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Sunday, May 30, 2021

An interview with PEK (Leap of Faith)

Leap of Faith at work: PEK (l), Glynis Lomon (r) photo by Raffi

 By Nick Ostrum

PEK is the indefatigable organizer, the mastermind, the man-of-many-hats and -even-more-instruments, and, ultimately, the driving force behind Evil Clown Records and the Leap of Faith collective. Just since the pandemic began, he has released has released 19 and counting solo releases (among them two meticulously constructed/produced 3-disc sets), two Leap of Faith (LoF) duos with cellist and vocalist Glynis Lomon, two Metal Chaos Ensemble releases with percussionist Yuri Zbitnov and one with Zbnitnov and bassist Mike Gruen and one from his horn ensemble Turbulence. That is not to mention the prolific output over just the last few years by the aforementioned units, various Leap of Faith Sub-units including the massive Leap of Faith Orchestra, his strings-cum-sax ensemble String Theory, his one-off music and spoken word group Axioms, and various other projects that have come into being, sometimes for just a brief spate of recordings and performances, over the last few years. Many of these and future recordings are also livestreamed and archived on the label’s Youtube page.

Amidst all of this activity (in terms of production, about a quarter less than PEK’s annual production over the last few years) and a day job, PEK agreed to sit down and answer a few questions via email over the course of March and April of this year. As you can see, PEK is deeply thoughtful about his music and affably loquacious. Regarding the former point, he assures me that this interview and some of his other ideas conveyed through CD liner notes and periodic newsletters are just the beginning to a more systematic explanation of his musical system (his “Big Idea” as explained below) to be published on the Evil Clown website later this year. I, for one, am very much looking forward to that. As you can see, what we cover below is just the tip of the LoF iceberg.

-Nick Ostrum

FJB: In a discussion we had about the sheer and growing volume of your catalog, you once mentioned that individual releases and performances “are solutions to aesthetic problems posed by big ideas.” What did you mean by this?

PEK: This question goes right to the meat of the matter. I have a very specific response that will take quite a few words to relate, but hopefully will make clear my artistic intent and the processes I use to achieve that intent.

Free Jazz started in the late 50s or early 60s and Free Improvisation a decade or two after that. The original players were looking for a way to make music which does not rely solely on melodic / harmonic relationships in a fixed harmonic rhythm and meter. Over time, a widely-practiced style of improvisation has developed where texture has replaced the melodic / harmonic relationships and action density has replaced regular rhythms as the core organizing principles of the music. This is the Big Idea of the improvisation scene from the 1950s to the present, and many musicians and ensembles have created successful and highly varied solutions to this aesthetic problem.

I have been a student of this approach since the early 1980s when I started listening to Coltrane, Ornette, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, etc. All these artists use preplanned structural elements or even composed Structures at least some of the time. Eventually it became more common for ensembles to improvise without any predetermined Structural elements, I call this kind of playing pure improvisation and it is how I would categorize almost all my music. Merely because there is no preplanning does not mean there is no Structure: Structure is an emergent property of the decisions made by and the interactions between the performers. Chaos Theory describes complex systems such as the weather or the economy where the observable patterns are similarly emergent properties of those complex systems.

I use set theory to think about texture. Timbre Sets are collections of similar sounds from similar instruments (for example, sounds made by the saxophone family of instruments or sounds made by wooden percussion instruments). Sonority Sets are the Set of Sonorities (regardless of timbre) available to an ensemble or a performance (combinations of instruments and timbres). The word “Sonority” means different things to different people and has multiple dictionary definitions, but to me it means the overall effect of the combined sounds from the entire ensemble at some particular point in time or across some particular duration.

In my observation, many ongoing improvisation ensembles establish a fairly consistent Sonority Set which they use across all performances. They work towards complete control of the selected set and refine that sound over time. Lot’s of really great music has been achieved in this way, but in my opinion, there is a fundamental limitation in this approach. Traditional western music achieves Development within the environment of melodic / harmonic relationships by melodic variation, harmonic development, modulation, and other devices which date back centuries. Pure improvisation must achieve Development via other means. Ensembles that make new improvisations on the same or similar Sonority Sets every time make music which is similar over time. Any one performance may be incredible, but the next performance may be very like the previous one in Sonority.

