I drove out to the far distant countryside last week, past the manor houses of the 80 corridor, to see Paul Dresher's Schick Machine. As usual, I was in a bit of a funk, but by the end the piece had completely drawn me in. Steven Schick is a masterful percussionist, one of those who I'm sure can elicit a masterful performance out of any old bit of junk, but in this work his talent is allowed to flit across a variety of one-off noise and tone machines, packed onto the relatively small stage. A number of instrument makers were involved in the project, including Paul himself, but also Dan Schmidt, from whom I studied Javanese Music so many years ago, and Matt Heckert of SRL fame. Mr. Heckert's instrument was one of my favorites, just because of its seeming dangerousness, spinning chaotically, almost out-of-control, reminding me of the bowling-ball cannon shooting at the spectators at the first SRL show I saw way back when. But out of this jumble came some beautiful and quite big music, aided by Alex Stahl's loopers which allowed Paul to build up some massive orchestral weaves.
There is a bit of a story: the man who has lost his name and given himself over to his plans for a world-changing machine, the Schick machine, and, as it is a crux of the piece, I won't give away what this machine really is. But he is trapped there, inside himself, inside the assemblage of sound, constantly distracted, and those moments of distraction, where he stops to play, are the true center of the piece.