and The Evolution of Neon Egypt's Music
Neon Egypt's departure from mainstream jazz began in 1992 when percussionist Steven Miller and
8-string guitarist Ron Thompson formed the performance art collaborative
Tabula Rasa (from the Latin meaning literally "erased tablet", or
more colloquially, "blank slate") along with artists Harrison Goldberg, saxophone, and
Troy Silveira, keyboards. This four piece ensemble undertook an
intentional regimen of mental and musical exercises designed to reach
beyond the players' past programming as jazz musicians, and augment
it with the pure ability to create - by inspiration as it were - through
attentive, intuitive listening. (See
Intuitive Music) Each weekly session was recorded and
copies distributed for review to the participants the following week.
The earliest experiments utilized graphical and symbolic notation for
"concept" pieces. The results were generally hesitant and awkward, as the musicians struggled
to escape their usual and familiar chordal and rhythmic jazz frameworks
and patterns of playing, while attempting to create something unknown,
something truly fresh.
At some point it was recognized that the conceptual designs themselves,
being based in thought, constituted impediments to the intuitive process,
and they were dropped in favor of silence (which is how each session was
begun) and pure listening.
As the players continued to develop their sensitivities week by
week, new, more natural "patterns" began to emerge and assert themselves.
For example, the four players found that even in the absence of any
conceptual framework they would consistently create music that had
apparent, albeit perhaps unconventional, structure. Diverse thirty-five to forty
minute pieces would often materialize that had three or more clearly
defined movements, each with a discernable beginning, middle, and end.
As all sessions were recorded, this structure became more evident upon review.
While the work of refined listening progressed, a continual stream of new musical information began
to flow through and inform these flexible movements, seemingly regulating
itself in some unknown manner, so that the players would each fully
exercise their creative contributions, and yet all somehow end up in the
same musical "place" consistently. Previous constraints such as time
signature and key signature became essentially irrelevant, as the
musicians began to play in unusual, mixed scales and rhythms. Pure,
coordinated inspiration became the new glue holding the pieces together.
It was always apparent when a particular musical piece was complete, and the
players would reach a natural ending and simply stop playing, at
The fruit of these years of musical experiment and growth are now
represented in Neon Egypt, a continuing collaboration of two of the
original members of Tabula Rasa. Neon Egypt's
music revisits certain sound-forms and characteristics of jazz, yet is fully and spontaneously improvised, and recorded live without
overdubs or retakes.