Archive for the Transcripts Category

Bach + Nakagawa: Transcript Excerpt

Posted in Duos, Transcripts with tags , , , , on November 10, 2012 by glenncbach
Nakagawa_Mi_Ranchito

Alan at Mi Ranchito.

Bach: Now, with the IsoCube, what’s the sound source?

Nakagawa: [laughs] It’s interesting.

Bach: I know there’s a story behind it.

Nakagawa: I put a bunch of stuff in there. There’s one microphone.

Bach: One microphone. So, you’re manipulating objects and the signals captured by the mic and then run through pedals…

Nakagawa: That rig I use mostly with Ear Diorama Ear, with Kaoru. The IsoCube is hooked up to these pedals, and I have another set of pedals that are hooked up to a circuit-bent keyboard, a Skychord, the Utopia pedal. I also have the Glamour Box.  I sent it back to him, he said he’d fix it, and that was two months ago. I don’t know, so I hope he’s okay. I have no other contact info other than the e-mail and the phone number I have for him. I had a friend e-mail him too, without referencing me, and he hasn’t heard back either. I hate to lose my Glamour Box, but I hope this guy’s okay. I’m pretty sure he’s a one-man operation.

Bach: I bet.

Nakagawa: These companies like Skychord are fantastic for people like us. I just bought the Utopia from a musician in the Universal Studios area, and I asked him, “Are you done with this?” And he said, “Yeah, I got a bunch of synthesizers that pretty much do the same thing. So, there’s no need for it. I bought it for this one project.” So, I took it that maybe he’s a composer who does soundtracks. And I thought, “Yeah, a synthesizer would do this, but it’s not the same” [laughs].

Bach: Yeah.

Nakagawa: Anyway, so I started playing with that. This one has two oscillators on it. The Glamour Box has two oscillators and two modulators. That’s all they are. You don’t know what the hell you’re doing, because there are just dials and switches. No screen or nothing. So you’re shooting in the dark.

Bach: Right.

Nakagawa: I like that aspect of it. It’s fun. It has a built-in chance operation. You know the genre of what it will do, but you don’t know exactly what it will do. I like that. And the isoCube was a way for me…because I started as a drummer, and that was the drummer in me wanting to be a guitar player…

Bach: Interesting.

Nakagawa: Because the guitar player gets to play with the pedals. So, it’s a box, you put your hands in there. Lately I’ve been using one hand, and there’s something in there that you play. And it’s usually something that I think would be really difficult to mic with an open mic.

Bach: Yeah.

Nakagawa: You get feedback, and all of this residual sound, this atmospheric sound through the pedal, which I can’t say never happens with the isoCube, it does, but less so, and you have more control with the feedback thing. The first isoCube was a black box, and nobody could see what I was playing. The new box has a window in the front. Double-plated plexi, pretty thick. The intent is for it to be semi-soundproof. It’s not perfectly soundproof because you can put your hands through. I think it’s pretty good. So far it’s worked out really well because the sound that comes out of it is pretty damn pure. It’s pretty close to what’s in there.

Bach: And it comes out of a 1/4 inch jack?

Nakagawa: Yeah. So that’s been my mode of music-making. It’s taken me a long time, as opposed to many of the people who have been on Ear Meal, to relinquish the drumset. To relinquish the instrument you started with. I’m even thinking of selling the drumsets I have. Maybe keep one. I think I’ve finally kicked it out of my system. It’s taken a long time. I love drumming. I love playing drums. Sometimes when I’m in the midst of playing, I’m thinking to myself, “Why are you still playing drums?” [laughs]

Bach: What is this doing for you?

Nakagawa: What is this doing for me? Keeping my chops up? What for? So, the isoCube helps me phase into a place I think I should have been much earlier [laughs] in my career. It helps me, because it’s like being a percussionist, but you’re using percussion for sound source.

Bach: Right.

Nakagawa. Not a maraca.

Bach: It divorces the drum kit from rhythm. From providing…

Nakagawa: Right.

Bach: It’s a musical instrument, but one of its most powerful uses is to provide pulse, rhythm, and, a lot of avant garde percussionists do that…

Nakagawa: Yeah, who are wonderful. But I don’t want to play like that. I’m not interested. I recently had Ted [Byrnes]…he was recently on two shows this season. He’s awesome. Tatsuya Nakatani is phenomenal. Joe Beradi, these are amazing players, but I have no interest in playing the drums like that. There are some great folks out there lately, turning the drumset upside down. There’s always going to be rock in me.

