Saturday, October 29, 2011

October Poltergeists 2010

Huge storm clouds over the Jemez Mountains, from the scenic balcony of the Motel 6 in Santa Fe, last October.

Finally, the air cools in the 10th month. Everyone in the Phoenix area starts doing things again. Summer here is analogous to winter elsewhere. The desolate aspects of everyone indoors, the streets empty. Emphasized in Maple/Ash by the vast reduction in yahoo college undergrads. Come to think of it, that's a good name for the local Education Factory. Yahoo College. Yahuniversity. Anyway, by October, it's bumping around here.

Last year's High Mayhem Emerging Arts fall event, The Fall Series, had me up to Santa Fe to perform a 45 minute drum set piece I called Poltergeist. (This year's Fall Series kicks off this weekend, and is highly recommended). I was originally inspired by the monstrously talented Frank Rosaly, who blazed through Phoenix 2 years ago and performed a glorious solo set at Modified Arts, reminding me of the great power of solo improvised percussion. I had somehow forgotten.

Poltergeist was intended to capture a few different themes. One is the mystical concept that inanimate objects have souls or voices, and that in striking them, sounding them, those spirits are liberated and freed. I was meditating on the voice of the drums in this way for a while, playing solo in my living room. It occurred to me that there is also a great storytelling tradition in drumming. Griots, of course, but also just the whole way rhythmic phrasing has a narrative arc. I wanted to tell some story about a spirit who had been wronged and who was returning to file an official grievance. Then I encountered this tale:

"The Ghostly Drummer of Tedworth was a case of suspected poltergeist activity. In the early 1660s John Mompesson of Wiltshire began to hear strange noises in his home. There was the sound of a drum beating, as well as scratching and panting noises. Objects seemed to move of their own accord in the house, and sometimes a strange sulphureous smell lingered in the air.

Mompesson believed that a man he had helped send to jail, a drummer named William Drury, had, through some form of witchcraft, caused a malevolent spirit to invade his home. The case attracted interest throughout England, and many people came to witness the spirit for themselves. However, when the King sent two representatives to investigate the haunting, they found no evidence of supernatural activity."

So the whole thing naturally fell together from there. I am still hoping to get the multitrack recording of that solo. I think it went well.

Some photos from that trip, and then last year's trip up to the ranch near Ocate, a trip I made the week after the Fall Series gig.

Carlos Santistevan and Milton Villarrubia III of Ink on Paper:

Me channeling aggrieved spirits:

I do remember when I was done, someone in the front row of the very small audience whispered "holy fuck!" So I guess it was fairly intense. Or he was outraged.

Some photos from the beautiful, historical town of Las Vegas, New Mexico and the ranch trip last October:

The poker table, scene of many a heartbreak:

Some of the cactus sights from near Ocate and then a stop on the way back to Phoenix in a little town in New Mexico called Corona, featuring some very fine Echinocereus triglochidiatus.

At the crossroads in Ocate, precisely the kind of building I love seeing. It tells its own stories, aggrieved or not.

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