New Adventures In Rolling Dice

First of all I am here to share a piece of music I recorded four years ago, and finished mixing two years ago. Since then I’ve done nothing with it. Kind of like this blog.

A few days ago, after being instructed to play my music tracks at random, my iPhone offered up “New Adventures” as a random courtesy. I listened and thought, “I still like this. I should share.”

Here it is.

Go on and hit play. You can let it run in the background. There are no words till near the end, and those words don’t really mean anything. Plus, the darn thing’s about fifty minutes long and you don’t want to be tied to your computer or anywhere else for that long.

There are at least 8 distinctly different sections to this music. So remember that it’s like that old weather cliché:  If you don’t like what’s happening now, stick around — it’ll change.

I’ve labeled “New Adventures” as “ambient”, but in truth, it is a little more obtrusive than most ambient music. It wasn’t written for airports. In fact, it wasn’t written at all….

Sometime early in 2011 two members of Opera, myself and Chris Stewart, sat in a basement playing with smart phone apps, effects pedals, keyboards and guitars. When we came up for air, we’d recorded three hours of improvised music. Months later I listened to the sound files and was amazed. The first hour was typical — it had moments of interest but nothing I’d want to make you listen to. But the next two hours obsessed me. I sculpted the second hour into “Adventures”, which you can find on the Operaband Soundcloud page. The third hour produced “New Adventures”.

It was a good night. We should always celebrate good nights.

The titles “Adventures” and “New Adventures” are stolen from two classic bits of avant-garde weirdness composed by György Ligeti in the early sixties. What we did sounds nothing like what he composed and we are not fit even to lick his boots, but still…props.

It’s important to me pay tribute Ligeti because of the way he pulled me into the rabbit hole of the twentieth century avant-garde. Like most people, I was introduced to his music by the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. The 4th album I ever bought was the soundtrack to that film — I was 12 or 13 — and I listened to it constantly. At first the Ligeti compositions bewildered me. Then I was hypnotized. Then I found another Ligeti album — one that had “Adventures” and “New Adventures” — and I was bewildered all over again. But I kept listening, and as I grew into your basic college age weirdo I began to combine Ligeti’s strange vocal drama with a smattering of Samuel Beckett, a dash of Dada, and a shakerful of surrealism…and it all started to make perfect (non)sense to me. From there I tumbled into the worlds of Luciano Berio, Morton Subotnick, and John Cage.

Ah, Cage! Cage and his crazy chance music! It’s like Forrest Gump’s box o’ chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. But Cage’s books and his famous Indeterminacy lecture opened me up to experiencing music and art in the present tense. I began to enjoy happy accidents.

The “New Adventures” night was full of happy accidents. Chris would open some iPad music app he barely knew how to use and run it through a bank of effects. I’d respond by picking random keyboard sounds and effects patches and using whatever noise they produced to respond to Chris’s sounds. Feedback occurred. Echos became loops. And even though I can’t really play organ or piano or any other kind of keyboard, I was still happy to open some strange iPhone app and play it with one hand while producing random keyboard drones with the other. If I’d had to think about what I was doing, it would have been impossible. But when I just did it, it somehow all came together. Happily.

Lately I’ve been rolling dice to direct my creative life. With two children and a forty hour work week, I don’t have a lot of time to plunge deeply into any particular project, and different mediums give me different pleasures. So I’ve committed to rolling a die and trying to accomplish something dictated by the resulting number.

If I roll “one”, I do mixing and editing on one of the many audio recordings produced by the various bands I’ve been in over the years.

If roll “two” I try to make sure that I do something that I might be able to use at the next Opera rehearsal.

If I roll “three” I’ve got to abandon creativity and make sure the checkbook is balanced.

“Four” means I gotta get a post ready for this blog. I’ve been rolling the dice for about two months now and have been amazed how rarely “four” appears, so I’m not rolling again until this post goes up.

“Five” calls for transcription, entering interesting notes, stories and lyrics from old notebooks into a computer. I’ve gotten some new Opera songs from that material, and I’m hoping that one of my big abandoned projects from the past may catch fire again.

“Six” is video editing. If you watched the “pagan” wedding video I posted last year, you know how obsessive I can be with that.

I’m not dogmatic about following the dice. If taxes are due, I’ll be doing finances no matter what number comes up.

Dividing my attention like this means I won’t produce anything fast. But it also keeps me from being overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I want to do. And it gives me a daily micro-goal, something that lets me go to sleep feeling like I’ve accomplished something.

And maybe, just maybe, it will allow another new surprise to come in. Another inspiration. A happy accident.

Well, you’re reading this, which means I got it posted. Time to roll again.

It’s a “two”. Sounds about right. Opera’s next rehearsal is tomorrow and I gotta get ready.

See you at the next “four”.




3 thoughts on “New Adventures In Rolling Dice

  1. The die rolling sounds like an excellent plan when one is overwhelmed. I used to use a coin, decades ago, when there was a Y/N choice to be made (usually small things, but not always) and I couldn’t decide. Usually choices were clear; sometimes not. So I label one heads and the other tails, toss a coin, and see. The rush of pleasure or drop of disappointment when it came down heads or tails was always a clear signal of what I really wanted. So I chose based on the feeling. If I had no feeling one way or the other, I followed the heads/tails result. It saved so much agonising!

    But where in your list is prose?

    • The prose is slithering between the blog and the transcription options right now. The thing I’m transcribing right now is an old project that is currently intriguing me enough that I kinda wanna keep going beyond the point where I petered out last time. And as for the blog, well, the next post will probably be a description of an absurd artificial world that I finally committed to paper last December. If it intrigues any one else then I may back myself into a corner where I have to write more about it. Then I may have to revise the dice list.

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