Saturday, May 31, 2008

the wonderful world of tonal distortion (pt 2)


etc etc

i could go on all night obviously, that's one thing (lists) to which blogging is inherently suited, and this is the thing: a "semantician" would insist that those utterances are all essentially the same, and not fit for human hearing except by and for imbeciles, etc... at best "adolescent", grating and harsh sounds are at worst so deeply disturbing to uptight, entrenched intellectuals that they can only react with a total ban on the experience. naturally it would not do to say "i cannot bear this experience", so instead one formulates it through the filtering systems one has learned in despising oneself and all others, as most of us learned to do (as western children); it emerges as "this experience is absolutely not worth having, not even worth considering, it is fit only for derision" - and it is impressed very strongly on the receiver that disagreement would mean being considered an idiot too.

anyway... this wasn't going to be a fuckin speech/lecture, what am i playing at... well, that's what came out tonight (yes, this and the preceding post are in "real time")

but i have been thinking again about the whole subject of tonal/timbral distortion - which as regulars will know is a touchstone of mine - over the last few days... not surprising given the previous post.

and i wanted to cut the words, and give you all some names instead... the following are the reasons i now find it very hard to listen to "clean" reed tone for any great length of time... i'm hooked on the reverse...




and that's definitive {{koff}}

they really aren't in any order, but for obvious reasons i'm going to start here:

anthony braxton
roscoe mitchell
peter brötzmann
sam rivers
paul flaherty
arrington de dionyso
frank lowe
albert ayler
marion brown
john coltrane
henry threadgill
charles tyler
dudu pukwana
ornette coleman
arthur blythe
eric dolphy
john butcher
arthur doyle
glenn spearman
frank wright
willem breuker
tim berne
julius hemphill
marshall allen
evan parker
john zorn
rahsaan roland kirk
charles gayle
mike osborne
ivo perelman
sonny simmons
archie shepp
luther thomas
sabir mateen
joe mcphee
john carter
ab baars
jimmy lyons
david s. ware
john tchicai
michael moore
kaoru abe
(early) david murray
(on form) oliver lake
the braxton students, as yet largely indistinguishable to my ear
fred anderson
daniel carter
rudi mahall
louis sclavis
michel pilz
mats gustafsson
steve lacy
joe harriott
mars williams
joseph jarman
douglas ewart
thomas borgmann
mark whitecage
lol coxhill
hal russell
jack wright
briggan krauss
byard lancaster
juhani aaltonen
rob brown
marco eneidi
jemeel moondoc
vinny golia
pharoah sanders
sean bergin


just dig the names

and tell me, if you can,

what's missing, in terms of meaningful human experience? not a lot, i don't think... but in any case, those names, and others, and that's not even mentioning the trombonists, drummers, bassists, trumpeters, pianists etc etc who hang out with these guys - i don't feel i'm missing out on anything much while i'm happily lost out here, absorbed in it; what do all these voices have in common? they all like toying with tone, timbre, attack - splitting it, bending it, fucking with it, something for which a reed is especially suited, being endlessly versatile. sometimes it's purely experimental and sometimes it's pure catharsis; on most occasions it's a mixture of the two. but here's the kicker: the gradations of that mixture are infinitely subdivisible and hence the possibility for detailed exploration is limitless.

to the inexperienced ear it's all just noise

well, i can vouch for the fact that the more one listens to it, the more finely attuned one's appreciation of tone production, timbre, breath etc becomes; and the more finely those qualities are bent or split or otherwise distorted, the more subtle the capacity for expression becomes.

on occasions where i have to go without for a sustained period - reed players in particular who always strive for "clean" tone - i personally do usually feel i'm missing out on something. and of course the adherents of those players would say it's my loss (which it is) but again, i cast my loving eyes over that list and i don't care for the time being about anything i'm missing.

i'm happy here :)


Cschenked said...

Its great to hear you say what you have on this post (and through the simple gesture of this blog and it's subject)... for me as well there is a certain vulnerability reached by those in your list that can not be attained by a straight reed tone... a vulnerability that makes the music for me that much more emotionally resonant... apparantly you, as well as others who frequent blogs such as yours, have similar feelings and thoughts...

