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Lab report November 10th 2008: the rockstar wannabes

So, judging by the camera the following morning, this months Stet Lab was so successful that Ad-Hoc… just couldn’t resist posing for the album art. Well why wouldn’t we after the fantastic collaboration that occurred?

I have performed at several of the Stet Lab evenings and as the only performer that doesn’t have an instrument that is material to hide behind, I often feel exposed and perhaps somewhat uncomfortable; this has consequently had a knock-on affect on my performance. However, not so much this month.

When asked to form the ‘house band’ for November’s Lab I was honoured and left with a task that I had to be tactful with. What with my old band members dispersed around the world I had to delve into the fresh bag of improvisers that Cork has to offer. As I had found working with Han and Jesse a fun, fruitful experience in October, I figured why not go for a similar line up? (It is interesting to note that in the past I have found it difficult to work with guitar players—nothing at all to do with my diva-ish background!) Therefore, I called upon my fellow improviser Barry who I knew had similar ideas and sensitive approach to improv and he pointed me in the direction of Paul.

Thankfully for me this was a great tactic: I knew from the first moment the three of us met to ‘practise’ that we would get on like a house on fire. We all seemed to respect each other as musicians and appeared to know when to back off before we intruded too much on each others space. Perhaps this sounds rather Brady Bunchesque because sometimes a bit of friction and roughness does add spice to improvisation; however, as I am slightly out of practise and wanted my first ‘independent’ pursuit to be successful I wanted to test the boundaries before I entered into ‘extreme improv.’ (We all have to start somewhere!)

Yes I did hold back, probably due to nerves, but this month I really made an effort to let go—something that I do find difficult in this form of performing—and I am glad that I did because the post-performance high was something that I had almost forgotten the feel of. I feel that the success of November’s Stet Lab will really have a positive affect on my future performance.


  1. Posted November 20, 2008 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    I agree that “a bit of friction and roughness” adds something to an improvised performance… My two cents (and plenty of people who would disagree with me), but, for me, those moments of instability and fragmentation (for lack of better word) make a ‘successful’ improvisation.

    So, Veronica, what would it take to encourage you not to “hold back”?

    Thanks for the music (and writing about it)!


  2. Tony O Connor
    Posted November 22, 2008 at 5:03 am | Permalink

    Sounds like the three of ye had a lot of fun playing together. Really liked your performance, Veronica, in the second half of “happy birthday”. Sounded like you were alternately browbeating and cajoling Barry and Paul into playing their lines. Shows a great level of communication between the players.
    Also, I almost drove myself mad listening to “thought that was deliberate”, trying to figure out what and why someone thought something was deliberate when it wasn’t.

  3. Posted November 22, 2008 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Hey Tony. Nice to know that some of the old-timers are still lurking here.

    Sounded like you [Veronica] were alternately browbeating and cajoling Barry and Paul into playing their lines.

    I kind of got the same feeling. There’s certain points at which Veronica seemed to be throwing nuggets to the rest of the group. Certainly they’re gestures that I would have taken to be signals to go wild. I wonder, however, if Veronica’s seniority within the Stet Lab community made the two a little too deferential. What about it, Veronica, did you intimidate the band? 😉

    And the title ‘thought that was deliberate’ was based on my remark to Paul regarding his malfunctioning amplifier (you can hear splutters, crackles and abrupt cut-outs).

  4. Paul Dowling
    Posted November 23, 2008 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Just want to take the time to thank Veronica and Barry for asking me to perform with them at the Nov 10th Stet Lab, i had a blast, and my camera also shows a funfilled gig and afters.
    As for “thought that was deliberate”, i think i allowed my nerves get to me when at my first Stet Lab the amp acted up- in term of my apologies afterward. listening back it didn’t seem to intrude and most comments suggest that it worked, so next time (really hope so guys) i’ll let the amp do the performance solo.
    Thanks again guys, learned a lot and can’t wait to do it again.

  5. Veronica
    Posted November 24, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I personally thought that the “malfunctioning amplifier” add’s to the performance. I seem to recall responding to a particular splutter with a shriek. That’s the joy of improvisation even when something falls apart it can still add to a great performance without the audience knowing.

    Once again Paul you are indeed welcome and I will be calling on your masterful bass technique again.

  6. Posted November 24, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I also found the malfunctioning amp added a certain something to the performance. I wonder what we can learn from it…

    What were the particular gestures that the amp was producing that we found desirable? Although I don’t recommend actually battering an amp to make it less ‘functional’, do you think it’d be possible to create equivalent gestures—equivalent in that it would have corresponding socio-musical interactive possibilities—without malfunctioning equipment?

    What was the malfunctioning amp doing, and do you think you can do the same without the malfunctioning amp?

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