Scott Stobbe and Fiasco play Jáce Gáce

Portland New Music Society’s second concert at Jáce Gáce (on April 9) featured the composed music of Scott Stobbe and the free improv of Fiasco.

Scott Stobbe and friendsWilliam McGlothlan, oboe–Scott Stobbe, electric guitar–Becca Schultz, toy piano–Mary Sutton, violin and accordion–Shawn Sheff, trombone

Scott and a few friends played a set of his short pieces, strung together without break. While Scott’s music covers a fair range stylistically, there was one common goal this evening—to play interesting music and then go off the rails with pretty tunes and coordinated lines and then get back on track with more of the uncoordinated, nontonal, various music. You might think, as I found myself thinking—and fearing—that one schtick would get pretty old pretty quickly.

Not so. Partly because contrast, of any kind, is pretty fundamental, under any circumstance, but mostly because Scott moves from chaos to order and back in so many different ways, some unanimous, some individual, some subtle, some obvious (like a toy piano turned upside down and shaken violently in the middle of a nicey nice duet between electric guitar and violin). Sometimes a couple of people would be playing together in a coordinated way while another few would be playing each their own unrelated and individual parts. Sometimes each line was separate, distinct, and unrelated. And while I preferred the latter, it was no stretch to recognize that each bit depended for its effect on all the other bits. An impressive example of how to compose music that sounds free and alive.

Fiasco getting readyAnd speaking of free, Fiasco followed, with another view of coordination and independence–not so much with lines, as Scott’s composed music did, as with the drones and grooves and gestures and unexpected noises one would naturally expect (always expect the unexpected) from an ensemble composed (!) of circuitry and synthesizers and toys (electric and otherwise) and percussion and a magnificent bari sax. And since some of the toys were balls, it was only a matter of time before one of them would draw an audience member (me) into the circle. And once the floodgates are open…, well, the evening ended with several of us playing with the group, audience members moving into the performance space and the music extending out into the audience, too, at least as far as the table I was at, with its beer glasses and fiasco toyscutlery and its chairs all ready to sound.

Great good fun.

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