finally back home
sruti, sax, lump in my throat
just so damn gorgeous
A blast from the past: my mid-term performance bachelor exam from the Cologne music school, a piece I wrote called Infernal Necromancy. Deep in the middle of my saxophone studies I was looking for ways to break out from the constricts of the school.and luckily I was blessed with other musicians around me who were willing to risk something and even don dog collars as was the case with Antonis Anissegos. These days my lats would likely burst that lycra body suit. The question marks on the Jury’s face remain to this day.
A distant monastery in France offering a sound transparent and divine. A week of in depth conversations around bees. A team of New Zealanders frantically trying to resolve all the technical issues in time for the final performance. The saxophonist reaching back to his years of high school Latin to finally put it all to use as he attacks Virgil full on. The New Zealand photographer carefully handling the tiny bees in her hand as the light illuminates their figures only to be transformed and projected onto the vast interior stone of the Abbey. Song Sting Swarm:
The Rabbit’s Dream of the Inner Mongolia
by the time I reach the autumn peaks
moons will have passed
I hop over plains gently in quiet song
precious cargo in my heart
Worlds away from the “Sport FC” Hotel of Freiburg the Saxophonist completes a residency in a Cistercian Abbey in the heart of France. Surrounding the abbey grounds were seemingly endless fields of dying sunflowers, their darkened heads hanging listlessly and gently swaying in the cold breeze. Autumn had hit the prefecture of Berry swiftly and the Saxophonist enjoyed the visceral sensation of his energy returning, he had always considered himself a creature born of cold. Four days of singing overtones beneath white cupolas of the Monastery were more than enough to make him forget the incident with the Finn and he found a new friend in the form of a white owl who had nested on one of the higher arches in the abbey and often liked to engage in a strange singing dialogue with the harmonics produced by the Saxophonist, sometimes swooping in a low trajectory through the monumental interior, defecating out of joy on the stone floor in the process.
Alongside the owl, the Saxophonist delighted in submerging himself into the consciousness of bees as it was his particular appointment to create music to accompany their sounds. After meticulously collecting all manner of sources, from the delicate beating of wings to cool the hive in summer to the last cry of the dying queen, the Saxophonist was more than happy to lose himself in a world natural intent and beauty that left him blissfully detached from the world of security checks, airports, and the drudgery and stench of traveling in the age of petroleum. After a small but ecstatic group of elderly locals had warmly received his final presentation in the Abbey he boarded a train to Paris on the following morning. Upon arriving in Gare Austerlitz he elected to take the Metro number 5 to Gare du Nord. It was in one of the many underground connecting tunnels beneath the later station, the ones he likes to curse at whilst lugging his bags up all of their many stairs, when he was suddenly thrown back violently to the nighttime Operetta of Freiburg.
In between the posters of French comedians and American Blockbusters a photo had been crudely taped to the wall. To the Saxophonist’s utter astonishment, the portrait was a striking resemblance of the Finnish Transsexual. The figure which had confronted the Saxophonist was several years older and his face had been viscously beaten by time, weather, and the bottle, but it was without a doubt the same man. The Saxophonist immediately made a photo of the photo, perhaps so as to prove to himself later that he was not going mad. As he was framing the shot with one hand, his other hand was carefully wrapped out of habit around his Saxophone case and suitcase. It was precisely in that moment of digital capture that he remembered something odd from the days preceding the midnight encounter which had, from the enduring shock of the encounter, slipped entirely from his memory.
Some days leading to the nighttime incident the Saxophonist had used his balcony to construct a small “mesa” adorned with incense, rose water, and a small candle.
A side note on the “mesa” : Some 12 years ago the Saxophonist had found himself in the mountains of Colorado supporting the building of a Buddhist Stupa with his music. As alcohol was strictly prohibited in the Buddhist community the Saxophonist had walked miles with his guitar to search for any kind of Inn or the like. Upon finding a roadside dive he then imbibed in some wine and was buoyed enough by the fermented sugar to play some of his original country songs guitar on his bar stool next to the pool table. The staff were ecstatic and encouraged the Saxophonist to return that same Friday to “play a real gig for our local crowd”, an offer which the Saxophonist with his dubious skills on the guitar accepted, thinking in the main of the free wine. Needless to say , the full and boisterous Friday night Mid-west crowd gave the Saxophonist with his limited skills and no microphone a hostile reception and the “gig” was swiftly terminated by the bar staff spraying juice and Cola on the Saxophonist and his guitar with two of their serving pistols. Wet, sticky, and demoralized, the Saxophonist elected to take his remaining bags and walk as far away as he could, leaving behind him the Buddhists and the Cowboys. It was then, shortly after that he stumbled across a Peruvian Shaman guiding a group through the mountains of Colorado to build “energetic transmitter stations” he termed “Mesas” consisting of cloths laid on the ground covered with stones, feathers, and activated by song. The Saxophonist was encouraged to join the group with his music which he did, albeit still sticky from the cola and juice. In the following days the Saxophonist listened carefully to the teaching of this mysterious Peruvian without thinking much more of it. It was 11 years after that when the Saxophonist was guided back by invisible hands to rekindle the Peruvian wisdom tradition. Watching with horror as he perceived the world slipping back into the old patterns of war and mindless destruction he was inside desperate to do anything he could to save the earth below his feet which day by day was becoming more venerated to him but at the same time more endangered of senseless destruction. Even he was forced to admit that the breathy sounds from his saxophone and vocal chords could not, on their own, save the planet. And so it was that the teachings of the Peruvian came back to him and he began to take a small cloth with him on his travels, laying it down in hotels and whenever he could, lighting incense and giving simple offerings in the form of song to “Pachamama”, in other words doing everything possible to honor and even save this beautiful spinning orb.
