Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Ramshackle Orchestra for Musequality

We arrived on the South Bank shortly after 11.00. We scouted about a bit and eventually decided to pitch ourselves under a tree just near where that big purple E4 cow is at the moment. While we waited for the others to arrive, Em and I entertained ourselves, if no-one else, with our ukes and our singing. We learned that Innocent When You Dream, while a lovely song, is a bit maudlin to attract money. Downtown and Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue work much better in this regard. Even if you struggle to remember the words.

By the time the rest of our band started to arrive at about 11.30, the walkway was considerably busier, and if we'd showed up then instead of 20 minutes earlier we'd have struggled to find a place to set up amidst the other buskers, balloon modellers, pavement artists and talking plant pots that now surrounded us. Undaunted, we set up, and ploughed into In C.

It's an amazing experience, playing this music. All the difficulties of playing the patterns that I'd found practising earlier in the week seemed to melt away, and the web of cross rhythms that rapidly built up as utterly absorbing (I hope it was half as fascinating to listen to!). It's immensely satisfying to play. It's something to do with the autonomy. What you play, and how, and when, is up to you, and it's thrilling to find all sorts of unexpected combinations emerging as a result of your decisions. You get into the groove, and play around, reacting to what the other musicians are doing, they reacting to you in turn. Kudos to Nick who hammered out repeated Cs on a toy glockenspiel that looked like a relic from East Berlin before the wall came down. That gave us something to hang onto, when all the cross rhythms threatened to overwhelm.

In C is in one sense mis-named: it's not in the key of C major in any conventional sense. There's no progression of harmony as you'd find in a tonal work. Although the harmonies do evolve as it progresses, it's got little to do with traditional functional harmony. It's about texture and pure sound. And this is where the title has its true meaning. That C major triad, and the play around it, is something you inhabit.

It was a blast. Thanks to everyone who played, held out hats, listened and gave money. The whole 45 minutes or so was filmed, so I hope to add YouTube links soon!

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Lucia said...

It sounds amazing! Look forward to seeing the vid.

Ben.H said...

Congratulations on pulling it off! I wish I'd been up that end of town to see it. You got money? I think this means that you are officially better musicians than Joshua Bell.

petemaskreplica said...

Joshua Bell wanted to join in, but you've got to have some quality control.