Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Great Divide.

The Great Divide. Studio 234 CD002.
Glynis Lomon:Cello, voice.
Blaise Siwula: Alto and Tenor Sax.
Eric Zinman:Piano.

with William Buchanan: Drums, (on cuts 2,5 and 6.)
and Hugo Manuschevich: Drums, (on cuts 3 and 4.)

Writing about some of the regions of ensemble improvisation is a flat handful when one wants to describe it as it stands. There are few familiar structural markers and each lucid effort is a stand alone world. I began to feel a bit at sea over it all so Mr Zinman graciously provided this lucid effort.

And come to think of it, that is probably the most fitting thing for a scribbler to do when lucidity is wanted.

From Eric we have the following thoughtful illuminations.

All the players I work with do "noise". I love it. I've always wanted to incorporate all these elements from the simplest basic aspects of music to the most complex. Like many musicians, I want it to sound like we're talking singing and even screaming sometime and this is as much a part of the tradition as it is avant garde.

Everybody always emphasizes the most polite aspects of Charlie Parker or John Coltrane because some of the records allow you to do that.

The titles of course were an afterthought. My thinking about the title was suggested to me by Blaise because I was hooked by a statement that Glen Gould made when he heard Cecil Taylor for the first time.

"That's the 'Great Divide' " he said.

There is always a divide between culture and art. Art speaks to you and I, but "culture" speaks to us, so artists are always at war with 'culture'. As an art rises to a position of hegemony we feel the stronghold exerted by the
culture on art sometimes as 'nationalism'. America wants 'embedded artists' like they want 'embedded journalists'.

You talk about Boston being 'music school land' so Boston is better understood as a hotbed for ' culture' but not art. 'Culture' is better understood in Europe by governments which is why there is more funding because historically it plays a more obvious role in the power structure of these countries. That doesn't make them better or more 'cultured' but they are used to the idea of 'culture workers'.

In the US perhaps this is more subtle as in the tour of the Vice Presidents house done by Lynn Cheney, or less subtle like Lou Greenwall singing "proud to be an American", but the last concert I saw at the White House was the Marine Band, so in my opinion the US does not put up much of a front.

But you can notice from the past as in the case of certain artists like Baryshnikov, who after accepting certain invitations was quite a "darling" who they wined and dined including posters saying "Baryshnikov for America's Libraries" at the time of the "so called" end of the cold war. Certain artists like Nureyev would have refused to do that based on US foreign policy so some artists have a conscience.

Of course this is philosophical/ideological and has very little to do with the music in some ways. Though it must be said that music is always ideology.

Glynis did not like my argument about 'the Great Divide and found it negative and so I persuaded her with the nature imagery which, of course I also relate to in a deep way.

So you can take it both ways. I suppose it's transcendental. It is through nature that I've been able to retain my sanity and there is an incredible force or power within the natural world that suggests music and a fierce music at that. I don't think the titles are especially strong but they suggest an atmosphere which I try to create in the music.

The "consistent flow pattern" you refer to is probably what I like. I don't want the energy to be disrupted but I want it to develop and build. In music there is hunger and fulfillment just like in life. There must also be continuity and exquisite form.

If you scream all the time it gets boring so I want to work up to that to create a reason for the climax, but basically I want to keep the listener listening.

Like many musicians I don't use the words dissonance and consonance. I prefer tension and release. Like in all arts, if there is too much tension we get annoyed, if there is too much release we get bored. So all art seeks to find a balance. All the NYC players I've worked with play this kind of density. I am still in love with it. Blaise definitely has his own sound.

I feel that Glynis and Blaise and myself are all real ensemble players and that's what makes playing with them so much fun and even easy. I always felt Blaise and Glynis try to link everything together when they play in a group.

Blaise to my mind is an original player with the alacrity of a gust of joyful wind that is inspirational with a wide emotional range and like many great saxophone players he projects with force from the bottom to the top of the horn.

I have had a chance to hear different aspects of his work and realize that like myself he has tried many different ways of organizing music . His longstanding duets with guitarist Dom Minasi offer a different view into his musical thinking and construction.

These pieces though fixed in some way have a simple tasteful elegance to them that is perhaps related to the music of Monk and Ornette Coleman. But at this point this is old history. I think musical intuition which is communication is very strong in Blaise and this carries into every recording I have heard with him.

In my conversations with Blaise he has a broad awareness of the music and what other saxophone players have attempted to do and though very informed, I can't say that Blaise sounds like anybody else. He is also an organizer for what I would call 'improvised action' in NYC with C.O.M.A. (Citizens Ontological Musical Agenda) and as such is a positive force in this music that has brought many people together. I am grateful for his efforts whether they succeed or fail.

Glynis's playing is very controversial. People either love it or hate it. She has figured out her own way of playing the cello and I consider her a genius that most are not ready for. I know her pretty well and I can tell you she does everything a musician is supposed to do but she can use the instrument in a way that most are not capable of doing because of the way their trained.

She is not a refugee from the symphony orchestra like most string players. I was disappointed a little that I didn't play more around the piano in a solo sense on this recording but I realized that what I did made the ensemble sound better and that's what I want to do in an ensemble.

Glynis likes Glissando a lot which is of course natural to the instrument. She hardly plays scalar sounds. You may notice that she gets an incredible variety of timbres on one note. The approach of most virtuosos in formal concert music like Yo Yo and others is to have a "sound" or "the sound" which is the only sound they make, but Rostropovich never played that way.

