1/7/13: I packed for Oslo to head to the All Ears Festival of improvised music. While getting things together, I downloaded a music file of the Resonance Ensemble performance from Krakow in November and Ellen ran downstairs to tell me that the computer was malfunctioning again, making all kinds of strange noises. I shot upstairs and immediately heard that it was Christof Kurzmann’s electronics feature from the opening section of “Double Arc” coming out of the speakers on the computer. Finished Thomas Bernhard’s extraordinary autobiography, “Gathering Evidence,” on the plane.
1/8/13: Arrived in Oslo with all my luggage, always some kind of miracle. Got a bit of sleep and practiced some clarinet before meeting Paal Nilssen-Love for Vietnamese food and then heard a preview concert for All Ears which took place at a music conservatory. Maybe it was my jet lag but even though each of the 3 sets were aesthetically different from each other(minimal to maximal) all failed musically for the same reasons- no listening and no direction within the ensembles. After this debacle, Paal, Jon Rune Strøm, and I headed to the National Jazz Scene to hear Mats Gustafsson’s 28 piece Fire! Orchestra. The performance oscillated from simple melodies and/or vocals over a single vamp (very good vamps though), with short and occasional solos, to open sections that were more or less improvised; Mats often used visual cues to direct the band. On the surface, the material was reminiscent of the Liberation Music Orchestra, Brotherhood of Breath, Bitter Funeral Beer. Afterward, it was great to socialize with a ton of friends from Oslo that turned out and so many Swedish friends in Mats’ group. And kudos to him for being able to organize 9 shows in Scandinavia with 28 musicians and pay everybody- INCREDIBLE.
1/9/13: I started reading “Sync or Swarm” (David Borgo) on the suggestion of Kate Dumbleton, she had sent it to me as a gift. Initially, I had a hard time with the pedagogical nature of the writing. I’d been listening to AMM to prepare for my upcoming concert and recording session with John Tilbury and Eddie Prevost at the festival in Oslo. That process was informative, particularly in regard to Prevost’s drumming, which I remembered as being more static, but is actually quite explosive at times. I performed solo at the Ny Musikk Center and was supposed to be last of 3 sets, but one of the groups got held up at the airport in Italy, so the schedule was rearranged putting me first, which was quite fine, I hate to wait to play. While I sat upstairs backstage before the concert there was a giant photograph of John Cage staring at me the entire time. The room was very good to work with, interesting resonances that opened up the harmonics on the horns. Started with Bb>tenor>baritone (a bit of trouble working the low B resonance, the humidity was surprisingly dry so the reed wasn’t responsive when I started and this became a game to sort out on the spot)>tenor; about 30 minutes of music. I felt good about the energy and intensity of the concert, but I had probably over compensated and was too dense too often, and didn’t utilize the space that the room would have allowed, though I did vary materials, and was conscious of doing this. All improvised without a plan as I’ve been trying to do since the last solo album. My other main focus remains to fight forward with Derek Bailey’s adage, “The problem with the saxophone is that every time you pick it up, it’s jazz,” in mind. Good response afterward, praise from Axel Doerner which meant a lot. My performance felt not 100% but solid.
1/10/14: Spent the afternoon walking around Oslo, reading, visiting the Norli and Tronsmo bookstores. Have had luck at Norli in the past (picked up an excellent Harry Callahan book by Steidl, “Seven Collages,” there); Tronsmo is a great bookstore- I was looking through its compact and effective collection for an hour before limiting myself to Walter Benjamin’s “Arcades Project,” and a collection of Anders Petersen’s photographs, called “Veins” (I pretty much discovered Petersen’s work for myself at this visit to shop- incredible stuff, raw black and white, reminding me a bit of Moriyama’s work). Started work on the 3rd composition for Audio One. Spent the evening at All Ears listening to the shows: 1. a solid duo between Ståle Liavik Solberg and John Russell; Ståle’s development as a free improvising drummer is impressive, he communicated well with Russell, classic “insect music.” 2. Pär Thorn, “electro-acoustic” musician working with cassette tape manipulation. 3. Great Waitress; I’ve been interested in hearing this band for a while and was glad to be able to hear them in a live context first; Magda Mayas was very impressive with her prepared piano work, real control and execution of ideas, she kept the group’s music moving forward. 4. Aspec(t), electro-acoustic duo from Naples with Mimmo Sec and Mario Gabolas; loud and abrasive, Mimmo seemed to create the direction and clear in his statements, Hydrocodone Mario did some nice “amplified” alto sax, without a mouthpiece, good sound palette and not derivative of John Butcher’s work in that field. 5. Thurston Moore and PIKA; a rocking jam, energetic and entertaining, PIKA playing drums and singing, running around, etc., while Moore riffed and/or made noise with his guitar.
1/11/14: I see that I need more discipline to work with the camera when I’m in Chicago; I take many more photographs when I’m away or on tour. When I’m home I let myself get too bogged down in administrative issues and lose time I could be devoting to more creative work outside the music. Too much happening at once right now, I worked more on the 3rd piece for Audio One, decent progress made- rubbing out the cliches and forcing myself to make the material as specific and unique as possible. I was also in a last minute rush to locate and get final materials to Kate Dumbleton for the DCASE grant application for Audio One; thought the deadline was Jan. 19, but it was Jan. 12! Also trying to review the Lean Left mix Andy Moor is working on, but only had a computer and headphones which made this difficult. That night I played in Fredrikstad with Mimmo SEC on a double bill of two 30 minute sets with Mario Gabola and Agnes Hvizdalek. 5 people showed up. The set with Mario and Agnes was interesting. It took about 10 minutes to find common ground between Mimmo and I, but after that the duo went very well, and I needed to explore a lot of sound/texture vocabulary to deal with the Revox/etc. A good room for the horn, could explore the acoustics. On the way home on the train back to Oslo I thought about why improvised music isn’t the computers trying to communicate on “The Forbin Project,” in total agreement. Improvised music can’t start arbitrarily or end with indifference- the focus on how to begin and how to end lends focus on the narrative direction.
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