bathtub music

by Anarchestra



Bathtub Music (30:23)
Recorded June 2004 at Railyard 1, Santa Fe

Played on:
Bosco 2, Bosco 3, Pharo, 2 Sly for 1, La Bas, McKeytoo, Basuka, Mickey One, Peddlar, Quesera
Played by: Alex Ferris

With performing roots in free jazz and punk rock, I’d always tended to be disparaging toward so-called ambient music and thought of it as something “you’d listen to in the bathtub” (which I like doing with Afternoon of a Faun, Augustus Pablo, Dark Star, In a Silent Way, and things like that). I was kind of surprised to find myself making music like this.

Bathtub Music is the first cd I made entirely without the conventional meters. Its drum free sonic environment allows the signatures to exist as cycles and undermine the linearity they had tended towards on 4/04. The relative stasis implied by cycles permitted me to approach the phrases as autonomous events rather than elements in a continuum (they could have occurred in any sequence). I was thinking a lot about Messiaen and his desire to make music as physical spaces (stasis) rather than temporal events (linearity). I was intrigued by the way the regularity of the (unfamiliar) cycles contributed to a sense of timelessness in ways unmetered pulses, which we would tend to subconsciously group into fours and threes, wouldn’t have. From that point forward the relationship between these two aspects, particularly the ambiguities generated in their intersections within the odd meters, has always been on my mind when I make music –to me it has become a basic element, just like tempo or key.

I found that the absence of horns and percussion encouraged the absence of narrative I had been seeking (the ostinato played on Basuka in #2 works against this --I suspect I played it for so long in the hope of pushing through the other side of it). Narrative (and its implicit desire for drama) tends to locate the centers of musical interest on the player (whether in a jazz solo or the first violin part in a string quartet) and I was interested in finding ways of making the player disappear.

A performing musician’s work is built on appearing. Ones stock in trade is ones visibility (or willingness to be visible). That’s the context a blue collar musician necessarily inhabits and naturally the skills and musical values one develops over time are based upon that. With the shift in my perceptions of tonality, timbre, and meter came an equally fundamental shift in my attitude toward myself as a performer. Prior to Anarchestra the music I’d made had always been, whether it was the point of it or not, a demonstration of prowess (a willingness to be visible). Making this music seemed to absolve me of that responsibility.

The shop had a high ceiling and it was sort of cavernous, with a big empty sound. I recorded the parts as they sounded in the space, experimenting with distant mic placements, getting reverbs and phase relationships that contributed to the consensus of tonality. The pitches by themselves (stripped of their context within the architecture of the shop) would have generated conflict with one another, but in the generality of the empty space they don’t seem at all “out of tune” (at least to my ears).

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.


released August 28, 2014




Anarchestra Tucson, Arizona


Anarchestra is a group of instruments conceived and built by alex ferris. It is also the people who end up playing them and the network of ideas involved in building the music.
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