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in an elevator

November 13, 2017

We felt it was important to share with you good people this photo Brian took yesterday of the five of us in an elevator.

vspeed elevator

That’s all for now.


State of the ‘Speed, Oct ’17

October 2, 2017

Hi friends.  It’s been a while since we’ve told you what we’re up to.

The biggest & most relevant thing, we’re gonna have to leave you guessing on.  But suffice it to say we’re coming back together, the five of us and some dear friends, to work on something you’re gonna love.  That oughta come to fruition in 2018.  More as that unfolds.  We’ve actually got a couple 2018 irons in the fire.  Don’t touch that dial etc etc.

So while you’re holding your breath, here’s a few things:

As part of PPL, Brian’s doing a lot this month at Salisbury University in Maryland.  This project is a continuation of PPL’s multi-year Embarrassed of the Whole.  More info is here.

Gelsey & Paul, having finished their time on Broadway last month, are both back with new productions this fall.  Gelsey’s in Dave Malloy’s Ghost Quartet, which starts this week at NYTW (though it’s sold out!).  Paul’s got the grand realization of many years of working on his piece Thomas Paine in Violence coming next month at HERE Arts.  More info for that one is here.

Aliza continues to generate high-quality ceramics under the moniker Henry Street Studio.  You can check out what she’s been doing here.

Finally Dave’s releasing a new solo album entitled Qualms Rectified on his label Gold Bolus Recordings.  You can hear half the tracks here right now, the full thing comes out 10/13.  There’s a release show at Secret Project Robot on 10/23 that’ll also feature Paul on drums and voice, and a set from friend of the ‘Speed Amirtha Kidambi.  Info here.

fresh material from Gelsey

May 7, 2017

Dear Varispeed fans (or at least people intrigued by us enough to be reading this blog) –

We thought you might enjoy hearing the latest album recorded by one of us.  That would be Ciphony, a collaborative album made by Gelsey Bell and John King, to be released digitally and on CD this week on Dave’s label Gold Bolus Recordings.  This piece has its origin in Gelsey & John creating music to go with a restaging of Merce Cunningham’s EVENT as directed by Robert Swinston and Compagnie CNDC-Angers.  As per the Cage/Cunningham tradition, Gelsey & John worked separately to create their improvisational scores and brought them together for the performance.  After honing this material at several shows at the Joyce Theatre in 2015, they brought a concert version of it to Roulette last year.  This album documents that performance, and dresses it in some spiffy art from Gelsey.  If you like Varispeed, you’d dig this album.  You can listen to it and order a hard copy here!

Here (virtually)

March 1, 2017

We’re still here!  We’re still slowly gathering materials on Gaburo’s LINGUA and it sure is cool!  Gelsey & Paul are still on Broadway.  Brian just wrapped up a massive month of operations around PPL’s Embarrassed of the Whole, and this post is mostly to share a photo of that with you:


State of the ‘Speed, Fall 2016

September 26, 2016

All’s been quiet on the Varispeed front of late, but not totally quiet.  We met up a little bit ago to continue digging into Kenneth Gaburo’s LINGUA pieces.  After performing Maledetto (LINGUA II) earlier this year, we’ve now looked at In the Can (LINGUA III) and the pieces that constitute LINGUA I.  It’s all pretty exciting stuff that both nicely fits our past projects and introduces some new areas of focus for us.

However, these explorations aren’t likely to be public for a while.  Paul & Gelsey are about to start their run as featured players in Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway.  Both have been involved in the show in its various earlier incarnations.  Even if you saw it at Ars Nova or Kazino, check it out again in the big time!

Paul, Gelsey, & Dave (collectively as 1/2 of thingNY) just released an album this past week on Dave’s label Gold Bolus Recordings.  minis/Trajectories features music by Paul as well as Erin Rogers and performances by the group and some guest talking chamber players.  If you like what Varispeed does, you’ll like this album!

Next month at JACK, Dave’s restaging his piece The Gentleman Rests, last seen at Roulette in 2015.  Featuring Brian along with a bunch of amazing performers, the piece depicts the Congressional Black Caucus trying to raise objections to the vote count from Florida after the 2000 and Al Gore, acting as president of the Senate, turning their requests away.  Again, if you enjoy, say, the way we’ve been doing The Living Room in our Perfect Lives performances, this ought to be up your alley.  More info is here.

Brian, for his part, is working with his partner Esther Neff toward realizing the final version of their multi-year, multi-part investigation Embarrassed of the Whole.  That’s looking to crest in February, so stay tuned for more on that front and check out the documentation of the project so far.

And Aliza has been had busy hands over the past few months, opening a ceramics studio and producing a great many things therein.  If you’re interested in peeping what she’s working on, or obtaining some for your home, you can check out Henry Street Studio.

So we’ll be quietly progressing behind the scenes for a bit.  Stay tuned!

Is it the past or whatever? Who cares.

April 30, 2016

Dave here.  Please pardon the stray thought. This thought starts with the amazing abundance of Prince clips that have arrived on YouTube, and as of this writing are still there, since his passing on April 21st. There’s the 1983 gig where they premiered much of Purple Rain. “Erotic City” (with a dash of “Sex Shooter”) live in 1988. I’ve watched the Sign o the Times movie on Georgian YouTube (it got taken down). Some clips of “Party Up” from 1981. Damn.

