Thursday, 1 July 2010

Email Exchange Re. Bristol Duo

Subject: thoughts on our duo‏
From: David Grundy
Sent: 20 June 2010 14:53:56
To: anthony whiteford

The Sine Language Project: Collaboration

I’d thought of doing a duo as part of the ‘Sine Language Project’ (provisional title to cover a proposed series of collaborations, with me on sine-wavey-style electronics.) The idea behind the ‘project’ is it to collaborate with performers who’ll add something different and unpredictable – even seemingly incompatible – providing new perspectives and forcing new accommodations and meanings to the ‘sine system’. (This ‘system’ is a kind of constant, I suppose – a static, stark, ‘pure’ constant – which will of course be modified by what goes on around it.) I’m also interested in working with people interested in expanding or altering the clichés of concert format/ perhaps with movement, spatial perception (I might try to work with some dancers)/ with actors/ with musicians interested in theatricality, self-reflexivity, the notion of *performance* rather than just sitting there and playing some music.

Flow and counter-flow

What I liked about your playing in the duo last Wednesday was the way you simultaneously went ‘with a flow’ – as in the bits where we had vocals working with the drone, the sax and recorder meshing with the electronics too, hovering around, roundabouts a single pitch (in the second part of ‘Witches’)– and did things which were potentially disruptive – cut-up, musique concrete, anti-flow; speech fragments, often self-reflexive, referring to what’s going on and the thoughts and reasons behind musical actions (“I plan at some point in the future to knock over the other bell. Can this really be improvisation?”); readings from feminists texts; bursts of radio – often classical music, during this session – miscellaneous percussion. This is tied up, I suppose, with your refusal to be a conventional instrumentalist, tied to one instrument – it’s not saxophone + misc percussion, the saxophone is on the same level as the voice and the percussion and the radio – just another element in the mix. Was it 45 minutes before you even touched it? At certain points the radio seemed to ‘distract’ from the sine stuff – but the nature of the sine stuff is to fade in and out of background and foreground, after all – and this is free improv! Radio is simply a different element (& used differently from the usual Keith Rowe method as well). And it’s intriguing to have a clash between reactive and unreactive things – the way the electronics often don’t change in reaction to radio etc, and the way that radio doesn’t change in relation to other things.

Witches’ Dance

But *of course* there is interaction, communication. Not as polite ‘exchange’ but as swarming crawling overlapping frequencies, textures, bursts, drones, voices, voicings. “They howl, they gasp, they babble, they shout, they sigh…unable to speak straightforwardly, logically, geometrically, in strict conformity…” The Xaviere Gauthier text you were reading set off some strands in relation to this – notions of shamanic ecstasy (the bits with drumming, vocals + a few times I sampled shamanic ceremonies, glossolalia recordings); the use of technology/electronics to create an experience related to far more archaic forms of thought – ceremonial, ritual function. But *not* in some bullshit nostalgic way; not as regression. And if at times I hear the music as shamanic ceremony, at other times it’s radio crackle, white noise, interference, the hum of machines, of technology; leaves and twigs, grit spurting up from the road, burned out car tyres, nuts and bolts, factory engines, the hum of the computer hub.

Music and environment

The way you play could be described as self-critical/ self-reflexive, but not through hang-ups, through guilt, or through facile post-modernism. Indeed, the self-reflexivity occurs in a *relaxed* way (not sure if that’s the right word), where environment is truly accepted and brought into the music, in a really organic way – nothing is ‘wrong’, nothing is resented, nothing ‘intrudes’ – or if it does at first, it is incorporated into the flow of things. Music is not something which has to be put in a glass case, away from what happens around it, but reacts to it, impinges on it and is impinged on by it. But there is also a real focus, a real inward tone, when the saxophone eventually does come in – a sense (even) of emotion, fragments of delicacy and melody which are in no way sentimental or, in the clichéd sense, ‘oases of calm’, but which *do* possess a lovely simplicity.

Collaboration Once Again

What the session showed me was the ‘sine language project’ might end with a series of wildly diverse collaborations – will almost be a thought experiment for me, a means of, amongst other things: demonstrating and analysing free improv’s adaptability; the nature of personal and musical interaction; inter-disciplinary crossings/sharings; the role of environment. This is all stuff I’m interested in and think about with regards to free improv anyway, but the ‘project’ puts it through a prism which makes the issues stand out clearly, in a way that can be analysed – not systematically, theory abstracted from practice, but nonetheless with some sort of comparative structure built into things.