And so it was on the balcony of room 7 on the three days leading to the nighttime encounter the Saxophonist had begun to sing and light aromatic woods including “Palo Santo”. And each time, as the Saxophonist whilst looking at the shocking photo portrait now recalled, he remembered hearing moaning sounds from the adjoining room- as if someone was suffering under the weight of spirit the Saxophonist was “calling in”. At the time he thought nothing of it but now, amongst the din of the Paris underground, they came back to him. They were the subdued cries of a tormented soul, a traumatized bundle of paradox who must have been, as is often the case, extremely sensitive to subtle changes in the energetic field surrounding the “Sport FC” hotel. Were these shifts in the field invoked by utterance, flame, and scent responsible for the Finn’s severe breakdown by night? The Saxophonist, swiftly walking down the dirty passage way of Gare du Nord, was content to never know the answer.
Mid September, the middle-aged saxophonist was relaxing in his spartan low-budget hotel room on the outskirts of the town of Freiburg. A late summer had recently kissed the province and as the clock ticked over midnight the air was still warm and most pleasant, he thought to himself. His balcony door was slightly ajar and he was enjoying the last pages of a book arguing that the “Younger Dryas” period of Earth’s history some 14,000 years ago was indeed bought about by a severe meteor impact causing catastrophic global flooding. The fact that this event is so widely encoded in world myth resonates with the saxophonist and as he felt his eyelids gradually growing heavier (the last days were taxing on him to say the very least), he pondered just what this impact must have been like so long ago. Tales of galactic precession and long-forgotten ancient star-lore encoded in stone were perhaps just what he needed so as to forget that he was in butt-f@ck nowhere in a complete dive with the sole toilet on the corridor, no internet, the nivea cream/sweat stench of a youth hostel, and no one at reception by night.
It must have been no longer a few minutes into his first phase of alpha sleep when the screaming began, the kind of ur-cry one could expect from hunter-gatherers if several 2 kilometer wide cosmic rocks would smash through the atmosphere at high speed. Naturally the first thought of the Saxophonist was that he was dreaming. A male voice in the adjoining room was suddenly screaming out as if something was terribly, terribly wrong. There was something demonic in the cries. It sounded like someone was either about to be killed or the screamer would soon be dying himself. As the Saxophonist was jarred awake a chill shot through him. There was nothing comprehensible in the screams but they could well be infernal necromantic incarnations- there was something powerful and immensely unsettling behind them. Then suddenly the cries would stop and spitting sounds, stamping and the smashing of wood could be heard in the room. Then utter silence for some minutes. Then the screaming would begin again, lasting minutes on end even as his voice could be heard cracking and failing. The Saxophonist lay frozen.
The hotel was virtually empty. Around it was a deserted Tennis club with grass growing through the faded clay and some distant hills. The Saxophonist was juggling thoughts of knocking on the door or calling the police as the blood-curdling screams continued with small windows of eerie silence in between. The Saxophonist felt pumped from his recent training and ready to break down a door and a man if need be. But for the first time in years (since stumbling by night into a lion pride in Kenya) he felt the red hairs on his arms stand up and he remembers how the clinically insane can produce almost superhuman strength when pushed. This leads to him immediately ditching the break-down-the-door option. As for the calling-the-police option, he quickly decides against it knowing he will not survive the next day without some sleep at the very least. Sirens and reports lie beyond the Saxophonist’s capacity at that moment.
The screams are such that as the Saxophonist lies and stares at the wall separating him from a surreal mental meltdown, half expecting the wall to be smashed down any moment. After some minutes of the darkest of limbos he quietly gets up fro the bed and slips on his jeans and a t-shirt. He stretches his neck, flexes his lats and shoulders, splashes some cold water on his face, and opens his door.
Seconds after knocking on the adjacent room number 8 the door is opened and musty air tainted with vodka vapor is immediately released directly into the Saxophonist’s face. By the subsequent babbling and sputtering the Saxophonist identifies the man/woman/thing as Finnish. His frame is large, her face pitted, scarred and unshaven, its long blond hair is untidy and greasy, his breasts are huge and imposing, her complexion is pale and seedy, its feet are struggling to balance on back high heels. The Saxophonist is 90% disorientated and dazed and 10% ready to kill. The dreamlike figure begins a monologue in which the phrases are soaked with a heavy Finnish accent “the room- the dark presence- it not leave me alone- it is huge hole- cannot escape- you cannot help- you cannot know how deep is the hole- suck me into the hotel wall- cannot overcome- I have told you now I must not repeat myself- please- I must not”
The Saxophonist upon waking the next day cannot recall how long the figure spoke for, the whole episode smacked of a waking nightmare. The figure itself seemed in its size and appearance straight out of hell and yet in enigmatic ways cried out for empathy. Behind him, room 8 had been turned on its head and utterly trashed. The Saxophonist will later never be entirely sure if the small axe on the bed was a figment of his imagination or not.
The Saxophonist, whether from fear or wisdom or shock, said nothing. His gaze met that of the deranged Finn. No amount of Vodka could possibly dig a rabbit hole this deep, this the Saxophonist knew for sure. Perhaps enough vital information was exchanged between the pairs of eyes, for after the Saxophonist returned to his bed, still dazed but also oddly calm, no more screams were heard that night. Strange knocks, incessant spitting,and the humming of Finnish folk melodies, yes- but no soul-wrenching screams.
After lying awake for some time the Saxophonist was troubled to hear his shower suddenly turn itself on, spray water for 20 seconds, and then fall silent.
At the sun-bathed breakfast buffet at 0730 am, the meek receptionist informed the Saxophonist that the “pleasant Finnish businessman in room 8 was always cheerful at breakfast during his one week stay which terminates today”. The Saxophonist poked at his eggs and salmon, quickly finished reading about Hilary Clinton’s strongly suspected Parkinson’s disease, and checked out of the hotel with slightly more urgency than usual.
