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Man Forever with TIGUE – Percussion and Vocal Canons

Man Forever and TIGUE create a new set of super-charged percussion and vocal music inspired by Moondog's 1971 album II.

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Percussion Elements Recorded. . .Peruvian Food Consumed

Posted on November 2, 2015 by John Colpitts

All (good) things must pass. . .and so we drove back to NYC from the wilds of NH. . .into endless traffic and stress. . .directly to Colin Marston’s Menegroth Studio so we could load in the gear Friday evening. I stopped at the New Haven Sam Ash off the Merritt Parkway to pick up some new heads. . .rolled up to the Woodhaven studio around 8:15pm I believe. Unpacked and set up drums, changed heads, tried to stay calm and positive about the session.

I’ve been enjoying Josh Quillen‘s latest “honesty” posts on Facebook – wherein he describes his performances exactly as he experienced them. For mortals like ourselves it’s a good reminder to see that we all have doubts – sometimes major ones. 

The writing process for me has been gratifying and stressful. . .am I staying close enough to the vision of the project? Does it matter that some of these tracks are not adhering to the strict vision I set out for us? Well. . .no. . .and yes. Sure it matters. . .but it’s also important that we just stay true to whatever it is we created. I think we’re all excited about how odd a lot of the music ended up. 

We put in two solid days this weekend. . .and here’s a video of contact mics on bells for you to sample. That’s a mixing bowl by the way. 

The next step for this project is a vocal recording session which will happen at the end of Jan. . .which will allow us to digest the percussion material and craft the vocals as best we can.

The photo is of Carson Moody writing out a handclap part for Matt Evans to perform on an overdub. . .

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Final Full Day, Performance at Saint Paul’s School

Posted on October 30, 2015 by John Colpitts

So today we debuted our material live for the 2nd time at Saint Paul’s School in Concord, NH (my alma mater actually). We performed for the SPS Orchestra during their rehearsal period – so they were a captive audience – but despite this it seemed as if a few students enjoyed it. We’re in the midst of the process which can be stressful. I wanted to do one more rehearsal – the dreaded “one more rehearsal” that tends to just be about nerves and maybe isn’t as necessary as being sane, rested and prepared mentally. But the game is mental isn’t it? Even if I play 6-8 hours a day – which I believe we did up here – I still feel like my hands freeze up in performance – and playing quietly. . .well that’s impossible for me. Or rather – it *feels* impossible. 

The other lovely thing that happened was that I twisted my ankle and my foot turned over hard on the tarsometatarsal joint. I had to look that up. It hurts and I’ve had to limp around but it got me out of loading up Amy’s car tonight.  

Here’s a clip from a jam from earlier. . .I was returning from somewhere else and heard this magic. It’s going on the record. 

The photo is from the Oates Performing Arts Building where we performed earlier this evening. 

Next stop: THE STUDIO

You Never Get Too Big, and You Never Get to Heavy

Posted on October 29, 2015 by John Colpitts

Tonight we worked up three pieces that we’ve been rehearsing here this week and performed them for the rest of the Avaloch community. They went really well – which is great.

This process has been incredibly gratifying and incredibly difficult. . .when you are in the midst of creating something – you have to remain completely open. . .but also somehow manage to stay focused on improving the material with every run through.

One of the track’s working title is “Snakes!” – pretty sure it’ll change. . .but we ran through it this afternoon before the concert and it felt tight for the first time. As soon as we finished it Carson scolded us – deservedly so. Yes – it was the best we’d ever played it – but it wasn’t musical. We weren’t listening to each other. You have to be vigilant. . .you need to try to constantly craft the music. I’m a proponent of playing the hell out of material. Play for 10 hours if you can. . .play something over and over until you really hate it and you’re questioning everything. Usually you break through to something – we have a number of times here already. You just have to have faith that these breakthroughs will come – even when you feel hopeless. 

There was another incredible performance tonight – the contemporary vocal ensemble Quince blew the doors off pieces by Scelsi and Sokol. At times I actually laughed because the music was so absolutely astounding.