Bach: Yeah.

Nakagawa: I was always a rock player, and I still love singing songs once in a while. That’s always going to be in my blood. I’m never going to be John Cage.

Bach: We do what we do, and we have fun, and we explore the interface we have with music, which is what experimental music is. An exploration. One of the terms I’ve seen used in place of experimental music is exploratory music.

Nakagawa: Okay.

Bach: Getting out of the scientific aspect of it, or the trappings of that term. Because how many people think of it in terms of a hypothesis, conducting an experiment, and analyzing the results? Exploratory ties into the idea of looking for meaning, for discovery, for something new, not necessarily new in terms of ‘no one has ever done this before,’ but new to you in terms of “What is this? What is this sound that I’m hearing? What’s happening with this combination of sounds? Did I generate that? If I did, now what do I do with it? The structure of sounds sequentially broadcast, what does that mean? What kind of musical narrative does that generate?” So, having fun with it. Having a community of artists who feel the same way, or who are at least open to it. That’s why I’ve been so blessed with all the people I’ve worked with over the years, having this shared…aesthetic? Not aesthetic…a shared…

Nakagawa: Approach? Vision?

Bach: Culture. A shared culture of openness and a willingness to treat improvisation in similar ways, with a similar respect. Instead of going into an improv situation and, like you said, imposing. Implementing. “I’m going to do this [mimics wall of sound].” Rather than “I’m going to listen. I’ll see what happens, and I’ll respond, or not, to what everyone else is making, to see if we can have a conversation in the musical moment.” And, as you know, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Nakagawa: But you’re open to that.

Bach: You’re open to that. And the people we work with share that. And if they don’t share it, we soon realize that we probably won’t work with them very often. Because there’s not a lot of communication. I don’t do a lot of large group improvisations anymore because I don’t like being in situations where I’m struggling to hear what I’m playing. We’re all going through the same P.A., and we’re all competing to be heard, and the stuff that I’m doing tends to be quiet anyway, because I’m interested in threshold, in tones intermingling and having this awareness of where the sound comes in and how it changes as it gets slightly louder. And for that kind of careful listening, it doesn’t really happen much in…

Nakagawa: Right. I read the interview [Atlas Sets] with Jeff and Steve [Roden], and they talked a little bit about that.

Bach: Yeah.

Nakagawa: I think that’s really important. I don’t know if it has to do with our age, or our experience, but I really feel I’m at a point where I’m saying no a lot. The past twelve months I’ve said no to a lot of opportunities. Where, before I would say, “Yeah! I’ll do that! Absolutely!” Lately I’ve been saying, “No, I’m working on this right now, I really need to focus on this.” That’s not the same Alan Nakagawa from ten years ago, twenty years ago.

Bach: There’s a maturity, a relief, a recognition of quality of life issues. I can accept all of these opportunities, do all these things, and, not only that, but seek them out, and I know I’m going to have certain results from those. Do them enough and you see the cause-and-effect [laughs], the type of result that comes from those types of things. It doesn’t interest me…

Nakagawa: Yeah.

Bach: To know that I’ll be put in those situations and struggle to have a musical experience that makes sense for me.

Nakagawa: Right.

Bach: If it doesn’t make sense from the beginning, I’m probably not going to be able to transform it enough…

Nakagawa: Ah. That’s not good. Why are you there?

Bach: Trying to force it to transform. Rather than working with something that is integrally open and possible to begin with. Work from there, from a good foundation, and nine times out of ten you can get decent results. But if the starting point is already stacked against you, trying to go in and force it to a place it’s not meant to be…I’m not interested.

Nakagawa. Life’s too short. In Ear Diorama Ear, Kaoru is…you know, she’s a fairly established vocalist in this genre, and she’s been doing this for a while. Allegedly she’s older than I am, but I’ve never had the guts to ask her [laughs] how old she is. But, I can’t imagine that she’s that much older than me, but she keeps saying, “You are so young.”

Bach: Ah [laughs].

