Out of the Box: David Smooke & NewMusicBox

Long time readers of TWD might be familiar with the music of David Smooke through his work with League of the Unsound Sound or in an interview from 2010 in a thus far short lived installment called Better Know a Composer. I would still like to make this a more prominent feature on the blog so check your inboxes soon all you composerly people out there. Regardless, I have been a fan of this man for some time now and found new reason for inspiration from him today while reading his article Extended Toy Piano. It is a concise look at the artists history with this esoteric instrument as well as an innovative approach to solving the limitations of it as a medium. Please feel free to share the love and drop the composer a line via twitter.

The thing I loved about this article is the way Smooke begins by addressing the short comings of his instrument and then investigating unusual ways to transcend these issues. To his ear, the toy piano lacks for sustained pitches and glissandia continuous slide upward or downward between two notes. As musicians we are professional problem solvers. Which is to say that everyday we sit down to practice, we are actually addressing our own shortcomings; in our technical capacities, or ability to perform the music of our choice. When we endeavor to accomplish these things the instrument is not getting better, we are. I enjoy seeing David Smooke rise above the restraints of himself and his instrument  by both changing the topography of the piano, and experimenting with new performance tools like knitting needles. This is creativity, imagination, and resourcefulness at its best.  

The first performance video is of David Smooke's experimental ensemble League of the Unsound Sound at the Windup Space in Baltimore in early 2011. The piece is entitled Half the Way Down and features Courtney Orlando, violin; Wendy Richman, viola; Mike Formanek, bass; Mike Harley, bassoon; Tim Feeney, percussion; Shirley Yoo, piano; and David Smooke, toy piano.

The second piece is entitled Toy With Me and is performed by the Pestova-Meyer Duo,which is comprised of Xenia Pestova and Pascal Meyer. The performance is at the Karnatic Lab in Amsterdam on October 12, 2010. The piece is made up of three movements entitled I. "Hatching," II. "Rule Book," III. "Snug as bugs in a rug."

The final thing, and most important, is that David Smooke and his toy piano will be performing in New York City at Uncaged – the three day toy piano music festival. The fesitval is happening November 29th (7:30pm) at the Playhouse at Dixon Place, December 1st (8pm) at Gershwin Hotel, and December 3rd (8pm) where the theme is Toy Bonanza at the DiMenna Center, Cary Hall. This unique event promises to give you an experience you won't soon forget or see elsewhere. You dig?