October 25, 2008

Nocturne for a Synth Band

Bart Galloway did a set with some electronics/synth guys at Derby City Thursday. It seemed new ground for him, being a free jazz - free improv type of guy. He is more comfortable with people like the Sick City crew (he is now, according to the Sick City MySpace page, a member of the group) who find their roots in sixties free jazz-style improvising. The synth guys were definitely working from a more textural place, devoid of the kind of rapid change and aggression that a drummer like Bart thrives on. During the set break, he stepped outside to chat with Heather, Dan, and I about the set (Heather Floyd and Dan Willems being the aforementioned Sick City people), and he didn't seem to be sure about what was going on, or how his response to it was working. I assured him that all was going well. The synth guys were working on some interesting textures, and his drumming was actively engaging those textures. I think it is a tribute to Bart's musicianship that he was so readily able to work outside of his comfort zone.

Discussing the set with Bart, I talked about the difference between how the synth guys worked and how we (Dan, Heather, Chris, Bart, and I, for starters) tended to work. I talked about the long scope of their changes, and how their textural decisions amounted to a sort of musical wallpaper. Now, calling music "wallpaper" in my circles is usually a pretty serious dis, but I think that the synth guys wouldn't necessarily take it that way, and I certainly didn't mean it that way. There were some very interesting textures going on, and, at the end of the day, I think the collaboration worked pretty well.

After I got home, I realised that I actually do work (at times) in the same modes that the synth guys do. My ideas of texture are different, but I do work with texture quite a bit . . . it just tends to happen in different ranges than the synth guys. Black Kaspar, for instance, works for texture at a very high volume, though those textures are usually built from string instruments (guitars) and feedback, so the attack is slightly different. Also, in my Hoosier Pete mode, I have Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground" as one of my primary touchpoints, and that is all about texture as well . . . hell, one of the continuing compositional gambits I have is "Blues for Morton Feldman", and that's all about reckoning music with the plasticity of painting and sculpture. What is wallpaper other than the liberation of painting from the frame?

Anyway, here's a song I recorded that night. I think it illustrates what I'm talking about.

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