First you should know about me that Prince is probably the person who’s music I listen to the most, or second most. It’s a close race with Robert Ashley. Both of their work merits relistening after relistening. Also there’s a lot of both of their work out there. Ashley is bigger to me in inspiring how I want to use language. Prince is bigger in how I want to deal with sound. A powerful 1-2 combination of stunningly original Midwestern musical minds.

I can’t stop watching these clips. I intend to just dip into one for a minute to see who’s in the band and what their rep was in that era, but soon I’ve wasted an hour. Just gone. Not so much thinking about Prince’s passing and mourning the absence of his driving energy, but totally captivated at how fucking good he was at everything, and how good his music still sounds.

This is supposed to be a common experience in this day and age. One click leads you down a hole. Whether it’s music, animal videos, people opening boxes, whatever, I think this is maybe how video culture works in 2016. I feel pretty outside of that. Anyway, it’s a strange juxtaposition for me to be finding this with Prince videos. I’ve been looking for Prince videos on the internet for years now. Once in a while you’d find “Private Joy” live in ’81 and hold onto the link like a squirrel with a nut, watching it once a day for two weeks til it was removed. Just a month or two ago I was watching the “Glam Slam” video, with its improbable string orchestra, when I got home from work (love that polka dot suit).

I have a lot of respect for Prince for choosing to control, and then successfully controlling, his output in this way. It preserved the departed feeling of searching for a cultural object, something that was one of the singular joys of my youth. Finding a Prince video online in the first decade of YouTube has been emotionally akin to requesting the Atalanta VHS through the CUNY library system when I was in grad school and making a trip to my folks’ place just to watch it. Or better yet, I think of my pilgrimages through the East Village ending up on Carmine Street in the late 90s, one of two suburban Davids on a quest to educate myself about obscurities housed at Kim’s, Rocket Science, Norman’s, etc, etc. It was a slower process in person – it might take a few visits of seeing (and this is a mildly embarrassing actual example) the 1974 Steely Dan bootleg (c’mon, they barely played live then, and SO MUCH MICHAEL McDONALD harmony!) before I worked up the cash and the nerve to pull the trigger. But when you obtained such an item and took it home, you wanted nothing more than to sit inside of it and soak it up when you got home.

These Prince clips are having the same effect on me, but in 2016, in one week, there have been more clips uploaded than I could hope to digest in a couple years. My listening has settled into a pattern (which I associate with Anthony Braxton) of drilling yourself on a single recording, not all at once, but over weeks or months. I want to take each one of these Prince clips and treat it like I have with 1999 or Act I of Now Eleanor’s Idea. I imagine many these clips will start disappearing shortly, and that feels okay. I’m game to pursue this beloved music.

I have mixed feelings about feeling this way, but I’m okay with music being hard to obtain. I’m also okay with all music ever being totally free. Who can even wrap their head around these things. This topic is ultimately not that interesting, I mean, what I think about it isn’t.

Recently a song lodged itself in my brain at work. A more accurate way of saying how I felt about it is that I was graced by a visit, in this case by Canned Travolta’s cover of “When It’s Time to Change”, a punk update of a song from the Brady Bunch. I walked around for hours singing it to myself, assuming it was only on a 45 in the poorly-kept filing cabinet of WESU Middletown, along with Tex Rabinowitz’s “Hot Rod Man”, which was the crux of some flirtation the first time Lynn and I ever hung out 15 years ago. Only after a day of this resignation did I bother to check, and of course it’s on YouTube.

I’m resisting having a point here. I don’t think things are bad, or that they were better before. It seems like on most levels things are pretty good on these fronts right now, but there’s some tension at the bottom of that feeling. I’m noticing how formative this constellation of ideas were for me. This is the sideways compartmentalization I’ve done in dealing with being sad about Prince’s passing and my own feelings about needing to step up creatively with one less brilliant person on the planet.

I’ll just say that if that outdoor market just south of Tower Records on Broadway were still there, the one where you could buy bootleg videos of say Earth, Wind, & Fire in 1978 or Pearl Jam in 1991, I would totally go there and just stare at things for a while. That’s where I’m at.


March 18, 2016

Hi!  Just a quick thought.  We’re going to be doing something special on Aliza’s next birthday.  In this case, that would be our first step towards performing pieces from Kenneth Gaburo’s Lingua series.  First thing we’ll do, we’re gonna tackle Lingua 2: Maledetto.  It’s gonna be a very informal setting, but at an invite only sort of affair.  We’re mostly looking for some direction with this one.  Not a final polish, just a first coat.  It seemed like the right time to let the world know that we’re officially at work on this very cool piece for seven voices.

We’ll likely be digging deep into this material in 2017, but for now, the five of us, along with Esther Neff from Panoply Lab and Jeffrey Young from thingNY, are gonna kick around some vocal ideas of Gaburo’s about screws.  We’ll keep you posted!  For now, please enjoy this Willie Nelson song (IMHO better than the Roy Orbison version).