Nakagawa: When we first started really working together, there was this point where we became committed: Ear Diorama Ear is going to last a long time. She said, “I don’t want to be a jam band. I’ve been in too many jam bands, and I already know what’s going to happen, and I’m really not interested in that. I need a structure for each song.” So, she comes in with the structure, the piece. And I bring in things that are almost trying to destroy that structure. And that’s how Ear Diorama Ear operates. We call them songs. They’re songs because she’s singing, and they’re primarily improv, but there’s a structure. So when I was reading Steve and Jeff and you talk, I said “Yeah, exactly. That’s where we are.” But we weren’t there twenty years ago. Back then it was like, “Okay, everyone, bring your gear and then Go,” and someone starts. And when I read that I was like, “Wow, you guys are there too.” We can’t do that anymore. It seems like a waste of time. Really. It just seems like a waste of time. And Kaoru introduced that to me. I think I’ve always had a structure, because, as someone who was trained in the visual arts, I completely gravitated to non-traditional notation, you know?

Bach: Yeah. Right.

Nakagawa: You don’t need the five staffs. So I am completely not a musician based on that. I’m interested in diagramming in my mind the textures, sub textures, and form of the music. I always think of maps. You look at a map, you know where you’re going to go, but you don’t have to take…there are hundreds of paths to that spot. That is what my music is about. Picking what I think is the right path…keeping myself open to what the right path is to that spot. That’s what my notations are.

Bach: It’s an entryway.

Nakagawa: It’s an entryway. It’s a promise to yourself, “This is where we’re going. We’re not going over there.” But, it’s up to me to completely use the tools that I have, which also includes my openness to accept the mistakes and the new things. I think Steve [Roden] calls them ‘wonderful mistakes.’

Bach: Yeah.

Nakagawa: I’m open to that. I think that comes out of being trained in jazz. Being open to…there are always those empty staffs on the notation where you’re supposed to jam [laughs], or take a solo. I love that. So my music is completely about that part of the music. It’s still there; we know where we are, but that’s my job, to fill in that improv area of that specific song. I still approach it that way. And, on top of it I want to make this into a painting, or whatever…so, I’m very interested in that.

Bach + Roden + Roden: Transcript Excerpt

Posted in Structure, Themes, Transcripts, Trios with tags , , , , , on June 17, 2012 by glenncbach

Glenn: Knowing that when we’ve played before, based on who we are, it’s been a very complimentary, respectful space. I know that whatever we do is going to be great. Personally I’m interested in making it as rich as possible, so, for me I would like to have some kind of structure to help guide things, whether it’s this color coding system or…

Steve: When I did the Cage pieces with Mark Trayle we had to draw straws and make all these things, and basically what you end up with is all these different amounts of time, and within each amount of time there are a number of events, and it’s not…some of it was pretty specific, but most of it was…if you have five minutes you need to do three things. What was cool about it was that you could break the rules and the other person wouldn’t know [laughs]. But it did make you a little more sensitive to…”I have three things I can do in a decent amount of time, where do I want to drop them?”

Jeffrey: This was the thing you did at the Norton Simon?

Steve: Yeah.

Jeffrey. Yeah, that was really good. It didn’t seem improvised at all.

Steve: Right. And the structure was just enough of a skeleton in a way, it forced me to do less. Which was important. And he [Trayle] also tended to be quite active, so the dynamic between the two of us was strong because of that.

Glenn: I’m not seeing the structure as something as intense as the stuff that you [Steve] do with your paintings and systems for the different pieces, where you have a very poetic and deeply considered apparatus that you use to gain entry into the work, and whether or not people are fully conscious of that apparatus…

Steve: It’s of no concern to me.

Glenn. No concern. It’s just your way of accessing the…

Steve: In a way, for me, those structures work in a way…what Jeffrey was talking about in terms of anticipation, and knowing when the note is supposed to drop. It’s helpful at times to know that you don’t know what’s coming up or what you’re going to do, but somehow working with some sort of skeleton or something, there’s a sense, for me, I can be even more in the listening…

Glenn: Yeah.

Steve: Because I’m not quite so worried about what’s going to happen.

Jeffrey: Well, there are rules, that’s the thing. So you go, “I know I’m not going to do this.”

Steve: Right.

Jeffrey: Like in my work I know that suddenly there’s not going to be this virtuosic explosion of activity. It’s just not going to happen. I mean, it could happen if I wanted it to, but it’s not going to. So, there are these limitations that aren’t limitations; they’re a sort of boundary.

Glenn: It’s a boundary of…

Steve: Even with the Cage pieces we had pretty specific timings and there were times when I was doing something and I thought, “I don’t want to cut it off right here. It feels like it wants to go on.” It’s just getting you to that space where you can say “Okay, I’m really listening to this and I want it to go on.” It’s not like I’m Mr. Virtuoso trying to wow people with my fast fingers. Yeah, having some kind of thing to bang up against is good.

