show is all-ages, as is usually the case with most of my gigs.

116 N Grant St
Bloomington, IN 47408-4026
(812) 335-1297

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Another quick bite

me with Kermes after our show at Cafe D'jango 18 March 2011

Just winding down a bit after last night’s gig with my Balkan band, Kermes and still thinking about binaries and the ridiculousness of dichotomizing Classical Music and Pop Music–or should I say dichotomizing Western Classical Music and Western Pop Music since practically every culture has it’s art musics and popular musics.

Rather than belaboring a point I was making in this response to Greg Sandow’s blog post here,  I present to you folks a performance I did as Noiseman433 some years ago in St. Louis (25 January 2003).  This is probably one of my favorite performances and it lasted just a few seconds longer than the youtube clip below–and my hands were bloodied and swollen afterwards though the adrenaline high kept me from noticing it until nearly half an hour after the performance.  Needless to say, I wasn’t actively playing cello during this period of time!

Continue reading “Another quick bite”