Okay, we can now reveal the location of the Bank! At 1:30pm on Saturday, September 19th, we’ll be performing inside the Provident Bank on the second floor of 239 Washington St in Jersey City. This is definitely the situation for us which is most clearly playing INSIDE a bank. We’ve been outside, and in lobbies, but this is the real deal. FYI – no pictures or videos allowed in the Bank, for real.
Just wanted to acknowledge that our site is down at the moment, it’s just giving you a redirect to Con Vivo’s page about PL:JC. We’re working on it and should have something back up shortly. In the mean time, here are links to the sites where we’ll be in Jersey City on September 19th –
11am – The Park – All About Downtown Stage
1:30pm – The Bank – Location TBA
3pm – The Supermarket – Key Food
5pm – The Church – St Paul Lutheran Church
7pm – The Backyard – The Historic Jersey City & Harsimus Cemetery
9pm – The Living Room – Barrow Mansion
11pm – The Bar – Brightside Tavern
And nb the Bank is gonna start a little late, more like 1:30. We’ll let you know the location when everything’s all sewn up!
When we did Perfect Lives in Pittsburgh last year, I took on the Supermarket for the first time. The Supermarket is the episode I listen to the most just to listen to – it’s not uncommon if I’ve got a long train ride and it’s late in the day for me to pop it on and zone out. For a point of comparison, I don’t think I listened to the Church or Backyard from the official recordings in years, much as I love the originals. For the Supermarket, a lot of what I love is in that recording, for instance:
– the very quiet drum part in four that goes against everything else in five
– on the second page of the libretto, where it starts “It is different being old alone…”, when all you’ve heard up to there is the off beats and you suddenly get the wash on the downbeats, that’s like “damn” for me every time
– I like the consistency of Bob’s voice in this recording, it’s not like the Church where there’s all this variation in his voice. I don’t perform the Supermarket this way, but I really like listening to it
Anyway, the point is it’s a brilliant recording. Something I did incorrectly last time was try to dig into the language at the ontological unit of the phrase. More like an actor than a musician. I was taking slices of meaning and presenting them as a series of thoughts. This works great for our arrangement of the Living Room, which is never really about synching up with anything in terms of beats.
This go round, I’ve re-approached the Supermarket at the unit of the line. It’s going much better. This change started when we were rehearsing Crash this spring. Tom Hamilton remarked that he thought that particularly in the “Crash” and “Journal” sections, we weren’t adding enough emphasis on the first word of each line. Tom was providing performance practice advice, gained from decades working with Bob & co. While such first word/syllable emphasis isn’t in the directions or score for Crash, Tom points out it’s not in the score of anything per se, but it’s part of the style. This thought really changed my reading in Crash, to my mind for the better. So coming back to Perfect Lives this summer has meant bringing this new thought in the mix.
When you read Bob’s texts this way, you get a steady amount of his characteristic unexpected emphases. Maybe “the” is the most stressed word in a sentence, or “in”. Once you start doing it, it feels natural in its own way. Another thing it’s opened up to me is that previously, I was very tied to looking at my book for the Supermarket, making sure I was going slow enough that I kept up with the band (not going too fast is always the challenge in this piece for me, it’s so much better when there’s more space!). When I begin to emphasize the first word of each line, it makes memorizing the line breaks much easier. I think all told, this one little change is going to have a huge impact on how I tackle this episode.
One net effect of this is that my reading is quiet different from the recording. After memorizing some text the other day, I put on the recording just to see what that would do to my brain. It was good, I knew the punchlines to all the set ups, but I was very aware of structural, phrasal, rhythmic, and melodic choices I’d make that are different from what Bob does. Not that I questioned his decisions, but I feel like the more we do this, the more information we arm ourselves with, the less we’re limited to direct imitation of the original (much as there are moments that I’ll always drop into a direct imitation because it’s beautiful and iconic).
Did we mention that we’ve got most of the sites locked down for Perfect Live Jersey City? And that it’s on Saturday, September 19th? Cause that’s a big deal. Here’s what we’ve got:
11am The Park – All About Downtown Stage
1pm The Bank – TBA
3pm The Supermarket – Key Food
5pm The Church – St Paul Lutheran Church
7pm The Backyard – The Historic Jersey City & Harsimus Cemetery
9pm The Living Room – Barrow Mansion
11pm The Bar – Brightside Tavern
More info to follow, but that’s the basics! We’ll be updating this blog more as the date approaches.
