Alessandro Bruno’s words on The OCG X Peformance Project

Date or timeframe: 13-10-2014 / 21-10-2014
City: Lunlunta
Country: Argentina
Category(-ies): / /

A brief note:

I deliberately avoided to report about all the course activity which was not Orchestra related; this by no means implies that those non-reported activities might be or considered to be less relevant, there have been in fact remarkable things going on with the beginners, in the kitchen, and so on; maybe someone will make a report of the course as such, but I had to make a choice. So here we are:

Lunlunta, – Monday October. The 13th 2014

At dinner Hernan called a meeting for the beginners with George (AT), and a meeting for the OCG with Horacio, both at 22:30; and that even before the inaugural meeting which will take place tomorrow after breakfast.

So the first Orchestra rehearsal was a touching base kind of thing: three concentric circles all of which were slightly open on the line straight from the ballroom entrance so that the players would be able to get in smoothly, choose the circle and walk clockwise to the empty chair of their choice; Only one guy took his right and walked anticlockwise: lucky him because there were no accidents. Horacio was leading the outer circle, Luciano the middle one, and Fernando the inner with only three players in it, in fact there were empty chairs here and there in all the circles.

We began by circulating any note, pretty straight forward, as I said, it was a bit like: let’s check some basic Orchestra numbers and see where we are… I was in the middle circle with an empty chair on my left followed by Claudio, therefore the guys on my back (The outer circle) were often louder than Claudio so extra care was needed especially when he was passing me the note etc.

After that we went into some non-structured kind of improv and there were moments when the quality of listening was such that potentially some real music could emerge, and so it did at moments.

Third segment Horacio called the Procession chords and we began with the classic arpeggios followed by all sort of different circulations (single notes, chords, arpeggios etc.).

We completed at 23:15.

Lunlunta – Tuesday October the 14th, 2014

The only Orchestra related activity today was the House of Guitars after dinner, at 22:00: everybody was there, including the beginners; two concentric circles with no gaps this time. After R. signal we began: first piece was based on circulations, of many different types, with few remarkable moments and attempts to do, for instance, inner circle circulating on the upbeat of the outer circle circulation. Then, in a particularly intense and vigorous moment, a chair broke and the guy who was sitting on it just fell with his ass on the floor, making a big noise; we all stopped and R. helped him to get a new double chair. We then have been invited to begin again, again: this one began with creepy noises and effects, followed by some fast-almost-whizz circulations, then earthquake fast strumming. At this point R. asked first the inner circle to stand up, rotate 45 degrees on the right and walking skipping five chairs to eventually sit down again; then the outer circle to do the same but turning left and skip seven chairs. He then asked the inner circle to begin playing, which they did, with some abstract indefinable unfolding of sounds which then turned into few different circulations, including a silent fast circulation which slowed down until it stopped. Then time was for the outer circle to play, and that was different, although again circulating, the sounds were funny and very different from each other. After a while some elements of the inner circle joined in and after a while the whole team was playing, building up the intensity up to again some earthquake fast strumming which this time turned into something more rhythmical, until it naturally faded out. At this point R. called “Free dispersal from the Circles”.

Lunlunta – Wednesday October the 15th, 2014

Some manoeuvres begin to take place today with little groups meeting here and there to check possible repertoire pieces for the performance, although the main focus is still on the beginners activity.

Again at dinner we agreed for a House Of Guitars first, then the beginners and the Orchestra would have split to work separately. So HOG at 22:00: I was probably already tired so it felt a bit predictable this time, with lots of creepy note/effects, circulations (fast or slow), then few times we fell into the never ending strumming, which was, I found, wisely interrupted with a piano-crash-chord. After that R. asked us to form one big circle, he strategically positioned vicious women in the key spot in the circle, and then we whizzed!

Later an Orchestra meeting was called to have a look at some big ensemble pieces (TEOTN and Asturias) and some C Major circulation. We then called it a night.

