For Heterodyne — a group that makes its music exclusively out of thin air — live improvisation is an act of communication between musicians that requires absorbent ears and open minds.
How open, exactly? “I don’t think people are fully cognizant of the role that telepathy plays in this,” says the group’s co-founder, Ted Zook. Upon hearing that idea, Zook’s musical partner, Maria Shesiuk, breaks into laughter, then shrugs. “I laugh,” she says, “but I believe in that.”
Shesiuk, 38, and Zook, 70, formed Heterodyne last summer after repeatedly crossing paths on Baltimore’s improv scene, and they have since performed their telepathy with a revolving cast of area musicians — saxophonist Sarah Marie Hughes, drummer Jerry Busher and keyboardist Bob Boilen (of NPR fame ) among them. Shesiuk mainly plays keyboards while Zook bows a hybridized “basscello.” And because Heterodyne has never rehearsed, the music remains dictated by those core instruments, whoever shows up to join them onstage and the mood of the room.
Shesiuk and Zook have been cataloguing those moods by diligently posting Heterodyne’s live recordings on SoundCloud, and if you dig in, you’ll hear a confab of players working in supportive drones, thoughtful rhythms and other attentive little gestures.
“Since I started playing experimental music, improv music, my listening has changed completely,” Shesiuk says. “I feel like my brain has rewired itself. I hear little details I never heard before.”
Committed listeners of improvisational music might start to hear those details, too. And that’s a pretty good deal. If you believe that music is life, here’s one group trying to help you get more of it.
Show: Opening for Joy on Fire on Aug. 26 at 9 p.m. at Galaxy Hut, 2711 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. $5.