This could (and let's face it, will) be the subject of a whole monograph at some point, but for right now a quick summary will suffice. I'm really doing this to plug our Outside In concert, which is taking place THIS FRIDAY, 25 May 2012, Curtiss Hall in the Fine Arts Building, downtown Chicago.
The program is
My Piano Inventions
James Klopfleisch's Living Underground/Because There Was No Money
Eric Malmquist's Piano Sonata
Brian Baxter's Mexican Coke!
and Ben Hjertmann's Bicinium.
And now for some history.
The five of us were composition students together at Illinois Wesleyan University. Second semester of senior year we started a "chapel-hour jam band," a free improvisation group that would meet for "gigs" in the music school's practice rooms every Wednesday at 11am, the weekly hour during which no classes were held at IWU. (Existence of any religious services during that hour apart from our improvisation happenings has not been confirmed.)
We called ourselves The Sissy-Eared Mollycoddles, after this fantastic quotation we heard from our composition teacher David Vayo -- speaking is Charles Ives, berating a concertgoer who was catcalling a Carl Ruggles piece:
"You goddamn sissy-eared mollycoddle! When you hear strong music like this, stand up and use your ears like a man!"
That fall Eric, Brian, and Ben moved to Chicago; I moved to Austin; Jim, after a hiatus playing on cruise ships, moved to California.
SEMC became a new-music trio of Eric, Brian, and Ben. For a couple years they played around Chicago a fair amount. One time all five of us performed together, in January 2008, a house concert involving coin-throwing, avant-garde narration, and an optional piano part. That was this era:
Around the same time, the trio famously opened a concert with original stand-up comedy. You'll notice a host of crystal glasses on the table there, which were featured in numerous compositions. There was a phase involving a lot of bowed guitar music. There was a composition contest. I wrote a piece that dictated a pause of a year after the second movement, with the same performers reassembling in the same location to finish the piece. I'm telling you, it's going to make a hell of a book one day.
Things shifted a bit in 2009 when the group opened its instrumentation and started a series of concerts featuring a rotating cast of musicians. Last season they played Chicago's legendary Green Mill jazz club and took the show on the road to Austin for South by Southwest. This year the group has been focused on performing and recording Ben's dissertation album Angelswort.
So what is SEMC, anyway? Who are the Sissy-Eared Mollycoddles? It's been an ensemble, a band, a concert-organizing rubric. It remains a collective of like-minded composer-performers. This concert is going to be a blast. I hope y'all can make it.
"For the magician's intelligence is not encompassed within the society; its place is at the edge of the community, mediating between the human community and the larger community of beings upon which the village depends for its nourishment and sustenance." -- David Abram
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