Friday, June 30, 2006

Final Performance Feedback

The following is a transcript from my performance assessment feedback. The assessment was completed by Gris Sanderson and David Prior. As with the Interim performance feedback my comments will also be presented here.

Mark: 60

Technical skills:
The material you chose for this performance did not allow much scope for demonstrating technical ability, though there were one or two more challenging sections. However, what you did demonstrated an acquisition of a good basic technical grounding and some variety in style and technical skill.

See, this is what upsets me about these assessments. To have somebody assessing your playing who does not play your instrument puts you at a distinct disadvantage before you have even played a note! I have been told by guitarists who are more skilled than I (Toby Morgan among others) that the material chosen to play (Still More Fighting and Halo in particular) are very challenging guitar pieces and to attempt to play them is very adventurous and difficult to achieve.

You were fairly limited by the nature of the material in the sense that it allowed for no individualistic 'soloing'. The constant presence of notation meant that there was no opportunity for us to see how you would cope with improvisational issues.

Actually, there were some parts where I missed cues, or mis-hit notes, whereby I had to improvise until the end of the phrase and then come back in, obviously if these were missed then I pulled it off convincingly. There were also improvisational passages featured in Halo and Operation Market Garden that were not notated, just because the notation was there doesn't mean it was completely through-composed.

We felt it needed more imagination than simply mimicking another performance, and this has been a constant issue with your playing.

I still don't understand where this "mimicking another performance" comes into play; all these pieces were composed ELECTRONICALLY and as such there have been little to no live performances of this repertoire anywhere in the world. Personally I think that taking these pieces out of their original context and arranging them for live players into themed acts shows quite a lot of imagination and skill.

There were some rhythmically uneven passages e.g. the triplets in the opening sequence.

That'll be because that's the hardest piece I've ever had to play, and the room was very warm and my hands were very sweaty.

However, you are on top of your equipment, and despite some rather rushed change-overs from electric to semi-acoustic guitar you coped well with the technical challenges.

The changes of guitar were neccessary to the integrity of the works, in the same way Lucy had to switch from tenor to bari sax and back again. The only slight issue was when nerves made me think I had longer to change and by the time I realised where we were I had to improvise as the melody had escaped me.

Ensemble skills / musicianship:

Transcribing material such as this does lead to a few problems concerning interpretation. We felt you could have done more to make this your own work, perhaps by using your effects differently and adding more variety to the sound. It was a bit formulaic in style. The only dynamic changes came about through alterations in the instrumental / texture, and not through the playing itself. Again, this is an area where you could have personalised the music and brought it to life a bit more, rather than simply replicating what was on the original soundtrack.

Actually Jon and I spent a lot of time working out how far away from the original material we could stray before the audience would become disenchanted with us. I'd like to think we struck a healthy balance between making the music new and interesting (Vamo Alla Flamenco with lots of electric guitar) and staying true to the original composers.

The idea of an orchestra-like group of instrumentalists conducted by a director worked to a degree. It allowed you to focus on your parts. Unfortunately it also had the effect that you did not need to interact with the other players.

Actually group interaction was key to this performance. Although it may not have come across during the show, listening and responding to what each other was playing was vital during the rehearsal process, particularly when you have electric guitars and basses sharing the same space as flutes and cellos.

However, the group was well-rehearsed and you did well to select intrumentalists who were keen to work on this project.

That is very true, without their unwavering enthusiasm and commitment the show would never have gone on.

It is unclear whether you transcribed the parts yourself.

To which I would ask what bearing does it have on the live performance of the material? If somebody were to perform a Bach chorale would it have any reflection on the performance if they had worked the music out themselves or bought it in a shop? I can however say that the arranging process combined listening and transcribing the material, using the original source music files (for the older scores) and collaboration in equal measures.

Organisation / presentation:
For the sake of the look of the thing, you could have memorised some of the simpler sections.

I did, but I still had to keep my place in the music.

Your manner came across as a little pompous, without any real dramatic effect. However, the effort you went to in presenting this work deserves some merit. The stage layout, lighting and use of video demonstrated that a lot of thoughtful consideration and hard work had gone into the planning of this event. Sadly the sound quality was not as good as it could have been. The 'cello sound was very poor, and occasionally your own guitar part did not cut through very clearly.

I have been told by numerous people that the sound that night was fantastic, and certainly listening back to the live recording and video of the performance I would have to agree. Nick Tee and T Electrics did a stellar job with a difficult spread of instruments, and I don't have a single complaint from my end about the work they did. The cello sound suffered from last minute (as in, on-stage) technical issues, however the pure signal was in keeping with the sound of the ensemble and although her effects pedals weren't working, Sammy did a great job.

This was an interesting concept for performance. Although there are precendents for this type of thing it was a fairly unusual challenge to take on. You put together a programme that was entertaining and contained some variety.

Actually in terms of the genre of music it contained I really think that I put as varied a programme together as possible. I could have chosen my favourite Final Fantasy pieces, yet I chose those that were distinctive and stylistically different in order to create an interesting show.

The large audience demonstrated that there is an interest in this type of work, and there was a general feeling of enjoyment and recognition amongst the audience members.

I couldn't agree more, for that size audience to attend on the night of an England World Cup game was more than I could ever have hoped for.

We wish you all the best with future projects.

Thank you very muchly.


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