My short list of the “person of the year” is as follows. Qualities they all share: honesty, eloquence, bravery, innovation, and simple awesomeness. They are all a huge source of inspiration for me. And so we have a nutrionist, a UFO researcher, a mountain runner and a political commentator.
Slowly the Balkan “Expres” train winds it way north through Yugoslavia of old, revealing in its path stories aplenty. From the boarder of Greece, smoking is not only actively encouraged, all the staff and passengers are either puffing away or surrounded in smoke, once in while blown away by the wind when the panting locomotive manages to break 40km/h and lose the sprinting sausage-sellers trainside.. In Serbia the pattern continues con gusto. In Croatia, where the fading stars of the European (still) Union wave in the wind, the smoking continues but passengers warn their friends when the conductors comes as burning cigarettes should not be revealed; the plumes of smoke are dwindling slowly. Come Slovenia and the last butt is extinguished and all forms of nicotine based lung assault are thoroughly put out by vigilant patrols. We are back in austere blue of Europe- what’s lurking below the pristine surface goes beyond the scope of this humble blog.
As she chugs along merrily I reflect on the past months in the Balkans:
-players are naked when they are blowing over simple forms. A Blues, a simple pentatonic melody- there is nothing for them to hide behind. Over and over I’ve heard, oftentimes deep in the night, a revered player reveal to my ears that though their fingers and instrumental faculty has come a long way, their life has not yet. This is but a humble observation or perhaps more a homage to these forms themselves for being such clear transmitters of who we are and what we feel exactly. Plus it is Parker’s birthday so I allow myself to mention it.
-Greece is crying even if you can’t see the tears. I saw them in the tiniest of signs. I don’t understand the fine mechanics of international banking and debt repayment but I smell rats aplenty and it is the average person who is footing the bill of some pathological bipeds. When the music starts the faces shine but nonetheless there were grey clouds inside and out and I wish upon a star they can be blown away in the coming moons.
-prime numbered overtones have been my fare of late and I have ascending the overtone ladder once again and made some wonderful discoveries. Currently it is the 3/11 moon-to-earth ratio which has inspired me for some new sounds which I hope to include in the Saxophone book I’m readying now. Though the rabbit hole of cosmic geometric ratios runs deep once entered, I was gifted with many clear sonic dreams which made sense upon waking and clarified for me in a sound way how some of these immediate relationships can be translated into perceivable sound.
– mixing in complete beginners with more advanced players in a group is full of challenges but can be made to work. For the more advanced players to observe how beginners learn and to have them explain themselves some aspects that for them are self explanatory, many insights can be gleaned.
Casting the invisible Runes in an empty still-smoky train compartment tells me my Saxophone book must be completed by the end of this year- it has occupied me fully for the last several moons and needs to see the light of day. Wish me luck!
Under the many stars on the mountain of Pelion saxophones again vibrate the air of the village. Marching slowly through the stone paths we intone overtone chords and “Aura Lee”, slowly spiraling towards the central Platea where the nights are long and the early mornings gloriously tranquil. Once again the many voices in the music village inspire in strange and wonderful ways. This time around it has been the 3/11 ratio, or the one encapsulated by the moon to the earth, which has gifted me with a new trove of colours to be played.
Cassiopeia moves slowly above in the heavens and as she slowly dances my music of choice: a delightful Japanese singer form the 50’s whose name remains a mist-airy to me…
The Epicenter of Madness
The Euro Night Train steams out of Berlin on its 13 hour journey to Vienna. The wagons are aged and faded and the windows can be opened all the way as the train chugs through the East of Germany. Alone in the cabin I look out at the sunrise over Austria as the grumpy conductor brings in a soggy croissant and weak coffee, served with a minimum of pomp in broken German In Vienna I ready myself for the next night train which is another all night ordeal heading to Belgrade through the Budapest. This is the Europe of old- smoking wagons, broken toilets, passport and customs officers, shady figures of all varieties. My treasures are well hidden in a large German army bag and it and my Saxophone are strapped to my body on the upper bunk as the train creeps through the Balkans. I have to admit I still prefer this to sleek airports with endless security lines and 6 Euro dry baguettes. I’ve traded Calvin Klein breezes for those of aged leather and smoke and I’m happy about it. Within my sax case I am armed well for sensual assault. Should anyone open a vile smelling box with some McDonalds inside I can quickly and effortlessly open my case I pull out some Palo Santo, Jerusalem anointing Oil, Cinnamon sticks or Lavender and offset the assault. Once in Belgrade I argue with the Taxi driver in broken Serbian about the fare and my 4 huge bags in his tiny Yugo car. Encircled by marauding Gypsies a new chapter for me in the Balkans begins, one which I will document on this blog, having been just a little in hibernation in this past year. What happens when one sets a lone Kiwi loose in the heart of the Balkans? What is it like to be just outside the the fortress of Europe? And most importantly, why do Tomatoes taste so much better here than in “civilized” Europe?
Gent- backstage at another festival
The bass drum sound checks vibrate the hastily-made back stage
M and Ms tremble and grapes fall
Exhausted musicians drape over cheap sofas
Looking up to the grey sky
Weariness and melancholia prevail
On stage at one with my horn
75 minutes of liberation
Then back to staring at the sky through heavy eyelids
Played yesterday in the beautiful church in Frauenfeld, Switzerland. A warm even reverb mirroring the pristine appearance in sound. A delight to play here and my favourite acoustic space in dear Helvetia thus far.
