Sunday, October 15, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - October 11/06

(image courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors)

In conversation with ace conceptual guitarist and good friend Nilan Perera, I once wondered whether it was possible or desirable that Toronto's many types of improvising musicians should collaborate for the betterment of the entire scene. He wasn't sure that collaboration between, say, Toronto's fast growing Cuban community and the Sister Ray (RIP) noise posse would work out. Proficient improvising in Cuban jazz tends to mean someone who's got good pitch, sight-reads well, and blows hard and fast over changes and grooves. Most non-idiomatic improvisers are concerned with sonic exploration - musical notes, traditional harmony and grooves are often secondary; homemade, electronic instruments or severe effects processing make fixed pitch irrelevant. There are no changes and no grooves. These are generalizations on both sides, for sure; there are more and more examples of free Latin music than ever. Going way back, Kip Hanrahan set the tone by putting Arto Lindsay and Jerry Gonzalez together in 1981. And there are too many just-left-of-IDM hybrids to count which marry freedom and rhythm.

My personal bias is that too many free improvisers, particularly those who do not play fixed pitch instruments, try to reject any kind of 'influence' on their freedom. But, as I try to demonstrate each and every week on the Abstract Index radio show, texture and groove can trade off in interesting ways, making for a rich listening experience. As an improviser, listening to different instruments and improvising techniques from around the world is an important way to broaden one's own voice. The aim isn't to be imitative: that's why I like Nilan's playing. He has a strong grounding in blues, electronic music and his Sri Lankan heritage informs his sonic arsenal - and he's a tremendous free player. Hey, I can see Ryan Driver and Hilario Duran hanging together, both greatly skilled musicians with attuned to interesting sonic effects.... The multicultural reality of Toronto should make this sort of thing easier, I'm surprised that it doesn't happen more often. Hello, Canada Council? Here's a proposal for you...

Another intersection of improvisation in different cultural contexts was "Dance" by Sharokh Yadegari and Keyavash Nouri from their CD Migration. Yadegari is a musician and computer programmer, and Nouri is a Persian traditional violinist who experiments with extended techniques such as prepared. Yadegari has developed software he calls "Lila" which samples and transforms the live input of the violin. The processing is relatively straight up (compared to Bob Ostertag): lots of loops, delay, ring mod, panning, some harmonization - this is not unlike so much laptop improv which takes a live input and reflects it in a funhouse mirror.

But the musical content which goes into the software set this apart from any number of similarly-constructed improv projects. According to the liner notes, the concept of a certain style of Persian harmony involves layering complementary melodies on top of one another as opposed to a chordal-based harmony. Now I'm no expert in classical Persian composition (how many times a day do you think the exact same thing?) but any kind of dubwise processing would lend itself harmony of this type. Most importantly, both musicians are good listeners, which is vital to these kinds of sessions.

Yadegari points out many conceptual differences between (the vast majority of) Western music and Persian music. Here's an example:

“The concept of notes and scale is something we in the West have accepted and it’s hard to think any other way about music,” explains Yadegari. “Within Persian music, even tuning is up for debate. A person can pick up an instrument and say ‘I don’t like this fretting’ and they change it. The subtle differences in tuning may define a musician’s signature sound. My instrument, Lila, allows for something like that, because all the ideas in the software are based in this concept that almost everything is negotiable.”

Hey, with an attitude like that I think a throwdown with Merzbow is just around the corner. Although Nilan is probably geographically closer, and I know he'd be up for it.

departing landscapes - nathan hubbard (circumvention)
dance - shahrokh yadegari & keyvash nourai (lilasound)
dementia - jesse zubot (drip audio)
a refreshing night - ken aldcroft's convergence ensemble (trio)
macedonia - dusko goykovich (sonar kollektiv)
samba walk - patricia & orlando (sonar kollektiv)
llegue llegue - los van van (luaka bop)
teme - african guitar summit (CBC)
save me - e.t. mensah and the tempos (rounder) great link...
don't mess with a hungry man pt 1 and 2 - quantic soul orchestra feat. spanky wilson (ubiquity)
souvlak #3 - boom pam (essay)
weather the wind - eric chenaux (constellation)
moment returns - triosk (noise factory)
ghost friend (live) - mei tei sho (jarring effects)
chantal - bidjoi sisters (riverboat)
pachanga - la cumbiamba eneye (chonta)
aya bellew - bole 2 harlem (sounds of the mushroom)
chapter one - djosos krost feat. jah bobby (quango)
milk and honey - sly and robbie feat. ali campbell & luciano (koch)
island girl dub - dubblestandart feat. ari up (collision cause of chapter 3)
message for the world - jah children band (independent)
mad world dub - mossman (dispensation)


Blogger tim said...


this looks like a great show I missed. I enjoyed your words on collaboration. Personally I think ryan and hillario together is not only a bit unlikely but personally, I wouldn't want to hear it. Sometimes collaboration is over rated and a better marketing tool than a way to create great music. I think those two guys offer so much individually there is no need to see what the cross pollination would bring.

Keep up the great work DD!!


9:24 a.m.  
Blogger Dacks said...

Fair enough, Tim. I've seen enough crappy collabs over the years that perhaps my example about Hilario and Ryan is a bit of a larf.

I really don't think a "jam session" approach would work in so many cases - either live or in a recording studio. I think collaboration would have to be pretty well-considered beforehand before anything is even played.

You might want to check out some of the "avant-latin" artists I linked to in order to see what potentially similar-minded collaborations have produced. But yeah, those two... together... maybe, maybe not.

10:14 a.m.  

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