Friday, March 03, 2006

gig 001 - w/Tom Walsh

gig 001

Friday February 24, 2006
@ Café Pazzazz on rue de l’Eglise in Val-David, Quebec

John Sobol – sax and vox
Tom Walsh – trombone and samples (

26 spectators
3 sets of 30 minutes
entirely improvised
no recording & no pictures
& no press
& no cover charge
alcohol sold and consumed
audience noise
wanted and unwanted

a surprised audience in a rural quebec bar on a Friday night
finding tom and I
playing happily way out there as a duo

tom’s crashup mashup sample mayhem maybe made a few folks uneasy
and maybe my weird poetry did the same

but few
if any
were able to resist his ‘bone playing
which is of the finest hew
and I had my own horn too

with far more souls remaining than leaving
to fully sample the night’s varied offerings

I worked entirely in French
For the first time ever
Improvising poems publicly in Quebec in the Quebecois language
For an entire evening
And found it difficult indeed
Despite my fluency

What I lacked was words, a rich enough vocabulary

Mayakovsky said: “Poets! You must fill your pockets, fill your storehouses with words. Words must spill from you!”

Working in French I lacked the ability to spill
Because my wordstore was weak

The best riffs were those I took slow
Paced out
Placed out
Plenty of silence
And space
Dropping phrench phrases over tom’s superior sampled soundscape

tom's approach is hands-on midi-triggering and knob twirling
database management
real-time polyphonic orchestrations
serial serendipity of waveforms
using clips
short and long
remixed and matched
he's a real-time composer working with changing palettes of choice samples
and it's very very cool

When I relaxed
And let my voice out
On the waves of the words I did have
Things began to move

The experience was filled with lessons:

• my riffing in English is enabled by my ability to surf the flow of words without thinking too much about what they mean…and definitely without searching for them but rather letting them come…because one always comes, swimming up from the miasma of meanings into utterance

• my riffing in french is disabled by my inability to surf thusly on an incomplete wordscape…lacking the depth, my French ocean of words tumbles me incessantly into vortexes from which I cannot escape…when I just can’t find a word to say and none comes…it’s the most brutal and banal failure…and I did have a few of those…tho with skill one can always hold on to enough of the moment to at least try to redeem oneself…and usually succeed…but still…the collapse has been witnessed and felt by all…

• surfing is an apt metaphor in light of the walls I encountered while riffing in French…in English I feel that those mental pitfalls are still there but I can ride above them, as in a speaking meditation, but in French my avocabularism drove/dove me into dead ends repeatedly…

• I found poetic respite and succour in story…telling the longest riff of the night as a tale…of a great snow serpent slithering down from the north beneath the blanket of snow lying thick over the country…

• that story ended somewhat weakly, but at least it ended, which is always a strength and a relief…the worst part of the dead end walls that I encountered riffing in French was that my excursions flamed out, which not only denied me the ending power but scuppered the merits of the creative tension that I had built…no ending is much much worse than a bad ending…

• tho still there were some successes with the riff. I just have no idea what they were. I only remember the failures

• a challenging collaboration with the sampler – Tom’s instructions were to pay close attention to the repeating patterns and sample families that would appear and sometimes return… this was sometimes tougher than it sounded...It was like learning how to play an instrument not just jamming with a musician…but I think we still made messy sense of it all

By the way, Tom Walsh is a blast. Literally, figuratively and furiously. Check him out.


Risk Factor: 9.9
Riff Factor: 9.9
Success Factor: Survival
Wild Card: Duke Ellington
Cash Factor: 6.5
Parking Lot: Covered in Snow
Interactivism: 6
Joy: 7
Obliteration: 7


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