Together with the percussionist Evi Filippou in 2015 I worked on a series of new pieces for percussion and saxophone. After several concerts in Greece and in New Zealand we recorded this album in the chamber music hall of Deutschlandfunk in Cologne. Here is a short video documentary of that session, beautifully filmed by the Klangmalerei team:
The theme this year at the Stelzen Festspielen is extra-terrestrial life in various forms. And so it was with pleasure that I offered some words for the program to be presented by Mr Lubbe in the small village church. My German is certainly best when spoken but once it a while it does me good to dust it off and try and put some of it down to writing:
Wer in den letzten 8 Jahren beim Landmaschinen Symphonie dabei war konnte sicher nicht überhören dass ein kräftig gebauter junger Mann kosmischen Klängen mit seiner Bratsche, Stimme, und Melk Machen hervorgebracht hat. Dieser begabter federloser Zweibeiner heisst Gareth Lübbe und stammt ursprünglich aus dem Galaxie M87, eine elliptische Riesengalaxie in Sternbild Jungfrau, etwa 54 Million Licht Jahre entfernt von Stelzen bei Reut- eine Galaxie wohlgemerkt welche ganz besonders viele “Luftvibrationskünstler” wie Lübbe ins Universum gebracht hat.
Lubbe wählte als Mensch in Süd Afrika geboren zu werden und hat früh den langen Weg zu den Stelzender Festspiele begonnen in dem er schon als 8 jähriger solo Klavier Konzerte gespielt hat. Obertöne und universelle Klang Gesetze sind ihm vertraut durch seiner Herkunft und er selber ist ein organische, lebendige Brücke zwischen Bach, Zulus, und Improvisation. Dazu ist der Mann ein hoch respektierte Professur. Das ” Messier Vibrational Review” beschrieb Lubbe als “ein Phänomen der kurz davor ist sich in Klang aufzulösen”.
Eingeladen hat unser Protagonist zwei wunderbaren Klang Künstler. Uxia Martinez Botana bringt Kontrabass mit von Ihr Zuhaue in der Cassiopeia Zwerggalaxie mit Zwischenhalt in Spanien wo sie als 6 jähriger schon mit Musik begeistete. Mit Lübbe hat sie im 2015 ihr erstes Konzert gespielt in Stift, Holland- etwa 25000 Licht Jahre entfernt von unserm galaktischen Zentrum. Diese erste Begegnung ist immer noch hörbar für alle die unsere Zeit Ebene durch Musik, Schwingung, und Wissen überwunden haben.
In der gleichen Begegnung ist auch eine geheimnisvolle artmende Kiste zu hören. Viele Menschen auf Erde bringen Sie in Verbindung mit der Musik Argentiniens, dort wo der dritte Musiker herkommt. Das Instrument aber ist von einem Deutschen erfunden- Heinrich Band, und Sie heisst Bandonien. Marcelo Nisinman gilt als Meister dieses Instrumentes und erzählt gerne dass es ebenso geschätzt wird in seiner Heimat Galaxie Andromeda (die sogar sichtbar ist an klaren Stelzender Nächten mit blossen Augen) wie hier auf Erde. Wer ganz genau hinhört über die 2.5 Millionen Lichtjahre kann sogar sanfte Bandonien Klängen wahrnehmen- diese dienen als Wegführer nach Hause für den Musiker nach dem Trio Konzert. Manche Reisender von dort sagen dass selbst mitten in Schwarzen Lochen sind Nisinman’s Bandonien Klängen Kristall klar zu hören , wohingegen Licht keine Chance hat.
Zusammen werden sie in der wunderbaren Stezener Dorfkirche Kompositionen von Bach, Buxtehude, Pianola, und Nisinman spielen, sowie vom Intergalaktischen Komponisten 1056b und 112358f – beide Uraufführungen auf Erde. Das ein Stelzener Festspiel Held wie Lubbe die Chance hat, zwei ebenso weitgereisten ausserirdischen Musiker in Stelzen vorzustellen ist eine wahre Freude für alle die bereit sind auf völlig neue Klangreisen zu begehen und für eine kurze Zeit eine andere Dimension zu reichen und schmecken.
MT22 ACE OF MY HEART
The first program I wrote for the Lucerne Jazz Orchestra Mute Density was experimental in nature, I wanted to test how some of my microtonal and overtone based work could be transplanted to the big band sound. I also worked with different kinds of notation together we put together a work which I still enjoy playing and listening to.
For the second program I wanted to something completely different. My first idea was to adapt some Korean temple music for the band but the cost and effort of arranging the temple gongs was beyond our scope. I then decided to write a swing program for the band as I had never tried something of the kind before, I suppose one could call it “learning by doing”. This is how Ace of My Heart was born.
I wrote all the songs in the summer of 2013 with the voice of Lucia Cadotsch in mind. Once I had the sound of the band with her vocals on top in my head the music and words flowed easily.
Naturally there is a kind of cosy quaintness in the lyrics- some have remarked they’re even a little bit naive. I’ve also been asked my some wise radio producers who know my first work for the Lucern Big band if this program is in any way ironic. Well, it isn’t. Once I am in the zone of creating something using sounds I mean exactly what I write.
All the lyrics can be found in the cusp section of this blog.
You Stepped out of a Dream is a song I’ve always loved to play on. This is a version we made together with Root70 in which in the horn lines weave all the way through:
MT24 SACRED LOVE AND PAIN
The first poems from the which the first lines form the title of the first piece of the album. The rest of the poems have now all been added to the cusp section of this site.
the soft hum of the murderous century
still hovers around my ears
and in a world where there is no escape
from Vico’s wheel dripping with our blood
what can I do but order a double shot
and under stone by fire
look out smiling at the oncoming storm
MT25 Oracle Hymns (New Pieces for Saxophone and Sruti Boxes)
My first Sruti Box which came to me in 2011, so dear to me, had suffered from all of my travels. She was broken in parts, the wood had fallen off, as she had taken several knocks along the way. Still though she sounded out beautifully as ever.
A special person in my life observed that my Sruti box was perhaps in the dusk of her life and kindly gifted me with a new one. Now, for the first time I was able to enjoy the sound of the two Sruti Boxes together and how glorious that was.