Cschenked said...

oh and thanks for the list! regardless of how complete it is, it contains names I am unfamiliar with and I look forward to discovering some new sounds ugly and beautiful or both at once

centrifuge said...

cschenked, thank you very much.

yes... that's about it i think

vulerable, and yet - paradoxically, opening oneself in that way is precisely what allows the channelling of great power {{{@@@**&**@@@}}}

"much more emotionally resonant" - yep, that's exactly it, that's exactly what i feel about it.

so it's been interesting to grow into this reed-distortion business since i made it my main focus (as i did without realising it, starting around oct '06)... my hearing now is a lot more subtle than it was

listening to several hundred braxton solos in close succession may possibly have something to do with this :)

p.s. ah yes the list... well, glad to be of service, spread the word and all that... similarly, there are gaps in the list outnumbering the names probably, *always* new voices to be discovered

erm, i have also been thinking over the last 48hrs of names i could have added... i'm not going down that road, but still, some bloggers are probably having trouble believing that i left noah howard off the list (which only happened by an oversight, he was in mind)... so i'd better make that one exception ;-)

Lucky said...

lists like the one you presented are always personal, i think. it's always a matter of taste, knowledge, daily/weekly/yearly moods etc. i had the impression you enjoyed yourself with this post, which is fine with me, even if i had a strange impression i can't put into words (at least not into english ones).

i almost would bet you have something special today, now that the man turned sixty-three. maybe you just made a private toast on him - well, that's what i do! cheers, mr. braxton. thanks for all you've done so far.


Lucky said...

p.s.: in germany we have june the 4th, just not to make you fuzzy! happy birthday, mr. braxton.

Volkan Terzioglu said...

one polish friend of mine calls these reeds players as "plumbers" :),
and as an addition to the list I just went through it and found a few additions...

mwata bowden
bhob rainey
wolfgang fuchs
john gilmore
frank gratkowski
gunter hampel
hans koch
larry stabbins
dewey redman
robert reigle
ned rothenberg
larry ochs
trevor watts
vladimir chekasin
frode gjerstad
assif tshar
kidd jordan
perry robinson
carlos ward
guillermo gregorio
ernst ludwig petrowsky
marty ehrlich
floros floridis
biggi vinkeole
steve potts
peter van bergen
stefano maltese
chris speed
eugene colombo
alfred 23 harth
ernest dawkins
bengt frippe nordstorm
ken vandermark
mars williams
roberto ottaviano
pat patrick
gianliugi trovesi
mario schiano
fred ho
xavier charles

with love ...

centrifuge said...

thanks lucky... hopefully i have now answered your "question" :)

Lucky said...

twas no question, cent - i just stumbled over braxton's birthday a few days ago.

btw - misha mengelberg turns 73 today (that is - thursday the 5th) - the beginning of june must be a good time to be born, i guess ;)

[b]salute to both of em!!![/b]

centrifuge said...

volkan, thanks for those extra "plumbers"! a few of those names have occurred to me since the post; others i can't believe i forgot... and then there are others still, whose names are totally unfamiliar to me, but that's good: there's always more to be discovered :)

in terms of players still looking to establish themselves, we might mention virginia genta, steve baczkowski... and of course massimo magee.

*one* of those names was deliberately left off... that of ken vandermark. after much umm-ing and ahh-ing over the last year or so, trying to decide what i thought and felt about him, i came to the conclusion quite recently that i just don't find him a very interesting sax player. i do actually quite like his clarinet playing, on the other hand... but since it's more often a sax he uses for "tearing it up", that didn't seem to fit either.

mars williams, btw, is actually on the original list ;-) i promise i didn't change it after reading your comment! and i sort of got larry ochs in there under the auspices of ROVA.

but as regards vandermark and his collaborators, why not dave rempis..?

i am sure that many more names could yet be added - but thanks for some food for thought...

centrifuge said...

lucky, i meant the question of whether or not i would mark the occasion..!

ah yes, of course! misha mengelberg... the clue was in the date of those 70th birthday concerts posted by folly fts... so, a.b. turned 60 the day before m.m. turned 70... interesting...

Lucky said...

"lucky, i meant the question of whether or not i would mark the occasion..!"

so you mean your question to yourself? or my idea about you questioning yourself? i suppose "question" is meant here not like asking something, right? well, i probably should ask myself, if this comment is making any sense ...

... i tried to make sense, when i celebrated mengelberg's birthday at my blog

glmlr said...

