I’ve been staying with my brother’s family in Sunnyside, Queens, since May 20. (Click here for that story: “Adventures in Daddy Duty.”)
Jeff and his wife Choi are both artists, musicians by trade. Yet their creativity defies boundaries. Indeed, Jeff’s work is largely an endeavor in blending different cultures, genres and media. His big band, “Project Hansori,” was recently selected by the Asian American Arts Alliance to participate in their festival called “Locating the Sacred.”
On Saturday, I went with Jeff to meet Soh Daiko, a group of Taiko drummers, and scout the New York Buddhist Church on Manhattan’s upper west side where they will soon play together. The church was founded in 1938 and resides in a beautiful old building right next door to jazz legend Duke Ellington’s house. The block borders on a boulevard of the same name (aka, 106th Street). Sounds like the perfect place for such a collaboration, right? Well, read to the end…
Before the noon meeting, we walked around the neighborhood checking out funky benches and other sculptures by the 100th Street Block Association. We grabbed lunch and strolled up to the church, where Soh Daiko’s Anton was waiting and we were soon joined by Dan, Junko and Cheryl. I was a fly on the wall (and the floors), shooting photos of the architecture and listening to these collaborators discuss how to deliver on the brochure’s promise of an “all-immersive sonic environment.”
The ideas flowed and quickly merged into a channel described by Jeff as an “intentional bleed,” where his big band will be broken into smaller groups that play simultaneously in different rooms along with the drummers. As Junko articulated, the entire building will be an instrument. When did you ever see that on a musical score?
Cheryl asked about the audience traffic flow, which was addressed with plans for the musical equivalent of a visual arts exhibit. Patrons will enter the building and proceed at their own pace, taking in the music as it comes and goes through walls, halls, rooms and stairways. They will eventually end up in the Hondo (sanctuary) for a grand finale.
It sounds and looks like this will be a cool gig! The concept for the whole festival is pretty neat, too. Too bad I won’t be in NYC to participate in the experience, but I’m hopeful that Project Hansori and Soh Daiko’s intentional bleeding will be recorded.
After we left, Jeff and I walked down West End Avenue, where Duke’s spirit still presides at jazz clubs like “Smoke” and a little pub that claims to be “a hell of a joint.” In a taste of bitter irony, we learned that the Buddhist Church’s neighbors (who live in what used to be Duke’s house), are quick to call the cops and complain about the music. Go figure.
What would Buddha do? Probably what I hope you will do, too: Go check it out, and immerse yourself the experience!