Glenn: Knowing that you don’t have to worry about certain aspects of the performance, that you can then be in a position to listen. What I love about the Soundscape Ensemble [SCSE] is that since there are a number of people involved, the burden isn’t on me to keep the thing going, and because we’re all operating from different sources of amplification, there already is a limitation to overall group dynamics and levels. So, there are moments, and I absolutely love this about that group, there are moments when I can just sit for two or three minutes at a time, sometimes longer, and just not do anything [laughs] because there’s nothing for me to add. The sounds people are broadcasting are so interesting and peculiar and quirky, stuff that I never would have imagined using, that I don’t feel I have to add anything because it’s already complex. It’s already complete.

Steve: Right.

Glenn: Being in that moment where the group mind takes over, assuming the role of caretaker over the live improvised soundscape, nudging it along, keeping it alive and healthy. Those moments where all the other parameters have been taken care of. We’re not coming out of the same p.a., and so I don’t have to worry about everyone’s sound being washed out into one stereo channel. That’s already taken care of. It’s a very freeing position to be in. Sometimes in a performance I may only play two or three sounds. I have these recordings of the dawn chorus from these campsites, three or four in the morning, half an hour long. For the first half of the performance I could be playing just this section of birds and ambience, bring it down to the threshold of audibility, bring it back up just a little so that it just peeks through. And that’s all I do for ten minutes. I love that. I love having that freedom. So I would like to have a similar thing in switching voices, instruments, to ones I have less proficiency in. I’m proficient on the computer, I know what I’m doing, I know the limits of what I do, the dynamics. But on these stringed instruments I’m an amateur. I want to dive in to these instruments to see if I can find a similar type of freedom.

Another thing to think about: the catalog for this project will be a collection of all the accoutrements from the performances and discussions, so any kind of notes, sketches, photographs, scores, background images that could serve as raw material or inspiration, liner notes, gear lists, all that stuff is going to be included in the catalog. So, if there is a structure or a series of guidelines, we could have fun with that as well.

Jeffrey: Yeah. I’d be interested in looking at something that was directional rather than notational.

Steve: Right. That’s exactly…

Jeffrey: Not to get fancy.

Steve: That’s all I can read. All my scores are like that. Actions more than…

Jeffrey: That would be challenging and interesting. It would just be a thing to find that ensemble basis and then press on. If you [Glenn] are going to play these two things, then perhaps Steve and I could craft an orchestration around those things. And then from that you move forward into what you’re going to make. I think that would be logical. Piano, to me, would just seem too big and bulky. I don’t play it well enough, nor do I think it’s small enough…it’s a pretty freakin’ large thing.

Steve: [laughs]

Jeffrey: To play it as an instrument.

Glenn: To play it as an improvisational instrument?

Jeffrey: Any kind of instrument. If you want to do some kind of sound thing with it, which, frankly, I would have no interest in, then you can do a lot with it.

Glenn: Sure.

Jeffrey: But to just play it as an instrument using its note qualities, it’s pretty large. Large-sounding.

Glenn: Yeah. I also want this to be a chance for you two to explore some things you’ve always wanted to do or are interested in.

Jeffrey: It’s always very challenging when I have to play outside of any traditional musical environment, so that’s always challenging. One time we played with Damon and…

Steve: Oh, man, that was awesome.

Jeffrey: I played A flat for forty minutes. I just droned in A flat; it was perfect. There was nothing better I could have played on my bass. And when you do stuff like that, inevitably you do learn something.

Steve: Absolutely.

Jeffrey. I think the challenge is probably greater in a sense because sound instruments are more flexible. There are fewer restrictions on them. Musical instruments, if you want to play them as instruments, as opposed to making them a sound instrument, then they’re fairly limited.

Steve: They’re stubborn.

Jeffrey: Well, they were made for something. You could use a hammer for a screwdriver, but it’s better to just use a screwdriver. I think that’s why at some point the great virtuosic jazz players went to sound. That’s what Coltrane was doing when he died.

Glenn: Yes.

Jeffrey: He left and tried to find that bridge. That’s the bridge that hadn’t yet been discovered. It’s been discovered now, but not when he was alive. I think Feldman and Cage and all those people made a big discovery. But, even then, their big discoveries could not be replicated; they were unique to them.

Steve: Right.

Jeffrey: It’s new territory.

