sounding out scotland – smoo cave 2017

17 11 2017

 

 

This year’s visit of Scotland continues north. Along a tiny beat up single track road across land we join the round tour of Eribol and its majestic scenery. Soon enough arriving in Durness, the sky heavy and textured, i settle into the place sitting on top of the hill by the bunkhouse. My meditation is sprinkled with a few drops while waiting for the right time to set off. By the time I get to Smoo, it is raining heavily and the amount of water that has fallen this season is reflected in the flow of the cascade in the next chamber. I am surprised by the deafening roar of the waterfall coming through into the main part of the cave and concerned it will take most of the sound away. Still, Smoo cave never disappoints and its cathedral like reverberation shines through the sound of crashing water.

There is a very different vibe here than last time i visited. It is certainly more intense and while i am playing one of the long pieces, i can hear the water fall becoming more present and my playing reflects the chaotic flow. There is still that sweet spot when i stand with my feet right in the little brook in the middle of the cave, that inspires gentle sounds, but overall, this session is flowing stronger as i have to compete with the loudness of the water.

 

On the second day, i return at dusk for another recording and there are still a few visitors wandering in and out even though the light is rapidly dropping. I take a few videos that turned out to be mostly a play of shadows (these will come up in a different post). The dampness hanging in the air makes it more difficult for the saxophone, but i still enjoy playing this amazing space. Among the visits, a couple with an infant who seems to be very alert and interested by the music. As evening falls, the cave gets quieter and i play on for a while reminiscing of a day walking miles to a sandy bay and returning in heavy rain. That night was clear though, and camping on the very coast with the tent facing the great big north was quite something.

 

 

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sitting on a hill
alto saxophone, 24 august 2017
smoo cave, scotland

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alternance 1
alto saxophone, 24 august 2017
smoo cave, scotland

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unyielding
alto saxophone, 24 august 2017
smoo cave, scotland

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turning point
alto saxophone, 24 august 2017
smoo cave, scotland

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as many atoms cascading
alto saxophone, 24 august 2017
smoo cave, scotland

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plato’s play of shadows
alto saxophone, 24 august 2017
smoo cave, scotland

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eddies and rocks
alto saxophone, 25 august 2017
smoo cave, scotland

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short turnover
alto saxophone, 25 august 2017
smoo cave, scotland

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as many stars spinning
alto saxophone, 25 august 2017
smoo cave, scotland

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rain dramatic
alto saxophone, 25 august 2017
smoo cave, scotland

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sounding out scotland – north west coast 2017

19 10 2017

 

 

A visit to Scotland was long due. And this is my favourite area. The trip took us from north west coast sea lines through wild moors and lochs to the very northern point. This post however will focus on a specific section of the western coastline, following the path of the steam train – the jacobites.

The first stop was in Arisaig. A large church towering above the town with a view – tucked between green suburbs and a road out to the sea front.
The very high ceiling and wide open space inside the church made a strong impression and it was like stepping out into space. The slow sound inside was indeed very stilling. A single bell marks a warm welcome and the improvisation flows.
When giving tracks titles, one in particular reminded me of an experience i had nearby meditating on the rocks overlooking the sea. so i chose an image i took that day of a view over to Skye with the sun setting over the calm water.

In the harbour town of Mallaig, i found a shelter from the day for a short exploration of this small church on the edge of town. It was like stepping into the 70’s. Both amusing and welcoming, i felt at home in the cosy carpeted warmth. And nudged into motion by the nearby steam train parked at the station and some building works, i let the saxophone sound out this clear close space.

The next stop was the church at Morar. The place looked cosy, but the vibe of the place was not quite right and the space was not responding. I played for a while but could not get into it, and the sax felt raw. So i did not stay for meditation and instead moved on to a more welcoming location.

For contrast, i returned to Arisaig and bathed in that grand space. After a sweet meditation, i revisited the acoustics. A different day, a different light and still the wonderful immersive stillness was very inspiring.

