Archive for March, 2012

Tales from Topographic Vapor

Posted in Themes with tags , , , on March 31, 2012 by glenncbach

Just finished an article by Simon Reynolds, “We are all David Toop Now: Tales from Topographic Oceans,” in the April 2012 issue of The Wire. Much food for thought, especially the argument for stable borders in the exhausted, deterritorialized flux of digital culture.

There is a contradiction in music-making, specifically the recording process. The striving to make something permanent in a medium (listening) and raw materials (sound objects) that are impermanent. A recording attempts but fails to maintain the illusion of stability in that the playback is always of the moment and ultimately ungraspable. From something as seemingly free-floating as ambient or drone to something as earth-rooted as Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” (with its monumental, cavernous capture of John Bonham’s drumwork, a recording marvel), the result is the same. The dialectic can never be resolved because the moment itself is impossible to pin down, even in the periphery.

Attachment is ignorance (ignoring) of the true, transitory nature of the self. Awareness of this error at the core of recording allows us to continue making and capturing music without getting sucked into the doomed quest for perfect (or better-than-perfect) fidelity. We settle for the imperfect juggling of the contradiction, knowing that the recording is a lie, but celebrating it over and over nonetheless.

My first thought was to post this under “Bach + Mantione,” but these ideas will most likely prove critical to as-yet formalized collaborations with John Kannenberg, Jorge Martin, or Alan Nakagawa. Any of my collaborations, really, since this goes to the heart of Atlas Sets.

Glenn Bach and Philip Mantione

Posted in Duos with tags on March 24, 2012 by glenncbach

Philip Mantione

The next installment of Atlas Sets will be with composer Philip Mantione. With a date set for May 4, 2012, our initial discussion will most likely focus on composition, geography, technology, and the nomadic lifestyle.

I met Phil many years ago through Tom Krumpak, and I’ve followed his career as he and Alysse Stepanian drifted through various locales: Los Angeles, New York, Beijing, Berlin, New Mexico, and now Riverside, CA. I’m looking forward to working with Phil for the first time.

Stay tuned for updates.

Bach+Byrnes: Session 1

Posted in Duos, Sessions with tags , on March 17, 2012 by glenncbach

Byrnes in contemplation

The first recording session for Atlas Sets went off with a bang! I set up shop in Ted’s Pasadena studio, and we worked through four sets (the second set was interrupted before completion), the first of which featured a hybrid performance where I attempted live Foley to a montage of clips from filmmaker Jacques Tati. The remaining three sets were straight-up improv.

I’m working on the recordings, and I’ll post an excerpt or two to Soundcloud. In the meantime, here are the preliminary session notes:

Atlas Sets: Bach+Byrnes
Glenn Bach: percussion, electronics
Ted Byrnes: percussion

Recorded live to four-channel Zoom H2, Friday, March 16, 2012, Pasadena, California.

Bach + Schlarb: Discussion 1

Posted in Duos, Structure, Themes with tags , , , on March 15, 2012 by glenncbach

Schlarb at Hole Mole

Chris and I met at Hole Mole (Wardlow) in Long Beach for an engaged discussion about junkyards, music, Twilight & Ghost Stories, recording, Fire Music, Psychic Temple, documentation, and creativity. No session has been announced, but we agreed that I would send him a series of recordings to get things started. Chris will then digest the material and see what sparks. We’ll reconvene and take it from there.

A transcript of our conversation will be posted here at a later date. Stay tuned for more developments.

Bach + Byrnes: Tati as source

Posted in Duos, Resources, Themes with tags , , on March 10, 2012 by glenncbach

Screenshot of “Mon Oncle,” by Jacques Tati

For the first segment of our March 16 session, I will perform an impromptu, and completely non-professional “Foley” interpretation of the sounds of selected scenes from the films of Jacques Tati.  Watching a silenced clip I will respond by activating various objects, instruments, and noisemakers to generate sounds with only a circumstantial relationship to the original visual impetus. My sonic activity will serve as source for Ted as he improvises to my clunky, and I hope not entirely inept, soundtrack.

I chose Tati not only because of the strong presence and personality of the sound design in his films, but also because through his main character and alter ego Monsieur Hulot, Tati explores issues of modernity, technology and a general sense of being “out of place.” This is embodied in his soundtracks, which seem to be added entirely in post-production to what are effectively silent films. The added value of sound-to-image is not at all transparent, with the jarring and often disembodied sounds contributing to the sense of displacement and absurdity in the narrative.

Since Ted will not be able to see the monitor and the visual source for my sounds, he will be removed from the original impetus and must respond to an already “compromised” soundtrack. These layers of slippage will, I hope, result in a complex and nuanced improvisation.

Bach + Byrnes: Transcript Excerpt 1

Posted in Duos, Transcripts with tags on March 5, 2012 by glenncbach

Bach: We can pretty much do whatever we want, and make it whatever we want. I think it’s an opportunity to, first of all, have fun with it. And just see if there are kinds of structures, or motives, or themes that would be interesting to inform the session. It doesn’t have to be a score, although it could be a score, or it could be just a set of ideas and materials that we contemplate, meditate on, and then sit down and make sounds in that spirit.

