The amplified guitar, the guitar and the amplifier
makes a lot of interesting decisions for me – together with me.
I can let the strings ring,
crank the volume to max,
turn, wait for response.
Wait and see what is inside the sound,
wait and see what emerges.
Pulse, rhythm, noise, drone, cluster.
There is something liberating when unpredictable factors outside of me decides,
or at least helps me decide.
It gives me ideas and inspiration.
Helps me escape my own taste, at least.
Or, so it seems…
In Sync or Swarm David Borgo cites British saxophonist Evan Parker on playing solo: “it’s almost as if there are two people, one of whom is playing the saxophone and one of whom is talking to the guy who plays the saxophone. And when it comes to it, the guy playing the saxophone actually gets the final say…”1 Borgo is also pointing out that Parker’s comments “challenge the idea of a singular controlling intellect in improvisation and establish the importance of the body and the nonconscious and nonanalytical processes in performance…”
For me, a certain kind of randomness – a prepared randomness – also plays a big part. I am thinking about the randomness that the instrument itself throws up. Or the kind that lies in the dialogue between the instrument, its extensions (amplifier, pedals, preparations and such) and the acoustics of the space. So it is more like there are two people and randomness playing together: the guitarist, the person talking to the guitarist, and the randomized voice of the guitar itself. Or rather: the guitar in dialogue with the amplifier and the room, interfering with the dialogue between the guitar player and the person talking to the guitar player.
I believe I am setting up a stochastic system. I prepare and arrange unpredictability. I know what kind of randomness I aim for, what kind of sonic accidents that are welcome and what kind that are not. I have a hunch about how much randomness a certain situation can take. I allow randomness to slip through, or I decide to shut the door of randomness. Is this really helping me to escape my own taste? After all, it is also my own taste that decides the rules of the system.
I have searched for an interesting randomizer tool. A tool to stir the sound loops around a little. The MAX MSP patch that I am using on Stop Freeze Wait Eat, ‘Electronic Mirror’ and on the solo at Final Artistic Presentation, 21 April 2015, has a randomizer unit built in to it. It continuously changes start and stop positions in the buffer. For each repetition of a loop, it starts and stops at new positions in the sound file. This causes a continuous change in the looped material. “Eat After Me” from Stop Freeze Wait Eat (00:54).
In An Artist’s Textbook Jan Svenungsson writes about the artist’s prerogative to be inconclusive and about random research as a favourite (research) technique of his. He writes that his “…aims are active, not reactive”.2 My project has been carried out in what, at times, have seemed to be of a random character. Put differently, I have strived at letting the music steer the project development. With active artistic aims. I have a list of things I left behind, a list of research tools and methods that I planned to use in order to back up my vaguely defined research questions and hypothesis. Instead, I have dived into the objects of research: the music of Dans les arbres and Huntsville, and later also my own solo work. I have explored, studied and jumped between randomly picked objects of desire.
1. From Jök & seasicK, Norwegian Academy of Music, May 2013:
2. From a concert at Nesodden, March 2013. Various loops and pedals playing off recorded sequences offering randomness:
3. Randomized operations from MAX MSP tool. From a session with dancer Siri Jøntvedt, Norwegian Academy of Music, March 2015:
4. From Dans les arbres studio session, August 2015. I am recording what we play into the MAX MSP tool ‘Electronic Mirror’. The recordings are played back, facing the ensemble, with random start and stop positions. Pitched down. This is what it sounds like when all other instruments are muted: (00:16). This is what it sounds like together with the ensemble: (00:16)
1 David Borgo, Sync or Swarm, Improvising Music in a Complex Age. New York, 2005, The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc, p. 40.
2 Jan Svenungsson, An Artist’s Text Book. Helsinki 2007, Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, p. 10