The title of this post is in reference to Doug Sahm’s classic song. . .fill in the rest. It’s raining really hard tonight – and we loaded our gear in the downpour. I spoke with the Red Cedar Chamber Ensemble a lot this past few days about paying dues. This Iowa group has been generating opportunities for themselves for at least 20 years. That’s really the only thing that happens in this business. Nobody calls. The phone doesn’t ring. But you can see the music flow out of them. Their performances have been incredible as well. It’s been a tremendous lesson to watch these world class musicians hone their craft and be so transparent and modest while they do it. We all do the work, we all pay our dues, we all haul gear in the rain. . .unless you’re a vocalist. 

Two Jams, Dreams of Leg Massages and Tired Arms and Ears

Posted on October 27, 2015 by John Colpitts

Yeah – it’s been a long few days. . .that’s not  a complaint – and I’ve been wearing my earplugs consistently but there’s still a fog around my high end. . .blame an Italian show and a really loud monitor. . .and well. . .it’s the way things go sometimes. 

But yes – so today we tackled a track that’s most in the spirit of old Moondog. . .I don’t want to overstate the Moondog b/c then people will seek this stuff out – but that’s also my fault for being inspired by him and deciding that I had a dream to do this – no point complaining. It’s a borderline #humblebrag. 

I’ve added a video of Matt Evans overdubbing some shakers (Carson Moody in the hoodie). . .well – there’s a title and a description of what’s going on here. It’s hardly a teaser. . .but I’m not going to share something crazy revealing today. We ran a trio version of this piece and then overdubbed some shakers to see how they worked to anticipate the studio environment. We’re trying to sort out as many stumbling blocks as we can before we enter the studio and my limits as a performer get exposed. 

By the way – I’m trying to post this with an embedded You Tube and the site is claiming it’s an invalid link. . .so I’ve also included a link above. So what the hell – I’ll just add a photo of me standing near the Bartok Suite sign. 

 

Drumming, Drumming, Canoeing and More Drumming

Posted on October 26, 2015 by John Colpitts

So today we worked on a few pieces for the upcoming record. . .we’re taking the demos I brought and exploding them pretty insanely. We’ve decided to just focus on the percussion material for this particular two day recording session coming up and continue to shape the vocal parts once we have that stuff tracked. 

Moondog II fans might not recognize his work in our pieces – but we’re working primarily in odd meters stacked on top of each other and our material is a lot more aggressive. It’s been amazing to run these pieces over and over in order to ferret out problem areas and clean them up.

I should mention that here at Avaloch Farm I witnessed one of the most incredible performances of my life earlier tonight. Cellist Merry Peckham and pianist Vivian Hornik Weilerstein performed interpretations of lieder by Schubert and others that were object lessons in commitment, passion and generosity. I can’t really say I’ve witnessed anything as intimate and powerful in the same way. It was just a small handful of residency attendees – no more than maybe 10 people – but they performed as if their lives depended on it. Our lives do depend on music. It’s a ridiculous thing to say but tonight I realized the truth in that. What a rare privilege to be here and to have experienced that music and performance!  

Can’t wait until tomorrow! I’m completely exhausted right now. . .good time for bed.  

 

Avaloch Farms Residency!

Posted on October 25, 2015 by John Colpitts

Thanks for bearing with us here – we’ve been gearing up to create this record for a while. . .and now we’re in the nitty gritty of it. All of us are in New Hampshire and the incomparable Avaloch Farms Music Institute – rehearsing and developing the material for a recording session in a little less than a week. This is JC here – and I just need to tell people that TIGUE is unbelievable to work with. . .there’s really nothing they can’t execute – it’s the old player/performer that needs to tighten up a bit. . .but there’s a little time. Very little. . .

After a couple days we will post a few choice clips. . .in the meantime I might have to just post a gorgeous photo and leave it at that. 

Back to work. . .thank you NewMusicUSA! So excited to record the music. 

The Original Document

Posted on February 16, 2015 by John Colpitts

First – a big thanks needs to go out to NewMusicUSA, TIGUE, Thrill Jockey and Leah McManigle for realizing this project! 

