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Animal Hospital Ensemble puts 30 musicians in the round this Sunday

Posted by Ashley Willard  March 19, 2012 12:04 PM

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Circle Time with Animal Hospital

Kevin Emil Micka has a new way of listening.

Animal Hospital is the solo project of Kevin Emil Micka. Until now.

Micka, who also drums for the Boston-based Neptune, composes Animal Hospital’s extended exploratory songs using just guitars, percussion and the scant sounds of his own voice. To hear his music though (and you can, at you would never guess it. His recordings and solo performances have traveled far and wide, and this weekend, 30 of Micka’s musical friends are coming together to perform some of his pieces. Concertgoers will sit in the middle and be surrounded by the musicians, who come from bands such as Shepherdess, Geoglyphs, and Hallelujah The Hills. It was an idea that Micka pinched from a Rhys Chatham performance of "Guitar Trio" in 2007. But hey, little kids arrange their desks in a circle now, so why can’t musicians?

Q: Thirthy musicians?! How are you rehearsing?
A: We have been doing large sectional rehearsals in my friends space at the Berwick in Dudley Square.

Q: I’m looking at this photo of one your rehearsals. Tell me what who looking at.


A: (L-R) Frank Aveni, John Kolodij, Eric Dill, Kevin Micka, Scott Craggs. (Photo by Matt Parish.)

Q: Is 30 too many?
A: No, really. It's close.

Q: So why do you call your music ‘loop-based?’
A: Well, I play everything that you heard live by myself as a solo performer, where I record and loop each part.

Q: It doesn't sound like loops. I mean, it sounds like it's expanding loops. Sort of Gavin Bryars-like, but, in a post-rock way.
A: Thanks, I am glad.

Q: So you're a tone guy?
A: I think I have an aversion to that word. I work at an amp repair shop, so I always hear people talk about the magic "tone" their amp used to have.

Q: But the instructions that you are providing to the 30 musicians have lots of notes that apply to the characteristics of the piece?
A: I like textures a lot. There are all pretty simple parts — like pieces of a puzzle. Also I am not really formally trained and neither are most of the players.

Q: You don't use synths?
A: No. All guitar and voice and drums.

Q: So how do you get the smooth and washy swell-phrases on your song “Memory”?
A: A lot of the guitar is through distortion, pitch shifter, delay and then ‘direct’ for a more synth-type sound.

Q: Do you have an aversion to synths?
A: I just dont have much experience with them. I am much more comfortable with the guitar as a sound source

Q: How are the musicians responding to your stuff? I imagine that this is quite interesting to witness people taking the time to enjoy 16-minute pieces and actually absorb the development.
A: They are pretty much all people I have known for a while and have either expressed they really like the record, know me well, or have seen me play a bunch. Regardless, we have all been analyzing the music in a whole new way I never expected. I never had this ensemble idea in mind when I wrote this stuff. I am happy this music has a new life again in a new way.

Q: It's interesting how a lot of ambient stuff gets incorporated into pop music, and people love it, but can be resistant hearing it on its own.
A: Yeah they need words. My experience is that many people need a vocal, some lyrics, a story to explain and help them understand what they are hearing or give them something to identify with.

Q: So what do you say to that person, who likes to listen to the Cure's Disintegration, or whatever, but gets a little nervous about dipping their toe into your stuff?
A: I love that on tour when you meet someone who is often younger and only has Incubus or Radiohead as a point of reference; when you can help open a whole new way of listening and appreciating music.


Animal Hospital Ensemble (30 musicians) performs "Memory" in Boston
December 4th / 6pm / $10.00 / All Ages
MassArt's Pozen Center w/ Beautiful Weekend
621 Huntington Ave Boston, Massachusetts
Produced by SIM and Joseph Wight

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About the author

Jonathan Donaldson is a Boston-based musician, writer, and second-generation music junkie. An Ohio native who moved to Boston in 1998, Jonathan's musical loves include R&B, psych, punk, bubblegum, country, electronic, More »

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