in church

a few weeks back i was invited by mr paul may to a session with himself, carolyn hume and charlie beresford. installed in a wee studio at the bottom of carolyn's garden, we generated a couple of hours of improvised music, some of which arrived like fully formed songs. it was good stuff, and the recordings backed that up to the extent that we all got rather excited about it. it felt to everyone involved that we should do more. so last night we did some more, this time in the rather lovely surroundings of St James' church in Weybridge, where paul and carolyn have recorded before. i do rather like churches but have never recorded in one. generally i end up playing in acoustically dead or aesthetically uninspiring places, like most musicians do. and there was something about that church that was sort of unique. it had enough, um, 'churchiness' to give the ambience a certain seriousness and calm yet was kind of welcoming enough to allow us to feel comfortable. and it had a great acoustic - not too cavernous or harsh, but live enough to allow us to exploit the possibilities of the space. man.

as well as singing, playing guitar and providing the odd spot of bamboo mouth organ, charlie is an excellent engineer and we set up pretty quickly, spaced around the choir, altar and pews. it was great to play in such a beautiful acoustic, though our initial positioning meant it was sometimes hard to make out exactly what everyone else was doing. this may have been a plus point as it led to some really poised, delicate stuff. moving closer in allowed us to stretch out a bit. the more we played the more i became aware of what worked in the space, turning the bass away from the mic from time to time to send high bowed squeaks and harmonics towards the back of the church. on the quarter hour, the clock would strike. the bell itself was pretty much inaudible but the muffled rumbles, thumps and strikes of the mechanism could be heard from the tower. as it struck twelve, we were recording a spacious, percussive improv, punctuated by dark piano rumblings. it felt like a special moment.

while we were setting up i took the opportunity to shoot a bit of footage of carolyn and paul warming up. also included is a brief snatch of us exploring the musical possibilities of the humble jam jar lid (another paul may innovation).

charlie will be mixing and editing soon, and i can't wait to hear the results. some of it felt pretty magical, and i think we covered a lot of ground. again, there were things that felt like songs; at other times it was more like morton feldman or one of paul bley's early trios. etc. etc.

note that paul's pose here is a homage to the cover of frank sinatra's nice 'n' easy, while the rest of us are attempting to look like sensitive artists. as charlie noted, we do not look like the kind of people you'd invite to tea.


Colin said...

Lovely. Shame no sound from you in the video - what do you mean you can't operate a video camera, walk around AND play the bass?

Dare I say a touch of Budd there at times too?

Peter said...

i'm working on it!

yes, i know what you mean about the budd. especially when i'm somehow obscuring the mic so it goes all distant and muffled...

Lucy said...

Nice film... really nice. Good photo too. I would invite some of you to tea.

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