Published May 15, 2015Whenever 20 improvising musicians crowd onto a stage with music stands, one can't help but think of organizations like Gavin Bryars' Portsmouth Sinfonia, whose work was sometimes more interesting in conception than in practice. For this event, Jean Derome invited many of the instrumentalists from Nicolas Caloia's Ratchet Orchestra to play a game-based piece called "Resistances."
It's hard to know the exact rules, but the general idea is that the conductor or director provides cues to individual and/or groups of players, who either perform a specific pre-scripted musical passage or do an improvisation. The technique was popularized by John Zorn, but it's similar to things Frank Zappa was doing in the '60s, and also to Butch Morris' practice of "Conduction." The results are too random to predict, but when it works, it can be both great and hilarious.
By that standard, the set worked wonderfully. Derome, beginning a year-long celebration of his 60th birthday, started on a very high note. The work — simultaneously controlled and anarchic — was a wonderful testament to his continuing importance as a leader of the Quebecois new music scene.