Lunlunta – Thursday October the 16th, 2014

I’ve been invited to join the Rosario team to play a new piece from Luis Cagnolo, called Marathon; I did my best to learn the part, then we performed it for lunch: still a bit shy, but, once we’ll get some confidence, it’s another Cagnolo piece, a lot of fun!

At dinner R. announced a meeting just with the beginners, so the OCG had a chance to get together at 22:00. But just before that, the Mescal Rite team could get together to pass parts to new players, so far we should be: Al, Folkert, Pierre, Martin, Fernando, Claudio, and Luciano: we’re not ready yet but we’ll be soon.

With the OCG we got more definition with the sitting positions and partly with the numbers we might have to use during the performance next Sunday; the meeting lasted one hour.

Lunlunta – Friday October the 17th, 2014

Being the last day of the intro course, the focus was on their performance and therefore no OCG action as such, except for a test we did at 10:00 in the patio where people was assigned either for the inner or outer circle, and we rehearsed coming in and out simulating being in the venue, we also circulating with clapping. But we did work on repertoire pieces for the performance on Sunday although this is not strictly related to the orchestra work; I’ve been invited to play with the top players Schizoid Man, Blockhead and The Whip, making me feel both proud and inadequate at the same time. We also refined Red and played it for tea, a very big ensemble, but it worked pretty well.

Lunlunta – Saturday October the 18th, 2014

Today was the day of the dress rehearsal, but before that there was quite some things happening: performances at lunch, Marathon, Mescal Rite, and Red, then as an encore we played also The Whip.

In the afternoon the team for “The Tower Of Babel” rehearsed in the dining room; we have: Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, English and Spanish. Being the venue a circular theatre (round stage surrounded by concentric circles for the audience) we thought to form a circle and then in turns we walked around making the announcement, then again in the circle for the Tower Of Babel. It was ok, although I feel that a simple but clear contact with the audience should be our priority, on choreography and even on the text…

Some more small group work on pieces. We then went through the whole thing, the stage was set in the patio, we used the dining room as our green room and rehearse processing in and out, we played through the material with Horacio calling out the pieces; some hesitation in the calls plus still some lack of clarity about the movements we have to do when the call comes for a small group, have been the main source of discussion afterwards, together with the interaction between the two circles during the extemporisations, where great use was done of the new “magic chord”  Robert showed us the day before; it’s a lighter sounding one, as it uses only the four top strings, but it always sounds good, in any position of the fret board and in any time division, even in four four, he said more or less.. Full group pieces were hot, and, in my view, there was some very good stuff in the improvs as well. We’ll see tomorrow.

Lunlunta – Sunday October the 19th, 2014

OCG meeting at 10:00 in the ballroom, R. was overviewing, we went briefly through the set (the set list has been adjusted and fixed) playing only few initial bars of each piece, he made clear once for all the procedure: processing in, Horacio cueing the end of the procession, the release of the left hand, and the sitting. Then R. calls the first extemporisation (he sit on the outer edge of the outer circle so that he can lean in to contribute only if and when needed), then the first piece is Red, the players stand up, led by Claudio who’s then responsible for the hand release and the sitting, followed by the Family Trio ( Claudio, Horacio and his son Marco) they collected in the centre, then it was time for the Cordova Circle led by Luis Cagnolo. Second extemporisation, followed by the Mendoza Circle with Andrés Ceccarrelli leading, Then Lucho, Martin and Ferni (in the centre) for their rendition of a Los Gauchos Alemanes’ hit; third piece by The Mescaleros with Folkert leading. Again everybody sit for a third extemporisation. Finally Robert calls the Orchestra for standing and playing TEOTN which In this case was played through revealing quite few bummers, followed by Asturias. At this point we’ll leave to possibly come back for a whizz, out again, then a possible second encore: Schizoid Man.

At lunch R. suggested to strike a bell every fifteen minutes for a coral 60 points exercise for the whole duration of the journey outside the house except for the performance, in order to keep us together while in the mist of dispersion and chaos; then a brief meeting was called for the lead players in TEOTN to check it out.

