impact – new release by pan y rosas discos

10 06 2017

impact cover art

 

impact

is a concept album based around a simple approach: work around peripheral sounds and extended techniques, extract the most unusual and unheard from my instrument using close miking techniques.

 

after many years of dedicating all my attention to the saxophone, i decided to revisit some of the techniques i used when playing prepared electric guitar, this time using the strict limitation of dry acoustic guitar. the architecture of the instrument is altered using props strategically placed along the strings. the instrument sounds radically different, and placing it flat on the ground makes the physical relationship completely new.

turned percussive, harmonic contents augmented, resonance shifted, the guitar sound is barely recognisable. the conventional effects and textures are abstracted and this allows for a new range of soundscapes and dynamics. the mike positioning deliberately picks up every sound, every detail in a raw and intimate way that makes this recording unforgiving and intensely present.

 

in a similar way, the soprano saxophone is explored from the inside and exploded with precise positioning of mikes in order to concentrate on fragments of sounds usually unheard. for the whole of this recording, not a single note is played, nor the instrument approached in a traditional way. instead, i focus on the tiny percussive sound of keys and bursts of air around the body of the saxophone. the harmonic contents is purely structural, and modulates in microvariations according to the air flow.

another type of sound here is drawing harmonics hidden in the white noise of full blow air through the saxophone tube. the sax is mostly played without mouthpiece.

in both instances, the close miking technique takes you inside the instrument, and the spatial arrangement expands the physicality of the instruments beyond our experience of their sound, into the acousmatic listening. i strongly recommend using headphones for the full spectral and spatial experience.

 

the composition is full of details and sonic events carefully placed, so that the listening experience is fully immersive, very physical and quite intense at times.

as expressed above, this piece is raw and unforgiving. i made a deliberate aesthetic choice to present known instruments in a very challenging way, highlighting sounds which are mostly never heard. to this, i added some field recordings that augment the already rich palette of textures and gestures. the very tactile and sensual quality of field recordings add another dimension of sonic experience. and yet, here again, our sense of comfort is thwarted by altering recognisable natural sounds through the use of digital processing, positioning and perspective.

 

while in the process of making this album, i came across a documentary film about the horrors of war in the current form of colonialism. this raw and deeply upsetting revelation somehow connected to the close affect and impact i was looking for in the sounds i was creating. so i decided to add some of the devastating accounts and interviews from the film in the form of samples.

 

this work was made in 2011. for years i focused on being creative and producing a large amount of compositions and recordings. i am now in the process of making public some of these. so i am very pleased that the net label pan y rosas has kindly agreed to publish this one.

you can hear and download the full album from pan y rosas:

http://www.panyrosasdiscos.net/pyr217-herve-perez-impact/

 

 

 

 

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She Flows Like Water… new release

10 05 2017

i’m very happy to announce the release of an album of early electronic compositions by picpack label. these are tracks that range from abstract glitch to slow moody grooves all the way to electroacoustic composition. most of the tracks feature field recordings and found sounds which were digitally manipulated and sculpted to produce a variety of textures. this selection gives quite a good feel of the type of work produced over a period of time when i was experimenting with processing techniques. often, a piece of music would be composed of one single sample recording processed in various ways to extract different aspects of the sound; harmonic, textural, rhythmical etc.

i hope you enjoy listening, as much as i enjoyed working on these. the album page can be found here. and you can hear the music on archive.org as well as from the player embedded below.

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Jazz beats and sax

21 01 2017

lately, i have revisited the idea of working with backing tracks using computer. I find it is a quick way to lay down a few musical ideas.

generally, i am really not keen on using software instruments, and i really dislike spending time on the screen tweaking midi information. i much rather get my hands straight into matter and sculpt into the immediacy of sound. but still,  it is fun to improvise to some groove and it provides a change to abstraction. perhaps that’s what i do late at night when entertaining my neighbours with the horn is not an option.

using ableton live, it is easy to get a few simple ideas down and quickly move on to recording sax lines. and as it happens, i have a few project files waiting for some attention. some are just quick sketches, some tracks are more arranged. and just now, i have been wanting to put to good use the time i have spent working on new ideas with the saxophone.

