andrewcsmith on 06/14/2011 at 09:00AM
This past week, ISSUE held a reception and short concert by our Artists-in-Residence Nate Wooley & James Ilgenfritz [Artist-in-Residence Nate Wooley with MIVOS Quartet + Peter Evans: Saturday, 6/18, FREE | RSVP] at our future home at 110 Livingston in Downtown Brooklyn. This space, which has previously hosted more than a few string quartets, William Basinski, Ellen Fullman, and a solo acoustic (amplified) performance by Elliott Sharp, had still barely touched the performance style that makes up a healthy portion of our programming: free improvisation. Both Nate and James seem to approach improvisation as an act of listening. They leave ample space for silence, and even when playing solo don't merely rattle off licks learned in middle school. The immediacy of their playing and their mental and emotional presence in the room is always felt.
This performance at 110 Livingston (their first public performance as a duo) seemed to amplify the artists' awareness of their own sound. This highly reverberant space has not yet been acoustically treated, and when there are few other people and no furniture it's difficult to even have a conversation in the room; any word spoken just bounces around the room for 7-8 seconds. So a duo performance by these two virtuoso listeners cannot help but include the room in the equation. The sounds are held, or blasted into the room. But they always step back to listen to the full sound. It's always about the result, and about the aggregate of sounds heard, not only spoken; it's not about the player.
andrewcsmith on 03/08/2011 at 11:00AM
ISSUE Artist-in-Residence Nate Wooley, performing this Friday at ISSUE (FREE | RSVP), sat down with bassist, composer, and Artist-in-Residence James Ilgenfritz for an extended interview and some improvised takes as part of James's series Ten Thousand Hours.
Nate details what it is that makes him uncomfortable—which he sees as success. His residency at ISSUE, he says, is a chance for him to "rewrite my whole vocabulary in a way," and go beyond his solo acoustic and his amplified trumpet work to make something "really raw, and loud, and uncomfortable and personal." Interspersed throughout are excerpts from his and James's improvisations, which are also separate tracks on the album made for re-listening.
Also make sure to check out a video of Nate in his studio, talking about his upcoming piece Seven Storey Mountain, which he'll be performing as part of his ISSUE residency.
andrewcsmith on 06/21/2010 at 09:00AM
Kenneth Gaburo looked at language and music and saw enough commonalities and crosstalk to render the distinction inadequate. The two categories of communication and expression are indistinguishable in their root—the voice—and so why bother with reinforcing the divergence?
The two artists added to the FMA this morning—Larry Polansky, a composer/programmer/performer/theorist, and Chris Mann, a composer/poet/performer/linguist—both took different (but clearly related) concepts from Gaburo. Polansky often works on the level of musical systems and probabilities; the example below, "Simple Actions/Rules of Compossibility," is for a performer and computer, but the person controlling the computer has very little involvement in specific events. It is rather the systems that are being controlled, so that the changes are not to the details but rather they are on a higher level. Of course, the changes manifest themselves on the lower level—this is language—and it is these changes that are heard in the recording below. I'm leaving out an absurd amount of information here, but luckily Larry's kind enough to just put many of his recordings up on his site. He also often works with harmonic series-derived tunings, gamelan, and rode the Amiga wave the first time around.
"Simple Actions/Rules of Compossibility" is presented here in a recording by Larry Polansky and Chris Mann, who reads a part of his long text Tuesday called "Rules of Compossibility." In this, the Amiga is essentially a responsive instrument to the sounds that it takes as input, so Mann's text is treated by the computer as sound. Yet, rather than just sound poetry, concerned with sound as its object (and stripping away a large degree of referential meaning from the text), Mann uses language as the "mechanism whereby you understand what I'm thinking better than I do (where I is defined by those changes for which I is required)." In other words (if it is possible to say the same thing in other words) language does not communicate; language reveals. Mann's text "notes (on the user as software)" is just one of the many hours of recordings he has available on his site. I've featured the first part here, but the whole thing works out to about a half hour.
Larry Polansky and Chris Mann will both be at ISSUE on Tuesday evening to talk about the work of Kenneth Gaburo, and to give performances, along with the composer and theorist David Dunn (who played last night). Facilitating the conversation will be the trumpeter Nate Wooley, so just for fun I've added some of his music to the playlist below.
mwalker on 05/14/2010 at 09:30AM
Last Wednesday, stalwart free improv veteran Wally Shoup made a cross-country trip from Seattle to Brooklyn to preside over a more or less perfect session with New York's finest: trumpeter Nate Wooley (certainly no stranger to the FMA), percussionist Andrew Drury, and bassist Reuben Radding. Shoup’s playing is both arrestingly visceral and disarmingly vulnerable. While more than capable of both long, intricate phrasing and complex barrages of explosive skronk, he is at his most impactful when honing his energies on a single note. Obsessively holding a pitch across an array of timbral transformations, Shoup wrenches out every last drop of emotional resonance from a tone as if squeezing out a densely-filled sponge.
The quartet operates at a rare level of intuitive communication, shifting from frenetic chaos to hard-swinging rompage to doleful lyricism – all executed with a remarkable complexity of interaction and singularity of consciousness. The most striking moment, however, comes in the last five minutes as Wooley and Radding simultaneously establish a unified drone – erecting a soft but impenetrable, unwavering band of unified vibrations against which Drury and Shoup launch a transcendent assault of staggering depth before being absorbed, themselves, into the singular beam of sound.
andrewcsmith on 04/09/2010 at 02:30PM
The trumpeter Nate Wooley recounted at the beginning of his set this interview he administered that day with the composer Tom Johnson in which Tom said a couple of things that Nate recounted for us: 1. improvisers are awful human beings 2. nothing new was happening in music period anywhere, but especially in the U.S.
“It’s kind of freeing to know that there’s nothing that I’ll do tonight that’s new,” which means that he can do whatever he wants. Which means that anything that happens that night is arbitrary, not necessarily confined to a historical period. Still, anything improvised that night is inseparable from the current time because of its arbitrary and personal quality. It is not an attempt to progress through history—to look to the future—and it makes no claims. Whatever happens happens, as someone could say.
Nate’s playing is a constant expenditure of energy; there is never a moment when it seems like he is riding on his chops, or playing rehearsed licks. Or, if he is, he interrupts these licks as soon as they become standard, or sub-standard. Exhaustion is theme: maybe physical exhaustion as he circular-breathes for almost a half hour straight, or maybe emotional exhaustion, as the sounds oscillate between serenity and schizophrenia, multiple voices coming from all sides, or intellectual exhaustion, where it’s all been done before anyway so anything new is old, arbitrary, and re-hashed.
Arguing the dialectic of improvisation-versus-composition does not satisfy anything. There is no dialectic if there is nothing new; if improvisation is just re-hashing old ideas, and if composition is just re-hashing slightly different (but basically the same) ideas, then what’s the difference? This, which I’ll repeat as a mantra from somewhere else, is that all the important things have become as one and the differences have disappeared.
Nate never said whether he agrees or disagrees, and this is improvisation; it is taking statements not as conveying information but as commands and as fact: the fact of the statement and not the fact of what the statement might refer to. The statement is fact because someone thinks it, or because someone thought of it once.