To me, this limitation is overcome when the music Transforms between distinct Sonorities over the length of the work. Skilled ensembles can achieve these transformations within a fairly small Sonority Set by utilizing extended techniques and having each player always focus on the transformations to the overall unit sound. However, a path to the widest possible world of Transformation lies in increasing the size of the Set of musical resources as large as you can to make available a larger number of distinct Sonorities to the Sonority Set. Over the duration of a work following this approach, each section may be comprised of completely different Set of sounds than any other section. Most Evil Clown albums have at least 20 or 25 distinct movements.

So, here is my Big Idea: Assemble a huge collection of instruments and a huge roster of musicians and take fundamentally different sections through these resources for different projects and recordings. The idea of Transformation focused improvisation and the associated performance techniques are the same on different pieces of music, but the Sonority Set is different for each performance due to the Set of resources utilized and the resulting music is therefore different each time.

The first aesthetic problem for me individually is to learn to make as broad a palette of sounds as possible. I play instruments from at least the following Timbre Sets: Saxophones, Clarinets, Double Reeds, Flutes, Free Reed Aerophones, Strings, Electronics, Electro-Acoustic, Wood, Metal, and Membranes. Unlike in conventional Jazz, where I would not use a new instrument until I achieved the significant mastery of the scales and control of the sound to “correctly” navigate the chord changes with “correct” tone, I will use new instruments as soon as I can make interesting sounds. Anton Webern pioneered the idea of klangfarbenmelodie in the early 1900s. Sequences of sounds from different instruments or timbre sets are another method of decoupling Development from melodic or harmonic Structure.

I make a distinction between naïve instruments and instruments that I have formal training on. I studied saxophone and other woodwinds for many years privately and at the Berklee School of Music in Boston from 89 to 91. I play many other instruments that I have not been formally trained on which I categorize as naïve, but this does not mean that I lack a sophisticated understanding of how to leverage and control that instrument’s sound. An example is the Sheng, which is an ancient polyphonic Chinese Free Reed Aerophone. I have had a modern keyed version of one of these since 2015 and was able to use it immediately in my bands at that time. Over the years since, I have increased my vocabulary on this instrument dramatically despite being largely ignorant of the ordinary use of this instrument in traditional Chinese music. My solution to the first aesthetic problem continuously evolves as I acquire new instruments and extend my control and vocabulary on these instruments.

Musical instruments are systems which take in physical input and output sound. Designers optimize the layout of instruments to achieve some goal: For example, scale pattern, drone notes, dynamic responsiveness, polyphonic or monophonic sound, microtonal or continuous pitch, quality of attack and decay, or many others. In conventional jazz improvisation, the player is supposed to understand the scales that are implied by the chord changes and construct improvised melody which fits the harmonic motion: Pitch selection is the most important element of the music, the sound or tone is far less important. In my music, sound is much more important than pitch selection.

Any instrument provides immediate feedback data to the player when it reveals what sound output results from what input. For simplicity, consider just my woodwind instruments: Control of the sound of each instrument is achieved by a whole group of physical inputs which act in concert. Among these are air speed, armature position, throat position, diaphragm backpressure, angle of mouthpiece or air stream, pressure on mouthpiece or reed, and finally, at the end of the list, fingering. I can make dozens of very different sounds on a woodwind without changing the finger position. Some instruments, like a saxophone, have a huge variety of possible sounds while others, like a foghorn, make basically one sound. To me, the aesthetic problem of learning any new instrument to broaden my overall Sonority Set boils down to leveraging the instrument’s physical system and creating a mapping of the set of input techniques to the set of sounds created.

My rhythmic concept uses Phrasing rather than strict alignment with a meter or time signature. I can Phrase equally well to a metered or an ambient environment with no clear beat. This rhythmic concept is transferable across all the instruments I use, and together with the ability to make at least a few interesting sounds on a new instrument, allows me to use most new instruments immediately. Deciding what sound to make and when to place it is a learned skill which stretches across all my instruments. While my control over the new instrument improves over time, I accumulate new vocabulary and can use the instrument for greater stretches of time within a performance.