 

i have been focusing on ways to develop musical narratives in improvisation. and i have been trying out various ways to find melodic or harmonic paths to navigate outside of established structures while maintaining a sense of evolving melody.

this work has come out of a desire to expand narratives in longer forms. i felt tied down by shorter cycles that keep resolving to the root, and wanted to open up the possibilities of extended melodic development such as found in classical music. however, i did not want to fall into completely random root movements. i guest i wanted a method that would be suited to support free flowing improvised narratives without being tied to a structural approach or to the predictability of a specific, limited linguistic approach. (i really do not take on the idea of limiting musical expression to the form of a language and follow on this metaphor to expression in terms of a personal vocabulary, and the implied pitfalls of predictability. ok, let’s not get too political or philosophical here.)

so to sum up my idea in a few (but rather big) words… i felt i needed to free myself from limiting structures and find an open method for the free flow development of narrative in improvisation. so i had to look outside of cyclical forms that imply repeated return to a root and this sense of continually converging back to a fixed point.

for this, i started working with musical ‘sounds’ that dissociated ‘root’ with ‘tonal centre’. this is a very interesting and important distinction, and looking into Steve Coleman’s idea of negative chords helped a lot. and then, it was just a question of finding ways to detach from the informed habit of sequencing the tonal centre in predictable ways. the only way was to follow the logic of narrative development and of course not falling into the pull of following protocol. a very good bass player once said to me the very simple rule that applies to all music, ‘harmony always follows melody’. it had to be this way, and not the opposite.

so in the development of melodic narrative, i removed the anchor, this force of attraction found in tonal centers, and instead looked for ways to follow the logic intrinsic to improvised narratives, so that the melody would keep unfolding without being tethered. i had to rethink how i looked at musical forms (and even how one looks at form… is emptiness, emptiness is form… remember?).

so i started developing modalities (rather than scales), harmonic shapes (rather than chords) and considering axis (rather than tonal centre) and therefore orbits, pathways, nodal points between orbits. we’re not lost in space here, this is not music of the spheres, nor a nihilist chromatic hell, however, i had to detach from traditional approach to tonality and think in terms of interval relationships – in order to be able to move freely between paths, while retaining a narrative logic, that is without sounding completely aleatory, chromatic or just random.

of course, it takes a long time to assimilate all this method in my playing, to be able to improvise with it, particularly as i do not have a mathematical nor analytical approach when playing. free flow is essential to creativity i believe, and one way to detach from predictable structures is to ‘walk away from the expectations of the world’, as is expressed in another article you can find in this blog.

this approach also has taken a long time to develop, and i found that some aspects of it started to show in the solo work i have been documenting as ‘sounding out‘.

 

more recently, i have taken this to the studio, and we are now back to where this article started.

so here are a few pieces that i have recorded using sets of chords and beats, which of course are all arranged in advance using live, and then improvised saxophone lines over the top.

some of these were recorded a while ago and explore simple ideas and remain very melodic.

 

 

 

and i do like messing with beats and groove, even improvising bass lines on the keyboard of my laptop (yes, right…)

 

 

 

other tracks were developed differently; for example, the following piece actually started with a saxophone improvisation, to which i later added keys and bass, allowing me to leave much space, and follow the feel of the narrative improvisation.

 

 

 

and more recently still, the saxophone is now exploring new structures over simple tonal background. i quite like the wobbly feel of that nasty reaktor synth – this is a nice change to the traditional keys set up i have been using. this is not modal music, and perhaps more open ended, as it is closer to the drone on indian raga.