It so happened that at this time I was experimenting with mixing two tonalities in a single piece. The two Sruti Boxes were ideal for this as I could underscore the tonalities with the drones and improvise on top. Thus, these pieces are a kind of natural extension to my first work for Saxophone and Sruti Box The Well Tempered Sruti Box (MT11).
Usually when playing I just use my first impulse to choose two keys at random. Then I quickly set the drones and kick off without thinking too much about the melodic strategy to unify them within the piece. Generally speaking, it feels that the art lies in choosing the right notes to omit. As with my earlier work though for the saxophone and Sruti Box, the satisfying part is mediating the sonic dialogue between bamboo, metal, wood, and air. The rest seems to fall into place on its own.
These pieces were recorded in the warm sounding space of the P4 Studios in Berlin. Pedja Avramovic has done a wonderful job of capturing the Srutis in stereo. The Sruti Boxes are played by Evi Filippou.
Listen to the music here.
Here are my original liner notes and cover design for MT17 Finn Again Wakes which I will archive in the “cusp” section of this blog.
On another note, for my essay of the day I would link to link to is this piece on Europe written by one of my favorite contemporary bloggers “The Saker”.
MT17 FINN AGAIN WAKES
Musings on an improvisation over the Wake
It is just a little bit like a dream, this book is. Since when can we clearly remember the narrative journey through our unconscious adventures in the night? More likely we recall certain fragments and moments, perhaps a word here and there. Sometimes it feels like time itself is warped and that in a single moment we have experienced entire stories and voyages. And then all of a sudden, unless we get it down on paper, the whole story that just flew by in our sleeping heads is gone forever.
Well this man managed to get one hell of a dream down on paper and what he left us with is a breathtaking book that is surely overwhelming in its scope for most readers on first reading – “Finnegans Wake” by James Joyce. Joyce spoke of his work as “a nocturnal state…That is what I want to convey: what goes on in a dream, during a dream.” This stands in contrast to his previous novel “Ulysses”, which clearly traces the course of different characters in Dublin in the course of a single day beginning with breakfast and ending in bed in the evening. “Finnegans Wake” is a beast of a read mixing some sixty languages and on the surface it seems not to have a plot at all.
I owe my love of Joyce to an English teacher at New Plymouth Boys’ High School who gleefully revealed to us all the delightful and intriguing parallels between our 1990’s provincial New Zealand boys’ school and Joyce’s youth in 1890’s Dublin. Back then “Dubliners” and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” were on our desks and we often read aloud. It was then that the small seed of vocalizing Joyce was sowed which now finds form.
Over the years I had often returned to “Finnegans Wake”, usually picking it up for a bit, reading some pages, and then putting it back down. But it was only a few years ago, when I started to read it aloud, remembering fondly that distant English class, that the text suddenly came alive for me. It didn’t matter so much about the meaning of the words, most of which are purposely misspelt or rearranged (the whole book strikes me as a 334 page long pun), rather it was all about the sound. Something clicked and I began to have enormous amounts of fun reading aloud on my own.
A natural progression of this “fun” was to take it on stage. For this, I asked the superb Viennese pianist Philip Zoubek to join me. I selected a few sections of the Wake from my readings that had a sonic quality I liked. Next to me I had the full text and sometimes read randomly from a given page. I also asked the audience to randomly select a page for reading. The book itself is circular in nature without a real beginning or end, just like a dream. On the cover of this CD my etchings connect the last word of the book “the” to the first “riverruns”. And so in a sense the dream of the Wake can be joined anywhere and at any time.
And so we put together our “Finn Again Wakes” performance, which we presented three times in Cologne. This recording is a document of these concerts and we play with the texts in different ways. For example, at minute 4’08” I “play” the text – I read the text and play my saxophone, articulating and intonating as if I was reading aloud. Around 18? I chant the famous fall
in the Khoomei style of Overtone singing, something I had picked up over the years from singers from Tuva. I found this very fitting for such anurknall kind of word as this one. The melody on the flute I play and loop at 33’36” is one I heard once in a pub in West Ireland – alas, the title I have never found. Sometimes I repeat a phrase or word and even change the order of the words. It is, after all, an improvisation on the text. The last word of the book (“the”) is the last utterance of this recording.
I admit I get a bit excited when I read Joyce. This means I move around a bit, hence some inconsistencies in the distance to the two microphones I used, which may cause some recording purists to cringe and moan. Apologies for that.
Naturally I dedicate this CD to the man himself- someone who continues to inspire in wondrous ways.
PS: Of the many pilgrimages I have made over the years, one was to the house of Joyce in Trieste. It is now a shoe shop and the shoes I purchased there I have worn for years, so much so that they are all but worn out.
A stream of WordPress update issues really took away all my desire to update this page as I was on the road, that was until a kind soul on “fiver” offered to fix things up for me. And so it now stands that this blog can more or less resume normal operation. I say more or less because the audio player still needs to be copied into a new link but at least the great trove of tracks is not lost in the ether.
I am adding above a section entitled “Cusp” which will contain all the texts relevant to my latest 13CD set “Cusp of Oblivion” and I will get things kicked off there tomorrow with the addition of the liner notes I composed for the “Finn Again Wakes” recording.
But before I do that I’d like to post the second little road report I shot on the Root70 tour in central america. After my cam died most of this was shot on an old iphone with a steady cam built using a water bottle taped to my tripod, McGyver style.
On the road in central America I made a little road report of the band. Here we go:
After a long period of carrying the spark of an idea in my head I finally managed to capture it in the form of a short film. This is only part of a larger story about resistance.
“After King Sisyphus had descending into the underworld and tricked Hades, the god of death, using his own chains, no mortal on earth could die for several days. Zeus was furious and determined to punish Sisyphus. But first he would have to catch him.”