I'm not sure I understand the reason for such long listings of sax players, but never mind ... perhaps it would have been shorter to list those who don't qualify. Either way, I take it the entire post is dedicated to Mr. Dry Martini, one of Braxton's early heroes, Paul Desmond, and his co-mentor, Warne Marsh.

centrifuge said...

g, well, the beauty of blogging is that no-one *has* to get it apart from me... but apparently a few people did, i'm happy with that..!

it's what i wanted to say at the time. (that will always be the case)

now... of course with many/most/all (delete as applicable) of those players, tonal distortion is far from the whole story - it's the bit i have been focussing on, obviously! but b's *sweet* playing is a very pleasing sound to my ear too and of course in that case i'd be looking to desmond, marsh, konitz, jackie maclean, lester young... and to a certain mr parker of course.

but it has to be said... if anthony braxton played like that all the time, i'd probably never have got into him in the first place... it's the stuff he claims to have learned from coltrane which really did the business for me :) the more mellow tones were a taste i acquired later.

glmlr said...

Aha! I think the answer is simple. Tonal "distortion" doesn't exist. As a famous musician once said, "If it's on your horn, you can play it".

centrifuge said...

well, g, that's exactly the sort of freedom i'm hoping to get a taste of - get some and pass it on, share it around hopefully...

... one part of the strategy for that involves a simple deconstruction of the word "distortion" to remove any negative and/or judgemental scaffolding from it... at root the word means simply "twisting out of shape" - there is nothing inherently there to imply that the twister must be an imbecile - or a lunatic... though in practice there will often be a touch of the latter ;-)

of course *distortion of the truth* is never a good thing... but that is something extremely specific

i have been listening to fabulous shape-pulling this very morning, right at the source, the braxton alto... don't be telling me that isn't distortion :)) and that's what makes it *so damn good* - !

c x

ubu xxiii said...

I think it has to do with instruments that were designed originally to play the tempered scale with an ideal of sound production which became an 'authorized' timbre, as in symphony orchestras. Even the piano can be subject to subversive treatment. All the winds, all the strings, percussion, idiophones can be played in a way given to expression in its fullest sense, at the expense of purity, & some would say at the expense of formal concerns (bourgeois formalism & all that jive ¿?)
Aspiring vocalism, often reminiscent of speech as much as song, pure interjection, expletions, shouts, screams, wails, hollers, all become valid in a palette of potentially infinite (probably not quite, mathematically) expressiveness.
To the list I might add Anatoly Vapirov, Vladimir Rezitsky & Gato Barbieri in the 1960s (with Don Cherry, Mantler etc.)plus numberless trombonists, trumpet-players who use mutes, smear, half-valve & 'jungle' effects.
At the other extreme are people as different as Lee Konitz & John Butcher who I've heard speaking about how hard it is NOT to be expressive on the saxophone. I actually find the way people like Warne Marsh & Giuffre cultivate a non-tone, or even an anti-tone quite unsettling.
The AACM was an emphatic & pioneering spokesman for the validity of sound as an artistic end in itself, as in Roscoe Mitchell's 'Sound' & most of Braxton's own music, plus 1 or 2 of his 'tradition' outings like the duo between contrabass clarinet & contrabass violin (NHOP) on 'Goodbye pork-pie hat' from the 70s Montmartre set.

centrifuge said...

ubu xxiii, thanks for your thoughts as ever.

butcher was on my list, expressive or not - he is probably one of the rare examples of a pure experimenter; it is far more common to hear tonal/timbral distortions employed towards the end of emotional expressiveness, but of course there are plenty such players with quite a scientific approach, braxton and mitchell being obvious examples, hemphill another. of course, all of them have their cathartic moments too.

butcher was actually a physicist before he became a professional musician, i think? - not the sort of influence which would normally interest me much, yet (paradoxically) i find his playing very affecting to listen to, regardless of his intentions, which may perhaps be the exact opposite..! i don't think i've ever heard him use a "clean", uninflected tone.

i said in the article that i can't yet tell the braxton "acolytes" apart - and i can't, usually - but i do have a james fei solo album, recorded while he was studying under the master at wesleyan... that is pretty much purely scientific also, i think - and quite interesting, though inevitably it's going to suffer somewhat in comparison, since it largely covers ground which had already been so thoroughly explored by mr b...