Chris Allen

Dragon Bird by Chris Allen 1997

Composer of The Bird Watching Music

Recently my mother, a multimedia sculptor, has been exploring the form and image of birds in both rural and urban settings. After seeing her latest installation, I began to notice bird-like qualities already present in my band's music. I could hear squeaks, tweets and honks of wild and exotic birds as I played and wrote music for the band. My own playing was becoming more bird-like, favoring the wilder varieties. I heard hawks, owls, and crows when Jason Meers played a sax solo. I heard a robin when Paul Cherba blew in his trumpet the wrong way. Ed Barret's comping at times sounded like a parrot mimicking everything the soloist said. The woodpecker came down and started pecking like crazy on John McLellan's drums, and then I realized that Chris Luard had turned into an ostrich and was picking his bass with his beak. It was at about this time I began writing a piece about birds.

I began honing the bird-like characteristics of the group and began utilizing the ornithological abilities of my bandmates to the fullest. Each tune I wrote featured at least one of the musicians' particular bird-like talents. I encouraged Jason to squawk louder, Paul to soar higher, John to click harder, and Ed to chirp himself into a frenzy.

The music that I wrote to accompany my mother's visual pieces is not, however, only based on the sounds of birds. Much of the inspiration came from their visual aspects. The beating of wings, the symmetrical formations of flocks, the bright colors of tropical birds, the topsy-turvy flight of a buzzard, all greatly influenced the forms, melodic direction, moods, and textural choices in the music.

The chance to once again collaborate artistically with my mother and to perform for and with the birds she created inspired both me personally, as well as my fellow members of my group. We will be performing some of the pieces from Bird Watching at our gigs before the actual show(April 25 at The Kirkland Art Center, Clinton, NY). We welcome you to check it out and tell us what you think. I always appreciate feedback from the audience.

Chris Allen

You can also go to my band's web page Central Artery Project

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