More info at www.sisyphusruns.com
The fighters in Aleppo see the same sky as I do
I’m o so close to them
We share exactly the same sunsets and stars
A matter of kilometers between
Only the wars around me are on the inside
There’s nowhere to take cover
And plenty of firepower beneath my solar plexus
A short Saxophone Instructional shot at my favourite bridge to play under in Cologne:
Out of nowhere a reed close to perfection touched my toungue
Golden like the New Zealand dawn
Airy and rough on the outer edges of her voice
But within her sound the core was sweet and round and robust and clear as day
Her size belied her power
She lived and sang out for 4 almost 5 days
Before she passed the threshold of oblivion and shall never be heard again
Dearly remembered mind you and captured softly by the polished wood of the Berlin studio
Immortalised far beyond her short bamboo life
One in a hundred she was
And after she left me, ceasing to vibrate
I stared into the late afternoon sun for hours
Smoked a cigarette and smiled
The kind Turkish musicians play Apollo-like on the lyra and ney
Then joke outside the theater under the bright Autumn sun and smoke smooth e-cigarettes
Inside the cathedral where French kings were crowned
The Priest chants and the space overwhelms my tiny flying overtones
A team of New Zealanders is on hand to film and open the wine bottles
For a fleeting moment, topped with an avocado, the world is at peace again.
At the heart of a once booming river harbor
The boom times long since gone
The signs faded and the buildings worn and crumbling away
Youths roam the filthy streets looking for action
Light rain and black skies frame the urban apocalypse
Emptiness and desperation prevail
The only hope the destination signs of the neon-lit trains and buses
In groups they approach me, sniffing prey
Then quickly they move on into the dirty blanket of rain
Sensing like animals that their timing or luck was off tonight
I arrive in the bright morning sun to the old coal mining district of the town, now a museum in which today improvised music is on the cards. As lady luck would have it, there is a bikers’ convention directly outside- later in the day the roaring engines would do their utmost to drown out the acoustic instruments playing amongst the relics of the mine. As I had a good hour to kill I wandered around and observed the circus. Some of my observations:
– the bikers are predominantly overweight, oftentimes morbidly so. I put this down to a lack of movement and diet. As far as the second point goes, the only food on offer was carbohydrates in their most nasty form- popcorn, fries, bread complimented with the general stench of overused sunflower oil. The bikers seem to wear their extra weight with pride though.
-a plethora of faded and dubious tattoos.
– a bonanza of leather, patches, vests, and beards though I thought that if one could quickly replace the leather with some plain suits they could all immediately pass as bank clerks.
– much ado about nothing bikes where decibels seems to take priority over true power and speed.
– the music amplified through the PA is, I suppose, to underscore the general “toughness” of this whole meeting. But what exactly is tough here? When you listen through the walls of distortion to the actual chords and rhythms ( rather not mention the lyrics)- it is watered down, weak, mild, meek, tasteless, flat, repetitive in the worse sense, and without the slightest hint of cajones. Does the music they listen to reveal their true nature? I posit that it absolutley does. I was certainly very damn tempted to tip one of the harleys and take some on though this could have simply been the music’s effect on me. The toughest creatures I could spot anywhere were the spiders spinning some truly awesome webs on the iron stairwells.
And so: not impressed. Shortly after the improve gig began and a lively crowd turned out to take it in despite the throttles outside. Just another day in the fascinating landscape of the Nieder Rhein.
As the heat gradually subsides and the early Autumn sun shines down I have a couple of precious moments to reflect on the last month. My running sandals got me through some of the rougher weeks in August and luckily the mountains were in the main close by. Now that I’m back in Cologne and Moers I have to make do with strutting up and down the Rhein which is easy and sweet in the September sun.
Here is a new film of the “Well Tempered Sruti Box” shot by Fabio Dondero:
I’m going in. It’s been a while but I am finally heading down to Nis in southern Serbia to do some playing with my Serbian Accordion friend Christo Armani. Posted on my website, it is unlikely that anyone will make the pilgrimage to the Cika Duca Cafe in Nis to listen to us play on Saturday night but one never knows. Hot like hell could well be, the days are spent here hiding in the shadows whilst the balkan scents drift past: squashed fruit on asphalt, perfumes, diesel, cigarette smoke and grilled meat. My only modest goal is to learn a few more songs and come back home in one piece, in some mysterious ways a task of mythical proportion.
Each small candle lights a corner of the dark.
When I remember the great John Taylor I’ll remember much more than a brilliant pianist and composer. I’ll remember a kind, gentle, and generous man who was full of light, always cheerful and ready to give- a truly beautiful soul who will be dearly missed by so many.
I was delighted to read that Ahmet had again written for our latest Root70 Release coming this Fall. Here are his liner notes:
BETWEEN THESE COVERS lies the hard-won harvest of a journey through the collective minds of these now staunchly middle-aged jazz gentlemen making up the group “Root70”. It is a journey in which beauty and darkness, sweat and blood, pleasure and sorrow are to be gleaned along the way; for this mind is a strange land, endowed with a glow of genius yet beset by all the trials and tribulations that life on the eternal jazz road brings with it, a road which these lads have been roaming since more than two decades.
Root 70’s career has been an erratic one, gregarious months of playing in the likes of Cave 61 in Heilbronn or the “Caipi Bar” in Bedburg-Hau and a plethora of other faceless German towns, alternating with lonely Goethe Institute tours of every almost every country ending with the suffix “stan”. For all the inconsistency of their march to fame, they’ve managed to earn the unanimous admiration of their contemporaries and to forge an ineradicable place for themselves in the international jazz microtonal and odd-meter jazz hall of fame. 4 Marriages, 8 children, and 2 mortgages down the track, the lads are still firing and their decision to cut an album of standards in these times of musical hyper-inflation of complexity is nothing less than bold.
