This blog entry will mainly focus on the work in the project leading up to the creation of the solo album 'DYNAMICS (the TERRAIN) – Habitable Exomusics volume III'.
I had originally planned that the final artistic product in the project would be an international recording where I recorded selected parts of the compositions from the project. However, as my local KINETICS ensemble worked its way deeper and deeper into the material that I brought to them, KINETICS started to sound like the right ensemble for those compositions. Having the time needed to rehearse more often and extensively than any international assembly of musician would be capable of, the written material started to obviously belong to KINETICS. And this to a degree where opening up the repertoire to an international ensemble did not present itself nearly as desirable as I had originally envisioned.
During a trip to NYC in October 2014, to investigate options for studios, musicians and recording times, I felt that this premonition was confirmed. Furthermore, the studios were in a similar price range as Rainbow Studio in Oslo, near Copenhagen, and could not compete to that in terms of piano quality.
I had an extended discussion with my friend and colleague Benoit Delbecq on the matter of studio options in NYC, improvisation today, preparations, and the state of the NYC improvised scene in general. And, after pondering over the issue to a great extend, I decided that the final recording in the project would be made in Oslo, with a band consisting of Gerald Cleaver on drums, Nils Davidsen on bass, and myself on piano. I also decided that this recording – contrary to the Kinetics album – would be purely improvised. This became 'Dynamics (the Terrain)'.
I again wondered how much information should optimally be shared with the musicians before the recording. I explained Nils Davidsen to a great extend about the Habitable Exomusics pitch organisational concepts, but also made it a point to not ask him to use any of this unless he wanted to in the moment. I knew it would not be a problem, since Nils and I have played together and listened together to very diverse music over the years. I believed that we would benefit from our tendency to share certain preferences regarding improvised form, and I think I was right on that.
I gave very few instructions to Nils regarding my wishes for the approach:
- Never to search for harmonic agreement (not changing direction in case of dissonance),
- In general, return to zero or start over from nothing rather than opening with a bang.
- Letting every note be a discovery.
We chose to record the entire album in one take. That was a decision we made some time in advance, and it did the trick as to eliminating some of the obstacles that can surround making improvised albums in a studio. We knew that whatever we did, it would be for real, with no turning back and no possible editing, just like it always is in a live situation.
This gave us around 1 hour of music. Upon closer scrutiny, we decided to cut it down to 48 minutes, which felt more right as an album. But, imagining during the recordings that such a cut was not possible (or allowed), definitely gave the desired edge to the recording situation.
The trio having played together earlier, though never before having been recorded, was of course also part of the preparation leading up to the studio session. Furthermore, within the time frame of the project, in the summer of 2014, Nils Davidsen and I had played improvised concerts with other amazing drummers such as Paul Lovens & Tyshawn Sorey, which also taught me a lot in terms of how I wanted to pianistically approach the music that became "the Terrain". Other formative events leading up to the choices surrounding the making of 'Dynamics' included sessions in NYC with a.o. Tony Malaby, Billy Mintz and Ellery Eskelin, plus my discussions with Benoit Delbecq. Besides these collaborative or collective activites, I was making a thorough preparation process on my own similar to the one leading up to the 'Static' solo recording (see blog#10 'The Map').
When sharing some of my thoughts on the title 'Dynamics (the terrain)', in blog #6, I wrote a.o.:
“(the title:) ”Dynamics” is in classical mechanics almost synonym to kinetics, that is, concerned with the study of forces and their effect on motion. But the word “dynamics”, originating from the Greek word for ”power”, has a vast number of further meanings, including its usage in aero-dynamics, thermodynamics, group dynamics, and, not the least, musical dynamics.
(The subtitle:) “The Terrain” is in a similar way thought of as a transcendence of the metaphors “Path” and “Map” on volume I & II. It borrows from the idea that freely improvised music might be similar to going for a walk in a terrain, where you will make footprints (=music), not because you intended to, but because that is a result of you walking. The “Terrain” also symbolizes the total experience, beyond our plans (the path) and our knowledge (the map). And, again: is this terrain habitable? Could I stay here? Live here?
“Dynamics” is thought of as the synthesis of the Kinetics – Statics dialectic. It concerns the Encounter with the “other” or the “others”, with the unpredictable, the unknown, and, in the end, with the world. It is the application of the Habitable Exomusics approach in a musical and social context, in an intuitive totality.”
'Dynamics (the Terrain) – Habitable Exomusics volume III' was recorded in Rainbow Studio, Oslo, May 2014. Released September 25th, 2015, on ILK.
Further info on the album: Pressrelease in English and Pressrelease in Danish.
Audio: 'Dynamics (the Terrain)' on Soundcloud.
Extra material: I have uploaded short excerpts (copyright issues did not allow more) of the concerts that Nils Davidsen and I played with resp. Tyshawn Sorey (trio) and Ursula Andkjær + Paul Lovens (4tet – Ursula is not heard on this excerpt, though), to the 'Habitable Extramaterial' playlist on Soundcloud.