Monday, April 30, 2007


I've got Spinning Brain Syndrome, which I've realized provides enough thought-and-experience fodder to conceivably post an entry every day. So that's what I'm going to attempt to do.

This past month (April) I attended the Andrew Bird concert at the Great Southern Theater. This venue was a step up in size compared to last year's concert, and the glow of the gold walls and ceiling was ethereal -- the photo in the link doesn't do it justice. I had a last-minute balcony seat so was able to so clearly view Bird dipping and spinning and nearly tripping in his ecstatic state of improvising through and above those walls of sound with a single instrument (or two) and at least one octave and five looping pedals...

I've tinkered with a looping pedal and it is a humbling experience. Timing/rhythm is everything, and just one of this kind of tool absolutely tests to what extent you are really hearing the rhythms both internally and externally. Adding more than one pedal demands memorizing what loop is recorded where. And hitting it at the right time WHILE you are creating sailing melodies over it all is imperative.

A note about the violin -- the sustaining qualities of this instrument lend so well to the looping pedal. The decay of sustained tones on the harp is much more rapid; a quandary to which I've devoted a lot of thought. I was a pedal-to-the-metal pianist because I loved the effect the sustaining pedal had on whatever I was playing -- it made everything seem bigger, bolder, and that much more magical.

When you watch someone so enraptured by what they are creating, losing themselves in the rhythms and notes and sounds beating back at them through the sound system, they are allowing you a tiny peek into what it really means to be truly, fully alive. Bird is lost in the wash of sound yet aware enough to assign shapes and colors to those sounds and rhythms flowing through and around him, painting vibrant, pulsing, magnificent landscapes.

His blip on Letterman was disappointing only in that it seemed to lack the high energy of the live shows, and Bird sans violin -- blasphemy! Ah, but we get a taste of his whistling-that-matches-exact-pitch of whatever instrument he is playing, in this case the xylophone...

THIS (link above) was the most amazing piece he did in Columbus -- "Why?", by himself -- leaving massive gaps in his loops as ready-to-fill entry points for his seemingly random creative sparks of musical ideas and spoken word. This is a video from Bonnaroo, but imagine it performed in a darkened theater, with the echo on the violin magnified, single spotlight on Bird while he lurches and reels, always coming back to the pedals, poised and hovering with striped-sock foot, kneading and shaping the walls of sound...

If I could, I would follow this guy around on his tour for the mere reason of knowing every performance would be its own improvised masterpiece.

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