The second aesthetic problem has to do with ensemble organization. My DIY record label, Evil Clown, produces recordings of my music in a bunch of different bands. These bands are defined more by selection of Sonority Sets than conventional bands which are defined by selection of band members. The bands are all highly modular and have different players and instrumentation for different sessions. Here is a list of some of my ongoing ensembles.

· Leap of Faith / Leap of Faith Orchestra – Core duet of myself and Glynis Lomon (cello, aquasonic, voice) with various guests to make ensembles varying in size from duet to orchestra of 25. This band dates to the early 90s and my association with Glynis a few additional years.

· Metal Chaos Ensemble – Core duet of myself and Yuri Zbitnov (drums, percussion) with various guests. This band features metal percussion instruments and rock elements including grooves which are not present in the other bands. Recently, there is a stable sextet version of this band which has created a sequence of albums.

  • Turbulence – ensembles comprised of only, or mostly horn players who may also double percussion or electronics.
  • String Theory - ensembles comprised of me with string players.
  • PEK Solo – performances by myself with or without studio construction (overdubbing).
  • Sub-Units – performances by a small group of Evil Clown roster members not assignable to one of the other band names.

Each of these “bands” uses a different focused subset of the total Evil Clown resources and therefore creates music fundamentally different that the others. I encourage the other musicians to play multiple instruments and I make the percussion instruments in the Evil Clown Arsenal available to the other performers. The number of different Sonorities available within a performance increases substantially as the number of multi-instrumentalists increases.

The third aesthetic problem concerns output. The whole system is consciously defined to create a great deal of highly varied music which is different in Sonority but shares the same theoretical underpinnings. I think of my work as the collected work of all the ensembles, so I put out on CD and on the net recordings of virtually every session. Interested observers can trace the evolution of the ideas over time and perhaps track back to the Big Idea.

We use a sports clock to track the elapsed duration, so each performance is well timed to fit on a CD (typically, 70 minutes). One session produces one CD’s worth of music, and since the music is nearly always recorded Live-to-2 track, there is a minimum of mastering required. Typically, it should take a week or less to record the music and put it out on bandcamp, YouTube, and Soundcloud, to submit the recording for small run CD production, and to do some promotion on facebook.

The final aesthetic problem in this discussion is performance. Once the players and the instrumentation have been selected for a session, we play the whole duration of the work continuously. Sometimes we discuss the Sonority selection for the opening or the closing of the piece, and sometimes certain sections have minimal preplanning (for example, recent Metal Chaos Ensemble CDs have thematic spoken word sections drawn from movies and literature which are recited during quieter sections). Each performance is a specific and distinct solution to the aesthetic problem posed by the Big Idea and constrained by the decisions made on the specifics of the resources utilized.


FJB: How does the art of the solo performance play into this big picture?

PEK: Solo performance constrains the Sonority Set to resources that I alone use and to me alone as the performer. As with larger ensemble Evil Clown sessions, the planning involves selecting sound resources from the massive Evil Clown Arsenal and setting up the studio with these instruments to allow rapid changes in instrumentation and therefore in Sonority.

The PEK Solo albums fall into four categories:

1) One continuous track (no overdubbing) of PEK playing one or many instruments with or without signal processing.

2) One continuous track of PEK playing one or many instruments with a prerecorded mix of samples drawn from the Evil Clown Catalog or specially recorded at Evil Clown Headquarters. Solo albums from before 2020 fall into the categories 1 & 2.

3) A Quartet of PEKs – Four continuous tracks of one PEK each playing many instruments on each pass. Some of these use broad pallets and some use very focused pallets.

4) An Orchestra of PEKs – Many tracks of PEKs performing on a broad section of the Arsenal.

This system provides a framework to create solo works that are sufficiently different from each other that I can continue to produce new work at something close to Evil Clown’s usual production rate even while I can’t perform with others.