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first bell
alto saxophone, 22 august 2017
arisaig church

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forest of peaks
alto saxophone, 22 august 2017
arisaig church

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silent silver sea
alto saxophone, 22 august 2017
arisaig church

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open skies
alto saxophone, 22 august 2017
arisaig church

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a gentle descent
alto saxophone, 22 august 2017
arisaig church

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interlude
2.1 hochiku shakuhachi, 22 august 2017
arisaig church

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steamline
alto saxophone, 23 august 2017
mallaig church

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white orbs and billows
alto saxophone, 23 august 2017
mallaig church

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contrary measures
alto saxophone, 23 august 2017
morar church

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counter currents
alto saxophone, 23 august 2017
morar church

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slow rise
alto saxophone, 23 august 2017
arisaig church

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a raft in the other shore
alto saxophone, 23 august 2017
arisaig church

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mixed feelings
alto saxophone, 23 august 2017
arisaig church

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dovecote tunnel [ged barry and hervé perez]

2 10 2017

following on our exploration of a wet and drippy thor’s cave, we continued down the valley onto another of my favourite spots. i must say playing music in a tunnel is a bit weird, but this place has got the most amazing resonance. with a very strong character and pronounced resonant frequency, this tunnel will bend notes and blend overtones in the most surprising way.

expect beatings, saturating space and long tones…

 

this recording is the document of their very first encounter as a duo with the special acoustics of the tunnel.
01 august 2017

ged barry – tenor saxophone
hervé perez – alto saxophone

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full audio





thor’s cave [ged barry and hervé perez]

16 09 2017

flashes of lightning

amongst the crashes and flashes of a raging storm, and in torrential rain, the duo was born as ged barry and hervé perez arrived at thor’s cave with saxes.
this recording is the document of their very first encounter as a duo with the special acoustics of the cave.
01 august 2017

ged barry – tenor saxophone
hervé perez – alto saxophone

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full audio





sounding out north yorkshire moors

30 06 2017

 

The first stop for this trip was Lastingham. A beautiful village with a splendid church, opening onto the North Yorkshire moors.

The exploration of this church started with the usual meditation: A timely break from the summer heat, enjoying the fresh and quiet space. The meditation was both gentle and strong. Constructive.

From the first notes, the space reveals its understated richness. the dome and arches gently roll the sound into a perfect resonating sustain. never overwhelming, always enriching each phrase, inspiring pastoral calm and devotional entrain with a certain degree of adventurous reverence. ’tis just poetry for the jazzer’s ears.

Lost in sound and in rapture of the moment, i spend over an hour improvising along the accidental local birds, the punctuation of quarterly bells and the whispers of stones who have lived long.

 

After some time along the coast, drawing inspiration from the tides and the sea breeze, the journey continues onto another location i had visited a long time ago. Here also, it is this first time i connect to this place with the alto saxophone, and the latest addition to my panoply of instruments, some home made shakuhachi.

Lady Chapel is in a wonderful remote location overlooking the valley. Tucked in the trees and greenery, it is an intensely quiet place. Always open and welcoming, the remoteness of the place, it’s short reverb time, seem to inspire more intense playing. Something like the spirit of gospel, in the tradition of John Coltrane’s stream, a breathless flow of spirited harmony.

What i mean is that with no less reverence to the place, here i feel i can experiment more and move away from a traditional harmonic approach. A perfect opportunity to try out structural playing. Merging symmetrical harmonic shapes which flow into a self-generating narrative, always moving, always morphing.

For the last few minutes, i enjoy another moment of suspended quiet. An opportunity to try out some shakuhachi i made, gradually tweaking and tuning the bamboo until i find the right balance. I seem to be close now, although the instruments respond differently outdoors than at home.

Here, the 2.85 feels a little rough, and some of the notes catch a little. However, both the latter and the smaller 2.1 are sounding pretty good. And some phrases, listening back to the recordings, sound like the real thing. On one track, i even venture some multiphonics and high overtones – which are quite difficult to hold on the shakuhachi. Little by little, and every time i record something, i feel i made a little progress. It is difficult to put the saxophone down at times, but with more practice and more dedication on carrying the shaks, i probably could come up with some interesting exploration of natural acoustics in the near future.

In the meantime, you will find below tracks recorded in the two places described above. I hope you enjoy listening to those documents, as much as i enjoyed listening to the stories of the places i visit.

