Since these notes were supposed to be written by another bass player, Torsten Müller, who did not get them here in time, with my short Matt Sperry essay as an aside, I am going to leave it that way. As Peter Kowald once wrote to me in a correspondence about our duo cd, BPA 001, "Sorry it took so long, but, the bass player has to hang back so the music can swing, no?". An argument can be made that the bass should be straight down the middle, giving everyone the pulse to be in front of, behind etc, and that the tension created by the placement of the other instruments against the even pulse of the bass creates the "swing" phenomenon. However, the role of the bass in the creation of swing is another essay. While on the subject, I should say that as far away from "tradition" as we get, I still feel the need for agreement within the music by the bass and drums, even if it is to agree to disagree. Working with Martin in this way could not have been easier.
I should also credit Herr Müller's years of research into the sounds various angles of the bow creates as well as the wealth of non-resonant sounds contained in the double bass with opening up some important areas in my own work.
Lines and Marks
For the past year and a half I have worked in trio with Jacob Lindsay and Aurora Josephson. My work with Herr Lindsay goes back more than a decade at this point, to our pre-improvised music times. This is the first long-term trio I have worked with locally in may years. I have found them to be serious musicians, ready to confront challenges of being an Improviser in the time period both in the music itself and and in the other aspects of recording, touring, presenting and realizing projects -such as this one.
The sonority of double bass, clarinets and voice has a special warmth and resonance. It also has a spaciousness that invites collaboration.
After several nice projects with this trio, as well as my very satisfying trio work with Fuchs/Bryerton/Smith, I began to get impatient with the ease of playing trio right around the time this collaboration became possible. It seems most Improvisers can find a way to make clear, interesting trio music.
We were able to have two back to back concerts and a day in the studio, all mutli-track recorded by Scott R. Looney.
At this point "new reductionist" free improvising has shown itself to be both a passing trend and a viable choice in the moment.
During this project we usually choose to play. this means: finding a place for five ideas, five musicians, five lines.
Martin and Philip are both part of the "Lines" quintet, one of the finest examples of
mid-size free improvising ensembles.
In Paul Klee's "Pedagogical Sketchbook", he discusses active, passive and medial lines.
This is a good metaphor for how space is created in this music without laying out 4/5th's of the time. I would also add marks, shorter sounds than lines. The various types of lines and marks being presented makes the layering of ideas possible. The build up of lines can also be quite dense, never unclear.
Like the denser works of Cy Twombly ( a great source of debate for Aurora and I!) or some of Sol Lewitt's drawings, both building up the texture with a pencil - as dense as it gets there is still a transparency to this music. Sol is all linear, while Cy marks, smears and scribbles , with both the original surface is still visible through the marks and lines.
There are solos, duos, trios, quartets, but "breaking down the ensemble", which in a way reverts back to the ease of a smaller group, is not used as the primary system to make the music work.
the multi-task of listening/playing is often at work here. My feeling is that an improviser has an equal responsibility to listen as well as provide material to be listened to. Improvisers often talk about "listening" as if they have discovered all the secrets of life, but each new solution brings it's own new problems.
Quoting kowald again; " listeners should sit in the audience: we need players on stage. Listen while you play."
Damon Smith 2003 or 2004
released May 4, 2013
Aurora Josephson, voice; Philipp Wachsmann, violin, electronics; Jacob Lindsay, Ab clarinet, Bb clarinet, bass clarinet; Damon Smith, double bass; Martin Blume, drums.
Tracks 1-4 recorded on 16 April 2003 at 21 Grand, Oakland; tracks 5-6 recorded on 17 April 2003 at The luggage store, San Francisco; tracks 7-11 recorded on 18 April 2003 at 1502 8th St, Oakland.
Front cover art (reproduced above) reservoir district 209 by D.E. May; graphic design by Alan Anzalone.