Glenn: And with Coltrane it was this ecstatic vision, too, that only he…

Jeffrey: He wanted to play all the sounds that were possible in his mind that couldn’t be limited to just the changes. And the people that followed him and tried to the do the same thing, you think, “Really? You’re just making squeaky sounds on your horn. And it’s making your horn squeak.”

Steve: Right.

Jeffrey: I think it might be helpful to compile an ensemble or direction, because it’s always easier to improvise off of a basis, rather than an open…

Steve: I think, too, it might be a situation where we find instruments that, for whatever reasons, are compatible.

Jeffrey: Yeah, that’s a better way of saying it.

Steve: So, having a group of things that we know how will work together, whatever that means.

Jeffrey: Sonically.

Steve: Yeah.

Glenn: And I’m open to working with other things. I don’t want to limit myself to just working with these two crazy instruments. I have a kalimba. I’m interested in manipulating objects that make sound as a quasi-percussionist. I’m interested in how things resonate in the space itself, and in the recording process as a voice in the collaboration.

Steve: Where is this going to take place?

Glenn: [shrugs]. Wherever we want to. Rent a space? Someone’s studio, a warehouse, a church? A venue? I’d like to set up some recorders and have that translation process as part of it. What happens when the sounds are generated in the room and the microphones then captures a copy of it? I want the specifics to come out of this conversation as well. I didn’t want to dictate that we would do it here or there, or use this mic or this approach. I wanted us to come up together with some possible solutions.

Jeffrey: Unfortunately the room with my piano is pretty tiny.

Steve: We can’t do it here [the restaurant]. [laughs].

Glenn: No.

Jeffrey: Well, we could. [cheesy saxophone solo plays]

Steve: Speaking of saxophone. [laughs]

Glenn: “Sax-a-ma-phone.”

Bach + Mantione: Discussion Excerpt

Posted in Duos, Themes, Transcripts with tags , , , , , , on May 19, 2012 by glenncbach
mantione_atwater_01a

Mantione @ Atwater

Excerpt from discussion that took place at Atwater Crossing, Los Angeles, 5 May 2012

Bach: So, you could say, if you’re talking about broad categories, that the electroacoustic thread is stronger for you right now than the musical. Electroacoustic, acousmatic, sound-based…

Mantione: The thread, I would say, at the moment…

Bach: Not to the exclusion…

Mantione: No, I would never exclude anything. The thing about acoustic music is it takes more than myself, obviously. That’s a good thing, or it could be a very bad thing [laughs]. Depending on who the other people are. But, those other people are needed for that whole process to complete itself. That’s not always easy. In fact, it’s mostly not easy, depending on your circumstances. And there’s the immediate feedback of computer music…you can imagine what the notes sound like, and play them, and hear them, and maybe with MIDI even play back some of it…you can have some kind of fairly certain auralization of what you want, but it never, ever is like that, ever…

Bach: No.

Mantione: As opposed to computer music, which is.

Bach: What you hear is what you get.

Mantione: It’s it. Certainly you are at the mercy of the speakers or your headphones, but, other than that, it is what it is.

Bach: It’s tape music. Get up, press ‘play,’ sit back.

Mantione: That’s right.

Bach: And now we can take computer music, electroacoustic music, and mess with the parameters while it’s being auditioned, performed.

Mantione: Did you see this thing, lately, a call for live coding? People actually go on stage and type in code in real time as the thing is generated.

Bach: We did a little bit of that in Milwaukee with the Milwaukee Laptop Orchestra. I didn’t, I’m not a programmer or coder. But some of the guys are heavily into Pure Data. So they were writing patches in the moment and rearranging stuff. They’d given a bunch of patches to the group, so the group had a series of basic patches that formed the basis of the network, using the connectivity to run PD and have everyone’s output shared. But I believe there were some who were writing the patches in real time.

Mantione: That to me is not as impressive as the coding. Because I can’t code either. I would be amazed if someone just typed in lines of code. You can slap together a Max patch. Writing a Max patch really isn’t that difficult. But, coding. I can’t even type. I’m a two-finger typer.

Bach: I appreciate all of that, but that’s not how I think.

Mantione: There’s a disconnect between the gesture and the result. But isn’t that a mental gesture? Isn’t it like, “I want this to happen.” There’s the gesture, it’s kind of an invisible gesture, and this is just your finger moving here.

Bach: Right.

Mantione: So, isn’t it still there?

Bach: Yeah. It’s extended.

Mantione: It’s extended.

Bach: It’s extended and less immediate.

Mantione: Right.

