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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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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sounding out in the south of france 2016

14 06 2016

PBuff1bPBuff2bStSardos11bStSardos12bStSardos13bStSardos14bVerdun11bVerdun12bVerdun13b

This year, my trip to France has been much focused around a series of concerts with my friend Henry Herteman. And i will share many documents of these in a future post.

Sounding out is of course always active as i have my saxophone everywhere i go, and if not, some new shakuhachi is near at hand. So any opportunity, or rather, any possible place i encounter is always a pleasure.

But this time, only a few choice cuts are on the menu. i have instead concentrated my efforts on old favourite locations and a few surprise finds. Each recording is also shorter and more focused.

In this post i present the first half of my explorations while at the beginning of my journey. and it begins very early on, after driving through the night, and a coffee break after dawn, i found myself walking around the picturesque town of Pierre Buffière and discovered the church was open. So not quite into the first leg of my trip, and still in transit, i decided to make a morning call and enter the dark resonant space that offered a cool haven and a change of pace.

A sense of movement is still in me, slowly tuning in to the stillness of the place. A clash between the bright day starting outside and the dark interior. Feeling tired and displaced. My mind wanders and continues its journey into imaginary landscapes. Traveling light and swift.

Soon after settling down into my new home, i visited the local church that remains a favourite with its vast sound. St Sardos is a quiet village with outsized church design. Its magnificent reverb is inspiring and lifting while calming and instilling silence. A strange combination that seems to bring out of me the most gentle melodies and adventurous harmonic work made possible by the very long tail.
As soon as i started making a sound, i slipped into a timeless zone. all is suspended.

And finally, the third location i present today is the deep blue interior of Verdun sur Garonne. This place is so very poignant, it always had a deep effect on me.
The strange feeling of a known place. But a different one that has traces of memory so fine it escapes the touch.
There is no other way to describe this session, but with a quote: it is the time my saxophone gently weeps.

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paysage connu
alto saxophone, 06 may 2016
église st michel, verdun sur garonne

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mémoire augmentée
alto saxophone, 06 may 2016
église st michel, verdun sur garonne

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des phi au point de faille
alto saxophone, 06 may 2016
église st michel, verdun sur garonne

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cascade de blues
alto saxophone, 06 may 2016
église st michel, verdun sur garonne

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l’oubli
alto saxophone, 06 may 2016
église st michel, verdun sur garonne

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first shade
alto saxophone, 05 may 2016
église de st sardos

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painting in relief
alto saxophone, 05 may 2016
église de st sardos

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the convent
alto saxophone, 05 may 2016
église de st sardos

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if i knew
alto saxophone, 05 may 2016
église de st sardos

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raining red
alto saxophone, 05 may 2016
église de st sardos

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silent flower
alto saxophone, 05 may 2016
église de st sardos

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by night and by day
alto saxophone, 04 may 2016
église de ste croix, pierre buffière

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by vales and hills
alto saxophone, 04 may 2016
église de ste croix, pierre buffière

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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
église de cieutat

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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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it is said
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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sounding out the lake district 2014

15 11 2014

rydalcathcave2bcathcave1b

 

In a recent visit to the Lake District, i had amazing experiences in two very special locations. Previously, i explored a number of churches in the region, some of them with very interesting quality, and some very inspiring.

However, i have a preference for natural environments. This project started out in the forest, many years ago, and gradually evolved to include other types of landscapes. Caves have always captured my imagination. There is a quality very different to man made environments. It is not just the acoustics, but mostly the feel of the place. And as a consequence, the music it inspires comes out differently.

i have found in the past that certain churches and chapels surprise me in what music they dictate. Some demand reverence. Some are free flowing. From restrained classical to folk and traditional, all the way to full blown trance-like gospel jazz.

One thing that always strikes me is that in a rural setting, and most churches are fairly remote, urban music seems completely out of place. People commented before on the meters i tend to use. As for me, phrasing that is affected, stylised (like jazz swing) and complex signatures or tempo change simply does not feel right. This is all a modern, urban construct. And obviously, buildings that are hundreds of years old simply do not have that kind of energy.

In the case of natural topography and caves, it is again totally different. All sense of style just goes out of the window.
I end up dealing with pure, raw sound.

Caves always have a strong character and the acoustics are a lot more complex due to the quality of reflecting surfaces, and the much more variable volume and shape of the space. Generally, i would expect a cave to inspire something very raw and wild. But i have been very surprised in the past. For example, i had very unique experiences in Scotland, where the gentle stream that runs across Smoo drew the most fragile and mellow tones. See also my first visit to Smoo Cave.

Rydal and Cathedral Caves are part natural, part quarry. They are both surrounded with majestic scenery and have the raw quality i mentioned earlier. And somehow, once i settled into the sound and started playing, both places inspired the most gentle music. At points on the brink of tears.

It felt like, once i had reached the right level – the right mind state and mindfulness, the right volume of playing that is really quiet and barely sounding notes – something clicked. I knew this was right and somehow things ‘slipped’ into place. It is like an inner feeling of sitting down comfortably.
There are no words to describe it. It really is both like settling down and clicking into place. And suddenly things open up. One becomes full of emptiness and the music happens. The flow intensifies as if it has reached the right channel.
The only way i can describe this feeling is with an oxymoron: the intensity of emptiness. There is infinite strength in stillness. It is the power of gentleness.

In Rydal and Cathedral Cave, the strong sound character and unusually long reverberation allowed me to work with harmony: with low tones sustaining through a phrase or chord. And to my surprise, in spite of inclement weather and raw elements, my playing was gently whispered, on the verge of breaking up, intimate and beautiful.

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another day
alto saxophone, 25 oct 2014
cathedral cave, lake district

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in your steps
alto saxophone, 25 oct 2014
cathedral cave, lake district

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couleurs d’automne
alto saxophone, 25 oct 2014
cathedral cave, lake district

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lozanges
alto saxophone, 25 oct 2014
cathedral cave, lake district

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carefree swaying
alto saxophone, 25 oct 2014
cathedral cave, lake district

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melodic drop
alto saxophone, 24 oct 2014
rydal cave, lake district

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wind ripples
alto saxophone, 24 oct 2014
rydal cave, lake district

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