Posts Tagged ‘John Wisniewski’

Anthony Coleman has been a key mover in the avant-garde jazz scene for some 40-odd years. The pianist / keyboard player has built an immense body of work over the course of his career. He’s perhaps best known for his work with the truly seminal John Zorn, as well as extensive contributions to work with Marc Ribot, although he boasts an impressive discography of releases as a solo artist and of albums recorded in collaboration with others.

A writer, film-maker, and academic, Coleman is nothing if not wide-ranging in his talents. John Wisniewski was eager to rap with the legend about his career, his current projects, and his future plans.

JW (AA): What are you currently working on, Anthony?

AC: I’ve got a bunch of projects going on at the same time. One of the major ones is a commission from the Vienna-based chamber group Studio Dan. We’re going to be performing in August and October, both times in Austria. I have been working on a lot of Chamber Music: my last couple of CDs: You (New World) and The End of Summer (Tzadik) were both mostly chamber music. I’ve also been working a lot on solo piano stuff; I came out with this CD this year on the Klopotec label record, recorded in Ljubljana, Slovenia of solo piano stuff and I’m working on another one – I’m actually working on a couple more but one is definitely coming out soon. But these are just the tip of the iceberg – they’re I guess the most important projects. There’s a bunch of other stuff going on: I’m very excited about the trio that I have with Henry Fraser on bass and Francisco Mela on drums. We’ve been starting to play out a lot and I’m hoping to make a record this year. Francisco Mela is an incredible drummer and he’s pushing me into a lot of new areas that are connected to things that I’ve done in the past, but some of those things were only, let’s say, promising or incipient in some way; he’s helping me really realize some ways of using elements of Latin or African rhythmic vocabulary without doing that in an overt or obvious way. Francisco is from Cuba, but that’s not the point. He’s a rhythmic master in the kind of zone where he’s able to move between rhythmic states very freely – pretty effortlessly.

I’m also very excited about my duo project with the drummer/percussionist Brian Chase. That’s a completely different sonic experience; Brian is the most intense and interactive listener you can possibly imagine. I’m also trying to organize a recording of this evening-length piece I wrote last year for the 150th Anniversary of New England Conservatory. It involves around 50 musicians – all from the department I teach in (Contemporary Improvisation). But everything’s in place with that project except for the time to organize everybody and everything again. Some of those pesky students up and graduate and move and stuff like that. And then there’s arranging recording sessions for large ensemble while doing a full-time job… But it will happen!

What is the experience like working with John Zorn?

Well, you’re talking about my history in this case, because it’s been 20 years since I’ve worked with John closely, but it was a very key experience. When you work with John he

definitely pushes you towards a vision of your best work. But it’s one vision of your best work: there’s a certain kind of intensity that he brings out in you that you may not have been aware that that you had, and he pushes you to bring that out, and that’s amazing, but it’s one way of playing and it’s one way of being musically. He is a man with a very strong vision of music and of life and he’s a centrifugal force, and when you’re inside of his orbit it is a world, and when you take some steps out of his orbit you realize that there are other worlds. There were many other words that interested me, but I will say that the 20 years of working closely with him were very, very important to my life. I often say that he was my last teacher because of a certain way that he has of approaching influences and models without too much « respect ». Where I went to school, which is also where I teach now – New England Conservatory – there’s a lot of discussion of models, but I feel like there’s always a little bit too much respect in relation to them. Stravinsky, for example, talked a lot about the problems around this, and John always knew how to use the right amount of force of will to make something his own without too much obeisance to history or tradition or whatever. That was something I needed to get, and it took me a while to learn that lesson. I’m not sure I ever learned it to the degree that John is able to do it, but I figured out a way to do it in my own way.

You have an interest in Hebrew music. Could you tell us about this?

Yes, sure… But you know, when the Radical Jewish Music scene started becoming really important in the early ‘90s one of the things was that a lot of the musicians who are Jewish or who happen to be Jewish didn’t have a lot of background in Jewish music, and that seemed odd – especially in our scene, because one of the things of our scene was that we used material from everywhere. We were very fascinated with material from everywhere. There was a lot of collaging – if you listen to a lot of the music of that time you’ll hear a lot of references to music from all over the world. Music from Asia – Indonesian music, a lot of African music, and then of course if we want to say that Jewish music is « our tradition », it was interesting how little that played a role, and one of the things I like to say now is with all these last 25 years of addressing that this music has become incorporated. It was really truly missing and it needed to become part of the vocabulary and now it is, but I wouldn’t want to say much more than that because it’s an influence on me but it’s not a stronger influence than many other things, and it’s less strong than, let’s say, African-American music which is very, very key to my life, particularly the composer-pianist tradition of Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Cecil Taylor, etc.

Do you enjoy klezmer?

I generally don’t like to think about my enjoyment of music in terms of genres. I like to think about people and their work and individual pieces of music. I certainly have pieces of klezmer music which I love very, very much, especially from some of the masters like Naftule Brandwein and Dave Tarras and people like that. I have a relatively large collection of Klezmer records and CDs.