FJB: Since last March, you have released something like 16 solo releases, and several duo and trio releases with a pared-down Leap of Faith and Metal Chaos Ensemble. How has the Covid quarantine forced you to reconsider your approach to music, which previously revolved around a large circle of collaborators?

PEK: As described in some detail above, my basic approach to music is to define a set of resources for a particular performance optimized for creating transformation over time. When Covid came along I cancelled all the sessions for groups. I caught up all my old business: web site, social media, distribution, and the other non-musical activity required to drive the enterprise. Then I took a month off… my biggest rest since I started up in 2015 after my long hiatus from music making to focus on my day gig. In mid-May 2020 I started up again, conceiving some new means of producing some of the enormous output normally achieved by Evil Clown (described in the previous response). In the Fall I did a huge series of solo works along with a few Metal Chaos Ensemble sets with Yuri and Mike Gruen.

Both me and my housemate Raffi are diabetic and therefore at elevated risk from Covid and we have been extraordinarily careful. In 2020, I did a few duets and trios, but when the virus ramped up hard before Christmas, I stopped everything except the solos. You can’t wear a mask and play a horn at the same time.

While the kind of output has changed due to the virus, I don’t think I have reconsidered my approach to music generally in any way. The set of aesthetic problems posed by solo work is a bit different than the set posed by ensemble work. I have simply used my existing approach to solve problems of a specific subgroup of the whole class of aesthetic problems I work on.

In general, I consider pure improvisation to be fundamentally about the moment. As an improviser, I predict and react to the evolving Sonority as I make my musical statements. For this reason, I have always preferred playing music that is performed entirely in the moment with all the players simultaneously interacting. When I have used sampling and electronic transformation of samples in works prior to the virus, I controlled those premixes in real time while the performance of the live instruments is proceeding to preserve the sense of real time decision making.

One thing that I have done, which is brand new since Covid, is to use overdubbing and studio construction techniques to create category 3 and category 4 performances as defined in the previous response. The studio technique mimics the interactions between players in ensemble improvisation with a few key differences:

· The interaction is one way. The current track reacts to the previous tracks and not the other direction.

· The waveforms of the previous tracks are visible in the recording software and provide definitive information about Phrasing that is estimated and predicted in real-time ensemble performance.

· The Phrasing used on the other tracks is my Phrasing. It is super-easy to respond to and match my own Phrasing concept.

· I plan, in advance, some instrument selections based on what has been established in the previous tracks.

· I plan, in advance, opening and closing Sonorities in much greater detail than in ensemble performance.

Unlike studio technique used in rock and other studio recording where one instrument or a small group of instruments are recorded at a time and for small sections of the overall work, I fill the room with instruments and microphones and record the full duration of each track of the work with many instruments serially. This is still very similar to how you perform working in real time with an ensemble.

One impact of the Virus is it has both slowed down my production and increased the amount of time actively spent playing. The studio construction works (Categories 3 & 4) require at least 4 1/2 hours of my performance compared to 70 minutes for a regular ensemble set. Those recording sessions are stretched over days instead of concluded in the real time duration of simultaneous ensemble performance. The Orchestra of PEKs performances have taken as much as a month to do a single disc, since the intermediate mixes used as a basis of samples for the premix are also recorded over days. Since 2015, Evil Clown has generally had over 30 releases per year, instead of just over 20 achieved in 2020.


FJB: To flip the question, what role do you see for improvised music during pandemic and post-pandemic times? How has the meaning, importance, or feasibility of creating such progressive music changed?

PEK: I see the pandemic as a stupid interruption which we simply need to wait out. People need to experience art and some people need to make art (myself included). The audience for pure improvisation is small, but enthusiastic. Improvisation performance is best experienced in person – the music is about the moment, so the audience being present in the same moment matters to their perceptions. They can see the performance actions that result in the Sonority produced which helps many to process such abstract music.

