Sunday, March 1, 2009

A generous, sane, survivor's approach to music

I am happy to report that I am in touch with David Wray, now working in Los Angeles as Grayson Wray. He was one of the motive creative forces behind Middle Sleep, who plays a big (and, I would say, growing) part in our poetry scores.

Middle Sleep was active 1981-1983 in Los Angeles. They improvised, rehearsed and recorded in a house on Lookout Mountain in Laurel Canyon and did gigs in Hollywood and West L.A.

Their bassist, Richard Derrick, gave an archival CD of their edited jams and improvisations to Matt Fuller and myself when we visited him in San Pedro some years ago - and we have been mining them ever since: on the scores to Blind Cat Black and Go South for Animal Index, with even a larger role in the works for The Sydney Highrise Variations.

Here are excerpts from a letter Richard Derrick sent me when I was first asking into permissions for intergrating Middle Sleep into our scores.

I actually got in touch with David Wray, the guitarist/singer/main guy. Hadn't seen or heard from him in years, but about two years ago he ran into me at a club in L.A. and gave me his card. So I called the number on the card, and he's still there, running a recording studio from his home. Seems to be doing well for himself, which is nice to hear.

I told him about your plan, and he has no problem with it. If it's actual songs (where he sings), he'd want something worked out with BMI or ASCAP, but since we're talking about just the jam stuff, he doesn't mind just doing a "copyright control" mention on the liner notes.

Despite not making much of a dent in the club scene, we had a really cool scene going on with friends and well-wishers who'd visit us every week; unfortunately, pretty much all of them have drifted out of our lives, although I might be able to find a couple of them. Who knows, it could be a cool "lost chapter" in the early 1980's L.A. music scene.

Thanks for your interest in our old tapes. Nice to know this stuff didn't just happen in a total void. Looking back, the whole project seemed destined to failure, given both the content of the music and the situations in our lives. When I think of all the times we didn't have a tape recorder going during our bi-weekly jams, and how much more we'd have in the archive, I just remind myself that it's a miracle that any of it even happened in the first place, let alone got captured on tape.
"It's a miracle that any of it even happened in the first place, let alone got captured on tape": what a generous, sane, survivor's approach to making music.

Free mp3

Middle Sleep improvisation
(Middle Sleep)
Middle Sleep

When we add Les Murray's reading to this piece, it will go onto the Sydney Highrise Variations score as "Employment and neckties and ruling themes".

This is the fragment of the poem we are scoring with this piece of music:

Employment and neckties and ruling themes ascended
into the towers. But they never filled them.
Squinting at them through the salt
and much-washed glass of her history, the city kept her flavour
fire-ladder high, rarely above three storeys.

In ambiguous battle at length, she began to hedge
the grilles of Aspiration. To limit them to standing
on economic grounds. With their twists of sculpture.

On similar grounds we are stopped here, still surveying
the ridgy plain of houses.
Actually, Adam Long and I are working tonight on the score, and dropping Les' reading of these lines onto this Middle Sleep piece is on the agenda. I should be able to post the result tomorrow!


Recent photo of Grayson Wray (formerly David Wray) with girl drummer in his band Grayson Wray Project from the band website.

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