 

 

 

and coming back to the more traditional quartet sound, which a live group could be playing, with drums, bass and keys, but this time using harmonic shapes more suited for the structural abstraction of saxophone improvisation… an extract from a longer piece, this track is more of a demo in a single modality, with the multiplicity of harmonic options implied:

 

 

 

to finish with, a couple more pieces hot from the press…

 


 

 

as usual, i hope you enjoy listening to this work, and would love to hear your thoughts and reactions…

 

peace,

xrv

 





Satellites – composition for improvising ensemble

10 08 2012

Home hopping (the harmed homies of the spheres)

 

“thanks to our complacency and utter ignorance in the face of environmental issues, nuclear cock ups and belligerent pathological greed, the earth has been blown to bits and fucked to the very corners of the universe.

having grabbed a fragment of a sinking ship, you have been drifting across incommensurable expands of the dark matters that make up most the the cold, dark and empty space.”

 

1. find your patch of land and build a home [long distance call] 4”

choose one of the planets and try hard to make it habitable. find and explore the materials available. explore each individual note, rhythms that you have chosen. try combinations, make patterns, phrases, melody – in keeping with the pace of a sonar/long distance call. make yourself at home by keeping a strong view of the root/formant frequency of the pool of notes you have selected.

 

2. mix and match [du bout de la langue] 3”

you are mistakenly led to believe the grass is always greener… and your neighbouring planet has got better xmas decorations and coloured garden lights.  to your amazement, they have managed to make their own planet more tacky than your garden. and you want to get into the wonder-fun.

join someone else’s pool and play closely with their tonality and rhythm: respond, counterpart, unite.

 

3. max and mitch [du bout de la pensée] 4”

so many houses have caught up the coloured lights virus that you find yourself hopping from planet to planet. learning each time the local lingua. so much so that eventually, all those codes get mixed up and you don’t even understand yourself speaking. fragments. nebulous nutrinos.

 

4. grab your shoes and run [très luisant] 2”

you are so lost that you’d better get back to your root. reach deep down below and find the one tone and strong foundation. latch onto it and hold for your life. slowly start developing interesting rhythms as you concentrate only on this one root note and shift beats or pulses very slowly, in micro-increments.

drums drive the band to a crescendo and mark the end with one final long gong crash that sustains and fades slowly, returning the universe to its natural silence.

 

© hervé perez, 2010

 

This piece was composed for the Gated Community, a large improvising ensemble and project initiated by Mick Beck.

Data was collected from NASA and each set of numbers relating to the planets cyclical movements and distances from the Sun was translated into pitch – transposing existing data into frequency / wavelength that is audible. Of course, calculations based on great distances and transposition over so many octaves are only theoretical and cannot relate precisely to actual wavelengths.





the lake

20 03 2011

The Lake

A piece of music in which the activities of the mind have no part. It is a hypothetical improvisation imbedded in the reality of the body; articulated and informed by it, that is beyond mental projections and codes. Its rhythms are dictated by the rhythm of the heart. In this instance, follow the pulse of respiration since it is more difficult to hear the heart while making sounds.

Do not think to play a rhythm or pattern of notes, but instead observe the body in its dance and movements. An economy of gestures.

Do not think to play this or that note, or to engage in playing the instrument in conventional ways (i.e. plucking strings while pressing specific frets or blowing into the mouth piece while pressing keys etc…) but view the production of sound (not notes) as a gestural interaction with a ‘sonic’ object – so it looses its identity as a musical instrument.

Do not think to perform a display of technical prowess but consider each gesture which makes the sounds and how such sounds harmonise with the surrounding silence.

The room we are in is like a lake. As we stand or sit here, we are caressing its surface. Allow gentle movements to emanate sounds from your body/instrument. Play as quietly as you can so not to disrupt the surface of the water. Allow sounds to sustain. Draw simples lines as you draw breath but do not forget that inspire is always followed by expire. Allow your sound to expire too [long or sustained sounds does not mean the repetition of the same note!] Respect your instrument for what it is. The length of a sound is what it is. Playing it often or louder will not make it better. Rather, focus on the precision and quality of spirit which produces that one sound.