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topography of moor lands
alto saxophone, 17 june 2017
lastingham church

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dome and arches
alto saxophone, 17 june 2017
lastingham church

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summer sun on the moors
alto saxophone, 17 june 2017
lastingham church

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refuge in the coolness of the crypt
alto saxophone, 17 june 2017
lastingham church

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stellar scalene
alto saxophone, 19 june 2017
lastingham church

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acute pastoralis
alto saxophone, 19 june 2017
lastingham church

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coastal path
2.85 shakuhachi, 19 june 2017
lastingham church

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coming tide
2.85 shakuhachi, 19 june 2017
lastingham church

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returning
2.1 shakuhachi, 19 june 2017
lastingham church

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Sounding Out returns to the wintry North

26 02 2017

Traveling to a short retreat in a secluded and wild area in the North of England, i stopped at a wonderful site i had visited before. Christ the Consoler church in Newby is quite a unique space of impressive presence. The architecture is both grand and intimate as it is a commissioned church on private grounds.

The acoustics are similarly subtle and elevating at the same time. The feel of the place and its sonic quality provide a very interesting balance to my playing. The space requires the usual reverence inspired by the religious sites i have explored, and yet, its private, quiet and somehow isolated quality provides a sense of freedom and adventurous exploration.

So on that day, my playing was similarly balanced between the soulful melodic approach that sacred architecture often inspire, but also featured contemporary angular aspects of my recent research which has started to come through in a more marked way. In a recent article, i have presented a series of simple composition ideas that act like a springboard for my explorations in symmetry. I am now starting to witness how this latter approach is blending with a melodic sensitivity.

This is good progress, and hope to see the technique develop into a smoother method for improvising narratives, free from predictable harmonic movements. At least, this is the aim, and i do play in this freeflow way most of the time. But right now, my fingers are particularly focused on trying things out. I just can’t wait for the time the exercises have sunk in (and the new approach to harmony is finally memorised – which takes a looooong time), and i finally can step away from the practice into a proper freedom of narrative development.

 

This is really exciting for me as i am developing a sound i like, with a coherent method, achieving freedom of creativity, all without falling into the pit of predictability, the usual jazz clichés and patterns, or going through the motions of playing changes, as is often heard. So the aim remains the quite lofty method of freely developing coherent melodic and harmonic narratives in improvisation.

And my experience of Newby Church was inspiring enough to trigger this modality of playing. The space was allowing for both contemplative moments and free flowing sections. The reverb was rich yet subtle, grand yet intimate, and in the flux of sound that traveled the spiritual space, i could place both fast and slow, single pointed melody and harmonic play, abstract and structured approaches. A well balanced session, and a very liberating experience.

So it was only fitting to once again return to the use of water footage i have filmed recently and use the metaphorical association of waves which when combined create complex forms. Obviously, this applies to both sound and water; and the video acts as a metaphor as it puts both together in a random way, forcing the mind to make associations. And of course, synchronous movements inevitably happen.

At times, the video montage looks like sound and inspiration are crashing and flowing across the space, through me and my instrument. This exactly how such experiences feel to me. So the juxtaposition of the video clips live in the performance space with water abstraction works perfectly.

 

By now, and having read the previous presentation, the theme that runs through the titles of this triptych will become quite clear a reference to Foucault’s most inspiring work “Les Mots et les Choses” (transl as the Order of Things), with the added layer of meaning taken from the buddhist understanding that forms are empty and therefore highlighting the irony of obsessive taxonomy of empty forms, projected meaning of the modern technological world. Indeed, attachment to forms lead to suffering or rather unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) in the understanding that there is chaos inherent in all compounded things. This association hints for me at the cultural drift towards decorporated abstract thought, symbolism and the virtual, and the dissociation from the experience of reality which starts with Language and a propensity for projection.

