*For PC Users! This album has long track titles. If you can't unzip it, drag the folder to your desk top and change the folder title to a short title.
There are some people who are very singular in their conception of improvisation. People whose music embodies them as much as they embody the music. People who take from their life experience and put it into their sonic practice. People who search every crevice of their instrument to find sonic potential. These practices are beyond what may or may not be learned at a conservatory, no matter how deep the teaching goes.
Listening to these improvised moments between Sarah Ruth Alexander and Damon Smith, I might as well be eavesdropping on a conversation. I know both of these people very well. As such, I know their joys, their humor, their whimsy, their passions. I know their difficulties, their aversions, their particularities. All of these aspects are audible to me as a person who has been both a friend and musical collaborator.
Sarah and Damon both come from rather different playing backgrounds. Damon is known to the world almost purely as an improviser. Notwithstanding a few such things as Ayler tunes or Fluxus-tangential scores, both of which serve as springboards or orientation points for more improvisation yet still, Damon has devoted his life and art to discovering, in real time and practice, instant composition, both solo and with other musicians from all over the world. His other passions, from poetry, to modern art, to (perhaps most infamously) world cuisine all reflect his uncompromising and ever-searching aesthetics and praxis.
Sarah, depending on what night you catch her on, can be found playing doom metal, ambient drones, pop music, electronic noise, 20th century composition (from names familiar to obscure), or performing her own literary works, comedy, or socially challenging performance art; all in addition to her pure improv wanderings with musicians of many different backgrounds, disciplines and genres.
Sarah and Damon have in common two main things that I can see. The first is a hunger; for knowledge, for experience, for expression. Erudite, curious and constantly under construction, quality of execution and forward motion of learning and production seem to be driving forces. The other thing is a holisticness of approach. Damon plays THE WHOLE BASS; all notes and registers; every part you could bow or pluck or rub or knock. Similarly, Sarah has honed, and routinely uses THE ENTIRETY of her rather impressive vocal range. She has incorporated, sonically, visually, and on a practical level, the rest of her body into her performance, as well. Not to mention her dulcimer playing, and various keyboards, percussion and electronics that she employs, depending on the performance. Indeed, these musicians go all the way in every artistic venture.
This recording dives in at the deep end, stays there and expands on it. For a meeting of minds/bodies/voices such as this, there simply isn't anywhere else to go. Like they play themselves and their instruments in their entirety, they play the moment in it's entirety. There is no moment, whether loud or silent, that isn't penetrated by complete attention to creative commitment. Not minimalist, nor maximalist, this is a meeting of intimacy, engagement and surrender. If I am seeming to gush a little bit, allow me to say, this is par for the course for the two of them, who have met in other contexts before, but are sadly undocumented as collaborators.
Let me cap this off by saying, I'm not certain of the time, place, or other situational specifics of this recording. If this information was given me in advance and I lost it, well, I apologize profusely to my friends, the artists. Suffice it to say, this could have been anytime, anywhere, with any particulars or constraints, and it would have come off equally as immediate and vibrant as the results here.
Surrender your ears and your minds. Dig deep.
- Aaron Gonzalez
released February 5, 2021
Sarah Ruth Alexander - voice, hammered dulcimer, recorder, slide whistle, objects
Damon Smith - double bass
Cover art: superficie articulada 4 & 8
by Ernesto Montiel photos of sculptures by Juan Pablo Garza.
Mastered by Weasel Walter
Recorded by Stephen Lucas 02/15/2019
At UNT, Denton, TX
Design by Alan Anzalone
Liner Notes by Aarron Gonzalez
Concert photo by Derek Rogers
All titles from from an English translation of The Book of Disquiet by Fernado Pessoa