THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY A Far Cry warm up for a concert hosted at Royale as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival, a program devised to showcase "post-classical" music.
JOINING THE CIRCUS
Of course, there's one problem with an ensemble of musicians who all want to express their own musical visions: it's composed of musicians who all want to express their own musical visions.
And those visions can be very different. Just to take a random sampling: Darling, 32, who has long brown-and-silver hair and an unnervingly large personal collection of teas, moonlights as an early-music violinist. Lewis, 30, dabbles in fiddling, and has toured with Jethro Tull. Karl Doty, 26, the bassist, has his own Korean/bluegrass/folk mashup side project going on. Jae Young Cosmos Lee, 36, a violinist with diamonds sparkling in each earlobe, used to be a house DJ (he's also the main reason there's a no-sarcasm/eyerolling rule in rehearsals). And then there's Michael Unterman, 25, on cello, the newest Crier, who loves Radiohead and John Cage.
So there's negotiation. A lot of it.
"When I first joined, about a year and a half ago, I was really excited," says Unterman. "I remember saying, 'I feel like I've just joined the circus, this is going to be so much fun, I've just joined this awesome party.' . . . And now it kind of feels more like I joined the US Senate."
They do everything by consensus, from choosing their repertoire to vetting new members. In rehearsal, it's the same. They rotate section leadership; while they're playing, only a section leader can call for a break. Then, after they say their piece, only one other person can speak before it's back to playing. Comments have to be specific and constructive.
Even with all that, working so closely can be a strain.
"This orchestra is like a really bratty, talented child I can't fuckin' stand," Lee says, "yet at the same time, I gotta take care of it."
He knows his role in the group is the contrarian, on the wrong side of every door. If the orchestra is playing Bach, Lee thinks they should be collaborating with Arcade Fire. If they're branching out into experimental music, he wants them to do an all-Mozart program.
But at the same time, he takes as much ownership in the orchestra as anyone: "As much as I can yell at your face, and ask you why the fuck are you such bullshit, if someone — let's say if orchestras were gangs, and another gang member came down the street and hit them over the top of the head, I would actually go there and hold down that gang member and beat the shit out of them."
And of course, disagreements get dropped when they get on stage.
"This is where the posturing ends," says Miki-Sophia Cloud, 29, a violinist. "In a concert, you need each other in a way you don't during rehearsal. The concert is where the argument ends."