quote of the day: the spirit of music

6 04 2016

The younger players have plenty of stage presence and bravado. But what I consider to be the real spirituality of the music, that’s really being lost. That feeling of raags as being entities, as being something that’s not man-made, but distilled, channelled from somewhere or other. Musicians have this feeling. And I know when I’m capturing the raag and when I’m not. There’s something inviolable about that.

 

Nicolas Magriel interviewed by Clive Bell, March 2016

http://www.thewire.co.uk/in-writing/columns/bell-labs_nicolas-magriel_sangi-rangi





WHM live in artsmith gallery

28 02 2016

had a smashing time with my trio WHM. with walt shaw on drums, matt harling on tenor sax and home design ‘saxobone’, we had guest lorin halsall on UEB, theramin and electronics. artsmith live gallery space is quite resonant but also a great place to play, with inspirational artwork. you can hear extracts from the two sets here

 

 

WHM live at Artsmith Live gallery, Derby, 27th feb 2016

walt shaw – percussion
hervé perez – saxes, saxobone
matt harling – tenor sax, saxobone
with guest
lorin halsall – ueb, theramin, el.

 





Mirror Image – album release

15 12 2015

 

Hervé Perez & Roger Mills – Mirror Image

 

Released
14 December 2015
by linear obsessional recordings
 

 

 

“Linear Obsessional is delighted to present this beautifully recorded collection of free improvisations by Nada. Nada is the duo of Roger Mills – trumpet and Hervé Perez – alto sax.
The improvisations that make up “Mirror Image” are revelatory, as both musicians explore a huge range of sonic textures through extended technique and make for a fascinating and engrossing listen as they search out their common ground. Interestingly although both musicians had played together via internet collaborations “Mirror Image” is the result of their first meetings in person. The sound of two musicians communicating so naturally, but also with great control and subtlety, makes this an enormously rewarding listen.”

Available as a free download with accompanying PDF booklet of notes with beautiful images by Arman S. Haghi
from the release page

 

Mirror Image is the debut album of the duo Nada, featuring UK based saxophonist Hervé Perez and Australian trumpeter Roger Mills. While Perez and Mills live on opposite sides of the world, they met through their mutual work with the telematic improvisation music ensemble Ethernet Orchestra. The duo quickly realised a shared aesthetic and continued developing their sound online.

Hervé and Roger would like to thank Elke Utermöhlen and Martin Slawig (blackhole-factory) for bringing us together, Richard Sanderson for releasing the album,and Arman S. Haghi for the original artwork.

This album is made up of three recordings gathered during a residency in Studio_A | Kunstmühle on December 06 and 07, 2014 and includes a live performance of the duo at Club Instabil

 

 

Roger Mills – trumpet
Hervé Perez – alto sax
edit and master by @sndsukinspook
artwork by Arman S. Haghi





sounding out in the south of france

2 11 2015

StSardos2bMazerescampan

 

summer 2015. i retrace my steps from a previous visit in the region, finding new venues to accommodate meditation and music. here are documents that follow new explorations of architecture and sacred sites, sounding out wonderful spaces of magnificent splendour and spirit. i feel once again that the path has led me through increasingly deep experiences and i hope that you will enjoy this new page. indeed this set of recent recordings show that the music keeps on growing and so is my experience of deep listening. getting closer to the underlying concept of this whole project, i keep learning and discovering, finding new understanding of what is happening in the space between improvisation, sound vibrations and our harmonic relationship with the environment. and the more i find it difficult to discriminate between art and life.

needless to say, each and every one of these experiences is very special to me. and much is due to the amazing and inspiring locations i visit.
i really hope that these audio documents will carry an impression of this for your enjoyment.

 

StGironslagrasseVerdun

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lapis sky
alto saxophone, 07 august 2015
église st michel, verdun sur garonne

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nocturne
alto saxophone, 07 august 2015
église st michel, verdun sur garonne

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mouvement céleste
alto saxophone, 07 august 2015
église st michel, verdun sur garonne

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prayer for silence
alto saxophone, 01 august 2015
église st michel, lagrasse

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prayer for the sun
alto saxophone, 01 august 2015
église st michel, lagrasse

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prayer for icecream
alto saxophone, 01 august 2015
église st michel, lagrasse

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marking time
alto saxophone, 28 july 2015
église st giron

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le passage
alto saxophone, 28 july 2015
église st giron

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abbatiale 1
alto saxophone, 27 july 2015
abbaye cistercienne de l’escaladieu

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abbatiale 2
alto saxophone, 27 july 2015
abbaye cistercienne de l’escaladieu

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abbatiale 3
alto saxophone, 27 july 2015
abbaye cistercienne de l’escaladieu