Crash at Roulette has wrapped up. Thanks to Jim Staley et al for having us there and everyone who came out to join us over the past four nights. The physical space of Roulette was a great fit for the piece – plenty of space for Phil Makanna’s images, very favorable acoustics so Tom Hamilton could mix things just nice and add some effects to the “Crash” voice to keep things in the Ashley house style, such as it is. I think our performances took a step forward from last year as well, having the year to marinate and some extra time to practice was a big help.
I wanted to share two thoughts from the run. I don’t want to get to much into the idea of self-perception of performers and how they feel they did, but after the first night on Wednesday, I felt like we had much better in us. Thursday I felt like I was particularly sloppy. I needed something to help get my performance of the piece to where I wanted it to be. Before Friday’s show I was trying to get into the right frame of mind. After warming up & practicing, I had a blank mind and was just trying to think about images of Bob. The image that came to my mind was the image to the right, an image of Bob performing The Wolfman in the mid 60s. It started with this kind of 3rd person shot, and then I held it in my head til it morphed into a 1st person thing, seeing from inside the shades and suit & tie with the spotlight on my face, the curtains drawn in, looking out on a room with a lot of ladies with up-dos in dresses and gentleman in suits. And I thought of the feeling of making these quiet sounds that were enormously amplified, and how jarring it would have been to this classy looking audience. Picturing some number of people getting up and leaving. Many covering their ears. And to be the one responsible for it, feeling the self-doubt of maybe they’re right, and before that, feeling the self-doubt of should I even go on in the first place, or mid-stream, should I just wrap this up now. Being inside the scenario of what the hell am I doing up here, isn’t this crazy, etc, helped me find the right place of mind for Crash. There’s a lot of self-doubt mixed in with the self-confidence, and thinking about an iconic moment to choose to represent it put me in the frame of mind to do the last two shows (which I thought were just great). Much as I don’t like biopics, it was sort of a biopic vision, but ultimately it wasn’t the vision that helped me move forward, it was the projected feelings of “I’m doing something amazing” and “I’m doing something fucking insane” and their overlap that did it for me.
The second thought came to me last night. Around the time we started Act V, already an hour into the piece, I had the feeling that things were moving so quickly. I wanted to go back to the beginning and start again. I didn’t want it to be the last time I was doing my four-syllable-to-a-beat chant. This “end of the show” feeling is common of course, but I hadn’t felt it in a long time. It’s a kind of getting sentimental about the thing you’re doing while you’re doing it. And it can lead to problems of getting sloppy, having your attention split between the task at hand and the instantaneous nostalgia related to the future not-doing of the task at hand.
The more I felt this way, the more I realized (mind you this was while we were still performing) that it was kind of like a metaphor for the piece. I’ve had a lot of conversations about how Crash is awfully sad. It’s true, it is, but it’s not a tragic kind of sad. It’s an realistic kind of sad, a human kind of sad. It’s the kind of sad that comes from knowing that something has to end but recognizing the sense of loss in knowing that it won’t be around any more. There a different dimension of sadness when someone is seriously ill and on their way out compared to after they pass. To me the former is sometimes more immense and harder to deal with. Last night it felt like Crash, or our performance of it this go-round, was going to expire, and I wanted to spend all the time I could with it before that happened. Part of doing the piece is sticking to a certain timing, it’s not like a baseball game where you can play to the last out, it’s more like football or basketball where there’s a game clock. There was no flexibility, the piece played out as it always does, right on schedule. But boy, it was heavy for those last two acts for me last night, even though now I don’t feel that heaviness.
As per the last statement on this blog, we’ll be taking part in the second performance of Robert Ashley’s Crash, which is gonna be at Roulette at April (you can get your tickets already over there). We’re all especially excited to get to do this one again. If you missed it the first go round, it’s a totally fresh work in Bob’s oeuvre, it’s just six voices (the five of us plus Amirtha Kidambi). It’s three different vocal styles telling three different kinds of stories – one musing on things like neighbors, one giving a one minute story from each of Bob’s (nearly) 84 years, and one remembering a time when he was so overcome that he passed out. Really, don’t miss this. Just come see it, that’s all there is to it.
In the mean time, you can see us at Roulette a lot between now and then! Dave got a Jerome commission from Roulette and he will be presenting a big new piece called The Gentleman Rests there on March 3rd. It features Paul & Brian! Later, Paul, Gelsey, & Dave are performing as part of thingNY at the New Music Bake Sale at Roulette on March 15th. A few days later, on the 18th, Gelsey is doing a show with vocalist Odeya Nini at Roulette. And on April 1st, Gelsey’s Rolodex is part of Experiments in Opera’s Story Binge (Paul & Dave will be performing in that as well!). So we’re gonna be at 509 Atlantic Ave a lot in the next two months and we hope to see you there! Also shout out to Paul’s piece at HERE Arts in early March.