For some, the sight of a marching band of electric guitars was just another day in New York City, for others, it’s what makes the city special (you can add us to that group).
Composer Patrick Grant took Tilted Axes, his core group of nine musicians — including himself — with their Vox amplifiers (a longtime sponsor) on a walking tour of the East Village, stopping to play in various spots but never stopping the music.
The music, all composed by Grant, consisted of some pieces that were played as composed and others that followed strict rhythmic or harmonic rules but gave the players leeway to improvise. Sponsored by Make Music New York and grants from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and The New York State Council on the Arts, the group can expand to 20 players.
Saturday’s performance was named for a Dorothy Parker quote — “Autumn is the springtime of big cities.” The pieces, Grant noted, “sounded a little more dissonant than usual, probably due to the pandemic.”
He further explained that “the music has non-traditional form. We play a repertoire that people don’t expect – unusual time signatures, like 7/4 for example.”
“The hardest part of playing in the street is paying attention,” says Grant. “So many things are happening around us. But there’s a great NYC moment in every performance. On Saturday it was when a fire truck made its way through the traffic at Astor Place. The horns honking, the sirens blaring while we played — it was a perfect New York moment.”
One of the upcoming shows, part of the Honk NYC festival on Oct. 23, takes its title, “Unlikely Characters,” from a Robert Fripp quote, “Music so wishes to be heard that it often calls upon unlikely characters to give it voice,” proclaimed the master guitarist.
After also mentioning another scheduled appearance in the Garment District on Oct. 10 entitled ‘Fabrications’, Grant returns to one of the core philosophies of his project.
“We can’t make our lives longer,” he muses, “but we can add depth to it by our ability to pay attention to everything that we experience.”