The trip to the venue had to be rescheduled due to a delay of the bus, but other than that, it was quite smooth. Although it is just the beginning of spring it’s incredibly hot here. The venue is a cathedral in the desert: a modern mall made out of concrete with inner labyrinths, a sort of multi-event place with lots of guards standing at any corner with their walky-talky. Very dispersive. We’ve been taken to our green room, a bit too small but another room was provided somewhere else so few of us moved there. The sound check was mostly our chance to check how to walk in and out, small groups calls and so on. Some very good food was provided (empanadas, pies etc.) leaving enough time to digest it before the show.

The Performance.

Back to the green room to get dress and ready, at 20:45 we were all in quiet mode ready to go; at 21:10 the Tower of Babel was called, we left our guitars to our pals standing next to each of us, encircled briefly outside the green room, and walked on stage. First step entering the stage acknowledged. After the rehearsal in the house we decided to make some adjustments to make our number slightly briefer and smoother. If this was to be considered a beginning, then I think we had a good beginning. Big applause as we walked out, back straight in the green room, into the Circe grabbing our guitar on the fly (except for Valentina and George who were in the support team).

Two more recommendations from Robert: Intention and presence in our first step onto stage and in our first note, so that in the moment we die we can clearly remember that note, or something like that. Then we raised our fists from the floor to the ceiling while shouting, and we snaked out following Mariana in the procession. She walked around the big circle, then Marisol made a turn into the inner circle leading the last part of the snake into it. 18 inside, 29 outside, plus Robert: 48 players on stage all in all. Once in place, Horacio gave us cues for chords of the procession type, then the hold, and then we sat all together.

“Orchestra Of Crafty Guitarists, when ready please begin”; I was just about to hit my first note, the one I’d remember even on my last breath, when a choir of scratched picks was growing louder, my mind got confused for a moment, then I did it: I scratched one side of my pick over the two lower strings, close to the hole and for about two inches, loud clean and intentional.

As we all wished for, the outer circle got more brave while the inner one would even stop at times to let the outer to take over; the result was something far more balanced than it used to be.

Robert: “ok, you’re doing this arty stuff, that’s fine, but can you play some KC tunes?

So the Red team stood up following Claudio’s cue, almost the whole of the inner circle plus quite few of the outer; it was contained and sharp at the same time, no bummers as far as I can tell, but more than anything else, it had quality. We sat down after the applause which came only after the release of the left hand led by Claudio. Next piece was the trio piece by Claudio, Horacio and his son Marco, called “Yo Vengo A Ofrecían My Corazón”, they got to the centre and performed a passionate re-interpretation of a traditional, playing with mastery: a hit; not even the disco noise coming from somewhere next door could have any impact on that remarkable event. They moved back to their seats moving clockwise.

So now it was time for the Cordova & Rosario people, they stood and stayed on their place (as for Red), players here and there both in the inner and outer circle; they played a song by Luis called “Retrete”, a very light and joyful piece, most of the lead section was coming from my back-right so couldn’t see them but the sound was graceful and they played with confidence. Hold, release, applause, sit down, following Luis.

Extemporisation 2: improvement in the circulations flow, specially in the outer circle; quite some of us made use of the new “magic chord” Robert showed us during one of the rehearsals in the house. Eventually we got into silent circulation, culminating with silent chords: the effect was very dramatic, for me it was also very meaningful.

Back to written pieces, this was the time for the Mendoza Circle plus guests led by Andrés, they played Neal And Jack And Me; this Argentinian version has a lighter touch compared with the European one, probably because of the way the bass part was played: very good indeed. As that team sat down, Fernando, Martin and Luciano (covering Hernan’s part in the Gauchos), collected in the middle for yet another rendition of Voices Of Ancient Children, a piece which has the power to move the audience throughout the years: amazing. They spiralled back to their seats and the Mescaleros rose to play Mescal Rite: Volkert, Fernando, Luciano, Martin, Claudio, myself, and Pierre who was the only one from the outer circle: I have a good feeling about our performance, and the singing was loud and proud, just like the applause.

