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.

A Crimson Grail redux

After deciding earlier in the year not to be a part of the redux for Rhys Chatham’s A Crimson Grail for 200 guitars at Lincoln Center (was to be on tour and not in NYC), a change in plans and a last minute cancellation allowed me to see this adventure through from last year’s rained out disappointment.

Because of a Prehistoric Horse gig on Wednesday night, I was unable to make the first rehearsal and was hence relegated to repeating last years rather boring Alto 1 part (they are all pretty minimalist easy, but the Alto 1 is particularly so). Rehearsals on Thursday and Friday were very good and I will echo the sentiments of other 2008 veterans that the changes made to the score and group organization/planning were a big improvement. Fridays full rehearsal in the FIT Hall was really stunning and perhaps the peak of the experience. The enclosed environment and excellent acoustics brought out incredible overtones – at times it sounded as if it were hundreds of human voices chanting rather than guitars chiming, interspersed with moments of delicious, wall-shaking volume. Very pretty, yet very powerful. May I present this recording of a section of Part II at Friday’s rehearsal as evidence?

A Crimson Grail Pt II (partial)

Unfortunately, I found the actual performance to be a bit lacking in comparison. The execution did not seem as tight and the open air reduced the resonances that were present at Friday’s rehearsal. The effect was still large, the crowd certainly loved it (standing O) and it is always exhilarating to be appreciated by thousands of people! Couldn’t stick around for Liquid Liquid and the after party though as orchestra colleague, Scrote and I needed to rush off to a gallery gig in Queens right after the piece (more on that in the next blog entry). Overall it was a worthwhile experience – despite the amount of time required and the sometimes over-simplistic direction. But heck, got to play at Lincoln Center, make some connections and hang with some really cool people. Well, that’s alright, mama.