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habitat des moines 1 grand salon
alto saxophone, 27 july 2015
abbaye cistercienne de l’escaladieu

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habitat des moines 1 paysages
alto saxophone, 27 july 2015
abbaye cistercienne de l’escaladieu

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rapture
alto saxophone, 27 july 2015
abbaye cistercienne de l’escaladieu

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third passage
alto saxophone, 26 july 2015
abbatiale de st savin

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the rock
alto saxophone, 26 july 2015
abbatiale de st savin

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waterfall in blue light
alto saxophone, 26 july 2015
abbatiale de st savin

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empty streets
alto saxophone, 25 july 2015
église de campan

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dummy town
alto saxophone, 25 july 2015
église de campan

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silent crossing
alto saxophone, 25 july 2015
église de campan

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retour en arrière
alto saxophone, 21 july 2015
église de mazères

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saline flotation
alto saxophone, 21 july 2015
église de mazères

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medieval meanderings
alto saxophone, 20 july 2015
église de rieux sur volvestre

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filmic gestures
alto saxophone, 16 july 2015
église de montbeton

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the space between
alto saxophone, 16 july 2015
église de montbeton

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the space between
alto saxophone, 16 july 2015
église de montbeton

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pastoral departure
alto saxophone, 09 july 2015
église de st sardos

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mountain road
alto saxophone, 09 july 2015
église de st sardos

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the wild
alto saxophone, 09 july 2015
église de st sardos

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mer de nuages
alto saxophone, 09 july 2015
église de st sardos

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French summer festival and more gigs

14 10 2015

Following on from the previous post featuring sets of live improvisation in Jazz à Luz, here are another few videos shot during the summer i spent in the south of France.

I was invited to participate during the first edition of Festival La Poutre, near Toulouse. Short but sweet, crammed with brilliant acts and musicians, this very friendly and laidback event was like a bowl of fresh air. Of course, many interesting exchanges ensued. below is a couple of documents of a meeting with trumpet player and artist Rodriguez Walkind.

 

Festival La Poutre – the deck

 

Festival La Poutre – in the trees

 

These videos are made up of whatever footage i had. a lot of it is not sync, to make up for the gaps… still, a cool document of a significant first encounter.

 

The following videos have better footage and were filmed through two sets at the Pizzeria Bellefort in Toulouse where they have a regular programme of improvisation.

Cool wine cellar and free pizza, we had a real blast playing there. Heddy surprised us by inviting the brilliant flautist from Amsterdam Mark Alban Lotz to join mr Boubaker on bass, Guy Bayssac on drums and myself on alto.

i am very pleased to have played with such an amazing bunch. great times…

 

 

the first set was a duo with guy bayssac aka ‘canard’. such a pleasure to meet again.

 

 

as usual, the audio from all the above videos, and much more, is available from my website. see the improv section for various collaborations:

 www.spacers.lowtech.org/herve

 

there is more footage coming this way with guy bayssac and another surprise guest shot in café burgaud. so keep your eyes peeled…





Festival in France

5 09 2015

I have enjoyed time away from the screen… but i am back with a vengeance, working my way through many recordings gathered during a visit to France. It had been three years, and it was intense fun to meet up with friends after such a long time. I was very lucky to be invited to take part in concerts, festivals and other musical encounters all squeezed into a short time period.

Of course, i made the most of my travels to explore many more churches, abbeys and other amazing places for my solo project ‘sounding out’.

I also have a few videos, which i am working on. These are only documents of valuable encounters and i have no artistic pretense. Unfortunately, i had to make do with short clips short by a friend in the audience, and some of them are not great. So i’ve had to select whatever was usable, and fill in with what i had handy: other clips from elsewhere which were obviously out of sync with the music and are therefore slowed down, plus a few still shots thrown in for good measure.

Still, is is rather fun to watch back, and really, those videos are only excuses to present some music, and great human moments between old friends and new ones…

Today, i would like to present to you three clips which were shot on the first night of the fantastic jazz/improvisation festival Jazz à Luz. We played two nights in a row next to the main stage, as part of the installation promoting the architectural forms and constructions based on sacred geometry by festizomes.

Below, you will find further links and audio clips to the entire concerts in audio format, including the second night – which featured to fantastic music too (but no video i am afraid).

 

 

 

 

audio from day 1

 

 

 

audio from day 2

 

 

There will be more posts in the next few days presenting other concerts and the whole series of solo recordings, as soon as all this is available online. So watch this space! I hope you enjoy watching/listening, and feel free to comment etc…  till soon,

 

rv

 





Additional thoughts on improvisation

31 08 2015

i would like to update my previous post with some further thoughts. so i will invite the reader to read the previous entry beforehand and then continue with the following.

