tracks 1-18 recorded april 2004
track 19 recorded august 2003
at Railyard 1, Santa Fe
1 Copper Baritone/Steel Reed
2 Thump/Squat/Kyzyl Kum/La Bas/Steel Reeds
3 Dish/Bish-Bosh/Steel Reeds
4 Thump/Squat/Paired/Bish-Bosh/Bosco2/Basuka/Steel Reed/Steel Flute
7 Basuka/Bish-Bosh/Pharo/Steel Reed/Thump/Squat/Tubes
8 Basuka/Furtwangler/Kyzyl Kum/Peddlar/Thump/Steel Reed
9 Sir Gamelan/Bish Bosh/Phorques
10 Pharo/Steel Flute/Steel Reed/Thump/Squat/Chant
11 Kyzyl Kum/Pig/La Bas/Steel Reeds
12 Sir Gamelan/Phorques/Dish/Bish-Bosh
14 Steel Reed/Chant
15 Thump/Squat/Quesera/La Bas/Steel Reed
16 Dish/Bish-Bosh/Steel Reed/Phorques
17 Kyzyl Kum/Basuka/Thump/Squat/Strumpet/Pharo
18 Copper Whistle 1/Copper Baritone
19 Thump/Squat/Pipes/Tubes/Basuka/Lamelop/Harp/Copper Reed/ Copper Whistle 1
played by: Alex Ferris
In my late teens and early twenties, when I was learning to work in the building trades instead of going to college, I did what I could to educate myself in the arts by reading a lot. With few exceptions (most notably the Stravinsky-Craft conversation books) the books on musicians (and fine artists) who interested me were largely uninformative (fr’instance, I would have loved to have found a book on Debussy that explained how he used ninth chords instead of seeing how many times it could use the word “shimmering”, or one on twentieth century tonality that didn’t feel compelled to chose a side in Adorno’s Schoenberg-Stravinsky apocalypse). One of my best teachers during this period was the recently deceased Ezra Pound (and by extension Hugh Kenner who wrote about him). One of Pound’s many dicta was ‘break the pentameter’ (he felt the metric predictability of English poetry had suffocated it) and I felt the same idea applied to music would demand that we ‘break’ the fours and threes we invariably played in. My favorite composers (Stravinsky and Bartok) did exactly that, but I couldn’t find a way to do it without forgoing improvisation (multi-tracking was only available to those with expensive recording studios in those days), so the idea resided on the back burner.
Very few improvising musicians are willing to leave the comfort zones of the conventional meters (as Proust wrote: “…in love it is easier to relinquish a sentiment than to lose a habit.”). In the 80’s I had the great privilege of playing in Demo-Moe. with Mike Zwicky and Alfredo Caballero, neither of whom were greatly attached to metric sameness. Our meters were free, but functioned more as an absence of four and three than actual replacements of them.
I recorded Abandoned (so named because I abandoned it), track 19 (and another piece named Escaped –because I lost it for a couple of years), when I got a new multitrack recorder in august 2003. Even though I enjoyed playing it and felt I got a good sound from the instruments, I was disappointed by my own conventionality, and began to feel that it came from the conventional (4/4, 3/4, 6/8) meters I’d been playing in all my life. Analogous to the way making Rumor had changed my perceptions about conventional timbres and tonalities, recording Abandoned had changed my perceptions about conventional meters and the relationship between improvising and rhythm. I wanted to get away from using the phrase structures I’d become habituated to, to play without being able to take the meter for granted, to force myself to truly pay attention. Odd signatures allowed both “fourness” and “threeness” to coexist in the same piece of music without forcing either of them to sound inevitable. That ambiguity encouraged the spontaneity of shaping phrases I had felt was impossible in the conventional meters.
I was fascinated by the music of Moondog around that time. I felt an affinity to his elegant and simple radicalisms, the way his music responds to its own curiosity. He had said he didn't want to die in 4/4 time (which was exactly what I felt Abandoned was doing) and I decided I didn't want to die that way either. Several of the pieces among these represent the beginnings of my effort to re-invent my relationship with musical time.
Another motivation for the use of odd signatures was the limited scales available on the horns. Musical challenges I’d habitually answered with technique had to be met differently. Without the multi-octave chromatic scales available on clarinets or saxophones, the standard practice of playing a lot of notes to generate excitement wasn’t a viable option. Without a lot of notes available, one can’t just subdivide to create the illusion of complexity. Instead of taking the signature for granted and decorating it (which is basically what most improvised music does), I felt I needed to use signatures that were interesting in and of themselves (essentially stop treating them as second class citizens).
In addition the limitations of the horns tended to bring a vocal simplicity into the music, an absence of vanity, which I welcomed. For the first time in many years, I listened a lot to John Coltrane’s music from the early sixties (My Favorite Things through A Love Supreme), feeling he had been seeking a similar rootedness during that period.
In the interval between recording Abandoned and the other pieces I learned (through many failures) to make magnetic pickups (prior to that I’d been using contact mics). This allowed me to get more and better presence from low and midrange sounds. In addition, unlike the piezos (or dynamic mics) that amplify everything (sometimes the stands end up being louder than the tuned parts of the instruments), magnetic pickups have small fields of response and one can isolate the sound one is interested in producing as long as it is generated by ferrous metal. I was able then to make pickups large enough for xylophones, kalimbas, and other wide instruments.
The shop and the studio were both in the same large room, which allowed me to build and rebuild instruments while I was recording them.
It was kind of as a joke to myself I titled the cd 4/04, as it marked my departure from 4/4.
I price all of my music at $0.00, but Bandcamp only allows a limited number of free downloads per month. If you see a price it means that the free downloads have been used up for the month. If I set a price lower than the $7.00 default, there won’t be any free downloads ever. If there are more sales there end up being more free downloads. I’m not trying to get anybody to spend money (I loathe capitalism and the comercialzation of everything, especially the arts). I make music, not product. If you end up buying something, at least you have enabled 2 other people to get something for free (which is a good thing). Or check back until it’s free again. Please feel free to duplicate and pass along.