Spoleto 2015 » Concert & Choral

The Living Earth Duo makes experimental music fun

Martian Jazz

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Life being what it is, and contemporary chamber music duo The Living Earth Show being who they are, an interview with Travis Andrews and Andy Meyerson wouldn't be complete without a discussion that veers into the world of pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwiches. After all, one of the songs they will likely play when they breeze through Charleston is called "Pork Roll, Egg, & Cheese on a Kaiser Bun."

Composed by Ken Ueno, the song is part of the duo's quartertone repertoire, but the funny thing is: neither Andrews nor Meyerson have ever had a pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich.

Luckily, we have, and so we enlightened them. Pork roll is a lot like ham, and when it's fried, it caramelizes, creating a rich, thick crust on the meat. Add the egg and cheese and slap that bad boy on a hard roll, and it's only the most amazing breakfast sandwich on earth. Really, it puts chicken biscuits to shame.

By the time the digression is over, Meyerson and Andrews have seen the error of their ways. "We'll have to find them and try them," Andrews says.

This is the kind of conversation you can expect when you meet the fellas of The Living Earth Show. Anything goes, anything is fine, and no matter what, they're going to have a great time.

But what is The Living Earth Show, and what will they be doing at Spoleto this year? That's easy to explain — sort of.

The Living Earth Show is a San Francisco-based musical group. Andrews is a guitarist; Meyerson is a percussionist. "Basically, we're a classical music ensemble," says Meyerson. "We play music written by other composers for the two of us. But it's like experimental classical music for the wrong instruments: electric guitar and percussion. Not violins and flutes."

Meyerson and Andrews met at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and enjoy exploring the qualities of their instruments that are rooted in rock, metal, and jazz. Then they put those qualities to use in the classical music they play.

Their music is written by celebrated classical composers like Damon Waitkus, Ken Ueno, and Adrian Knight, and ranges from ambient tunes, which are perhaps more recognizable as traditional "music," to their quartertone pieces, which they refer to alternately as "non-tonal" and "Martian jazz."

As for the shows themselves, the duo will be performing a retrospective of their five years as bandmates when they take the Spoleto stage. The first night will feature their experimental quartertone music.

"A lot of the pieces in the first program have a very clear and defined logic, at least to the performers. The coolest part is there's almost no connection to the musical language most people know, like how hearing a certain chord makes you feel a certain way, like how a minor chord makes you sad. The quartertone music is different, like you're watching poetry in a different language," says Meyerson. "If you're down to explore, if you let go of your expectations, you can get lost in these crazy sounds."

On the second night, they'll be playing ambient pieces. Andrews says, "These are the pieces that'll hit you in your emotional gut."

Regardless, adds Meyerson, "Our sound can be whatever people make of it, or what the weirdest people can find to do with it."

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