We sat down to let the third and last extemporisation to take place.

This was the most “abstract” of the three, and Robert led us to some extravagant numbers, like speaking into the guitar hole, looking inside the guitar through the hole as if we just noticed something really weird in it, and finally snapping the pick with the second finger while holding it with the first and the thumb: not a big noise if one person is doing it, but 48 in a very quiet and collected auditorium…

This was again well received and, as the applause was fading out, Robert: “Orchestra Of Crafty Guitarists please stand”- pause – “The Eye Of The Needle”. Andrés brought it in with his usual confidence and the piece unfolded with the grace it demands and deserves. Almost no gap except for the applause, and Asturias was called and played at “andante” pace but with no harsh. The hold was quite dramatic throughout all the pieces, but this one was even longer, plus with a “let it ring” rather than dumping the strings, and while the applause was still on, we begin our procession out arpeggiating our chords; during all the time it took to snake off the audience showed their appreciation, and as the last player (Robert) stepped out the stage, they begun to scream for more. We walked back in, this time in one big circle behind the chairs of the outer circle; Robert walked in the centre and gave us the call: “Orchestra Of Crafty Guitarists, when you are ready, please, whizz until the world becomes a place where we wish to live”. Vicious Queen Mariana, after a longish collecting pause, begun to send bullets of sound in the form of classic magic chord hit with virulence and kept quite short, as the rounds were summing up the speed increased dramatically, but it didn’t really take off; so she stopped and then begun again. This time, after few rounds, it became a real whizz, as it never happened during the past week, and we stayed with it for a while, then three chords in the piano-down-the-staircase-fashion, the hold, and then Mariana led us out.

Encircling again in the green room, the Schizoid Boys were ready to go for a second encore but Hernan came in saying that was it. We collected for a while in silence, then we took our fists from the sky to the ground with a liberating ooohhhhhhh.

We stayed there for a while more to let practicalities and socializing happen, then we got into the bus heading home.

Lunlunta – Monday October the 20th, 2014

As tradition goes, at breakfast Robert made a call for comments, observations, points of seeing, related to the performance; here some extrapolations, summarizations, resumptions (in the hope that I managed to keep at least the spirit) of what has been said:

1 – I was anxious throughout the whole week, the only reference I had was the OCG IX in Seattle, and it felt like very different to me, the opposite I’d say, and I didn’t like it, I could see many limitations and I felt trapped; that’s why, as the performance was unfolding, I almost couldn’t believe it, I was surprised…

  1. – Say it in one word.

1 – Love

  1. – I thought “expectation”.

1 – From expectation to love, then.

2 – I had the feeling that we entered a community which was capable to listen; I mean the audience was really open and available.

  1. – If Chris gives us a report we’ll then have all the gringos…

3 – The proofs that people here is committed to inner work are just these comments. Similarly last night, not only the pieces were impeccable, but the performance revealed to me what Music really is.

3 – It has been my first experience with the OCG, for me it was very hard to avoid to fall into audience mode when small groups where performing, almost couldn’t resist to the impulse to applaud. I’d really like to thank the BA Circle without which I wouldn’t be here.

4 – The awareness of being one thing has always been with us. From the green room onwards we managed to keep it together. Normally there would be dispersion, but with the 60 Point Exercise we could do it. At least 6 times when the bell rung I was drifting away and it helped me to collect myself back again.

  1. – Very few professional musician aim to work at our standard, incredibly good players walk on stage and simply are not there.

5 – It was clearly visible that you moved as a group, and that was particularly evident during the extemporizations.

6 – While I was playing I always found myself involved with the thinking and couldn’t experience joy, and I realized that thinking was in the way, then, when joy comes, it’s healing.

