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Pearl Harbor and John Lennon

Tonight is a special show. My first conducted composition for large ensemble. It’s big. It’s beautiful. Piece to Celebrate the Proximity of Pearl Harbor Day and the Death of John Lennon on the only date it can happen – Mon Dec 7 @ The Makeout Room in San Francisco.

Rehearsal last night was very productive. I discovered that conducting is a rather rigorous affair and will continue to cling to the notion that notation software sucks in general (the sprawling score required good old scissors and glue to paste sections together properly). Aided by a stack of cue cards for the maestro to hold up, the musicians were able to get through the piece and it was fantastic to hear it come to life.

It is in four sections and scored for 10 guitars, 3 bass, 2 percussionists and 1 vocalist. It incorporates my favorite things from some of Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, and Moe! Staiano’s work.

The guitars are unison tuned with two low E strings, one middle E and three high E strings. Sections one and two make use of specially prepared spent bullet casings and scraping technique across specific strings to achieve the dramatic sound of planes approaching and departing.

Section 1 – The Sun Also Rises
Section 2 – TORA! TORA! TORA!/The Sleeping Giant Awakens
Section 3 – Helter Skelter
Section 4 – The Sun Also Sets

The piece was conceived in New York City in August of this year. After booking a gig on Dec. 7 for large ensemble and having no idea what to present, the date struck me as significant. Pearl Harbor Day followed by Dec. 8, the death of John Lennon – two events that managed to wake people from their collective stupor for a moment. More than anything else this piece is about that, but the analogies are endless.

Members of the Orchestra include:
Suki O’Kane, Pat Spurgeon, Eli Crews, Dave Jess, Geo Kitta, John Shiurba, Nils Erickson, Daryl Shawn, Wayne Grim, David Slusser, Bobby Ray, Brian Good, CD Cummings, Reid Johnston, Dylan Champagne and Katherine Copenhaver.


The show was really great! Good vibe and crowd. We powered thru the piece and received so much positive feedback and encouragement. Thank you, thank you. It was a cool night of music overall – both Ross Hammond’s trio and Michael Heullits’ trio were smokin’!

Video of the first 10 minutes from Ross H (Section one, The Sun Also Rises and part of Section two, Tora! Tora! Tora!):

and a blog mention:

…off to the The Makeout Room for the Snowball Pond Orchestra performing Piece to Celebrate the Proximity of Pearl Harbor Day and the Death of John Lennon, the first conducted composition by kingtone (aka Lucio Menegon). (Some readers my recognize Lucio as the host of the Ivy Room experimental-improv series.) The piece is a a surround sound minimalist-meets-mayhem piece to celebrate the proximity of two events that managed to wake people out of their collective stupor for a moment or two.

The first two sections appeared to focus more on Pearl Harbor and the last two more on John Lennon. The opening section featured the guitars, as described above. Later on, much darker guitar and string sounds were set against snare drums that sounded at once militaristic and like a clip from a rock solo, followed by long sustained guitar unisons and complex chords. The music gradually took on more of a rock feel as the narrative moved from Pearl Harbor to John Lennon, with quotations from Helter Skelter (from the White Album) towards the end.

Random Press

Prehistoric Horse (David Grollman, Valerie Kuehne, and Lucio Menegon) are an improv trio from NYC and Oakland who generate spasmodic bursts of clatter and skree via cello, drums, and guitar, typically played in ways that would make conventional music teachers shudder in horror.
Seattle Stranger

Very experimental music…like psychotropic microdot jazz disharmony mesmerandum
Ivy Room Hootenanny fan after hearing Prehistoric Horse

Nightsoil, finally

The Overdub Club is proud to announce the completion of the HD video version of Nightsoil. We have worked long and hard to bring this former performance piece to a place where it can be screened. The premier is slated for Sept 30 at the The Exploratorium in San Francisco.

