Kansas City's Ensemble of Irreproducible Outcomes (EIO) take as their motto, "Music is a river we step into regularly, but it's never the same one." This trio of "non-virtuosos" play an eclectic assortment of instruments, ranging from clarinet, trumpet and double bass to the flugelhorn and ocarina. Together, the trio -- comprised of David D. McIntire, Ryan Oldham and Brian Padavic -- rely on strong chemistry and an almost "telepathic" connection to each other to produce their irreproducible not-quite-jazz, not-quite classical experimental sounds. In this interview, Ryan Oldham walks us through EIO's unique approach to music-making.
For the uninitiated, what is Ensemble of Irreproducible Outcomes? Who’s involved? How did the Ensemble originate?
EIO (we usually refer to ourselves in abbreviated form) is comprised of David D. McIntire (clarinet, saxophones, ocarina, electronics), Ryan Oldham (trumpets, flugelhorn, whistling, objects) and Brian Padavic (double bass, tanpura raagini). The trio was formed in the wake of an attempt by David D. McIntire to compose a piece for double bass and electronics (never finished). He invited Padavic to come to his house and record some bass sounds, which McIntire planned to use as raw material for the project. In the midst of this process, an idea of writing music that would be flexible in its realization (but consistent and recognizable) took hold, and Oldham was added to the mix. We’ve done a lot of performing for a group of our sort, and really developed a strong chemistry, which is our greatest asset. The manner in which we can anticipate each others’ playing and spontaneously connect with each other borders on the telepathic. We are probably best categorized as “non-virtuosos,” but we can all do fairly interesting things on our instruments, and we’ve all grown a lot as players since we began playing together.
Tell us about EIO’s first album Memory and Weather. How long had it been in the works? Where was it recorded?
Memory and Weather was recorded over five days in July of 2014. It included most of the repertoire that we had composed for ourselves since forming in 2012. We performed in four shows at the Fringe Festival that summer so we were in good form, and then recorded, with our composer friend Jon Robertson engineering. We were really pleased with the project, though we probably all feel like we could do it a lot better now… A sort of “companion album” consisting of several versions of McIntire’s arrangement of the Irish folk song "The Foggy Dew" also resulted from those sessions. We thought that this provided a good window into our methods, and was surprisingly satisfying as a listening experience. Last February, we released a digital album of our performance in Buffalo’s Silo City, a large grain silo that has been re-purposed into a performance space.
What is EIO’s approach to composition? Is it entirely collaborative? What balance does EIO strike between improvisation and composition?
EIO’s members all compose for the group. To this point, nearly all of our repertoire has been composed by trio members, though this is changing a bit. A few compositions are collaborative, but mostly each member composes on their own and brings the new piece to rehearsal. We play through things together and then go back and revise. We try to create works that emphasize our strengths as players and are fun to play together. Most pieces go through several layers of us playing through drafts, followed by revision. We’ve developed a good sense of the sort of pieces that we’re good at, while continuing to expand the trio’s expressive range. We are beginning to do more jazz compositions, or write things that probably resemble jazz to most people. Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” was the first one, which Padavic transcribed shortly after Coleman died. We aren’t jazz musicians in the truest sense of the term, but we’ve all been shaped by different jazz artists and composers. We have an arrangement of David Bowie’s “Lazarus,” Zappa’s “King Kong,” and we’re working on a couple new ones. We try to find material that we can make work in terms of the trio dynamic, that feels very natural to us. This tends to be stuff that lies outside the mainstream of most rock or jazz.
The last question is difficult to answer in that while there is a lot of improvisation in our work, it is shaped by the idea that each piece should be consistent in affect and recognizable from performance to performance. How we solve that equation varies a lot from piece to piece. We have a range of expression that allows us to fit in a wide variety of contexts. We’ve played on rock bills in clubs, performed in galleries and the usual “alternative spaces” that groups like us gravitate towards, as well as peoples’ homes, universities, etc. We are probably most comfortable in informal and non-academic settings, though we have about ten music degrees between us.
What plans does EIO have for the rest of 2017 and beyond?
We plan to tour the northeast this fall and record extensively in the Silo City performance spaces in Buffalo NY. We’ve easily got another album’s-worth of new material that we will record when we feel like we’ve settled into it enough. The next album will probably be a bit more consistent in its material, less experimental on the surface.
What makes Kansas City a great place for improvisational and experimental music?
KC has nurtured us in a number of ways. We all did work in the composition department at UMKC and we’ve found the city to be rich in opportunities of various sorts. We’ve collaborated with the Mnemosyne Quartet a number of times, to name one example. We’ve kept busy, doing more than one might expect, and we’ve done a lot of collaborations with other artists.