Thursday, July 24, 2008
What was I thinking?
I am really aware that this should be a witty dissection of the whole business of trying to get something a bit left field going, funny anecdotes and other vignettes, and commentary on the world around us.... strange goings-on at the last gig in terms of various musicians opting for cosmetic surgery, the DVD Tokyo Drifter (a suit to die for, completely with wildly camp 60's Japanese pop backing music) that's waiting for me when I stop messing about with this blog tonight, getting knocked off the fixed today when my mate over from France turned left instead of going straight ahead on an otherwise pleasant ride this afternoon, my sister-in-law's (hugely ugly) Winnebago-type thing that is parked in my garden and destroying my piece of mind (I can always, always see it, just there, out of the corner of my eye... waiting), and so on. Soon...
I think, though that I want to articulate what the hell I'm trying to accomplish with this new stuff - if only to make it more clear to myself. The idea behind the Riprap project was to investigate some new ways of musicians and poets collaborating , and to figure out some fresh ways of structuring compositions/improvisations around the poetry. Ultimately, it would be great if the poets would also feel there were ways they could also join in with texts they felt could be treated as a starting point, as the main idea is to explore the same kinds of freedom within a performance the musicians are using. Perhaps their text shouldn't be viewed as an fixed object, but something they could also change on the hoof, adapting it from gig to gig. I think it would be nice to re-align the idea of the text into the same approach as the music, with the emphasis on 'sounding', rather than a fixed, finished visual text. we'll see...
Any way, I've been obsessing over a couple of composers who I'm hoping might show a way of restructuring the musical element for all this. I suppose the criterion I'm looking for is the use of non-musical formula, namely those taken from literature. Because of this, I have spent the last month locked on a particular piece: the string quartet Ainsi La Nuit, by Dutilleux. Listening to it daily, playing the score at the piano, reading his essays and various analytic dissections of his music. I hear it at night lying in bed trying to sleep. Kinda Asperger's really; boring but necessary. Never really being a 'natural' musician, I find I have to kind of go through these total immersion phases to get anything really down.
His avowed aim in this composition was to explore ideas of memory as used by Proust. As he explains it, music often tends to move in a kind of forward-looking narrative arc, exemplified by something like, say, theme and variations. This could be crudely illustrated by the normal modus operandi of bebop; a head followed by solos on the song form... and then the head again. no surprises, in a sense, both the musicians and listener having all the clues straight from the off. But to view the form as something that goes backwards as well as forwards, information being given inside the piece that can move either way; ideas and textures only slowly being hinted at... how to create this in a straightforward, digestible form compatible with improvisation?