Nightsoil is a single channel video by filmmakers Thad Povey and Alfonso Alvarez with music by Lucio Menegon, collectively known as The Overdub Club. Derived from a triple projection, live performance piece, Nightsoil utilizes found footage that has been physically reconstituted using hand-processing, tinting, and other hands-on filmic techniques and features a powerful new audio score and soundtrack.

Nightsoil is a layered and evocative display of humanity’s ability to create both beauty and destruction, whose title echoes the archeologist investigating abandoned human latrines. Coming at a dramatic time in America’s history and created in the spirit of this zeitgeist, Nightsoil calls out with an appeal to “think what you’re doing” before choosing violence as a solution to humanity’s problems.

The music for Nightsoil was developed in a series of jam sessions where musicians Lucio Menegon and Mark De Gli Antoni improvised over a series of test reels and live presentations, mixing and matching sounds, manipulating and exploring audio textures – taking ideas from the morphing images and giving ideas back to the film-makers – until a dynamic three section composition coalesced. The move from the live presentation format presented a golden opportunity to re-compose and fully arrange and orchestrate the original score. Along with the musical contributions of John Hanes, Suki O’Kane, Jenya Chernoff, Rebecca Seeman, Jonathan Segel and Laurie Amat, a final soundtrack and score emerged that matches the intensity and emotion of the visuals – at times in syncopation with and at other times cutting against the multiple image presentation.

Prehistoric Horse Tour Wrap

Prehistoric Horse plays a very intense and dynamic form of improvisational music that sometimes borders on sheer noise but also incorporates the dramatic and absurd. Our sets morphed with the miles logged and the tenor and pacing changed dramatically from the first chaotic show in Albany CA to the final mellow moments in NYC. There were many good shows on our 13 gig cross-country run with Oakland, Seattle, Minneapolis and New York being particular highlights.

Since my last post in Madison, we played Louisville, KY (where I managed to leave the power supply to my laptop – thanks to Mateo for mailing it back), Pittsburgh, Toronto, Baltimore and NYC. The lack of laptop partially explains the drop off in the tour blog, but in truth, the last few shows were difficult, involved much driving and were not necessarily inspired. The NYC show was the exception, so I will wrap up a brief description of it.

The gig was in hipster Williamsburg at a place called Monkeytown, a space that boasts four walls of projected imagery, with musicians in the middle and comfy low-rise couches behind spartan japanese style tables on the perimeter. In response to said surroundings and perhaps inspired by a terrific quartet improvisation featuring cellist Okkyung Lee, we upped our game (New York does that to you) and performed a rather ‘cinematic’ set, quite different from others we have done before. David used a stripped down percussion setup and the overall tone was much less frenetic, with more melody and ‘playing’ from Valerie and I. The audience seemed to appreciate it and despite some of the usual second guessing, this feeling was verified a few days later when a gent stopped me in the street to favorably comment on the performance 🙂

Below are some links to videos, pics and audio. Plans are afoot for more shows/tours in the next year. Enjoy.

Here is a particularly interesting section of improv from Toronto, Canada. A gig with the dubious distinction of having ‘not a soul in attendance.’

photo slideshow

more to come…

Delicate & Destructive

Suki O’Kane and I have launched yet another new project: Delicate & Destructive. We played at the Sacramento ‘In the Flow’ Jazz festival this past Saturday. 105 degrees in Sacto that day and driving to the afternoon gig in a AC car sans AC, I thought I might melt. The festival featured ‘jazz’ (and the majority of the audience) in a main air conditioned fancy venue and ‘noise/improv’ in a warm, funky record store full of vinyl – quite perfect, really. We went for a completely different feel than any of our previous improvisations and sculpted a sonic build that went from, well, delicate to destructive.

Check out more of Michael Zelner’s pics from the show.

