Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rich Lauver on Playing MDK at Peabody

Rich Lauver is known for transcribing MDK and performing it with the Peabody Camarata.

Here is some comments from Rich's website about the process that he went through:

I first heard the original recording of Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh, as performed by Christian Vander and his progressive jazz/rock ensemble Magma, in about 1975, and it completely blew my mind. I had never heard anything like this music before, and nothing I have heard since can quite compare to its sheer innovativeness, power, fury, and defiance of categorization. I literally just about wore out two copies of the LP over the years.

Around 2002, I became aware that Vander's publishing company,
Seventh Records, had produced a vocal/piano score of the work, which I immediately ordered. While it was the best representation of MDK that was available at the time, I wondered whether it might be a viable idea to create a truly accurate transcription of this epic work based upon the original studio recording. Of course, I wasn't about to go into such a massive undertaking without the possibility of a live performance, so I enlisted the support of Gene Young, the conductor of the Peabody Camerata, which I manage.

Gene agreed to a performance of the work by the Camerata, so I approached Christian Vander with the idea via email, and he agreed, provided that I provide him with a copy of the score once I had completed my transcription. I had no idea at the time how much work I had just created for myself. It took me almost an entire year to complete my transcription - a full score of the original version of
MDK, and parts for the 20 musicians it would take to perform it. The vocal/piano score that I had was a starting place, but it was woefully inaccurate and incomplete in many regards. I had to listen to the recording of the original version, fortunately now available on CD, many hundreds of times, gleaning as much detail as I could with my ears, and transcribe it note for note, for each instrument and vocal part, maintaining as much faithfulness to that recording as was humanly possible.

Then I had to gather forces together to perform it from the student population of the Peabody Conservatory, none of whom had ever heard the piece before. I created my own diction CDs for the vocalists, mostly opera students who, while they were familiar with various European languages, certainly had no experience with the Kobaian language that Christian Vander had invented to tell the story of his science fiction adventure. On top of everything else, we had to perform it after only five rehearsals.

Somehow, we managed to pull it off, and while the performance was certainly not up to the standards of a Magma performance - for one thing, Christian Vander is one monster of a drummer, and he wrote the piece, so it's hard for anyone to take his place behind the kit, and the rest of his Magma musicians are intimately familiar with the work - we did a pretty good job overall. My favorite part of the whole thing was just after the last note, a piercing electronic tone on the original recording, taken by piccolo in my transcription. The audience sat in stunned silence for what seemed to be an eternity. You could have heard a pin drop in the concert hall. In fact, they sat there for a full 19 seconds - I timed it from the concert recording - before finally exploding in tumultuous applause and cheers.

Christian Vander remarked, after listening to the concert recording of our performance, that, "It was the closest version to the original spirit of
MDK I have had the chance to hear."


  1. This describing "Piccolo" is Great like your samples...Can I understand of "A symphonic MDK" ?..Thanks.

  2. Damn it... I would kill for the entire transcription. Does anyone know where to find it? Or even the original piano score... it's been sold out for a while

  3. Will the recording ever be released? Are there any legal barriers?