 

Further thoughts on improvisation

 

I would like to add a few comments in relation to the text I have written on improvisation and, once again, use another scientific understanding in order to illustrate my points.

 

We have seen previously that our interpretation of what listening is can vary greatly from one individual to another. And so, when considering the spectrum of practices from written/rehearsed music all the way to free improvisation via jazz and improvised soloing within set frameworks, we can see that the degree or type of listening that is required is relative to the context.

The further we go along this axis, from written music, all the way to free form, we follow a line that demands more focused and detailed listening skills, towards ‘deep listening’ and further even. We have seen that along this line that the deeper the listening, the less room for ego, and the more empathy is found in the exchange.

 

And so, similarly, we can apply this understanding of relativity when it comes to improvisation. Our understanding of improvisation is not always the same. There is an obvious trajectory here that can be analysed. Starting from written music, where there is no deviation, we move towards improvisation within a given framework, as expressed previously, such as in jazz, etc. And when we consider free improvisation, we move to semi-structured pieces that contain a certain degree of freedom towards a place where there is no defined framework at all, no harmonic or rhythmical predetermination. In the latter case, we could say that further improvisational skills (i.e. a wider range) are required together with more attentive listening.

 

So when we speak of what is improvisation, once again, it is all relative to the position we find ourselves along this axis. For most people, non-musicians or musicians who only perform written music, jazz improvisation may seem mystical or magical. However, for an experienced improviser, used to ‘deep listening’ and free playing, improvising within frameworks seems less magical, and more attainable – provided we have a good knowledge of the syntax of a given genre.

This does not mean in any way that one is better than another. I am only saying that different contexts require different sets of skills or inclination.

And what we mean by improvisation varies in degree of ‘freedom’ or ‘expression’ relative to the musical environment we choose to work in. It also means that the notion of improvisation is malleable.

 

This has many practical implications. I would like to direct the readers’ attention to a scientific research, in order to illustrate this point:

I am very interested in the work of Dr Charles Limb who is a scientist, medical doctor, experienced jazz musician and published researcher. His fascinating work focuses on the brain activity of jazz cats when they improvise. He finds that there is a parallel between what happens in the brain when we use language and when musicians improvise (see for ex. http://www.ted.com/talks/charles_limb_your_brain_on_improv?language=en).

I can see the similarity here, as far as jazz improvisation is concerned, but my guess is that the similarity between musical improvisation and linguistic expression is only relative to what we interpret improvisation to be.

 

Within jazz improvisation, I would agree with Dr Limb: that the brain activity is similar to the use of language. In this instance, musicians draw from existing databases and assemble data in real time, in order to produce coherent expression in a given context. So when we speak in conversation using a language well known to us, and also when jazz musicians improvise, we could say that there are a set number of pools of information that we draw from, such as grammatical rules, syntax, vocabulary, even morphology. To this we can add another pool of data that is a code accepted as emotional content such as inflections, tone, expression etc… The language metaphor stands.

So there is room for creativity here, of course. However, there is so much that we can do with a set number of building blocks and strict rules. There are only a limited number of combinations possible. Hence, jazz musicians started to play ‘out’, that is altering slightly how they use syntax and even make up words, to extend the metaphor. But there are still limitations to what is possible in order to keep within a well defined style.

In language, and in conventional music, if those rules are broken, it leads to confusion, misunderstanding or outrage. We are capable of creativity and improvisation indeed, but what degree of free is this freedom, really?

 

When we consider more open forms of expressions in music, I think that the connection with language actually collapses. As we venture further out along the axis defined above, with free improvisation, indeed, there can be recognisable patterns such as personal sound, stylistic trends etc. where musicians are still operating within a ‘comfort zone’ and drawing from known patterns of behaviour while adapting them to the context.

However, the linguistic metaphor stops working if we go further along the axis into pure improvisation (so called free improv), where all rules and expectations are put aside, when musicians are able to overcome the cognitive pull and allow themselves to completely let go, provided they are confident that their practice is adequate to support their playing, whatever the circumstances. In this case, we rely solely on listening (no pre-determined knowledge of the form) and our adaptive input may take any shape.

The deeper listening skills are at work, the more empathy is at play, the more players can relax into the communal sound making and respond instinctively, and therefore the less thinking, constructing, controlling is required. It also means, as Dr Limb describes, that less self-editing is at work in order to free our creative juices.

So as we free ourselves from expectations, or self-criticism, music tends to flow more freely.

