Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thunderbirds are Go

Photo by Guin
The talented folks on-stage will often influence your music, but sometimes it's fun to let them totally puppet you around the keyboard.

Now and again, while I'm playing music behind the MC, or perhaps accompanying a scene, one of the players on stage will decide to mime playing that music on an instrument. Of course, they'll take up an instrument as suggested by the music. In a scene set in a jazz club, they'll pull up a chair at their air-piano. If someone's doing beat poetry, they'll start playing a double-bass. Or when you're belting out some heavy metal, they'll start with the air-drums.

The progression of moments in that little relationship is nearly the same every time, and it almost always ends with an audience laugh. Usually the action goes like this:

  • I'm playing music
  • A player starts to mime playing the music
  • Once I notice them, I start to follow what they're doing, using their rhythm, their position on the keyboard/neck/etc
  • They realise I'm following them, and keep playing, but get more confident and physicalise with their whole body a bit more
  • They realise they are now in control. This is my favourite bit - I love it when they figure out they're driving.
  • They'll do a few notably-different actions to see how in control they are
  • They start puppeteering me around the keyboard, starting and stopping suddenly, using bizarre rhythms, doing runs up and down the board/neck/etc, playing the instrument with atypical body parts...
  • As the song finishes, the person does their big finish
  • Sometimes they'll mime clumsily carting the instrument off stage. Shenanigans ensue.

(My spell-checker really wanted to change "puppeteering" to "pestering" above; maybe I should have given it what it wanted.)

Sometimes a few audience members catch on to it, and the realisation spreads through the crowd until everyone's watching. Other times the audience doesn't even notice. I don't mind that - it's fun to have a moment with a player that no one else notices. :)


Dan said...

I got to enjoy a similar experience the other night when I took the stage with what was obviously a lute and forced the musician to follow my strumming. He was a half beat behind which I could have simply skipped by but it turned out to be way more fun to play it up. This put him into the driver's seat to mess me around and become the star of the show for a few moments.

Tom Tollenaere said...

Hah, this reminds me of a show where I was acting, not playing the piano. I'd gotten myself & the piano player in trouble by setting up a scene where I was a piano student, and I had just studied a concerty by Rachmaninoff. So the teacher character goes, let's hear it, I mime taking my seat behind a grand piano, with one eye I eye the piano player - just to make sure he's with me, and I place a really wide opening chord and a run up the keyboards.... and there's no sound. So my character goes, oops forgot to open the lid of the piano. And I do it again, and all I get from the pianist is this thin 'ting' hi-note sound. I did not like the pianist much at that moment... And then the teacher character says 'of my god, you really nailed Rachmaninoff'. And lights. Fortunately....

The pianist afterwards said, yeah well I don't know any Rachmaninoff. I'm referring him to your blog TODAY.

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