Saturday, February 14, 2009

Another Umbrella in Paris: note on process

I was poring through recent notebooks yesterday, looking for some contact information, when I came upon what can be an odd, sad, even disturbing thing: a letter never sent.

This one actually seems like a happy little document and possibly still worth sending, slightly more than a year after I wrote it. I'll transcribe it here because it betrays nothing personal, while offering a glimpse into the compositional process of Poetry Scores.

I was writing to Richard Derrick, of San Pedro, California. He was roommates with d. boon of The Minutemen before d. boon was killed in a van wreck, and he is sitting on a vast personal archive of what I call post-progressive music from Southern California.

Richard's project Middle Sleep has appeared on our last two scores and will appear on the next one. He also has sent me 50 (!) discs of another project, Another Umbrella. As this letter to Richard makes clear, I will be finding a lot of uses for this music in years and scores to come.


On the plane home to St. Louis from Paris, listening to a smattering of Another Umbrella tracks that I culled from the first 20 discs. At the moment I am listening to a song that made it into a folder I named "Longform Variations I" - these are longer (often multi-track) excursions that seemed promising but didn't immediately volunteer for duty on any of the many projects I have in my head.

I grabbed a handful of the discs I had made from my sorted folders for this journey, and they have been my only musical companions. That's why I am writing, really. I thought you'd get a kick out of knowing that these old improvisations and compositions of yours were being piped into my eardrums as I strolled through the Cathedral of Notre Dame, The Louvre, along the Seine and, during a visit to London, through the British Museum and all up and down those city streets.

I solidified a number of ideas for using some of this glorious stuff on the poetry score for 2008, The Sydney Highrise Variations. Another batch of tracks was judged to be of themselves a usable score for the poem we may do in 2009, Give by Alice Fulton. I sorted that out one afternoon drinking a chocolat at the Brasserie de Isle de St. Louis in the middle of the Seine.

ANYWAY, I thought all of this might amuse and perhaps encourage.
I am amused myself by how much I got wrong - we decided not to do a score in 2008, pushing Sydney back to 2009, and good old Alice Fulton stands much further back in line than I was imagining when writing this letter, no doubt enthused over what was sounding like a finished score (just add poetry).

I was right that one of these Another Umbrella tracks would work its way onto The Sydney Highrise Variations score, track 6 on disc 12. Richard recorded it himself on multiple guitar tracks on May 1, 1988, titling it "Rolling Hills" after the town in Los Angeles County where he was recording.

A handshake deal allows Poetry Scores to make free use of Richard's material and provisionally retitle it for our purposes, so long as proper credit is given. Here is "Rolling Hills" and a very rough sketch of the use we are making of it in the score.

Free mp3s

"Rolling Hills"
(Richard Derrick)
Another Umbrella

(Richard Derrick, Chris King, Les Murray)
Three Fried Men w/ Another Umbrella

That's me, Robert Goetz and Dave Melson on vocals. Tim McAvin has since added vocals and a smoking cymbals track, though I think this earlier rough mix has a better feel. We still need to add Heidi Dean on vocals as well.

This ten-minute track scores all of two lines of Les' poem!
Enormous. England's buried gulag.
The stacked entrepot, great city of the Australians.
By the way, the Another Umbrella record that sounded like a finished score for Alice Fulton's poem Give, when I was enjoying that chocolat at the Brasserie de Isle de St. Louis in the middle of the Seine has since been released by Richard on his Box-o-Plenty imprint. The album name is Transition, and it's one of eleven Another Umbrella records available for digital download on his site. As someone who has heard them all, I recommend them all.


"Paris Umbrella" photo from somebody's Flickr site.

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