 

Dr Limb has observed that:

“These are contrast maps that are showing subtractions between what changes when you’re improvising versus when you’re doing something memorized. In red is an area that is active in the prefrontal cortex, the frontal lobe of the brain, and in blue is this area that was deactivated. And so we had this focal area called the medial prefrontal cortex that went way up in activity. We had this broad patch of area called the lateral prefrontal cortex that went way down in activity, and I’ll summarize that for you here.

 

Now these are multifunctional areas of the brain. As I like to say, these are not the “jazz areas” of the brain. They do a whole host of things that have to do with self-reflection, introspection, working memory and so forth. Really, consciousness is seated in the frontal lobe. But we have this combination of an area that’s thought to be involved in self-monitoring, turning off, and this area that’s thought to be autobiographical, or self-expressive, turning on. And we think that at least a reasonable hypothesis is that, to be creative, you have to have this weird dissociation in your frontal lobe. One area turns on, and a big area shuts off, so that you’re not inhibited, so that you’re willing to make mistakes, so that you’re not constantly shutting down all of these new generative impulses.”

 

Here again, I personally believe that this is relative to whoever is performing and what is their mind state at that moment. We all are more or less self-conscious and critical at times, and we all have a capacity to cripple our creativity with doubt, anxiety caused by perceived expectations and so on and so forth.

 

 

But I would be very curious to see how much brain activity occurs when, following on shakuhachi masters’ wisdom, we let go of the world desires and expectations, when (and if) musicians are able to approach a near meditative state. And my guess is here that the metaphor referring to linguistic activity collapses.

 

In my own experience, this is only possible when I am not forced to reflect on the music and react. The presence of ego in the mix forces you to step down from a higher state because you have to then think about what would be best to participate.

If someone does not play fair, if a game of power occurs, it forces you to rationalise and negotiate, rethink your position, try to fit in, make projections, etc. against something that is clashing or jarring.

There is something perverse in that ego attracts ego. One has to fall back into a cognitive mode to the detriment of the creative flow (when the cognitive brain kicks in, it implies that less brain power or less energy is available to be creative in the moment).

 

Of course, working harder to make the music succeed can be ‘interesting’ to witness, on an intellectual level. But strictly speaking, it impedes on the creative flow, and as a result, I feel the music is not as good, not as deep, and is less ‘moving’ or captivating. And this is true both for the musicians involved and for the audience.

In order to attain a ‘heightened experience’, uninterrupted flow is necessary. All musicians have to be on the same wavelength to avoid being pulled out of the pure creative zone. Of course, this does not mean that an intellectual approach to music is not creative. It’s all relative and depends on the listener’s expectations. I guess that for the listener too, one has to let go in order to move more deeply into the vibrational world that is presented to you.

But I feel strongly that a live performance should be an experience, not an intellectual exercise.

 

I sincerely believe that this mind state (or the state of no mind) is the highest creative potential that can be achieved, when effortless and perfect communal creation occurs, when communication is balanced and every single sound falls perfectly in place and everyone involved has all the space they need for expression. There is no need for negotiation, justification, control or friction. Alone or in groups, perfect spontaneous creation happens thus.

And this is why I would argue that – contrary to the following quote from Dr Limb:

“Artistic creativity is magical, but it’s not magic. It’s a product of the brain.” (see link to TED talk above) – I think that creativity is not a ‘product’ of the brain. Creativity can be structured by memory and practice (using pools of available data as detailed above), but ultimately, it is best channelled by an empty mind.

Of course one could argue that in order to move fingers (and play music), there is some degree of brain activity occurring. However, I believe that experienced players can have integrated such movements required as ‘finger memory’ so that music may flow just as easily as one breathes.

 

Therefore, brain activity comes in when there is a need to rationalise, construct or control, when we need to allocate energy into the process of negotiating our place within constraints. I can see here the parallel with the need for justification and validation that forces us to inscribe our actions in the safe zone of known patterns. Whereas in pure flow mode, everything has its place naturally. We effortlessly participate the right sound at the right time, or remain silent and leave space for the others. There is no desire or need, only empathy and reverence for the communal sound – whatever is in the best interest of all involved.

 

Once again, this state of selflessness is life in its pure, unadultered state. It is pure creative potential in as much as there is no form in emptiness, no limitation, no blockage to the flow. This is compassion, the empathy of deep listening. And in my experience, regardless of what you play, the positive impact this has on all participants is the greatest.

 

 

additional bibliography

 

Limb, Charles. Many publications and public lectures on the brain activity of musicians :

http://www.ted.com/talks/charles_limb_your_brain_on_improv

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/the_musical_brain_novel_study_of_jazz_players_shows_common_brain_circuitry_processes_both_music_and_language

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0088665








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