I don’t see a change in the role of music or art of any kind, just a limit on availability. When the Virus is over, live performance will resume and the interruption will be over. One wrinkle for Evil Clown is that Outpost 186 in Cambridge where I have had a monthly residency for years may not survive, or at least not reopen soon. While I search for reasonably priced performance space in the new world, performances will be streamed live to YouTube as often as I can schedule them from Evil Clown Headquarters.

Difficult music challenges public perceptions of “just what is music?”. As with all art, the avantgarde pushes boundaries and broadens art for everyone. This is the important role of progressive music. Access has been interrupted, but the music continues, and its importance is unchanged.


FJB: How have the temporary restrictions on live performances affected your craft and vision?

I love Live Performance. There is a feedback loop between performer and audience that does not occur in other music performance environments. For me, Live Performance forces a narrowing of resources by the amount of equipment I am willing to haul, the space available in my van, and the time available in the venue for set up. This constraint on the Sonority Set focuses the aesthetic problem posed to the performance.

As I have responded to some of the previous questions, different constraints on the Sonority Set in no way change my craft or artistic vision, it merely forces the aesthetic decision making of performance onto a different Sonority Set.

I do miss a real audience, and look forward to performing in public again as soon as it is safe to do so.


FJB: You frequently stream your recording sessions in your studio, creating a virtual live performance accessible via and archived on YouTube and recording of that specific performance. I, for one, have been mesmerized by seeing how you and Yuri Zbitnov navigate your Arsenal of instruments in real-time. What is your objective with offering so many points of access to the performance?

PEK: My main goal is to get my ideas on the record. When I came up in the 80s and 90s, Live Performance was how people consumed your music except for a few CDs you might sell. Now, the internet has completely changed everything, and people have widely different preferences on how they consume music. Back in the day, Leap of Faith would draw a pretty good audience for every performance, but those people would be basically the only ones to experience it: A small group of improvisation fans in the Boston Area. Now the internet provides worldwide exposure, so I try to get my work on as many platforms as possible to spread my ideas as widely as I can. It has simultaneously become much more difficult to put asses in seats for Live Performances. Some fans are YouTube viewers, some download from bandcamp or Itunes, some buy CDs from bandcamp, Downtown Music Gallery, Squidco, Amazon, etc. Some fans stream on Spotify, Soundcloud or other vendors. The way to maximize your exposure to the listener pool is to leverage as many platforms as possible. I keep detailed records tracking the steps I take for each release, to make sure that everything goes on every platform. Generally, those steps for each release should be completed within one week of performance.


FJB: Way back when you released the three-disc Some Truths are Known, I considered it a sort of crown of your recent solo explorations. Since then (July 2020), however, your solo output has more than doubled. And, indeed, recent releases like the dense EAI of Electrolysis, the surprisingly “jazzy” and saxophone focused For Alto: For Anthony Braxton and the somewhat bare and vulnerable Requiem for Raymond are each something different from the cacophony of Some Truths. Then, of course, you released another formidable three-disc solo exploration, Semantic Notions. How has your approach to your solo projects evolved over the course of the quarantine and between projects?

PEK: Some Truths are Known took me almost two months to create. It was the first recording to carry An Orchestra of PEKs in the name of the ensemble, but actually was a follow-up to Schism which was recorded very early in the pandemic before I conceptualized the 4-category system of solo works described above. After Some Truths Are Known, I did maybe 8 albums in 8 weeks in a frenzy of Category 1, 2, & 3 releases. I used some of those releases as the part of the sampling basis for Semantic Notions .

For Alto , Elaborations and a few of the others are category 1 releases which are fundamentally like my solo releases prior to 2020 in execution. Requiem for Raymond was performed a few hours after I learned of the death of my father in September. It is completely different from every other offering in my catalog in that its driver was my profound sense of loss over his passing. Its subject matter was my grief in that moment – generally, my music is abstract – it is not “about” anything in particular. I consider myself to be a cerebral rather than emotional player. Usually, I do not see a correlation between the sounds that I produce and any emotional state. For Requiem for Raymond there was almost no thinking, the sound just poured out and I was completely drained by the end.