Bach: It’s not quite the Rube Goldberg contraption of trying to set up this elaborate structure to make a very simple thing happen. In a way it gets back to…if you’re going to be old school about it, pure, you’re controlling every aspect of it. I’m guilty of not wanting to know what’s under the hood. I like to have some presets and some buttons, where I slide this slider and it does this, and I’m not as interested in the code that says when you turn a pot it activates this circuit to add extra gain or resistance…an oscillator is then fed through these filters…it interests me abstractly, of course, metaphorically and just for the idea of it, but as a model for composing or performing, not so much. I’m not opposed to it. If someone else was working in that, I would be open to collaborating. Maybe Max would be different. I don’t know how different Max is from PD. I know that there are improvisers who set up Max patches that they use for live stuff, and for them it’s pretty intuitive. So, I’m not opposed to it.

Mantione: Well, you know there’s a whole other issue, performing live vs. not. That’s a whole other issue. I’ve been teaching this class, your class, Listening and Analysis, and we’ve been talking about, “okay, here’s this electronic tune or pop tune or whatever. Now, we’re hearing the recording, but if we went to hear this live would it be the same?” Most people agree that, no, it wouldn’t be the same. And I say, “would it be a different piece?” I don’t know what they think, but I think they’re two separate pieces.

Bach: Any time it’s broadcast it’s different.

Mantione: That’s true.

Bach: We’re in a different room. Okay, this R&B singer [from music playing in the background], we’re hearing it out of [turns around to point at the speakers at the end of the lounge] the P.A. at a reduced volume, it’s a completely different piece if we were to hear this at a club or a party or on a ‘hi-fi.’

Mantione: Right. I remember one of the first concerts I’d ever gone to was Chicago, “25 or 6 to 4,” one of my favorite guitar solos, ever, and I went to that concert expecting to hear that perfect guitar solo the same way I heard it a million times, and when it didn’t happen it was disappointing, and kind of an awakening to me, that, okay, live music is different from recordings [laughs]. Now the bifurcation has happened. And so, with that in mind, the reason I bring it up, is that each one takes a different kind of technique that is very different, and you cannot expect that if I can make music that I really love in non-real time, that I can do the same thing in real time. I cannot do it. I cannot do it as well, I’ll tell you that right now. Because I haven’t done it as much.

Bach: Right.

Mantione: Some people take that into account and they say, “well, it’s live,” and in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “okay, it’s live.” Is that a value-added thing? Or should it be meaningless as far as whether it’s good, the sonic result? And I think it should be meaningless, at least as far as what I do. It’s either good or it isn’t, you know? If it’s live, then you fucked up live [laughs].

Bach: Right.

Mantione: That’s not an excuse, in other words. You know what I mean?

Bach: Yes. And I think by keeping those separate…and I try to get away from categorization, this is this and this is that, but sometimes it’s good to have…

Mantione: Two worlds.

Bach: Okay, here is the stuff that I can do in the studio, in the box, with this elaborate, intimate, excruciatingly detailed control over pitch, timbre, time, EQ, stereo image, that you can really only do as a composer, as someone who is setting out to do this very definitive thing. Then, live, what happens when you have to wait for something to render? Do you keep it silent? Do you play something else in the meantime? So, we’re talking about the gesture, the extended gesture, and the gesture in the box is a different mechanism than the live. With the live there is the performative aspect to it, there’s a tendency to want to keep the machinery running, you don’t want to screw it up. “Oops, I need to make this right, I need to keep the sound going, I need to have this narrative chugging along.” And in the studio there’s no one watching. So you can take as much time as you want, hit ‘save,’ go read a book, do something else, come back a few days later, and pick up exactly where you left off.

Mantione: Do you prefer one or the other at this point in your life?

Bach: I’m more… [trails off]

Mantione: Let me ask you this. Which would you say you’re better at doing?

Bach: I don’t know if I can answer that.

Mantione: You can’t answer that.

Bach: I started doing both, performing as a DJ with vinyl records, cassette tapes, CDs, doing these sound collages of other people’s work, samples and montage, then simultaneously working with digital audio for the first time and making these, I didn’t know what it was called at the time, but electroacoustic, acousmatic music. But the two never met. I would either perform improvised sound collages or I would compose my own stuff. And then I started to actually perform my own work. Sort of slip it in. At some point that took over. So, they originated from different sources, from different wells, and I think at one time there was a criss-cross, but I think that they still are originating and being fed from different sources. There’s overlap. But, when I’m performing I’m still thinking about this DJ thing. The selector. Mixing two things, overlapping them, transitioning, having this sort of linear…

Mantione: Continuity.

