Film-Plus-Live-Performance Work Documents A Year Of Making Music Daily
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE is a multidisciplinary artist well-known for decades in the local underground scene. He makes experimental films, writes eccentric books, and plays music – lots of music.
In fact, in 2018, Tent, as he’s known, challenged himself to play music every single day. Only he calls it “usic": He was intent on using as many pieces as possible from the big collection of instruments crowding the music room of his home in Polish Hill.
The project inspired his latest film, “365.”
The more than two-hour work chronicles his year of daily music, alone and with collaborators. In a twist, the premiere screening Sunday will feature several of his collaborators improvising live accompaniment to the musical scenes on the screen.
Tent, who’s 65, describes himself as a “mad scientist / d-composer / sound thinker / thought collector / performance artist / filmmaker.” An inveterate punster, he also refers to some of his musical projects as "low classical." He is retired (he largely worked technical jobs at local museums). The project that became “365” was partly a way to pass the time.
Most days, Tent played music alone: piano solos, attempts to revisit the alto saxophone. He spent all of October playing toy piano, and all of November playing trombone. To spice up the videos, he added costuming, lighting design, and trick photography. In June, he did a duet a day with another musician, with collaborators including acclaimed Pittsburgh-based saxophonist Ben Opie.
“It was a really, really great discipline, because it was definitely a challenge to try to play something that was interesting to me each successive day,” says Tent.
The music itself ranged as widely as the instrumentation. Most of the tunes were improvised, but in an interview, Tent referenced influences ranging from jazz and classical to Frank Zappa, a Pakistani folk tune, and film composer Bernard Hermann (known for his work with Alfred Hitchcock). There’s even a piece inspired by “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
For his interview in the WESA studios, Tent brought a bagful of noisemakers, mostly percussion instruments, including a small gong. Asked how to categorize the music in the film, Tent picked up what looked like a tiny drum and blew into it to produce a loud honk. “That’s one way I would describe it: a very Liverpudlian, membranophone-esque type usic.”
“It’s extremely eclectic, but I always try to push the envelope of whatever it is I’m doing,” added Tent. “So somebody who really likes a certain perception of what jazz should be, would probably not like things I consider to be jazz, even though they’re played by me with jazz musicians.”
“365” includes clips as short as one second, and longer than two minutes, but most are under a minute, he says.
At Sunday’s screening, seven musicians will sit in front of the Regent Square’s big screen, each with his instrument and a foot pedal to activate a personal spotlight when he plays. The musicians will improvise with what is on screen, and can play singly, in pairs or small combos.
Contributors include Opie on alto saxophone; Kenny Haney on clarinet; Coal Hornet on contra alto clarinet; trumpeter Roger Dannenberg; the musician who goes by Unfinished Symphonies on keyboard; guitarist David Sherman; and cellist Eric Lipsky.
Admission is on a sliding scale of $3-20. More information is here.