A lot of thought went into the Boy-Girl Band, a Boulder-based collective of four noted musicians that plays completely improvised music.
"The idea of the band was to get two men and two women who play music really well, and who come from really different points of view in music ... and just sit in a room two hours a week and see what music we make," says longtime Boulder musician Art Lande, who plays drums in the Boy-Girl Band. "We try to blend male and female energies ... and just play whatever comes in your head. The things we work on are about just the flow of the energy, making sure everybody tells their story in the music."
If it all sounds a bit esoteric, well, that's kind of the idea. In addition to Lande, the group includes Claire Church on saxophones, Ken Bernstein on bass and guitar, and Emily Takahashi on piano, and though they rehearse every Monday night, the group walks into every performance with nothing planned, letting songs arise completely spontaneously. Its 2003 CD, Drop Your Leotards! (band personnel has since changed), contains improvised songs with titles such as "Weird Dream," "Magical Dream" and "Disturbing Dream."
"It's not about style, it's more about the principles of music," says Lande, 59, who also serves as the group's bard, reading poems or reciting spontaneous poetry when the mood strikes. "It's an adventure and a discovery.
Rehearsals aren't about memorizing songs, but about working on the collaborative process. As Lande explains, it, each musician in the band has four choices at any given moment. They can match, playing exactly what another musician is playing on his or her instrument; they can complement, playing something that sounds good with what is already being played; they can go against, deliberately playing something that completely clashes with the current sound; or they can "mind their own business," playing whatever they feel like without paying any attention to what else is going on.
"That means I have a musical idea that I want to do; I hear what they're doing, but I don't really care what they're doing," Lande says. "It's like if you were painting the wall and I come in and I'm going to have breakfast. We notice that you're painting the wall and I'm having breakfast but we don't influence each other. You're not painting the wall because I'm eating, and you're not painting the wall faster because I'm eating faster.
"You're just painting the wall and I'm eating, and this is rare in music, it takes a lot of discipline. You might say, 'Why would anyone want to do that?' Well, it reflects real life, I like that. It's kind of comforting — he's painting the wall, I'm eating — then maybe after, at a certain point, we'll come together and we'll do something together, we'll watch TV.
"It's improvised composition — and I think we're really getting good at it."