New piece: Untitled naname (slant) solo

I’ve cobbled together some of the things I’ve been practicing for the last few months into a rough solo piece. The composition has provided lots of inspiration thus far but I feel this practice arc coming to a close. I’m hoping some constructive criticism would give me a few more hours of motivated practice. Any suggestions of things I should try differently?

Watch the video with click-able timestamps here.

Untitled naname solo
Work in progress.

(00:06) ryoutan section
(01:56) movement section
(01:59) M1-4
(02:14) Tribeca
(02:30) Super Klock Don
(02:33) Backstroke
(02:43) Scissors
(02:48) Helio
(02:49) Wipers
(02:55) Cronkite
(03:10) ka section
(03:16) Kark (working name)
(03:33) Joan of Arc (working name)
(03:38) Joan of Ard (working name)
(03:43) Donzoko

Composed as a demonstration for 2011 “Bon Taiko Bonanza” Taiko Conference workshop. Performed by Kristofer Bergstrom, May 11, 2011. Composition and recording released under the Free Art License 1.3.

13 Responses to “New piece: Untitled naname (slant) solo”

  1. Diane says:

    What a delightful way to begin my day–an hour of meditation and then your wonderful video. I love it of course. So exciting with such wonderful movement. Is your initial stance intended to look rather gathered-in/constrained? I felt myself wanting you to have a more open, balanced stance, something I guess more powerful looking. Explain that to me.

    Looking forward to coming back to your blog and reading/watching more wonderfulness.

  2. Rachel says:

    Great work. Some notes from a visual standpoint.

    How about a signature greeting at the beginning? Some people bow. What do you want to do?
    Assuming the camera angle is the intended viewer angle, during the ryoutan section, can you face a bit more forward, with your left shoulder a bit more forward?
    Perhaps feet shifts during ryoutan because it gets pretty static. Doesn’t have to be a full foot dance… perhaps slow foot movements?
    When you turn your back to the audience, can you stay farther from the drum so that we can see the drum?
    You could use your head more expressively here, to accent certain things.
    The first vocalization needs to be stronger. It just comes and goes. Probably a performance issue.
    At 02:30ish, when you come forward, you’re upstaging yourself with the right leg.
    The end can be stronger. Perhaps a little, organic “umph” motion after holding the last note to show it’s truly over.

  3. Kelvin says:

    You have a lot of good ideas here, but I think you could simply it. What’s the main melody or ouchi?

  4. Yuta says:

    Awesome.

    All I can say is, I watched this and it made me want to practice more.
    Thank you Kris.

    :)

  5. Kaoru says:

    First comment: F-ing great!!

    My only suggestion is maybe you can try putting all that one handed stuff you did at the beginning in the middle of the midare/matsuri solo. In other words, instead of using it to open the piece- use it as a breakdown in the middle of all the bigger movement stuff. It may give the overall performance a better dramatic arc and flow. Not sure though…

    Third comment: f-ing great!!

    One more idea that I’m not yet convinced of – perhaps not doing the one handed stuff for such a sustained period of time. Perhaps using those techniques in shorter bursts and mixing it with the big movement stuff- as if it was just another phrase within your solo and not a separate movement. Just different things to try…

  6. Dan says:

    I love the ryotan section in the beginning! The rhythm really starts grooving when the right hand comes in playing the M patterns over the left hand ryotan pattern. LOVE IT! :) I’ve started working on incorporating ryotan into my shime-okedo set solos but I had no idea of the possibilities! You’ve really taken it somewhere great and have given me lots of inspiration to keep practicing.

    The new ending section is great too! I love the whole thing and it flows so smoothly! :D What is the kakegoe for the last section though? I can make out parts of it, like とん、とん ちちめ (I think).

    Thank you so much for all your hard work on developing this style of playing! It’s really great to see someone working so hard at this and it gives the taiko community such great things to work towards. Looking forward to seeing how things develop further!