Re: thoughts on our duo‏
From: anthony whiteford
Sent: 20 June 2010 19:13:59
To: David Grundy

hiya david see below for my quick kneejerk response

yes indeed. thanks for your thoughts/text on the music of the other day. i am instantly embarrassed to be reminded that you had some kind of preordained experiment in mind, a follow on from some previous activities which i conveniently forgot, so attended the session with a clean slate and thought we were just making duos. i have a keen ability to lose all focus on thoughts or preordained ideas discussions once the music ensues. i'm sure this is a good thing for ensuring unconscious in the moment improvised music. although i recognise it's also a potentially annoying trait for others to deal with. it was one of those sessions when i almost never thought 'what's david doing? or what's going on? in that case i need to bring in such and such a thing.' i was mostly on a very unconscious wave of activity quite oblivious to the meld or sharp contrast of things i might create alongside your creations. i'm not sure i was that conscious that you were using sine wave. when i picked up the book i immediately thought of the text ‘why witches’ without really knowing if it was a direct response to the sounds already ensuing. but i seem to recall the text 'why witches' came in almost immediately or very early on and seemed to suggest something eerie or telling under the electronic sound you were making. i was probably quite aware that the text was speaking of sentiments seemingly far removed from sine waves and yet at the same time i'm very aware of how the likes of Sachiko M have reinvented/ reinstated the female wail with the cry of fucked machines and i'm very much reminded of other high tech associated witch wailers such as Amy Yoshida. and it occurs to me that the sine wave and electronic sounds are voices that have lost the ability to communicate logically or properly and instead hum or stutter beyond the supposed/mythic intelligibility of words. the bit where we both start stuttering in response to the text was magical and emotional i thought, and at the time seemed in sharp contrast to the electronics and yet now i see that electronics are broken communications too.

yes. lots of strongly contrasting radio/tape sounds. and lots of classical. somehow i just felt to let things come in randomly and also felt to leave them there however starkly contrasting or insistent they were. sooner or later even dominant aspects break down in the sound don’t you think?

and now i suddenly recall how in our original sine wave and response musics there was almost exclusively saxophone. how embarrassing. no i don’t think of myself as a saxophonist when i'm improvising. picking up the saxophone is like picking up a bell or radio only more limiting and demanding than either of those two. it comes in or not when it happens. i was really not thinking much at all during that first piece. i was bunging things into the mix like a baby throwing things out of a cot only with no intention or desire. i was in the sound of things falling and happy throughout the entire peice. relieved to be outside my fucked up head for and hour or so.

thanks for your comments regards the voice commentary thing. i like what you said. i dunno when it started to happen, but i guess in response to the still ongoing mystification of so much improvised performance wherein musicians create sounds as if in some magic inexplicable realm – so speaking out loud what is happening and what i'm thinking feels like a very very natural element to add to the sounds. and often my ongoing life creeps in too. at one point i recited/hollered my maternal grandmother and my maternal great aunts names prompted by gauthier's text and by recent decision to drop my father's surname and adopt my matriarchal grandmother's name instead. the reading of texts is so weird cos it's fixed, it's on the page and yet what we read and where/how is so utterly improvisational isn’t it?

i need to reread your text now. as this was simply a knee jerk reaction to one quick read.

thanks for the music on wednesday. you saved my life again, lifting me from ongoingly bleak mind terrains. i also thank you for being you and being so unerringly there and up for it and committed to the art, you give me hope in an otherwise hope-drained landscape. thanks

Re: thoughts on our duo‏
From: anthony whiteford
Sent: 20 June 2010 20:07:47
To: David Grundy

(I might try to work with some dancers)/ with actors/ with musicians interested in theatricality, self-reflexivity, the notion of *performance* rather than just sitting there and playing some music.
LOVE THIS statement: "Rather than just sitting there and playing some music." we need to make this an album title for the future.

the use of technology/electronics to create an experience related to far more archaic forms of thought – ceremonial, ritual function.
YES electricity/static subliminal activity audio {buried voices ghost sounds warped life sounds reinstigated from beyond the grave of the day on which they occured and died} and visual are all part of shamanic ritual in my experience. electronics and technology have the shaman's ability to shapeshift sounds, or if you prefer = soundshift!!!!

Music is not something which has to be put in a glass case, away from what happens around it, but reacts to it, impinges on it and is impinged on by it.

YES i agree. i think this says more eloquently what i was trying to say about transparency as opposed to mystification. and yes i like the idea of magic/sacred/ritual being actually merely constructed from what is, which is for me as sacred as it gets anyways? so yes things impinge. or we are forced to impinge upon things in our environment that we didn’t create [other musicians / guide leaders!!!!!] questions such as when does it start or end so valuable to critique challenge open up improvisational process as opposed to performance in the tradition of 'good evening ladies and gentlemen it's 8pm and we are on stage so it starts just after i stop speaking and we put our instruments to our mouths hands'

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