The Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists III is a manifestation of 25 years of work by an evolving and expanding group of musicians (primarily guitarists) using the same approach, technique and musical vocabulary. It was (still is) one example of what is possible. It involved musicians from all over the world including (but not limited to) Italy, UK, USA, Argentina, Germany, Mexico, France and Russia.
The week preceding the concert involved experiments in group improvisation by the assembled orchestra (consisting of close to 100 acoustic guitars). Over several days different approaches to working as a group were tried and evolved into the final performance configuration. Several “section leaders” were identified and became the focal points of each self-determining section. Basically, the section leaders began playing and each orchestra member gravitated towards the leader they felt compelled to follow, echoing what the leader was playing and literally following them around the room. The instruction was given to keep moving (even when standing in the same place).
The final performance was held in the church at the Convento La Pace in Sassoferrato, Italy. The orchestra assembled in the dining room and then marched single file across to the church entering the space one at a time and coiling around the center of the room (where an array of mics were set up to record the event in surround sound). After calmly and quietly considering the assembled audience (as the audience looked back with curiosity) Robert gave the instruction ‘Orchestra, when ready please begin.”
What followed was music previously difficult to imagine. Sections sounded like crazed Ligeti-style strings, several pianos simultaneously being dropped from varying heights, pizzcato blips and chirps of alien birds and even occasionally the sound of a handful of acoustic guitars. All of this accompanied by marching feet and smiling faces from the OCG III and looks of varying degrees of wonderment (or confusion) from the assembled audience of townspeople.
As the piece wound down the OCG filed out (again, single file) and returned to the dining room. Inside the church a few select musicians remained and performed a handful of pieces from the GC repertoire. Then the OCG returned filing in and forming 2 circles one large one with a smaller one inside. Robert gave the command “Orchestra, when ready, whizz.” Whizzing is essentially the passing of a single abrupt dissonant staccato chord passed down the line of musicians as fast as possible. The sound is something akin to a localized burst of static travelling around the room. The variations in timing in the response of each musician created a rhythm not unlike a rollercoaster ascending and descending throughout it’s circuit. The OCG then returned to the green room/dining room.
The personal significance of the experience probably requires an entire entry to itself. Coming soon.
Robert’s account of the event (with many more photos) can be read here.