FJB: As the pandemic abates, opportunities for collaboration are slowly opening again. Do you have any plans to pick up where you left off, when the Evil Clown collective was set to have its biggest year, yet? Or, has the period of solitude and the hyper-focus on the potentialities of solo work changed the course you see your projects moving in the future?

PEK: I think all the players who were on the scheduled sets that were cancelled at the beginning of the pandemic are eager for more. Evil Clown is a very attractive opportunity for improvisers since I have structured things in such a way as to minimize their effort. All they must do is show up with their instruments and play – I do everything else including all the administrative work that most musicians dislike.

I expect that Leap of Faith, Metal Chaos Ensemble and Turbulence sessions will be scheduled at rate of 3 or 4 sessions a month. While I will continue to do PEK Solo releases, they will probably return to my previous schedule of 2 or 3 a year instead of 20. I miss playing with others and look forward to resuming a full schedule with larger ensembles. My solo albums for the last few years have typically been realized during some lull in the overall schedule.

My housemate Raffi and I will both be fully vaccinated by mid-May. I will open Evil Clown Headquarters to members of the roster who are also fully vaccinated then. Some of the players, like Glynis Lomon and Bob Moores (trumpet, guitar, electronics) are ahead of us, so there may be some duets or trios that otherwise would be larger ensembles at the beginning of the newly scheduled events. For the near term, I will just do Live Streaming to YouTube shows, with Raffi running the 8-camera real-time video mix. As mentioned above, Outpost 186 where I have enjoyed a multi-year monthly residency, is in a dispute with the city of Cambridge and may not reappear for a while or at all. Once we have returned the good old days of willy nilly intermixing with people, I will find a new venue for regular public performances if I need to.


FJB: This may be a naive question but given how much you have been recording over the years and especially recently, it seems fitting. How do you ensure that one album, maybe a given solo release, is not like the others that might have come just a few weeks before? Do you enter a session with preconceived ideas, tonal paths, or written instructions? Are there structured aleatory elements? Or, do you simply let the moment guide you?

PEK: My Big Idea is structured to produce a large amount of distinct works; each is about a distinct moment in time and all the moments are necessarily different. I am constantly acquiring new resources, either instruments or performers, those new resources are used in an appropriate context and lead to a session specific aesthetic problem to be solved in performance. This is my plan, and I think that it works. Most of my fans who purchase downloads and CDs are repeat customers… Once they find out about the music and like something, they try something else, eventually becoming repeat customers when they find the releases they buy all interesting and sufficiently different from each other.

There is one very important Evil Clown project that has not really been discussed in this interview yet, The Leap of Faith Orchestra. For this project, I produce Frame Notation Scores that show the players instructions made up of English language descriptions and simple symbols on a timeline (the ensemble tracks the time on a sports clock). These works address the aesthetic problem of how to have a large improvisation ensemble play a concert length work without becoming total chaos. The Orchestra of PEKs solo sessions address this same aesthetic problem from a completely different angle. Six of these performances occurred between 2015 and 2019 and are documented in my usual places including detailed discussion on my webpage at this URL. These are the only mature works in my catalog that involve detailed preplanning. They are compositions with no melodic or rhythmic information specified, designed to split the difference between composition and improvisation – They also are designed to be performed without being rehearsed beforehand, neatly solving the difficult logistical problems of rehearsing a 25-player band.

There is also a body of 13 LOFO shows (25 CDs) performed at Third Life Studios between 2017 and 2019 which were used to prepare for the scored orchestra performances. Unfortunately, this venue had to close before the pandemic due to unachievable increases in the rent. When that happened I put out a box set which you can check out here. These performances do not use scores but did provide practice at unstructured improvisations with the ensemble size from about 7 to 15. Each show (except one) started with short 15 or 20 minute sets by small Sub-Units of the orchestra (usually trios or quartets).

I have composed a seventh score ( Systems of Celestial Mechanics ) which I plan to mount at some point in the future… There is a lot of advance work to do before I can do that including locating an affordable venue, raising the ensemble, and creating the parts customized for those players. I’d like to get this project up and running on a regular basis again, but it is a huge amount of work for me, and I think I will focus on smaller and medium sized ensembles for a while. Time will tell.