7 – The moment we walked on stage I felt that everything was all right and that there was no danger.

8 – I was the last in the outer circle, so I had the chance to observe what was going on: during most of the rehearsals the outer circle was mostly sleeping, but during the performance something changed, for instance the Joker (as Robert defined himself in his own role due to his strategic position on the edge of the outer circle) was more active… Anyway I had difficulties, I felt like I had to accelerate the circulations, and I was asking myself how could I ask the others to wake up. The group was very heterogeneous, many of us had very little experience, so maybe, I thought,  the more experienced once could help; then I realized that most of them where in the inner circle…

  1. – Question: Here we are, how can we help the others to be present? A technical question.

9 – By trying to be present.

  1. – To try is to fail. How can we remind ourselves to be present? A pointed stick: an element of discomfort we deliberately place there to keep us awake, but sometimes that’s not enough. We then expose ourselves to public ridicule, which for me was to play in front of the Cordoba Circle…

10 – I think we made an extra effort, that’s why it worked. During TEOTN I was present but couldn’t avoid a light click coming out of my guitar… In the beginning I was concerned with the dispersion of the place, but then, as Folkert was saying, we managed to keep it together.

  1. – More coffee? (here we had a break)

10 – I can’t really understand why the circulations in the outer circle didn’t get through quite few times, I thought that the visual contact was problematic, so I deliberately began to send good wishes together with the note…

  1. – “Hey, asshole! I love you!”. I was at the other end and I could see the notes going to the right and never arriving from the left. Why? Were always the same people cutting the flow? And why would they do that?

11 – I was in the inner circle. In my experience the OCG always brought together the struggle between what I expect to happen and what actually happens, so maybe a similar feeling drove some of us who were expecting something different from a circulation in that moment…

12 – We’d need far more experience, in the outer circle most of us didn’t have the capacity to respond in the moment.

  1. – The level of experience of many of us in the team was probably the lowest in the OCG history, but how would such a thing stop the circulation?

13 – The spatial condition of the two concentric circles brings its inherent difficulties: while in the inner circle you can see the circulation moving from its beginning and you can keep an overview of the circle which in turn helps you to maintain a sense of what’s going on, the inner circle simply doesn’t.

10 – I agree, for the outer circle it’s far more difficult to have a visual sense of the whole, but you can still see six-eight people on both sides and the note was often going at a slow pace, so I’m not sure if that, or the lack of experience factor, are the real reasons why the notes I was sending often didn’t make it to come back to me…

14 – Aural contact was difficult due to the acoustic of the venue; we needed a visual contact which was difficult as well…

15 – I do think it’s a question of experience. I was attentive enough, close enough to Mariana, only thing lacking was the prompting to respond in the moment.

16 – In order to circulate you need to be able to. You can play guitar very well and yet you can’t circulate…

  1. – I resume: we need more time to learn to circulate. This will eventually lead us to the “Guitarist Inside”; we’ll have a session in the afternoon.

1 – “Guitarist Inside”, who’s this meeting for?

  1. – It’s for all the guitarists who have an inside, which I guess includes you, Joe.

17 – Whatever happened with the outer circle they took us by surprise; in the inner circle we were going, let’s say, more with the repertoire.

18 – The outer circle was hot.

19 – The third extemporization was the highlight: the playing was spontaneous and natural; maybe the inner circle then was a bit more predictable.

20 – They were playing in 4/4

21 – It was easier to pass noises than notes. Maybe we’re all potential drummers…

22 – The level and quality of the help I perceived from the audience was remarkable, I felt as they were hands binding and supporting us.

23 – I was part of the Tower Of Babel, didn’t have any previous experience and I had to deal with high heel shoes so tension was taking over; then, while going up the staircase, I could see the audience and sense their goodwill. Again, when it was my time to walk around talking, I could meet members of the audience’s eyes and feel their benevolence. Even when you guys walked on stage, I was outside and could still perceive the audience support.