It has been several years since I last had the pleasure to write about this band. This time an ailing kidney ( I kid thee not) has kept the author this side of the Atlantic and a black and white photo of the band and the studio sides are all the author has to work off. The faces are still recognizable, though I can clearly discern the marks left by a life dedicated to jazz. Rückert strikes me as whimsical and reflective and I can almost see the title of one of his masterpieces “Sadness surrounds us” etched into his pupils. Penman comes over as quietly confident, a man who knows his bass inside out from spike to tuning pegs. Wogram is serenely relaxed as ever and alto man Chisholm could easily pass as an IRA hitman or a coiled python ready to strike.
The premise for these sides was a simple one: each member of the combo bought with him his favorite standards and the selection was to be honed by some club dates in Berlin, one of which bassist Penman had to miss due to NYC traffic. Immediately after 2 smoking hot nights in the A-trane Club, the band hit the Funkhaus Studios at Nalepastrasse Berlin and cut the songs into the tapes- once again giving us the pleasure of enjoying almost exclusively first takes- that always was how these men like to roll in the studio.
The album “Wise Men can be Wrong” ( a title gleaned from the gorgeous lyrics of “I concentrate on You”) is a wonderful take on the great American songbook. With every song, the deep love and respect of these musicians for the tradition shines through and dare I say, fills me with hope. Having taken their jazz to such daring extremes on past albums like “Fahrvergnuegen” and “Root70 on 52nd 1/4 St.” it is delightful and deeply satisfying to hear them return to some of the music that surely first inspired them as young jazz cubs.
There is no irony here, there is simply profound and nuanced musicianship returning to simple song forms and breathing new life into them. If my notes for this gem are briefer than others, it is because I believe the band has made a statement with these sides that needs little if any justification or explanation and I for one will have this baby spinning for a good while to come.
Many of us set out on life long journeys and never return- it is a joy to hear some wayfarers arriving back home.
After a whirlwind of a month I finally have a day in Moers to write a few words here. At last night’s beautiful concert int he Ritter hall of the Museum I noticed a few sad faces as they asked me why I hadn’t written at all, why I hadn’t been here so much, and why I didn’t answer any of the emails they had sent me. It seems that I had disappointed a few with my erratic communications.
The last 4 weeks have been packed with several tours and recordings. During times like these when I am forced to write a lot of music I tend to fall behind in day-to-day communication. I plan to catch up in the coming weeks so count on me, dear music fans of Moers, to be right back at you.
Coming up we have the “Fete de la Musique” in the wonderful Schloss Park on the longest day of the year and one I always like to celebrate, the 21st of June. As some of you know, I am in to my natural wines and am delighted to have Surk-ki from La Vincaillerie coming from Cologne to set up a Natural wine Bar next to our Jazz. Jamming in a sublime park on the solstice with a natural wine bar right there? Will that make up for me not answering your mails? Ich hoffe ja ihr Lieben!
A recent request and my response:
Dear Mr. Hayden Chisholm,
My name is xxxxxxxxx and I am a really big jazz music lover from Croatia, 65 years old.
Just now I am told (JAZZ ´N´ MORE Nr. 3/2015 from Switzerland) you have a new album entitled ”BREVE” and I have a big interest in this CD.
Mr. Chisholm, maybe you can send me an free copy of the CD (physical copy)?
I´d be really very grateful for it.
I will do my best in promoting the CD here in Croatia.
Thank you in advance for your understanding and help.
Also, have you any chance to send an autographed picture of yourself (with saxophone)?
thanks for the mail. I am happy to send you a a Cd and also the signed picture. I can also send you 2 CDs or even 3 or even 5 but I would like to ask you to do something for me in return if possible. I see you are from Croatia – I am a big fan of Rakia in all its forms. Would you be able to send me 3 bottles of Rakia in exchange for the CDs?
Thanks and Greetings,
Kilometers traveled since the last post on this blog: 13700
Number of International flights taken during this time: 17
Air miles Collected: 0
Number of Countries visited: 7
Number of bus transfers to terminal and number of direct air-bridge disembarkation from these flights: 16 – 1
Average loud on-stage feedback per soundcheck: 2.5
Number of times WordPress refused to upload photos to this blog: 6
Number of attempted and aborted blog updates: 6
Average number of espresso’s drunken per day: 3.5
Most expensive one: Tegel Airport €3,80
Average number of parallel dips, pull- ups, and hanging leg raises per day: 17
Average number of Avocados consumed per day: 1.5
Number of times I was asked if I enjoy what I’,m doing: >10
Cost of two pencils and pencil sharpener in Lucern: CF 15.80
Pages of Music Manuscript paper semi-legally copied: 160 Read the rest of this entry »
It is with great pleasure that I can announce my two summer master classes and workshops. The first will take place in France in a wonderful little village in late July and all the infos can be found here.
The second will be my annual class in Greece on Mount Pileon and this year we celebrate our 10th anniversary of the Music Village. All of the infos can be found here. Please also contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Just spent a week in the wonderful acoustic spaces of the Abey de Noirlac in France. The main focus during the time was on working with bee sounds as the installation next year with New Zealand photographer Anne Noble will revolve around the theme of the bees. However we were also able to spend some nights in the abbey and record to our heart’s desire. Here are a couple of pieces from the space. We were often joined by some owls in the background.
O my goodness- I believe for the first time in my life I actually enjoyed a Theater rehearsal. This could be to do with the fact that the Moers City theater is the smallest in Germany which proudly employes a grand total of 5 Actors. The rehearsals of the Kleist piece “Michael Kohlhaas” involve one actor, the director, and yours truly. The sentences of Kleist are a wonder to behold and they often finish with 3 or 4 verbs in a row to get you thinking. Premiere is next Monday.