Bach: Yes, continuity. And in the studio it tends to be a little more vertical. I mean there’s still obviously a linear aspect to it—sound exists in time—and I will compose things in the box, these units, or structures, little snippets or samples to then be performed as modules that I can then…so there’s a definite relationship, but I can’t say if I prefer one or the other, or if I’m better at one or the other.  I don’t know if they’re two sides of the same coin. I don’t know if they are bifurcated. I don’t know.

Mantione: I think they’re two different skills. That’s funny, I still play guitar. But I don’t play what I write. I play jazz and blues because that’s what I was brought up with. And I still love using the instrument to do that. And to improvise. I would suck if someone stuck notes in front of me and asked me to…or even recording the guitar, I would suck. But, playing live, jamming with other instruments, that’s where I’m great with the guitar. Not with the computer. Why? Because that’s what I practice. And that’s what I’ve done over a gazillion hours.

Bach: Right.

Mantione: And I think this is where I have a big problem with so much of what I hear in an improvisational setting, with electronics especially, is that people think that if they can make weird sounds, that they can improvise.

Bach: Yeah, that that’s enough.

Mantione: That that’s enough. It’s not. And I don’t care if it’s a stomp box. If you haven’t spent many, many hours at figuring out all the nuances of that stomp box, what happens in all these situations, you don’t know that instrument. Don’t pretend that you do because you don’t. It’s obvious. And I think that’s what I hear a lot.

Bach: That’s interesting you say that. I tend to share that opinion in some regards, but looking at it from my perspective as someone who’s trying to make sounds in interesting ways, whether I’m…I don’t know if I’m illustrating an idea or just hearing these sounds in context and then immediately trying to figure out how to place them. Rather than, “I’m going to play this note as an execution of this thought, or this mental image I had, or this idea that I want to put this sound here.” So, in a way I’m reacting to a lot of the sounds that come out. I want to keep open, for me, the idea that I can take an instrument, an acoustic instrument, and use it to generate sounds that I may not be in control of, to then, in the live moment, have some kind of reaction to that and make it work somehow. That’s the challenge. I can play some very basic notes and chords on the guitar, but I would by no means call myself a guitarist. I would never pick up a guitar in an improv setting and say “I’m going to play the guitar and do this.” I could set up the guitar and put some mics on it and pluck a string and see if that can fit into the context of something else. Most often, though, I’ll just use the instrument beforehand in the studio to create some textures that I’ll then play later. So I’m playing recordings of myself manipulating the instrument.

Mantione: Well, I don’t know about you, but when you write in the box, as you’re saying…when I do that, it’s not code. I use Max, but I write patches in Max that I can perform on. Whether it’s a live situation, or whether I’m writing a fixed media piece, it’s still performing. In essence, I create a hundred improvisations on a Max patch and pick out the jewels. Which you can’t do live. But, what’s interesting is it’s still improvisation. I mean, I don’t pre-configure things and say, “Okay, hit the button and let it play.” I’m moving things around and adjusting parameters. Or, if I do hit the button I have some ideas in mind that the parameters have been changed, they will shift, they will randomly move…

Bach: Or, knowing later, you can then manipulate the recording of that…

Mantione: Yes. And also, a lot of this randomness, the randomization is one of the greatest sources of discovery.

Bach: Right.

Mantione: How could you possibly discover something you already know? [laughs]

Bach + Kannenberg: Discussion excerpt 1

Posted in Duos, Themes, Transcripts with tags , , , , , , on May 9, 2012 by glenncbach

Bach: Okay, back to the “pure” experience of sound as just sound. It reminds me of zazen when you are “just sitting” for the sake of sitting. There is no goal other than the experience of sitting and being awake to the moment. Is that how you are thinking about those moments of sound as “just sound”?

Kannenberg: Exactly. It’s not judging the sonic experience, or categorizing every sound as music as Cage would have wanted us to. It’s accepting that sound exists, it is a physical and psychological experience, and as such it can just be. It doesn’t need to be part of any organizational frameworks, and by labeling it as “music” or “not music” we add distance between ourselves as listeners and the experience.

