Archive for recording

Why Atlas Sets?

Posted in Structure, Themes with tags , , on May 28, 2014 by glenncbach

I have been reflecting on the outlines and parameters of Atlas Sets as a project, a body of work, and an exercise in autobiography. The original impetus of the project–collecting a series of recorded sessions by a list of collaborators in a box set with a catalog in time for my 50th birthday in 2015, along with a celebratory publication party in Joshua Tree–has been supplanted by a more modest agenda. I see now that the real heart of Atlas Sets has never really been the recordings, the catalog, or even the impending mid-century celebration, but rather the conversations themselves, both in the moment and later in the office, transcribing the recordings into a coherent and faithful documentation of our exchange of ideas. By focusing on the conversation, I have been able to identify, articulate, and reflect on the questions important to me as a composer. What does it mean to organize sounds into structured compositions? What is my own relationship to improvisation and recording? Who, what, and where is my community?

I don’t necessarily have the answers; in fact, I’m more interested in refining the questions. The more I investigate my life in sound, broadly and deeply, the less certainty I have about finalizing my responses.

This process of questioning has been complicated and enriched by the addition of a new project and body of work, Atlas Place, in which I turn my attention to conversations with creative people about the places in which they live and work. This trajectory has been critical to my own process and self-identity as an artist for as long as I’ve been making work. The infrastructure of Atlas Place promises to allow for a wide-ranging, and long-lasting, series of conversations about how we relate to our geographical location, and how the places important to us have shaped our work and who we are.

What about Atlas Sets, then? If I’m no longer invested in finalizing a catalog and box set, can the project adjust to allow for a more open-ended structure? I’m still interested in meeting musician and composer friends for a meal and discussing the outlines of a possible collaboration, so could I not allow Atlas Sets to open up and breathe a little, let each collaboration run its own course rather than set a deadline? Perhaps a newsletter format, or an occasional release on MPRNTBL?

These questions received a new charge after reading Frances Morgan’s review of David Grubbs’ Records Ruin The Landscape: Cage, The Sixties And Sound Recording in the June 2014 issue of The Wire. Morgan traces Grubbs’ handling of the inherent contradiction in recordings of experimental and improvised music: how does a recording of an experimental composition or an improvised session coincide with the common artistic stance of open form and indeterminate results? I have been considering these issues in my own work and in conversations with collaborators such as Phil Mantione. Again, I can’t say I have the answers, but I believe I’m understanding the questions a little better. As Morgan writes in his review, there are now “more perspectives with which one can view the landscape.”

So, here’s to a fresh look at Atlas Sets, its connections to future conversations under the Atlas Place umbrella, and its role in the overall Atlas infrastructure.

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.

Bach + Schlarb: the recording factor

Posted in Duos, Resources, Themes with tags , , , on February 28, 2012 by glenncbach


What role does recording play in where we place ourselves along the composition/improvisation continuum?

Will the fidelity of the recording(s) determine the direction of the project?

Can the studio as place be incorporated into the raw material of the project?