Impermanence, a fundamental property of existence, has bedeviled humanity since its first glimmer of consciousness. Awareness of change begot a fear of the unknown, which in turn begot a desire for stability. The need for permanence amid constant flux gave rise to such wonders as the Great Pyramid of Giza, the moai of Easter Island and Michelangelo’s David (as well as the maybe less wondrous tourists who flock to them). It gave rise to art itself.
The Ensemble of Irreproducible Outcomes (EIO) rearranges Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s paradoxical “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose” by 180 degrees. For EIO, the more things stay the same, the more they change.
The members of EIO (David D. McIntire, Brian Padavic and Ryan Oldham) often compose and perform with notation, but their work contains mutation in its DNA. Besides traditional improvisation, EIO, in its pieces featuring electronics, embeds recordings from earlier performances into the electronic material while altering them in some manner. With each new performance, they are transformed again, giving the musicians familiar yet shifting landmarks to help them navigate the new soundscape. Each musical outcome, while reminiscent of previous performances, is ultimately irreproducible.
But when all is said and done, what really matters is not the process, but the music itself. Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, double bass, ocarina, and electronics (along with less traditional “instruments”) combine to create works that offer both focus and freedom, from the vast, disc-length Trio and Sine Waves (with Wind, Snow and Birds) to the playful Intersection (at 44th and 77th Streets), which clocks in at a surprisingly satisfying 12 seconds.
Like any explorer worth their salt, EIO covers a lot of ground. Disc One’s opening piece, McIntire’s In Search of a Basilica, begins with an exotic ocarina melody answered by languid arco bass, trumpet and clarinet, as if dawn is breaking somewhere deep in the New World. And in another McIntire composition, Foggy, Foggy Dew, the traditional Irish tune shape-shifts like a sprite in the mist thanks to the three musicians’ nuanced performance.
For all its “serious music” bona fides, EIO has a playful side. Oldham’s aforementioned Intersection (at 44th and 77th Streets), besides being refreshingly brief, references hometown streets that do not and never will intersect. Three more short pieces by Oldham conjure up specific times and places, all in two minutes or less. One of them, New Years Eve on Shelbyville Road (featuring coughing, throat clearing and wheezing), immortalizes a gig at which the band was too drunk to play. McIntire’s Junewalk has a loping, wandering bass that seems blissfully unaware of the tightly focused clarinet and trumpet.
Two longer pieces close out the disc. Perforated Axis (Oldham) channels Mingus and Ives to pose a new unanswered question. This B is for Brian (Mcintire/Padavic), like creation myths everywhere, begins in chaos and ends in grace.
McIntire’s minimalist epic, Trio and Sine Waves (with Wind, Snow and Birds), takes up all of Disc Two. It unfolds against a field recording of natural sounds that is electronically manipulated throughout the piece. Working without a written score, McIntire, Padavic and Oldham interact with the field recording and electronics using an extremely small number of pitches (not revealed to each other) and whatever noises they can wring from their instruments. The end result is a perfect marriage of intention and chance, human ingenuity and cold, beautiful nature.
So here you have it. An unchanging record of music performed by a trio that never plays the same exact piece twice. That may well be a paradox. It most certainly is a wonder.
released February 13, 2015
David D. McIntire—clarinet, tenor saxophone, ocarina, electronics
Ryan Oldham—trumpet, flugelhorn, objects, whistling
Brian Padavic—double bass, whistling
Recorded at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, August 1-5, 2014.
Produced by Jonathan Robertson and EIO
Engineering: Jonathan Robertson
Mastering: Eric Honour
Graphics, photography and layout: Scott Unrein
Executive Producers: Michelle Allen McIntire, Peter Engleman and the West Plaza Tomato Company, Timothy M. Sullivan, Ann and Mel Kost, Michael Padavic, Petra Beemer, Pete Cashen, Kyle Scott, Joe & Sharon Padavic, and Tim Becks.
EIO is deeply grateful for the generous contributions of Gregory M. Yates, Carrie Flaspohler, Phil Marshall, Ken Frank, R. Andrew Lee, Dave Seidel, Rachel McIntire, Alexander Hogan, Stephen Sopp, Jim Mobberley, Daniel Eichenbaum, Coleen Shaw-Voeks, Paul Epstein, James Oldham, Chris Serrate, Patrick Shaw, Richard K. Lyles, Thomas Robertson, Don Altmeyer, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Miller, Alan Ford, Nanette Kraus, Sandy Brown, Cory Brown, Kevin Brown, Meaghan Stephanie Brown, Carol Carlson, Jay Batzner and all who have supported this project.
Special thanks to Jonathan Robertson, Eric Honour, Ken Frank, Liz Abram-Oldham, Michelle Allen McIntire, Robert Beck, Peter Witte, R. Andrew Lee, Ethos IPA, Nihan Yesil, and the West Plaza Tomato Company.