Of course, listening is essential. There are two modes of listening involved:

  1. listen to the whole of the sounds which permeate the room like one who contemplates the surface of the lake in all its aspects. A global view made of all its details.
  2. a focused awareness of the sounds which one’s gestures happen to make – in relation to the whole. Focus on the minute details, timbre and texture of your sounds, i.e. the delicate harmonics, overtones one can make out when playing at very low volume.

Do not think to leave a silence here and there but instead, understand that ‘silence’ is only an opportunity to discover subtler sounds below the surface.

Do not think to play or not to play, let the room decide, let your body do the move when it happens naturally, do not think to generate a movement.

Do not think.

This piece will be exactly 20 minutes long. It is a meditation. Do not think. Calm both mind and body before entering the piece. Calm your need to make sounds. Sounds will find a way to express themselves through you at the appropriate moment. Thoughts may arise. Be aware of them, they are part of the soundscape. But instantly let them go like you will allow your sounds to merge into silence. The purpose of this piece is to be aware of the thresholds between sound and silence. Observe the transition points, when sound stops and silence begins.

Inevitably, there will be ripples on the surface of the lake. And the ripples will echo, create other ripples. Meeting separating, crossing, reinforcing each other and spreading to the edges of the room, to the shores of the lake. But do not mistake ripples for waves. We are not lost at sea. There are no rollers and no movement is hidden beneath the surface. Do not allow ripples to disturb the sediments which lay below.

As we progress into the piece, and deeper into our meditation, we will become aware of subtler details and interactions and this will be reflected in both our state of (no)-mind and in our playing. Gradually, we will be more and more aware of the richness and movements of those fewer and fewer ripples. More aware of the wealth of information we find in the space between sound and silence. Contemplate the subtle overtones and consider how they bind together the ambient sound, in the understanding that the self is not mind, that the lake is not made of ripples but of an all binding and consistent element that is water. That ripples is not its natural state and instead that water is only there to reflect what is above, unfragmented, to reflect the brightness of the moon which shines, it self a reflection of…

hervé perez, January 7th, 2010





Lost in the fog

20 03 2011

Lost in the fog

Three modes of participation for this piece:

  1. Hold
  2. Sustain the silence
  3. Abstraction

Start the piece by sounding your instrument (play no note) and slowly cycle through a sequence of sounds specific to your instrument, as a resonant object, so that your participation always reflects the modes listed above.

Mode 1, Holding the silence, means that your participation should remain as transparent as possible and the purpose of playing is to sustain the tension latent in hanging silences, to punctuate that silence. Participation is not to break the ‘silence’ but to highlight it.

Mode 2, To participate is to nurture, to support. Participation is precision of action. Without competing for exposure, sustain what you just heard, at the threshold between sound and silence, by continuing a particular gesture. Imitate, echo, answer, sustain.

Play as you breathe, move through the fog but do not make yourself visible.

In choosing Mode 3, abstraction, you feel that there is no real silence in the piece, or a new direction is required: decide to influence the playing towards a sparse, abstract soundscape by making single calls that get lost and disappear into the texture of the fog. Every player should listen out for lost calls and join in the textural shift.

Never allow the piece to fall silent for a long period (i.e. the silence of the piece has to be controlled and offer the right amount of tension / expectancy).

One should strive not to become isolated nor exposed. Do not allow the tension or suspense of the piece to fall apart by sustaining the light and fragile density of fog.

Players should be aware at all times of all individual events and of the overall soundscape. Before playing, one should consider the general sound. Choose one mode of interaction and stick with it for a while or until another mode is required.

Individual lines only exist as part of a unity of presence in the surface tension, the textured threshold of sound which is silence.

 

This piece was written for the Gated Community, a large improvising ensemble and project initiated by Mick Beck.

You can hear live recordings here. The piece was performed at the Lantern Theatre on 31 March 2006 (start time: 11’04”) and on 19 Jan 2012 (57’44”).