  7. Charlie says:

    First of all thank you sharing it in such a reverberant space, the tone is great.

    I love it. Starting the piece out one handed with such a steady pattern really created curiosity of what may come next. Another feature that struck my attention was your “form” which was like a choreography that gave importance to each impact. The movement really is quite beautiful.

    Although complex, your patterns were more musical and not as mathematic like other Taiko pieces I’ve heard. The vocals are always a mystery to me (more to my fault from the lack of translation) nevertheless, they were spaced out and sparse and it kept my attention on the whole event.

    I have no actual constructive criticism but fun ideas to throw at you.

    1. I was impressed with the inter-winding of pattern and movement, I thought how cool would it be to see, hear this done in tandem with another player to the left of you (back to back) playing unison and interacting with the stick hits when facing each other.

    2. The piece seems short enough to watch one player play and then add a second player and repeat the piece.

    3. For some reason I can see you stand in form silently for 20 – 30 seconds before the first note is played. Almost to convey that a meeting or meditation is taking place establishing the drum connection you have. Be cool if it happens at the end as well.

    4. I also can imagine 3 dancers mirroring the movement you are displaying. spaced out behind you.

    Well my friend, I hope this is helpful. You may notice my comments are more about form due to trying to learn Google Sketchup for my desk diy design. Sticky Geometry !!!!!

  8. Matt says:

    Love this Kris! I love music that breaths and builds. I like how mid-way through you play a lot louder and change your stance. And then you move around more. Not only does the music change dynamically, but so does your physical energy. I think the marriage of the audible and visual part is powerful. I like it! I’d be curious to learn about the vocals at the end, what you’re saying, and what it means and/or is symbolic of. Otherwise, I can’t really think of anything else. Thanks for sharing this! :D

  9. Beth says:

    As usual, Kris, you totally rock!

    The first time I tried to watch the video, the sound came through but the picture froze, so I could hear the compelling opening rhythm but had no idea you were playing with just one hand! So I can say that without any visuals, the ryoutan section is already engaging, and I was totally mesmerized and impressed once I could actually see what was going on.

    Probably because I’m used to the more standard wide stance adopted by most taiko players, I did wonder why you were standing with your legs so close they looked crossed. Nothing actually wrong with it, but a little voice in the back of my mind was saying “how is he stable enough to play like that?”

    I also loved the section with more movement. I like that it’s such a contrast with the ryoutan opening. However, in some ways it’s so distinct, I’m not sure how they are connected.

    The different movement components blend together seamlessly, and I can’t believe how much variety you’ve managed to fit into 2 minutes! (aside: I recognized the Wipers and Cronkite sections from the last time I saw you–back in January) I particularly like the way that you build up my excitement from the ka section through Joan or Ard, and then suddenly change to a rhythm with a lot more ma.

    Did I mention that you totally rock?

  10. Brandon says:

    This was good stuff. I’m not a Taiko expert, but here are my observations on the video:

    1. I like the texture of the soundscape in your practice area. Normally, I don’t like microphone placement too far off although I imagine that will be necessary unless you have a great drum mic, but in this case it helped capture the feel of the area, which has a kind of reverberation almost like a parking garage… and it even looks kind of like one, too. Heather and I used to love to listen to amateur musicians play string instruments in one of the parking garages in SB. Very, very cool look. You might try recording the vocal elements separately and mixing later sometime, but I think that the whole setup in your practice area lends itself well to this “live” unedited style. Very cool that it was all in one shot, as well.

    2. I love your use of Vimeo’s timestamps as an index for your performance. One suggestion: You may want to tell people in the description that the timestamps won’t trigger video playback of a section until the entire video is fully-loaded — or whatever the cool, concise, informal and right way of saying that is. I’d say 80% of folks viewing this understand that from the get-go, but it seems Vimeo actually loads thumbnail images for each clip, so clicking in advance of the caching will take you to a future frame, but it will appear frozen and like it isn’t loading. I know you think that’s idiotic, but I actually explained it to someone who was wondering why the index was freezing the video… :)

    3. I love the lighting and the composition of the video. I’m not sure I like the backdrop behind the drum because it’s so close in color to the drum, but the depth of field makes it clear it’s separate.

