…an undeniable abundance of tracks here that feature truly stellar interplay, as well as inspired improvisation; see the stuttering duet, “Border Incident.” Full of distant, creepy sounds and scattered moments of close, guitar-sax discourse, Hunting and Gathering is an enjoyable mash of breath and circuitry.
My residency with David Behrman at the Atlantic Center for the Arts was an important part of 2011 and its effects trickled into the rest of (and best of) the year. I heard some great recordings as a result of the residency, namely:
Various Artists: Music for Merce (box set)
A massive collection that celebrates the musical legacy of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Great work by Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveros, Takehisa Kosugi, Maryanne Amacher, John King, David Behrman and especially David Tudor. It’s astounding (and initially a little frustrating) that even with 10 CDs, many of the pieces are presented as excerpts. But hearing applause at the end of the live recordings reminds me that the pieces often lasted until the dance was over, and then they were over, too.
Ensemble vocal de Girokastër: Albanie – Polyphonies Vocales du Pays Lab
Mesmerizing choral music from Albania.
Otherwise, 2011 was the year of some exceptional music by many of my musician friends. Their work easily stands up against many of the releases from more established labels. In some cases, the work appears on established labels. In any case, the distinction between DIY and “signed artist” seems increasingly irrelevant. So I’m not hesitant to trumpet this work at all. I’m more concerned about leaving out some deserving recordings simply because there’s so much new material to consider. If we’re friends (I hope we are) and I don’t mention your work below, it’s probably because I haven’t listened to it yet. We’re still friends–I can’t wait to finally catch up on what you did in 2011 and hear what’s to come in 2012.
I found this melody in John and Alan Lomax’s Our Singing Country. I worked out the two-finger, thumb lead banjo part to highlight the double drones of the first and fifth string. The vocal style is haunted by the ghost of Roscoe Holcomb.
The electronics part uses an FFT freeze frame technique to create an evolving texture by extending a single frame of audio from the banjo (and sometimes voice). Applying pressure to force sensitive resistors mounted on the head and neck of the banjo changes the amplitude contour of the FFT synthesis, making the resulting sound smoother or spikier.
The banjo break at the beginning comes almost directly from Pete Seeger’s How to Play the 5-String Banjo. I worked out the banjo part in the verse by ear, following the melody and drawing inspiration from Buell Kazee’s recording on the Anthology of American Folk Music.
The electronics part uses multiple looping delays to create a rhythmic texture from the banjo. The timing for each delay line is based on the time between consecutive instances of a given note played by the banjo. One delay line changes every time the computer hears the note g , another changes when the computer hears f, another for b-flat, etc.
The tablature above more accurately represents how I’d play the tune on a fretted banjo. When I play the fretless banjo, as on the recording, I throw in more slides on the 3rd and 4th strings.
I recently finished sequencing the tracks for my upcoming Post and Beam CD. The hardest part was figuring out where to put the long form instrumental pieces like Telephone Temple and Spring Dissent (Bubbling) among the shorter, more song-based pieces. After auditioning countless combinations and creating crazy mind maps of relationships between pieces, I finally decided to jettison the instrumental pieces altogether.
I’m disappointed they didn’t make the cut partly because I wanted Post and Beam to represent a typical set of my current work for banjo and electronics. At the same time, I can’t deny that the album (Yes, I’m actually thinking of it like that; and yes, I do feel old sometimes.) works better without them.
The good news is that they’re not going away forever. I can easily imagine them as the foundation for my next CD, or as online bonus material. And the other good news is that with the sequencing done I can move along with mastering and sleeve design and … and …