Ecasound…

It’s the twenty-first century. We have the technology and the intellectual capability to not only conceptualize alternatives to the technologies of the last two hundred years (knobs and buttons) we can also implement those alternatives. Why are you working in a digital audio workstation that forces you into interfacing with it via photo-realistic psudo-representations of ancient technology?

In order to record and mix audio, it is not necessary to see how far to the left, right, up or down a virtual representation of a fader is. It’s audio. You’re supposed to be working with sound – not images. Likewise, if something is too loud (or not loud enough) you will only, properly, make corrections using your ears.

In the time that it takes the average DAW to open, i can record and mix a track in Ecasound. Not only that, the result sounds an awful lot better than what i’ve heard from many of the “industry standard”聽DAWs – all without the cost, clutter and distraction.

A three track mix with effects playing back in Ecasound.

A three track mix with effects playing back in Ecasound.

Terra firma…

Wow, it’s done. I’m back on land and preparing for the next phase. I spent the last two months on a cruise ship playing improvised music and popular songs from the mid-twentieth century with pianist Doru Apreotesei and vocalist Deborah Herbert. It was a fantastic time of growth and exploration. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, there will be sound clips from those gigs posted here from time to time in relation to various topics.

Now the work turns to preparing for a concert series that i’ll produce that focuses mostly on my presentation of solo works for bass. Some of the pieces i’ll perform have been composed for me. Some will be by composers i admire and have been greatly influenced by (e.g., Cage, Braxton, Sun Ra, Ayler). Stay tuned here for the where and when.

List of Sun Ra charts

Partial list of Sun Ra charts

Dynamics…

As with all Music, dynamics play a very important role in improvised music. Dynamics can (and should) be used very effectively as a structural/organizational device. We’re not just talking about volume here.聽 Getting back to an earlier post on this blog, eleven aspects of improvisation are delineated. Each of these parameters can be dynamically modulated. In other words, one can vary the amount of any of the defined parameters one utilizes in a phrase, note or statement. This is to apply Braxton‘s eleventh (of the twelve types) “Gradient Formings” – the serialization of dynamics.

One very, very good illustration of this is the “Pulse Track” of Braxton’s Composition #108B. This graphic score may be freely applied to volume and/or pitch.

Braxton describes #108B as 鈥渁 series of possible curve line sounds or curve line dynamic changes鈥 (311), implying that the lines can indicate pitch and/or volume… – Graham Lock

 

Composition 108B Pulse Track

The “J” word…

Before i continue with my discussion of solo and group improv methodologies, i wanted to mention that i’m giving some serious thought to abandoning the “J” word. The term “Jazz” appears to do the opposite of what language is supposed to do.

As much as the word is a part of my identity – both personal and cultural – i question very seriously its ability to communicate anything remedial about the subject to which it’s applied.

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I have these ideas…

Improvised Music is what i do. I’ve been doing it a long time. During the
course of my journey, i’ve encountered many different methods of approaching the art of improvisation. Different architectonics. The results of these revelations are often labeled by the media as “Free Jazz“. Jazz rarely – if ever – has anything to do with the resulting Music. I’d like to share some of these manners of blueprinting and executing improvisations here in this blog. So, over the course of the next few posts, i hope to share some meaningful information about some of the methods i have used to solve the enigmatic questions that confront the improviser.

Anthony Braxton taught me a lot about strategy. His “Creative Orchestra
Music” (1976) was an important turning-point in my understanding of how group improvisations could be structured and directed. Prior to this, i had heard his “In The Tradition” recordings and “Five Pieces” (1975) as well as Albert Ayler’s work. Still, it was Braxton’s structuring and use of the orchestra on “Creative Orchestra Music” that opened my ears to the idea that there are more ways to realize group improvisations than just leaving a group of performers to forge ahead on their own. When i heard his “For Trio” (1978), the sky opened. This led me to have a closer look at his process. I discovered that Anthony had started the development of his approach by defining his “Twelve Language Types“. If you aren’t familiar with the “Twelve Language Types”, it’s a handy way that Anthony came up with to codify the twelve main language types that make up music. Once reduced to its constituent elements in this way, music could be plotted and executed. The point and advantage in this method is to obviate the contingency of running out of ideas or breaking the flow of an improvisation. While Braxton developed this technique for his solo performances, i found it very suited to group improvisations as well.

There are many different ways this method can be applied. As with most
everything, the best way to get a handle on it is to just experiment. Try
interpreting the symbols in different ways (backwards, inverted, etc). Assign different symbols to different registers, instruments, tempi, dynamics, etc. Believe me, these twelve – seemingly simple – symbols can go an incredibly long way.

If you’ve had any experience with Braxton’s Twelve Language Types or would like to discuss them, i’d love to hear from you here.

 

Braxton's Twelve Language Types

Braxton’s Twelve Language Types

So what shall we call it?

My friend and fellow musical explorer, Steve Buchannan, opened a can of worms in a discussion on this blog about the term “Free Jazz“. Yes, the term is misleading and has long outlived whatever limited usefulness it may have had.

Free Jazz was the name of an album by Ornette Coleman. Somehow, this album title became the de facto term used to describe all spirited improvisational music from the US – music that was often highly structured – hence not “free” and music that had nothing more to do with Jazz other than being performed on similar instruments as those sometimes used in Jazz bands of previous eras.

 

How did this happen?

I’ve spent most of my life as a so-called “Free Jazz musician”. One thing that i have discovered (and taken great delight in) is that this approach to music making is full of exhilarating and challenging structures, methodologies and processes. Far from Encyclopidia Britanica’s assertion:

“The main characteristic of free jazz is that there are no rules.”

So what do we replace the expression “Free Jazz” with?

Do we even need to identify the Music in this way at all?

Anthony Braxton has his Tri-Centric Musics. Pierre Schaeffer had Musique concr猫te. Maybe what we’re doing is simply Improvised Music and we should dispense with the convoluted term “Jazz”.

What do you think?

Coordinate structure 240412a

Getting it on…

Yes, yes, yes. Linux is my operating system of choice – with emphasis on operating.

Everything, simply works exactly as i want it to and if it doesn’t i can fix it.

Every possible tool that i could ever need for composition, arrangement, production, entertainment or anything else is available and if it isn’t on my system, my system provides me with the tools to build anything i might need.

Welcome to the twenty-first century 馃檪

This is where i work - daily.

This is where i work – daily.