    4. Most important thing: The way you move makes your performances. It’s not just posture, it’s that the tension seems perfectly effecient — you look relaxed in all the right places throughout your movement. I thought Diane had an interesting observation about the changing stances. Kind of reminded me of martial arts stances a little bit… as in… look he changed to horse stance… At any rate, the performance aspect was awesome, it didn’t distract or seem forced or contrived…. it was almost like you’re just really graceful and this struck you as the right feel for how to work with the drum.

    5. I always like the “call and response” aspect to OnEnsemble music, but expecially this. It’s like the rim and the center of the drum are talking and responding to each other. In parts, the music reminds me a bit of tap dancing… but that might be why I don’t really comment on the music as much as I enjoy it. It’s a little hard to talk about this without the musical vocabulary…

    Thanks for sharing a freebie with everyone!

  11. Kris- This is clearly so beyond dope, that it is… i dunno, sick.

    Anyways, i feel unworthy to say much, but you asked so i will give some feedback, regardless.

    – i feel like the entire first section up until the first kakegoe could be much quieter, perhaps creating more tension to set-up the first iteration of the matsuri-bayashi theme with your right hand (at 1:15 is it?) and then building in intensity to the first mind-bending kakegoe.

    – i like that you re-start at a slower tempo after the first kakegoe. Why not make that even more dramatic with an even slower tempo, which will further accentuate the slow and delicious increase in speed that follows.

    – i like the changes in dynamics that you introduce in some of the sections, like at 2:50 or so. I think identifying more subtle and abrupt dynamic shifts to break-up the ‘flow’ of the volume level more often would be very exciting. Like the Kark section for example: start more softly and build. It might give us a better sense of phrasing for some of the different sections.

    – the very ending feels abrupt, after that spectacular display of choreography and drumming. Why not prepare the very last phrase a little more dramatically- a deceleration, crescendo, and is there a reason for not playing the final downbeat? it might be better to ‘sell’ that idea a little more- right now it feels abrupt musically.

    – keep the bird chirping in the background like that. love it.

  12. Jon Bergstrom says:

    K,

    The video did not play motion and sound together – so I could not get the full effect. Downloading the video did not help.

    I would recommend you consider a different stance for the first two minutes. It looks to me like you might fall down at any time. A stronger stance would better reflect the power of the music.

    I suggest listening to the transitions without watching the video. Perhaps this could result in trying different transitions.

    I think the music is great. Thanks for sharing.

    Dad

  13. Mui says:

    Really nice work, I could see this developing into a really beautiful solo “concert” piece. My stepfather always said to “chew the meat and spit out the bones” so please take any of my suggestions as such.

    You may want to play around with a more defininte way of how you want enter the piece? It seems to just start (Do you want a sudden start? A glimpse to start?
    Maybe try folding your right arm at right angle behind your back for the opening position or drawing a shape with it while u play w/other hand – arm position seems a little nebulous.
    Maybe experiment with inflections of timing in how you start a segment?
    Maybe explore spatial relationships with the taiko. (moving around the drum, 360 perspective?)
    Maybe explore with your focus (take your focus for a moment – discovering a different relation when u look back at the taiko?)
    Maybe experiment with the order of the 3 segments of the piece?
    Maybe deconstruct/manipulate the narrative? ( extract some words and say it somewhere else in the piece? maybe manipulate the narrative so we don’t understand it till the very end?)
    Maybe change your relationship with the taiko at different times? (Is it always a taiko?)
    Time, space, energy?

    Again, really nice work! Someor all of the these suggestions may not be suited for your overall intention so don’t forget to spit out the bones. – M

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