Following the rehearsal I marched the main drag of Moers up and down a few times- really just to let off a bit of steam and get to know some of the locals. Pipes can be a good
ear ice breaker in certain situations.
The sounds from the square outside merge gently with the music on the inside. It was a pleasure to spend some time observing how the people reacted to the piece and for me personally it gave me a real thrill to take an espresso outside and hear some of my dear Fibonacci chords singing out from a distance…
Here is a German review of the show.
After some long days and nights we finally finished the music for the new piece in Lallonga. Robert Nacken made a superb surround mix in the huge space and everything is ready for the opening next week. The piece uses the human voice and the sax and is based around my overtone work. Of the 15 years of work with Rebecca Horn this one is the strongest in my opinion. Robert has mixed in it a way which makes it impossible to tell if I am actually playing live in the space or if the recording is playing. The piece will stay through until October which is exciting.
Within the space of 6 days the Agios Lavrentios Brass band managed to raze some ceilings in 3 cities in Greece and make their debut recording. The little seeds that were planted almost 10 years ago in the village now start to grow. This was the band one day after crashing into Volos. One might wonder why there are no brass around although we are technically a “brass band”- we too are still wondering about that detail
And from Athens I’m catapulted into the huge space of Lallonga in Palma where I am creating a new piece for the Rebecca Horn show “Glowing Core”. The huge acoustics of the space are a challenge but the 12 second delay is a soft and smooth one, well suited to the flying overtones .
Writing now from the legendary Bauer Studios in Ludwigsburg. Right off the bat I was surprised by the absence of wood and immediately impressed with the width of their music stands:
For my first concert in the little town of Moers last week I choose to play in the oldest jazz club around. Down in the black cellar we carted down the 160kg Hammond B3 and soon had the Leslie speaker spinning nicely. I don’t believe anyone knew what to expect, certainly not for me to play jazz conga, but the locals strike me thus far as being down to earth and open for anything. I twas a sweet opening night.
Walking down the main drag I could be in any of a thousand small European towns as the shops are in the meantime all the same. Catching some conversations and observing faces gives me a good impression of the local vibe. I believe this is a good place to create some healing sounds this year.
Some hours later I play my second concert, this time in the wonderful church in Repelen close by. The wooden ceiling is again the key and sound within is a warm and rich one. It was a joy to sing out with my sax and sruti box and though I no longer set foot inside a church very often I was impressed by the Bishop’s words concerning the stages of the cross, of of which could have come easily from the mouth of a Lama or a Sufi.
On a different note, I was recently asked by a German Music magazine to answer some questions. Here are the results…
After a long enforced pause in operations I am finally back, readers. I’m happy to announce I’ll be the Improvisor in Residence this year in Moers and look forward to posting the events that will take place in the coming months. I have already a lot planned for this sweet little town.
Right now though I am climbing the mountain of Xenakis and it is one tiny little bar that has my full attention. Towards the very end of the piece “Dmaathen” which we play next week in Athens- it is a little beast on the Soprano that is occupying me day and night. What a difference a bar makes.
Slowly, o so slowly, I am making my way through a mountain of taped concerts from the last few years. One of the highlights of last year’s Plushmusic festival in Cologne was the solo set of Anthony Pateras- one which can now be seen and heard right here:
Here is a film of my dear Professor of Serbian gypsy music, Christo Armani…
One the deeper oceans I dived into during the last months of traveling was the one called Finnegans Wake. The text had until quite recently been something like an unscalable monolith looming on the distant horizon of my life. Finally I managed to get close to it and the tools and ropes I used to start to climb it were simple sounds- the sound of the text when it is recited and and the sounds that seemed to me to best accompany the slippery and jagged surfaces of the page from which the words burst forth violently. Fractal in nature, the deeper I move into a page, the more ocean of text opens up in front of me. Reversing this and sinking into a single sentence, the same happens inversely. This happens on the sound plane on which the dance of the vowels and consonants under the multiplex veils of meaning are shared by the invoker and the listener. Just as in dreaming, we can lose ourselves in a faerie tale free-fall in so many glorious ways.
Well, this is an excerpt form the performances in Cologne shot from my reading desk. I had a few pages ready to go but in the main elected to open the book at random and improvise with it. The fall of Joyce, already revealed on page one of the book:
I used as a chant with my sruti box and some overtones. That is the quality of the word that sprung out of the page, slapped me in the face metaphorically and said: chant me, Hayden, or else…
I have collected many hours of this linguistic sound party and will soon edit it down for release. Certainly this ocean will continue to thrill and delight me for many seasons to come.
On the shores of the lake in Zug, Switzerland, everything seems at peace.
The birds chirp away and a soft mist descends over the mirror surface of the lake.
If the world was falling to pieces beyond the mountains one wouldn’t notice.
The countless mailbox companies abide here undisturbed.
Were there to be war somewhere, I don’t think much would change here.
Like a little bubble hovering precariously above a volcano, the fragile state is held in check by forces unseen.
Playing jazz here fills me with mixed emotions.
The copious back stage catering eases certain pains.
And yet there is something so hard to pinpoint that creeps up my spine and whispers something ominous into my neck.
It’s something about the nature and price of balance in this world- but I couldn’t quite catch it.
I charge on- of late I play any god damn reed, soft or not- until she dies a violent cut-up death in my mouth.
I concern myself with these particular universals only for fleeting moments
It’s easier to stay inside the changes and the rhythm
Then hit the 96 Barolo backstage and fall into a soft hotel bed on the shores of the lake in Zug thinking nothing at all really, just dreaming of changes and rhythm.
And so we laid down the swing program in Cologne with the Lucern Band and it was a great night. Here is a sample track which captures the essence, Ace of my Heart.[audio:http://www.1xN.org/softspeakers/audio/rhythmgotme/ace.mp3]