Sunday, May 15, 2011

GMT Trio 4.22.11 Continued

Some more music from my 4.22.11 concert with Matt Endahl and Tim Cohen, in Ann Arbor. This music is from the same show as my previous post.

Prince Endahl Cohen 4.22.11 Improv 1 2nd half by Gary Prince

Gary Prince: Guitar
Matt Endahl: Fender Rhodes
Dr. Tim Cohen: Drums

This excerpt is from the first improvisation of the concert, which was about 27 minutes long - we're joining here just shy of 15 minutes in and going all the way to the end. I have this track beginning partway through my atonal, Derek Bailey-esque solo, enough of which I've left in for context. Note that Matt is using a delay pedal on his rhodes - you can really hear it at around 9:30. This is also one of those rare, rare occasions when I'm not actually loud enough in my soloing - I correct this partway through. I like my playing overall but I really wanted to share this because of the incredible groove Tim and Matt create.

I have conflicting thoughts about excerpting from larger tracks in this manner. The main reason that I do this, as opposed to posting up entire, 30+ minute improvisations, or entire concerts, is to try and make this blog (and this music) listener friendly. I know how I am as a listener when it comes to something I'm finding on the internet: impatient, preoccupied. And I love listening to music, and I have a lot of patience for long tracks. Plus, this blog is for a general audience, and the psychological price of admission of pressing play on a 30 minute track, or downloading a concert and listening to it, is higher than I expect most people to pay.

So, I've been trying to capture what I think are the most compelling and complete parts of the performances, particularly that showcase something of interest to me and that won't be too hard to listen too. That doesn't mean I don't think the whole show is compelling, and I regret that some of the process is lost - when something is excerpted, one doesn't get the whole context of how it developed. But of course, to truly get that context, you need to be at the show and in the moment. Excerpting is really a form of retroactive composition, and changes the essential nature of the music. I will note that everything I post up here is free of internal edits or EQ adjustments, except to raise or lower the overall volume level and fade in and out at the beginning and end.

There's a rich tradition of this kind of excerpting in jazz: "Bitches Brew" and "Live Evil" (Miles Davis) are the first things that come to mind. Listening to 'Sivad', the first track of "Live Evil" (a live recording) we just hear a drumroll into that nasty bass line, fully formed and kicking ass - we don't hear the half hour of equally killing developing, polishing, and poking around which took place beforehand to get the groove to such a heavy spot. That's what the box set is for.

Does anyone have any thoughts about this issue? Is there anyone wishing I would put up the whole performances?

Friday, May 13, 2011

GMT Trio 4.22.11 Ann Arbor

Today I'm posting up some of the music I made with Matt Endahl and Tim Cohen when I was in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago. This first track comes from the show we played on 4.22 at the Le Dog House - it is from the second (of three) long improvisations. I've excerpted the first 11 minutes.

Prince Endahl Cohen 4.22.11 Improv 2 Edit by Gary Prince

Gary Prince: Guitar
Matt Endahl: Fender Rhodes
Tim Cohen: Drumset

Beware the volume starts very low and gets somewhat loud on this track. This was recorded on my Zoom H4, which was held by our good friend Tenaya, who was sitting maybe ten feet away from the three of us, at most. We were playing in a living room - you can hear other people at the party talking at some points. True Ann Arborites will recognize Theo Katzman at 7:44. I'm playing my Eastman, and occasionally using my wah pedal to color my tone. I love the way the rhodes and guitar blend throughout this track, and am proud of the way we slowly develop the initial mood, giving each other a lot of space and taking our time. This is how I play.

The whole show was kind of a surreal experience - we were preceded by two very good groups playing similar music, a very rare experience for me in the past few years. The entire time some random movie about explorers in the Amazon was being projected onto the wall behind the bands (on mute, with subtitles EDIT: Matt tells me the movie was Warner Herzog's "Aguirre, the Wrath of God". there you have it). Theo told me after that there was a moment when we kicked into a groove and the characters on screen started dancing with us. I recall feeling in the moment like I wasn't totally gelling with the music - counterintuitively, this can sometimes be a good thing. I've often found in free improvisation that when I'm really into it, I listen back later and realize I was playing way too much, not listening hard enough or being sensitive enough. Whereas sometimes when I don't feel like it is coming together in performance, I'll listen back later and be very pleased with my playing, because I will have been listening really closely and being very careful. This is one of those times.

I excerpted this track from the longer piece in the interests of making it listenable to people who didn't actually perform it. From the end here we continue into a drum solo and then drastic changes in texture, transitioning into a new set of ideas and developments, for more than another 10 minutes. Almost always when we play together we play this way, flowing naturally from one idea to another, seeing one to completion (as I believe we do here) and then growing out of it without a break, often for a half hour or more. At some point in the near future I intend to write more about this kind of playing, and the way I listen to this music.

For now, I hope you enjoy. Note that I've made this track, and every track I've uploaded to date using soundcloud, available for download - just click the little down arrow on the right side of the player. There will be more music from that weekend soon!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Japanese Buddhist Chanting

These past few weeks have been busy, between going to Ann Arbor, teaching, performing around DC, and general living. I've got a lot to say about that, and tracks to post, but not tonight.

Instead, I thought I'd share what I'm listening to this beautiful, peaceful Sunday evening. It is only about 10 minutes long, and I would strongly encourage/challenge you to listen to the whole thing - just take it in, sit with it, and be immersed.

Japanese Buddhist Chanting by Gary Prince

Last December I went to Japan, for the first time, to visit my younger brother Ian Prince. Ian is an assistant language teacher in the JET program, in Oshima of Imabari, a small island in the Inland Sea. While there, my family and I traveled around a good bit, spending several days in Kyoto, visiting temples and sight seeing. That's where this recording comes from.

I wish I could say I knew more about it. Each of the major Buddhist temples in Japan has a small gift shop where they sell charms, amulets, votive tablets, and other similar souvenirs. Though they often carry the same kind of stuff, each temple's selection of things is a little different and specific to that temple. This recording comes from one of the first temples we visited, in Kyoto. I'm ashamed to say I don't remember the name. It was on a cassette tape, and I got it as a souvenir for Matt Endahl, who was good enough to transfer it to digital at the WCBN studios when I was visiting Ann Arbor. The writing on the cassette case is, of course, entirely in Japanese, with an image of a lotus flower on the front, and I have no idea what is going on. The woman who sold it to me told me it was monks chanting sutras (the words of the Buddha). That was all I could get out of her - the language barrier was pretty severe.

So, enjoy. The monks are hitting large wood bells for accompaniment - like these

Also, a large, resonating metal bowl (the sound at the beginning, like a gong):

And a higher pitched chime like instrument that I don't have a picture of. These pictures come from one of the temples, also in Kyoto.

I feel like we have a tendency, in our modern, secular, commodity driven experience of music, to forget that music can be experienced in this way: as a part of religious ritual, as a way to experience a trance like state, through repetition and rhythmic consistency. This music (and it is music) doesn't go anywhere. There is no journey, no narrative, just the experience of the sound. Music doesn't need to go anywhere. It doesn't need to have a goal, a beginning, or an end, or development. Development is not inherent to the nature of music, it is a tool we can choose to use, or to abandon! The power of this music is manifest when you allow yourself to be immersed in it brought into sync with the vibration. For further proof, look to the minimalist composers, look to noise musicians, look to baptism by sound, look to the music of nature, the music of the cars passing in the street, the sirens in the distance, the neighbor's windchimes, all of them barely audible through the open window, but always playing...