One of the problems I went through in the mid-late ‘90s was the sense that I was starting to become defined as a Modern Jewish musician, and I had problems with this given my background which is in many, many different kinds of things and I was so nervous… I mean, it was a little bit of a conundrum because that scene was the only scene in which I ever felt that I was really central, so there was a little bit of sadness in the idea of possibly giving that up, but like for example if you look at someone like Michael Winograd, he seems very comfortable in his role as Klezmer-defined musician and if you’re comfortable in the role that you’re in then that’s a wonderful thing – that’s how you should be in your relation to your life as a musician, and my identity or self-definition – if you want to put it that way – isn’t about that, it’s about something else. I mean, if you want to find out what it’s about, I guess you would do better to look in couple of my records like the ones I mentioned – the recent ones.

What may inspire you to compose?

Inspiration really can come from anywhere – a lot of experiences. I like words a lot. I like crazy sentences. I like anagrams. I like travel. I like thinking about loss and trying to find a way to make sense out of it. I like movies. I like the way that images take place in time – there’s a great scene in Kiarostami’s Close Up where he just follows a can rolling down the street and just the kinetic nature of that can really inspire me. Time and the way it takes place – movement. I like to think about people who clearly think of the passage of time as a major element in their work and their thinking. I like to say that material is only material but it still is material. In other words, you need material, but when you’ve come up with material that’s not even half the battle.

Do you compose film soundtracks?

I’ve done a few – not very many. I would love to do more. I’ve done them every time I’ve been asked – when I’ve had time. There are a few out there by Peter Stastny and Mike DiPaolo – particularly these two directors. I sure hope that other people ask me at some point and give me enough money so that I can really do it!

Do you enjoy playing to a live audience?

I love it when I’m with my people. When they pay attention. When they’re with me. When we’re grooving together. When I feel the synergy and it’s amazing. You can’t play alone in the house all the time – it’s a different feeling… I used to have a really big circle of friends and now I don’t, and so the social aspect of public music making has become very, very precious and very important. When I was younger the hang after the concert was really, really key. Now that’s never that big of a deal except rarely so it’s like a little precious moment where we have this little communal space. It’s almost like something – I don’t want to say religious, but spiritual in a sense. I’ve been teaching a lot this last few years and last year I felt like the balance between teaching and the rest of my life really got off kilter and I really needed to start performing a lot more again and this year I’m performing pretty much all the time when I’m not teaching, which means I’m a lot more tired than I was but I’m also a lot happier.

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GX Jupitter-Larsen – musician best known as the founder of noise act The Haters, who feature on some 300 or so releases, performance artist, conceptual artist, film-maker, writer, and ultimate polyartist – is the epitome of ‘cult’. Widely regarded, and avidly-followed by a small but discerning fanbase, he’s forged a career of enviable – and almost unrivalled in the broader field of ‘noise’ barring Merzbow and Whitehouse – duration stretching back to the 1970s.

With The Haters’ 40th anniversary looming large on the horizon, John Wisniewski snatched a brief Q&A with GX for a progress report…

John Wisniewski: What projects are you currently involved with, GX?

GX Jupitter-Larsen: 2019 is The Haters’ 40th Anniversary, so there will be a few releases and performances to mark the occasion. Including a double 10-inch on Influencing Machine Records. That’s a decade a side! Ha!

JW: What were the first recordings of yours like? Were they noise or collage?

GX: Kind of a mix of the two.

JW: What was the ethos of The Haters. What did you want to accomplish?

GX: I was in New York in 79; in many ways, The Haters was my reaction to being in THAT city at THAT time. New York in 79 was such a celebration of entropy and decay. I just wanted to keep the celebration going.

JW: What was the audience reaction at the time?

GX: People either got it or didn’t. Those who got it didn’t need to be told what was going on. Those who didn’t get it were never going to get it. Either you didn’t need an explanation, or no explanation would do. Forty years later, nothing seems to have changed much in that regards.

JW: Any future plans for you, GX?

GX: I’ve started working on my third feature-length movie. This one takes place in a library; a library full of noisy books. Ha!

JW: Do people still seek out challenging art today?

GX: Fewer and fewer. Sadly.

GX Jupitter-Larsen is on-line here.

Polyartists have always had a hard time: we exist in a culture obsessed with pigeonholing, of ascribing a single genre or a medium. Brion Gysin’s ultimate failing could be aligned to his unwillingness to commit to any one mode of creative output, and over 50 years on, creatives exploring multiple outlets seem to sink beneath the radar simply by virtue of their evasions of prescriptive categorisations like ‘musician’, ‘painter’, ‘writer’ or ‘sculptor’.

Casey Deming – born  in Owatonna, MN, USA, and resident of the Twin Cities (that’s also in Minnesota, and unrelated to any kind of Lord of the Rings-type fantasy world) – has spent a career straddling multiple outlets, ranging from collage to experimental music.

