League of the Unsound Sound

The Unsound Sound is fragile.
The US is frightening.
The US is ecstatic.
The US is experimental

The League of the Unsound Sound (LotUS) is a group of musicians dedicated to exploring experimental music in all its variations. We are performers and composers and improvisers.

Our core members choose the repertoire and the modes of improvisation, and invite others to join us in these events. The repertoire of the League is comprised of contemporary music by international composers. Some pieces have jagged edges. Some pieces are improvisations. Some pieces incorporate movement. Some pieces are microtonal. Some pieces are repetitive. Some pieces are repetitive.

The League of the Unsound Sound (LotUS) believes that the Unsound Sound should be heard.

To begin, I asked Dr. Smooke to elaborate on LotUS, its performers, the nature of their ambitions, what makes them unique, and their future as an ensemble.

"From the beginning, we are putting together musicians that have a lot of experience in the classical world, and the improvised world…"

The members of LotUS include: Tim Feeney (percussion), Michael Formanek (bass/composer), Michael Harley (bassoon), Courtney Orlando (violin), David Smooke (composer/toy piano), Wendy Richman (viola), and Shirley Yoo (piano).

"Our instrumentation is so freaky… I have never heard of a piece for our ensemble." He went on to explain the idea behind the ensemble is drawn from the Dadaist movement from the first half of the 20th century. "In the 20's and 30's there was a huge overlap between art movements… everyone was doing everything, and that's the aesthetic I want to get to with this group."

*Notable members of the Dada movement include Marcel Duchamp, Andre Breton, Man Ray, and Max Ernst.

Broadening the scope of theater and staging are also important components in the ensemble's future. Dr. Smooke has already begun to include video as an element of his composition and one such example of this work can be seen alongside his piece 21 Miles to Coolville here.

In addition, the concert etiquette for classical performances can be generally stuffy, but the nature of this ensemble is breaking down that wall. In regards to concern for his audience's behavior Dr. Smooke remarked,

"If I am going to keep people silent, it has to be about the theater of the event." Furthermore, "The classical world is closed. There are audiences out there who want to hear music, and it's not necessarily the classical audience… The classical audience isn't stretching themselves."

As a composer/professor/performer you have had to wear a lot of hats to fill out your career and fulfill the pragmatic side of life that is bills etcetera. Has this complimented you as a composer, and how?

"My whole point of what I do in life is to make it so I don't have to make money off of my compositions. I have my day job, so I write what I want to write, when I want to write." He continued by adding that, "…teaching allows me to be the kind of musician I want to be."

Aside from his current academic occupation, Dr. Smooke found employment in his early days through publishing, as a stage manager for a theater company, temp positions, data entry, and even Proctor and Gamble. He furthered his previous point by adding,

"If you haven't explored something outside of music, then what do you have to bring to music?"

Finally, name one deceased musician you would like to raise from the dead so that they could perform with LotUS?

"Jimmy Page… I would kill him and resurrect him because there is no way he would play with us living." However, after another moment's consideration the composer added, "John Cage, unquestionably."

David Smooke and the League of the Unsound Sound are musicians on the forefront of experimental/improvisational classical music. They live in the most dangerous and exciting part of the performance realm where anything is possible on stage. This Thursday evening's concert promises to be a wonderful, and FREE(!), taste of this. Once more, the concert is at 8:00 pm this October 21, 2010 at Mercyhurst's Walker Recital Hall. The passion and dedication that makes these musicians who they are is communicative and exciting under any genre label or performance hall.

I dig LotUS.

Take charge, take in a concert, support the arts, and get ready to have your aural precedents challenged.

Check out the concert program as well as further tour information. The LotUS blog is found here and it also has a facebook page. An additional press release for the concert is linked here. The webpage for the group's founder, David Smooke, has a website. Also, check out his previous collaborations with Those Who Dig. Finally, you can follow David Smooke and LotUS on Twitter.