lucio menegon | music•noise•art

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.

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…

A Reverend, A Phantom and A Junkie

Reverend Screaming Fingers and Phantom Drummer

Reverend Screaming Fingers
& Phantom Drummer (Pat Spurgeon)

Composed and improvised instrumental music to juxtaposed found slide images and 16mm film prepared by San Francisco filmmaker Thad Povey.

The music – based around the electric guitar and drums and incorporating keyboards, loops and other devices – consisted of composed and structured improvisational pieces cued by film projections.

For our 15 date US tour in 2001, we setup facing each other with the projection screen between and slightly behind us. This enabled interaction with each other, the projections and the audience.

The overall effect was stunning – with no two shows the same. Musically, we were able to stretch out and explore our compositions and really try some cool stuff with the improv parts. The effect and importance of Thad’s visuals can’t be overemphasized – wild splashes of color from prepared film, flames, disasters, racecars, absurdities of the human psyche – they all came together to create some incredible synergistic moments from show to show.