24 – My task was to open the way for the snake from the green room to the stage through the land of dispersion, I felt tension and uncertainty and kept feeling that way even when you were there playing for a while, then I could see Mariana having a flicker, and everything changed.

25 – There was a high level of unity throughout the whole performance. Also, once again I realized how easy is to forget: during the longish walk from the green room to the stage I was concentrated on my first step into the performance space, then, as I approached the first step, probably due to adrenaline raising, I completely forgot about it, but fortunately we had the double choice of the first step at the beginning of the staircase and the last one, so when I stepped onto stage I was there.

26 – I’d like to thank George for being in the right place at the right time; I was part of the support team and any time an emergency would raise he was there, I also had the privilege to experience the importance of the support team. Security was covered by the local management and there was some photos activity specially in the beginning; I was all the way up, next to one of the accesses into the venue, and for a while there has been some action: people getting in and out, noise, distraction; then, more or less when the second extemporization took place, something changed and the whole theatre got collected and intimate, music was no longer loud, soft, fast or slow, it was just what it was meant to be, it was intentional. I believe in that moment I saw a purpose, I saw the OCG as a seed for a change to come.

27 – The OCG for me is like a whole being, so maybe inner and outer circle are just like limbs, then it also has a soul. A friend of mine is a professional skier and he used to tell me that the key to a successful performance is the very first jump, if you can get that right all the rest will follow. So that was my feeling when I brought in Red, and there it was: a good beginning.

28 – Thinking about architecture and buildings: we know that shapes and structures have an influence on the activity taking place inside the space. It became very clear last night that the shape of the venue and the way it was built were on our side, even when we circulated silence; up to the point after Asturias that the sense of communion between all of us and between us and the audience was really strong. Music was strong last night, and it prevailed even over the Argentinian burocracy!

  1. – More comments from rank and files?

28 – I’ve been concerned all the time with the weakness of the outer circle with the circulations; after the dress rehearsal I got quite disappointed: we didn’t have any confidence. Then in the venue we rehearsed the whizz and somehow I stopped thinking as a single person and began to think as part of a group.

29 – To play with the OCG has been my aim for months, that’s why I’ve been working both with the functional and inner aspects of it, and from Wednesday onwards I began to lose my certainties; then the dress rehearsal had such an impact on me that afterwards I couldn’t sleep. I made my best to regain the balance I used to have, and Luciano helped me a lot to get in shape to face what I consider an extraordinary experience: I could see inside me and, at the same time, what was going on around me. I was one more note in the OCG.

  1. – It’s 09:50, shall we stretch our legs and come back at 10:10? (another break).
  2. – I ask for a comment by the Principal.

Horacio – I think there was a shift, like from minor to major. The outer circle had more space, while the inner one was depending a bit too much on me, but in general we worked better as a group.

  1. – And our director?

Hernan – Already with the Tower Of Babel you could tell how good it was: it has been a performance per se which prepared the ground for what was going to come.

Horacio – I failed to attend the TOB rehearsal in the dining room this time…

Hernan – The support team has been very good despite the conditions: Jorge’s constant support, Lucho multitasking, then Valentina, George etc.; it would have been impossible without our training.

  1. – Although this was the less experienced OCG, the performance has been by no means less good than any other. Now let’s have comments about the whole week…

Now my unspoken comment about the performance (I was too busy to take notes during the meeting):

We received help; the best way I can describe it’s as if it was something falling from above in the form of snow or, better, manna. The moment I saw this we were already covered by it, so Help was there from before I noticed it. It would pervade all and everything in the venue with a thick layer of Grace, and I was part of this Grace so no harm was possible. Now I know that such a state wouldn’t be at my reach if I didn’t notice; so my noticing provided a vehicle for the help to become effective. I’ve been left with a prayer, which is a mix of gratitude and a call for more: “Thanks God, please, let me stay, as long as possible, where everything makes sense.”

Alessandro Bruno

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