Prehistoric Horse

Prehistoric Horse provokes audiences through spasmodic bursts of snare drum (david grollman), guitar (lucio menegon), cello (valerie kuehne) and occassional unprovoked dramatic outburst. A very intense and dynamic form of improvisational music that sometimes borders on sheer noise and incorporates the absurd. A mashup of Bennink/Nakatani/Frith/Frisell/Bach/Britten/Bi-polar disorder punk rock sounds.
…spasmodic bursts of clatter and skree via cello, drums, and guitar, typically played in ways that would make conventional music teachers shudder in horror.” (Seattle Stranger)


more vids:
Prehistoric Horse YouTube Channel

Fisted Lizard

…played a cool gig last night at the Temescal Arts Center in Oakland. The trio of myself, Morgan Guberman and Pat Spurgeon (spawn of the Ivy Room Hootenany late night jam) have now officially played two gigs. For this second one we actually had a name, Impish Lizard – quickly pointed out as already taken and then appropriately mangled by the second act’s drummer, Jacob as Fisted Lizard – which I rather like.

The first act was John Shiurba and Gino Robair (purportedly in his birthday suit) rattling out some inspired improv as always.

Fisted Lizard followed and because there have been noise complaints from a neighbor who lives in the fancy new condo across the street, we pulled back a bit on the volume but still managed some punch.

We did three pieces, the middle being the most intense with only one moment where you think, ‘shit this is going nowhere’ at the beginning, but patience prevailed, something caught and didn’t let go for a good long while. To set the vibe, we each had a sheet of paper with Thelonius Monk quotes to guide us – two different ones highlighted for each – which was kinda cool.

Up last was the duo of Ava Mendoza and Jacob Felix Heule. Ava is the coolest guitarist and one of best of this style in the Bay area. I always get to steal some tricks from her (thanks Ava!). Jacob is a monstrously powerful drummer – sort of a Ches Smith on steroids. Together they put in a torrid thirty-five minute set of continuous rock/noise improv that worried not about volume. The cops didn’t show up, so it must have been well received…

Experimental Improv Hootenanny & Social Club

The idea behind the monthly Experimental/Improv Hootenanny & Social Club is to foster collaboration and community amongst players and fans of improvisational outside music in a cozy place where people can chill, chat, get a decent cocktail – all with no cover..

Each month consists of one featured act and three curated sets with five minute overlaps creating a seamless night of improvised outside music and spontaneous collaboration.

Rules of the road:

All music is improvised.

The feature act can be an existing group or collaboration.

Curated sets are new collaborations or untried solo experiments. Curators either arrange collaborators beforehand or engage musicians in the room to play with.

After the main sets are over, the stage is open to collaborations until 1am. This has been really fun and sometimes pretty crazy. One late set had a DJ, a guy knocking out demented guitar/vocals, a sax and some drums/noise. I was like some 6am Berlin bar scene from ‘Wings of Desire.’

Third Monday’s of the Month at KingTone’s Ivy Room, in Albany, CA.

Check out the recent East Bay Express Article

Immersion Composition

ICS is an organization of musician/kooks that form mysterious lodges in order to use a very powerful and prolific composition technique known as the twenty song game.

This week’s Oakland East Bay Express features an in depth cover story about The Immersion Composition Society. Check it out, get inspired and start your own lodge!

As a charter member of New Lodge, formed in 2002 (and sort of morphing into IconoLodge in 2005), it has proven quite prolific.

RIP Larry Levine

I love the sound of old records. Especially ones from the 50’s and 60’s – the golden era of open reel tape recording – often utilizing fewer than 8 tracks. Great musicians made the music (usually all together), great producers coaxed and coerced great performances and brilliant engineers made it sound spectacular – using great rooms, great mics and simple recording paths.

One of those great engineers, Larry Levine has passed away. It was he who invented the Wall of Sound with Phil Spector at the venerable Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles on such hits as The Ronettes, Be My Little Baby and the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling. He who recorded Eddie Cochran’s, Summertime Blues, The Beach Boys’, Pet Sounds, Herp Albert’s, A Taste of Honey and even the Ramone’s, End of the Century.