The PrimeTime Sublime Community Orchestra Speaks to the Nation
The only thing worse than pretension in music is not having the explanations laid out for you. But in humor, if you call it absurd, you can get away with it just because it sounds funny. That is the mission of Paul Minotto and his eclectic crew of looping-noise- orchestral-narrative new music makers. All right, that might not be much of an explanation itself.
Remember Frank Zappa's Lumpy Gravy? Half orchestra, half seemingly random bits of phrases, all weird. Add to that a healthy dose of techno-experimental conversation looping, and you've got a clue what's in store for the first 4 tracks of this 5 track masterpiece.
The 5th track is a lengthy narrative, somewhat akin to the comical meanderings of Zappa's Lather (especially the "brown cloud" stuff), or maybe even Uncle Meat, but that's as close as you'll get to a comparison. "A Life in a Day of a Microorganism" puts a '50s educational film spin on human relationships, foibles, follies and all.
The narration does not boom, nor do the characters speak like humans (but robotically), giving the listener a very eerie picture into our daily routine and sexual appetites. The accompanying music is closer to underscoring you'd expect to find during space scenes in a '50s rocketship flick, going into exploits of lush orchestrations for brief minutes at a time. It's an elegant but full-frontal studio creation.
The orchestra describes itself as "a mix of Contemporary Jazz, 60's Rock, Chinese Folk, Polynesian percussion, country music, Spaghetti Western and other film music styles, Muzak, east Indian, Hip-hop to various 20th Century classical styles, 60's R&B, 'Avant-Garde,' Bossa Nova and various Latin American rhythms, Surf guitar music to whatever."
They don't take themselves too seriously - only the music. They've had radio airplay but pride themselves in the fact that they'll never be heard on MTV. They've been called "either genius or madness" and have worked with many dance companies and choreographers, most recently with the Star Foster Dance Project in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. It's easy to see why visuals would lend themselves so well to such scores - it's like writing the film music before seeing the movie.
"Zappa was a big influence on us," explains main-man Paul Minotto. "Fortunately, we are not compared to him by everyone who hears us. Zappa's oeuvre can be broken down to his pop/rock music and his 'serious classical' stuff. Certainly there are elements of both (and more) in each of our pieces, and these distinctions tend to be (I may be over simplifying here) defined by instrumentation: rock band/ symphony orchestra (or chamber groups consisting of acoustic instruments).
"We are trying to obliterate distinctions such as this and create music (or something like it) which cannot be adequately labeled, categorized or stuffed into any of the established genre/styles fabricated by the Music Industry - 'New? music that doesn't fit anywhere.'"
There is certainly a similarity between PrimeTime's collage mood and what the late '60s were trying to accomplish by pushing the boundaries of composition, tones, puzzling melodies and interaction. And yet, after 40 years screwing with the basic premise of 'music' - is there really anything new?
"New sounds do not equate with good music. Sound or timbre as it is technically referred to, is but one element in the equation. One may differ in what is 'good' or 'bad' music, but usually there is a balance of the elements in any case. The challenge has been and will always be how to take something and make it your own, make it New? again."
The album took a year to put together and record, with some parts being recorded in a large concert hall, then mixed with computer samples and assembled in a studio. It is this amalgamation that gives Microorganism a very strong, individual personality; like a best friend, you'll either love him or hate him.
To be in love with PrimeTime's solution (or absolution) to music, being a bit on the Klaus Schulze side will help. When constructing melodic works "you might not hear melody (relationships) where someone else does. Or, the music may not be about melody at all, instead emphasizing other elements of music such as rhythm, texture, and/or timbre (tone color of sound). It's all part of the same continuum. It really depends on the musical situation."
No, you don't have to hold a doctorate in music to understand. It's like using the Force. You just have to let go. "For those people who don't get it on the first listen, listen again and again, and eventually you will begin to hear relationships and make 'sense' out of it. I know this is unrealistic since the average music consumer whose tastes are dictated solely by Pop Culture would rather not have to 'work' at their entertainment, but there are rewards in the end. If one goes beyond the entertainment aspect, and develops a personal love for music, any kind of music, a transformation of consciousness could take place and one begins to operate in a realm of the 'spiritual.' My mother sees God every time Frank Sinatra comes on the radio."
Very few looping sequences were used, and if so, they were samples played from a computer along with the orchestra. That's how they do it live, as well. But for the CD construction, "the process is more intuitive. I have a library of audio bits that I've collected which I cut up, digitally process and reconstruct which subverts their original meaning and serves my purpose, which I'm not always sure of."
They perform mostly in the New York area, so bring a net and try to catch them soon. But hurry. These are creatures of studio sessions, too.
"We have 2 CDs out and a 3rd one in the works. The next one will be primarily pop songs, though subverted and extended beyond the commercial realm. We have a friend in the U.K. who knows Sir George Martin (the 5th Beatle) and is trying to set up a meeting between us. His friend seems to think that Sir George would be interested in working with us on our next project. (Personally, I think the friend may have dropped a little too much acid in the 60's.) We are working on our 1st video which will also never be seen on MTV.
"I'm writing material for the next CD. One of the songs is called 'Hannibal Lecter's Barbecue.' It's about a Saturday afternoon barbecue at Hannibal's house. It's sure to be a hit. Look for us on American Bandstand. (Is that show still on?) Okay, then maybe Soul Train."