John Wisniewski recently pitched some questions to him about his work for Aural Aggravation.

JW: When did your career in music begin? Were you trained as a musician?

CD: I started making music about 10 years ago. I’ve never had any formal training. It started when I connected with the improv / experimental music scene in the Twin Cities after completing my undergrad degree at the University of MN. I began to collaborate with people involved with the Tuesday Series which was holding weekly concerts at cafe in my neighborhood. Primarily I was just doing small percussion stuff with whatever objects I had at hand. Later I bridged into bending circuits on tape players which was kind of hip at the time. Now I almost exclusively work with tape loops.

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What inspires you to create new sounds?

Listening to everyday sounds. Sometimes simply taking a walk is enough to inspire me: church bells in the park, wind chimes on front porches, traffic. My baseboard heaters are making this great clicking sound as I write this. Both my visual and sound work are collage-based, there is so much content out there that I’d rather focus on selecting and organizing material as opposed to composing it.

Who are some composers who are influential to you?

Arvo Pärt, Henryk Górecki, Tim Hecker, Ben Frost (especially his album with Daníel Bjarnason), John Cage, John & Alice Coltrane, Miles Davis, Laurie Spiegel, Ekkehard Ehlers, C S Yeh, John Wiese, Ernst Reijseger, Harold Budd, Krzysztof Penderecki, Mica Levi, Angelo Badalamenti, Wendy Carlos, Giacinto Scelsi, Johnny Greenwood, Fennesz, La Monte Young, Fe-mail …

What is the response from the audience to your compositions?

Often curiosity. What am I hearing and why? It’s nice to elicit such responses, I find it kind of boring when musicians focus too much on portraying a certain aesthetic or identity. I try not to create work that’s veiled too much in my own ego. I think it’s important to challenge your audience, make them ask "is this music?".

Have you composed any film soundtracks?

Unfortunately no but it has often been alluded to in my work. The improv noise band I play in Squid Fist (with Bryce Beverlin II & Tim Glenn) has performed along with experimental 8mm & 16mm films but we have never purposely composed something for film. The tape collage project Visions of Christ (with John Jerry) lends itself more to scores because it’s not very interesting to watch us play. John and I have performed along with a light organ setup in the past and hope to employ more visual elements in the future like projecting found slides or pantone colors. Someone remarked that my CS release with Justin Meyers could stand in as an alternate soundtrack to Tarkovsky’s Stalker.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/5404328

Squid Fist Live at Organ Haus from brycebeverlinII on Vimeo.

Do you listen to alternative music or rock music all?

My tastes are pretty eclectic although not that obscure. I listened to a lot of classic rock growing up but have mostly left that behind, besides an occasional nostalgic trip with the Stones. Bob Dylan is maybe the most important musician in my life, rarely a day goes by without me spinning something of his. Most "rock" music that I prefer skews weird, however I hold a lot of old americana and soul in high regards. Early Staple Singes records are in heavy rotation. I’m currently obsessed with Gene Clark’s No Other and also love his records with Doug Dillard. A lot of Townes Van Zandt these days too. Besides Dylan there are some great Minnesota artists like Michael Yonkers and Spider John Koerner. In many ways I’m indebted to my good friends Clint Simonson (De Stijl Recs) and Chris Berry (Soft Abuse) for exposing me to so much gold over the years. Without them I would have not discovered Peter Jefferies, Ed Askew, Mad Nana, Michael Chapman, Bobby Charles, Charlie Tweddle, Black to Comm, King Darves, Mayo Thompson, Neil Michael Hagerty, and Steve Gunn. I was lucky enough to see Wolf Eyes play last night; they’ve always been inspirational to me. I dig their respective side projects as well: Henry Hazel Slaughter, Regression and Stare Case. They’re so wonderfully evocative of such greats like Throbbing Gristle, The Velvet Underground, and Suicide.

Which of the arts is most important in your creations?

They all play their key roles. I’m reading Leonard Shlain’s book Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time & Light and it keeps giving me ideas for sound and visual projects. I probably expose myself the least to theatre and dance though they have both affected me profoundly in the past. Perhaps it’s a lack of exposure. I have definitely engaged with literature the most in my life and am forever blown away by people like John Berger, César Aira, Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Denis Johnson, and Cormac McCarthy. I’m currently tackling Ta-Nehisi Coates’s memoirs and am loving them.

Will you be playing any live dates?

I recently completed a commission at the Cedar Cultural Center that was funded by the Jerome Foundation. It was a collaboration with John Jerry, Davu Seru, and Jonathan Kaiser for tape loops, percussion, and cello. Justin Meyers and I played a couple weeks ago and hope to make another recording together in the near future. I have another tape and synth project with John Marks and we self-released a CS a few months ago. I am trying to refocus my energies on visual work, getting ready to be part of a collage show at Chicago’s Lula Cafe in May and apply to grants in hopes of funding the purchase of a risograph printer. Jugging all these things has become an art form in itself.

Casey Deming Online