Now that i have thrown together Foucault, Saussure, Walter Benjamin, Lacan and Freud all into the same bagful of buddhist teachings, just in the space of one paragraph, let us get literal and on a lighter note. Presenting the light filled Church of Christ the Consoler and musical notes and sounds that it inspired…

 

 

 

 

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as usual you can hear the full audio:

the order of things
alto saxophone, 04 feb 2017
newby church, christ the consoler

 

 

 

 

 

contemplating circles
alto saxophone, 04 feb 2017
newby church, christ the consoler

 

 

 

 

 





sounding out in the south of france 2016 ctd

18 06 2016

Auvillar1bAuvillar2bCieutat1bCieutat2bGedresbLuz1bLuz2bStMartory1bStMartory2b

 

During the second half of my stay in France, visits to locations were a little more leisurely and i took the opportunity to revisit other know locations.

The town of Auvillar towers over the Garonne river, located on the travel route to Compostelle, it features an old covered market square built with measures for grain and cereals – some of which are now rare.
It is a busy place with tourism and local trade, and similarly, the church is buzzing with bursts of activity. In between visitors and prayers, i managed to squeeze a little empty space with melodic overtones…

While travelling across the pyrenees, a few places punctuated the journey. in Barèges, spa town situated high up in the mountains, a powerful torrent crosses the town. After an energising meditation by the water, i stopped in the small local chapel to keep my practice fingers running along. And of course, inspired by the gentle yet powerful vibe, i recorded a couple of pieces.

In luz, it was a pleasure to revisit the 12th century building of the fortified Templar church. The solid outside wall are drenched in sun and exposed to wild elements while the inside, in contrast, is dark and completely still. This displacement mirrored a space i could feel between the force and gentleness of the natural elements, so present and powerful in the area.

My head still in the rushing waters of torrents and high mountain glaciers after a day walk. i stopped for meditation in a small town, on the road returning from gavarnie. for once, i did not have my saxophone with me and decided to put to use a brand new shakuhachi i had just finished making. Its frail and gentle sound filled the grand space of the church and suddenly echoed the force i’d felt while watching the creation of a new waterfall from snow melting.

The last day in the mountain area, i had to make a couple of stops, just to review an amazing church i remembered from my previous trip. In the small passage town of Cieutat, the church was still just as overwhelming, but the more active feel of that particular morning removed some of the mystical quality. These last two visits were punctuated with flower duty, water changes and general church bustle. As i settled into the feel of the place, i caught myself playing similar chord structures and colours to what i had played during my last visit there. Was this harmonic movement really in the stone? Part of this place… For a second, i had a weird flashback, and yet made no effort to repeat the material from memory. And of course the improvisation took me somewhere else, but i could sense that that same colour / feel / tone was in the music, only slightly different – like a person you know well and meet again further down the line of their personal history.

Rushing down the mountains and on the road back to civilisation, on the way to my next gig, another quick stop took me to St Martory church… The flower duty and water changing provided background and clear marks where the atmosphere was saturated with the underlying sound of the nearby river. At first, the drone of passing water merged with traffic entrained me to play long overtones and focus on the interplay between harmonics contained within the breath sound. Soon, a pulse developed, water rippled, melody splashed. gesture. movement and form.

 

 

 

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le repos des plaines
alto saxophone, 02 june 2016
église de st sardos

 

 

 

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jours de lente
alto saxophone, 02 june 2016
église de st sardos

 

 

 

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roads and waterways
alto saxophone, 27 may 2016
église de st martory

 

 

 

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new flowers
alto saxophone, 27 may 2016
église de st martory

 

 

 

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the journey of water
alto saxophone, 27 may 2016
église de cieutat

 

 

 

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crest lines
alto saxophone, 27 may 2016
église de cieutat

 

 

 

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ripples from falling pebbles
2.1 shakuhachi, 26 may 2016
église de gèdres

 

 

 

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contrepoint de rivière et vent
alto saxophone, 25 may 2016
église de luz

 

 

 

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courte descente libre
alto saxophone, 25 may 2016
église de luz

 

 

 

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road squiggles
alto saxophone, 24 may 2016
église de barèges

 

 

 

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torrent under a low sky
alto saxophone, 24 may 2016
église de barèges

 

 

 

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sarrasin champart
alto saxophone, 17 may 2016
église de auvillar

 

 

 

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millet avoine
alto saxophone, 17 may 2016
église de auvillar

 

 

 

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