Bach: So, we have a sound. In this case it happens to be a recording of you attempting to draw a circle, for instance, with a pencil attached to fishing line. The activity of the system of drawing yields sonic traces that can be experienced and enjoyed simply as interesting sound. And by “interesting” I mean worthy of taking notice. But, yet you felt a need to add elements of musicality, or at least contextualize the sounds into a more musical framework to justify their inclusion in the system?

Kannenberg: Not exactly. I felt the need to make some musical references in the One Hundred Hours of Infinity exhibition. I called the three sets of drawings that are included the Prelude, the Sequence, and the Coda in an attempt to reinforce the idea of sound (via musical terms) in the minds of the people looking at the show.

Similarly, with An Hour of Infinity, the performance of live drawing at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology that I just did recently, I added two musicians to the drawing performers who played musical instruments. This was more of a judgment call on what a general audience would be able to pay attention to. I added music because people are used to listening to music, they’re not used to listening to drawing. And it was through the music that I’d hoped it would help train the audience a bit to actually listen to everything happening around them, not just the instruments.

But in terms of justification of the sounds of drawing as part of the system I set up, I feel no need to justify it. I equate drawing and audio recording as two sides of the same coin — they are both records of actions. And therefore I conflate the two into becoming the same experience, the same thing, which might be a philosophical stretch, but it’s a leap of faith that I’ve taken off the deep end, so to speak.

Bach: Got it. So the musical shift was an attempt to find a context for your work to be experienced by an audience in a particular space. And so you wove musical structure into the very body of work itself. And did you get feedback from the audience to see if this worked?

Kannenberg: Well, yes and no. There were several different reactions that I was able to observe from my vantage point during the performance, some of which were positive and some of which were negative. Some people decided to park themselves directly in front of me while I was drawing and proceeded to have an incredibly loud conversation for about forty minutes.

Bach: Oh, yes. Some people get it, some don’t.

Kannenberg: In other areas, things stayed more quiet. And I heard from some audience members later that the music made them aware of the sounds of the drawing, so it at least succeeded with some people.

There’s a great moment on the video documentation where there’s a conversation going on in whispers. You can just barely make it out, but someone says “Ah, they’re drawing,” and the next voice says “Are they doing it to the music?” (and in this case, I think they’ve taken “music” to be the combination of the violin being played in the next gallery and the surround sound installation playing a loop of footsteps). And the response is muffled, but it was probably a disappointed “no.” And the voice that asked the question then says “Oh,” in the same tone of voice someone would use when they’ve found out they can’t return an expensive item to the store they bought it from because they waited too long and the receipt’s no longer valid. It’s the kind of tone of “That’s disappointing. So how do I still get what I want out of this?”

Bach: Well, that’s not totally unexpected. The activity of drawing, the sound it makes, the musicians performing scores derived from pieces in the museum’s collection, and the overarching structure and thematic subtleties of your project are very simple, in some ways, but also very nuanced and complex. Most folks, even those accustomed to seeing contemporary art, still don’t have a means of understanding the role of performance, let alone sound, in a gallery setting. I think you were bound to have some blank looks. Or upturned noses.

Kannenberg: Definitely, and it was that probability that made me most interested in doing the project in the first place. I had this very idealized notion of how the audience would behave, which was how I would behave if I were one of the audience members: I’d walk around very slowly, not speaking, and just listen to as much as I could from as many vantage points as I could. But that’s because I approach everything from that perspective. This was a way to test how two very different groups of people – one a contemporary art crowd, and the other a group of Classicists/archaeologists — would react to this absurd situation of people drawing circles with fishing line in a museum.

Bach:  Your work encapsulates all of it. It has to. For you, the sound is pure sound. For the musician, it’s a grainy drone with hints of percussion. For the gallery-goer familiar with sound, it’s an eye- and ear-opening experience. For the Egyptologists, it’s a bunch of rabble-rousers among treasured antiquities. For others, it’s a bunch of crazy people dressed in black playing with fishing line and making weird sounds. All of that is part of the work, and that’s fine. That’s what happens when we put stuff out in the world. We lose control of its reception, and the experience takes root in the mind and memory of the audience, and those they share it with, in ways we cannot control. Nor would we want to.

Kannenberg: That’s so perfect, and such a non-graduate school attitude to have! Grad school was all about justifying every decision and executing a plan to get the precise reaction we as the “artistes” want. I found so little aptitude amongst faculty for my attitude of wanting to construct a situation and let everyone have their own experience of it. That was apparently “too easy.” And it was that tension, of me wanting to relinquish control and faculty wanting it to be controlled, that led me to make what I did for my final series of projects

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.