Byrnes: Right.

Bach: One of my ideas, for part of the jam, is that I would perform as if I was doing Foley for accompaniment to a silent film. So I would be watching a film and I would have an array of objects and [manipulates silverware and dishes].

Byrnes: Depending on what was on screen.

Bach: Yes, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a faithful depiction, so if there was something that I… whatever I picked up…

Byrnes: Obviously there would be a musical element to it.

Bach: Right, and you would watch me and improvise to what I was doing, and you may or may not have access to the film. And then the film gets removed, leaving the trace of our sounds to stand on their own.

Byrnes: I like that idea.

Bach: I thought it was a nice way… I mean, I was thinking what do I play? Do I do laptop, field recordings? Guitar feedback? I have to be careful because I’ll be collaborating with a lot of people and…

Byrnes: You need to parse it out.

Bach: I have a limited bag of tricks, you know? I’m self-taught, and I work with a lot of different types of sounds, but I can’t improvise with someone based on “hey let’s stay in E minor and then progress to…” But I think I have a good sense of flow and…

Byrnes: Right, and that’s all that’s important really.

Bach: So I want to look at each collaboration and see what I can bring, where can we meet and have some kind of commonality, where I’m respectful of what you do as a musician because you have a craft, and you practice and it’s something you take very seriously, and I don’t want to come in and say “Well I can do that.” It’s free music, but “free” is qualified because there’s still a discipline and craft involved.

Byrnes: Yeah, but I don’t think you necessarily need to look at that. You don’t need to address it, as you.  Because whatever I do is going to be based on my experiences anyway, in terms of playing, so whatever you do… I think you’re over-qualifying its importance. So I think you should do whatever you think is appropriate.

Bach: Right, okay.

Byrnes: There are skills that are developed, but they could be anything, from technical proficiency on an instrument, to having a good sense of pace, a pulse…

Bach: A sensitivity to what’s going on and a mindfulness of the soundscape as a whole.

Byrnes: Right. Particularly with percussion it can be fairly obvious when there is… it’s such a physical instrument that, when things are executed, you can tell the level of intensity the musician has, in terms of affection for their instrument. And that’s part of the problem with it, too, is that in order to do some things you need to have a technical ability to do them but it almost defeats the purpose of doing them.

Bach: So, to attain that sort of inner freedom and ability to just respond and to act, the training can get in the way?

Byrnes: Yeah.

Bach: Because you think that you needed to hit this note or this series of hits in this pattern or otherwise it’s going to sound off?

Byrnes: No, I mean, if you look at a lot of improvisers, everyone has a thing. Or a group of things. So, a lot of times what you’ll get, especially with drummers, is a stock response. X drummer plays something, plays X, and then filters that through his brain and then plays Y, because that’s usually what he or she does.

Bach: So, it’s shorthand?

Byrnes: Yeah, I mean it can be. If you listen to enough of that stuff you can almost formulate the response.

Bach: Right.

Byrnes: And that’s what I’m trying to get away from.

Bach: To the best of your ability.

Byrnes: Yeah.

Bach: You as a person and where you are in your life as a musician.

Byrnes: Because my whole thing is density. For me, I want to be doing something at all times. And I don’t know where that came from, to be honest, because sometimes it’s not right. But, I want layers of things.

Bach: Interesting. Okay.

Byrnes: I think it comes from my admiration for electronic music or noise or things like that. Because that’s what that music is. It’s just like layers of stuff. And you can listen to one layer and then another layer. It’s like what you do when I listen to your stuff. So, density has always been my thing.

Bach: The mix.

Byrnes: Yeah, but like, thick. Even if it’s light, I want it to be thick.

Bach: But thick doesn’t necessarily equal loud.

Byrnes: No. I don’t think it ever means volume.

Bach: For you.

Byrnes: Yeah, for me.

Bach: I’m remembering during the times that we jammed, that you were always moving. It’s almost like you’re keeping up this contraption, and you’re the engineer, and you need to keep feeding coal to the engine to keep it running, and even if it’s not loud… it could be a small event, but it’s…

Byrnes: Yep. You’re probably the only person who’s ever… that’s totally my deal. And I have my natural pulse, like I’m a little edgy. Not upset, I’m just…

Bach: Yeah, to inhabit some sense of disruption, or departure from the expected pulse [mimics standard kick and snare pattern].

Byrnes: Right.

Bach: So you’re trying to embody the energy of stuff that isn’t organized. Not chaos, but…

Byrnes, Yeah, but I definitely have a pulse, too. It’s probably subconsciously based on some sort of time, I presume.

Bach + Byrnes: session 1 scheduled

Posted in Duos, Sessions with tags , on March 3, 2012 by glenncbach

Ted and I have scheduled our first recording session on March 16, 2012, 3 PM, at his studio in Pasadena. The session will consist of at least two segments, the first of which will involve me performing a live soundtrack to a silent film with Ted improvising to my sounds without seeing the film. The second, and possibly third segments will be more open-ended improvisations.

Stay tuned.