The Orchestra of PEKs solo albums address the same aesthetic problem as the Frame Notation Scores for The Leap of Faith Orchestra: How to ensure music with a really large amount of available resources does not turn into chaos with no Development. The Orchestra of PEKs sets use an entirely different mechanism to solve this problem: Instead of specifying activity on a timeline, I conceived of an algorithm for the steps in the studio construction. Following the algorithm results in a work which is compositional, in that it is planned, while all of the sounds are still improvised

The first step is to prepare Premixes (sometimes as long as the whole CD) of multiple tracks with instruments from the same Timbre Set. These Premixes have used the Timbre Sets of wood instruments, metal instruments, hand chimes, saxophones, clarinets, double reeds, bass sounds, string instruments and others. Next, I select several different Premixes and take samples ranging in duration from about 30 seconds to 10 minutes. I transform these samples on the computer by speeding up and slowing down and moving the pitch up or down. Sometimes I build new Premixes from the samples at this stage to create really thick textures from the samples of the same Timbre Set. Once a set of Premix samples is prepared and selected, I arrange the samples on to a 75 minute or so timeline in the DAW software. This arrangement is a Density Map, where each section of the work has a single Premix sample, a few overlaid Premix samples, many overlaid Premix samples, or no Premix samples. Finally, I perform the full duration of the work multiple times with different instrument sets available on each track. The last pass or several passes are typically mostly horns. I have offered many of the Premixes as bonus download tracks on the releases where they were used. In addition to Orchestra of PEKs sets, I have used this algorithmic approach with Yuri Zbitnov on Don Quixote , a Metal Chaos Ensemble studio duet construction, and we started a second one last fall titled Dante’s Inferno which we will finish when we can resume our work.


FJB: That is interesting about Dante’s Inferno. I have really been drawn to the recent Metal Chaos releases and have found Don Quixote one of the most engaging yet. I imagine the Inferno will lend itself at least as well to the disjointed narration and premixing.

Speaking of recent and upcoming releases, where would you suggest the unseasoned listener just coming to the PEK catalog to start? Are there any individual releases that you feel are more complete or compelling realizations of your aesthetic, or maybe just a good introduction to the Evil Clown universe?

The Evil Clown catalog is wide and deep: According to my master spreadsheet, the total release count as of 4/6/21 is 312. The earliest albums are from 1991 or 1992. I was very active in the Boston Improvisation Scene with Leap of Faith and other projects from that time until 2001. I then took a very long break to focus on my day gig: I was very busy at the job and I preferred to lay out rather than do music with just half my ass. I started up again in 2014, when I spent a few months digging through my DAT tapes of performances and making a bunch of new releases from the Archival period. In January of 2015, Leap of Faith started up again in a quartet version with Me, Glynis, Steve Norton (reeds) and Yuri Zbitnov (drums, perc). Very soon after that Yuri and I started Metal Chaos Ensemble, and the other contemporary Evil Clown Ensembles followed.

So, this question is tough to narrow down to just a few titles, but here are four good recent albums you could start with: One each from Leap of Faith, Metal Chaos Ensemble, A Quartet of PEKs and An Orchestra of PEKs…

Leap of Faith Orchestra - The Photon Epoch (2019): The most recent Frame Notation Score for the Leap of Faith Orchestra performed at the Longy School of Music.

Metal Chaos Ensemble - The Riddle of Steel (2020): The fourth release by the stable Sextet Edition of MCE which features spoken word interludes from movies and literature. This sextet band will be very active again quite soon.

PEK Solo, A Quartet of PEKs - Strange Beauty Out of Chaos (2021): This set just finished on 5 April uses the quartet concept on a very broad palate.

PEK Solo, An Orchestra of PEKs - Semantic Notions (2021) : A four-hour studio construction in three 80-minute movements on 3 CDs.


PEK said...

As Nick noted in his introduction, I have been working on a more systematic explanation of my musical system, which I have recently completed.

The paper is posted on my website here:

Check it out!