I heard a composition by Glynis' mom recently at the congregational church in Harvard Square and the cello part had some great glisses in it that
blended with a siren that was used in the piece to evoke the holocaust.

Ruth Lomon, Glynis' mom, is one of Boston's best composers. So you see she grew up with interesting music. But Bill Dixon really turned her around and showed her that you could play the cello another way so Glynis can play with any instrument and imitate its sound so she's great with percussion and can sing like a horn. Of course "culture" dictates that a string player should always use lots of vibrato, but Glynis just has more control over it and often uses no vibrato.

The piano in many ways is the "odd instrument out". It relates most easily to the percussion instruments. I try, however, to do all the things that the piano can do in an ensemble situation and of course the balance between the pedaled and unpedaled sounds is crucial as is the use of space. I realize again that I didn't do any fancy thunderous line playing on this recording but the way this ensemble plays in my mind is 'untouchable'.

I focus my energy on different instruments and you can hear me playing duets with the drums just as you hear Glynis and Blaise playing duets so....double duets happen at certain points.......I recall there is a piano/cello duet as well, but as I said before a good musician never violates a situation and always tries to "integrate" as you say. I started noticing the 'bell tones' that you refer to in the upper register which I thought sound like broken glass on the piano.

To get back to the density thing........I mean this really shouldn't be a special case.......there is supposed to be heat when you play this music...(even Beethoven).....I don't want to mention names but a lot of what I see around Boston is way too polite.

I realize some very interesting music can be done in a very narrow dynamic range. It doesn't keep my attention too long because I eventually get distracted by other sounds in the room or outside the room. I think this concept is more successful in a grand piece of architecture where the audience is allowed to move freely through the space rather than seated.

Cage took great delight in this concept, but the idea of the audience being captive in a seat for this is only so interesting. Feldman's music is not light in this way and grabs your attention through sudden spaces and resilient blending. The audience is not expected to be seated during certain incidental pieces. I bring this up in light of the fact that Cage in particular considered much of his later work to be improvisation.

Perhaps my role in that increased on this recording or perhaps because of the instrumentation. The piano has so much information right in front of you. This is naturally reduced in this recording.

Maybe this is what Monk taught but I try not to listen to anything these days except my own just gets in the way. Though one interesting thought. People always talk about the explosive "fire" music of Cecil Taylor which has people screaming like its the "Beatles".

Well they never say ANYTHING about how Cecil uses space which is pure magic much the way a dancer defines their space on stage. I mean its not really metrical;its a human impulse that transports you somewhere else.....pure energy.

I try to use the whole piano and you can perhaps hear that if you choose the right register then the orchestra seems fuller or thicker or perhaps like 8 instruments instead of four.

1.There Were Frogs in the Fog.
The beginning involves the entire trio initially understated. Blaise rises from the texture with a dry timbre singing to Lomon bow swoops and a Zinman soundcape of sparse bell tones, The texture thickens by midpoint with groups of Siwula flutter phrases set against an interlocked lope rhythm texture setting Eric cluster voicings or chordal wringing against a zagging cello zig. The increased density is built of this flutter ring exchange between horn and piano with Lomon contrasts of longer tones and deft stabs rising through.

2. Forests.
A run of long Siwula tones set against William Buchanan hat work launches Forest. Eric drops ringing clusters separated by spaciousness and Glynis bends tones and rubs creaking sheets augmented with percussive clickery from cello and horn.Soon the entire Buchanan kit works its way around the ensemble subtly There is a steadfastness to the cello gravity and it ends as it with wavered Siwula long tones.

3. The Great Divide.
Madame Lomon leads the way for the Great Divide with a run of pensive bow whorls and the whole ensemble soon follows with Siwula vibrato and kit ranging courtesy of Hugo Manuschevich. It is a Novemberish thing with swirling winds rustling dry leaves in little eddies with storm fronts approaching and lots of ensemble churning in juxtaposed vortexes. Mr. Zinman makes his part an exposition in miniature of the pianistic elements he has been building over the years.

4. Falcons.
Some slap tongue bellishness alternated with short birdlike phrases from Blaise is paired with deft kit work from Hugo.Eric phases in with staccato note bursts alternating with neo vamps as Glynis makes a glissando framework with focus in the lower range end and nifty echoing of what the drummer's up to. There is determined evasion of tonal resolution conventions leaving a sense of suspense that ends in a collective ensemble sound swoop.

5. Rio Verde.
Eric Zinman leads with a few low end tone and cluster segments soon joined by Blaise on tenor and William as Lomon rises soon after. All in all it is a contemplative piece of a subtle complexity.There are allegories of balladry in Siwula's phrase groups and Zinman adds a sense of tonal remoteness in his approach to comping. There are interesting sub-pairings of cello drum interactivity as the piano has some engagement with the tenor.The end is signaled by Blaise tones that hint at a muezzin doing an evening prayer call in some timeless levantine mosque.

6. Windswept Circus.
Ms. Lomon adds her voice to this one as another instrument which must be a handful on top of bowing a cello.The piece has her at the drivers seat for a good part of it with some of her most striking participation on the disk. She seems to be having a ball with this pinnacle and works well with Blaise alto meanders. Eric and William create the framework for it all.

The Great Divide is available from Eric Zinman.

No comments:

Post a Comment