We should say that we’re running behind our prospective time-line for this project but that we’re still moving forward. 

I wanted to show everyone the Moondog record that started it all. . .a vinyl copy of Moondog II that I bought at the NY Public Library! No idea when this happened. . .but it’s a great document. . .

The original inserts are included – especially the songbook! 

OK – also reading the Moondog biography currently. . .and getting excited for the film. The Zorn quote in there says it all. 

 

Overview

Though I am best known as the drummer and founder of the experimental band Oneida, Man Forever is my most personal project; the place where I compose completely on my own terms. When asked in 2009 to create an album comprised exclusively of drums by the small vinyl/digital label St. Ives – I was at a loss. It was only after seeing a 2010 production of Ulrich Krieger’s transcription of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music that I was able to envision a solo album. This album became the impetus for Man Forever; the compositional vehicle for my work with percussion. Since 2010, I have recorded and released 3 full length albums and 3 live albums and have toured the United States, Canada, China and Europe to support these releases. 

On my last album Ryonen (2014), my piece “The Clear Realization” explores multiple time signatures being played by different percussion instruments over a single kick drum pulse. A bongo part in 13/8 is played off a snare part in 5/4 while the drum set player explores a number of time signatures but always returns to a 9/8 feel. These rhythms are performed with high energy over the course of 30 minutes and at various points during the piece the drummers harmonize vocally with each other using the overtones of their drums as reference points (see media example 1).

It is with this background that I embark on what is my most ambitious project yet: a new album-length set of material inspired by Moondog’s deceptively simple canons (from his 1971 album II) and the aggressive multi-time signature percussion pieces from Ryonen I’ve been performing this year with TIGUE. The new music will involve performing complex and evolving rhythmic patterns while singing vocal canons in harmony with each other. It’s a significant technical challenge and the members of TIGUE are the only musicians with whom I have ever worked who are up for the task. Though we have played together numerous times over the course of this year, we have never recorded together. 

This project includes a two month writing and rehearsal period starting in October 2014, a recording session during January 2015 and, following the release of the album by Thrill Jockey in the fall of 2015, will involve a touring schedule of about a year. Man Forever is viable in a wide range of venues and has performed at numerous gallery spaces, rock clubs, DIY spaces and institutional stages – and we are committed to presenting our music to a wide audience.

Though the modest songs found on Moondog II inspired some of most celebrated minimalist music from the 20th century (Reich and Glass both have gone on record about Moondog’s influence), they are still underappreciated and mostly unknown to our contemporaries. These songs are lapidary treasures; concise, clear and efficient – all elements of composition I hope to adopt for this project. My past work has been sprawling, and requires time and patience  – but cues from Moondog’s 1-2 minute songs will reign in some of these tendencies and expand the range of my new material.

Project Media

The Clear Realization from the 2014 album Ryonen
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The Clear Realization was recorded with So Percussion in 2013. The piece is a studio recording that illustrates the material of multiple time signatures anchored to one tempo, and is combined with vocal harmonies based on overtones resonating from the drums. TIGUE appears in the video which was recorded at a live show at The Kitchen in Dec 2013. This track represents an example of a first step along the contrapuntal rhythm path which would be combined with vocal canons for the new compositions.

Ur Eternity from the 2012 album Pansophical Cataract
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Included here to show the more abstract place from which the newer Man Forever music emerged. I was obsessed with the interstitial moments in Steve Reich’s pieces when the phasing between different sections were at their most pronounced and wondered if an entire piece could be assembled from these moments. Multiple drummers played out of phase single stroke rolls on a number of carefully tuned drums. You can move through the piece a minute at a time to sample the dynamic range and see how it evolves. The piece is one long crescendo.

Start and End Dates

10/15/201412/31/2016

Location

Brooklyn, New York

7 updates
Last update on November 2, 2015

Project Created By

Ridgewood, New York
John Colpitts aka Kid Millions is a drummer, composer, songwriter, improviser and writer who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.   Professional Ensembles: Man Forever (2010 through present) – composed, recorded and released three full length albums and three live recordings on various formats.  * Toured extensively throughout North America, Europe and China and has performed…

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