Thursday, August 16, 2007

Compositional Strategies of Dub

(Photos of Flip and Chris by Kim Gilmour from August 4th performance at Studio 111)

A new mp3. This is relatively quick mix that I plan to realize live albeit in a different arrangement as part of my current work-in-progress Shanty Town Suite (to be premiered October 12 and 13 here in New York City). The mix I’ve posted represents what will be the second section of this three section suite. It contains material tracked at the recording session I describe below.

Lewis ‘Flip’ Barnes – Trumpet, Voice
Jeremiah Hosea – Electric Bass
Dave Smith – Trombone
Lynn Wright – Electric Guitar
Chris Becker – Samples, Harmonica

Earlier this month, a grant from The American Music Center allowed me to bring trumpeter Lewis ‘Flip’ Barnes, trombonist Dave Smith and bassist Jeremiah Hosea together in a recording session with the goal of tracking performances that would later reappear in sampled form in a live performance of my current work-in-progress Shanty Town Suite. In an earlier performance back in June of Shanty Town Suite, I had played via my laptop computer and Ableton Live samples of Flip from a session we did some time ago for ESPN. This month’s recording session will provide me with material to sample similarly and should result in a more compositionally unified piece.

I am very interested in a fluid dialogue between the recording studio and live performance. Material realized in a live performance is later tracked in a recording studio then sampled and played back in another live performance in front of an audience where more new material comes to life...Although I'm not blasting my mixes over a PA in a yard outdoors...I would say that I'm describing a very dub like approach to composition. In his new book Dub (Soundscapes & Shattered Songs In Jamaican Reggae) Michael Veal does a great job explaining “studio technology and compositional strategies of the dub mix.” I hope to talk more about his book in later blog entries.

The recording session (which was engineered by Jeremiah) included tracking a 24 bar melody for trumpet and trombone. I had composed the melody for trumpet for the June performance and later thought a second melody underneath for trombone would sound really cool. I’m used to hearing Flip with alto saxophonist Rob Brown in William Parker’s quartet, and I think because of this writing the second trombone line came easily. Also, the combination of trumpet (or cornet) and trombone is something you hear a lot in ska – and I am definitely referencing ska along with dub in this suite. Check out tracks by The Specials like Ghost Town and A Message To You Rudy for reference.

I mentioned the “premiere” of Shanty Town Suite at the top of this entry, but will there ever really be a final “version” of this suite? There will be the version we play on the 12th and then the version we play on the 13th. My music includes sections of improvisation that allows the form to stretch according to the surprises (and mistakes – let’s be real) that occur in the heat of performance. And in the meantime, I’m sure I’ll be playing with the tracks we laid down to create additional “versions” with the same material. I’m already wondering what the groove would sound like slowed down from 116 bpm to say 56 bpm…whoa….

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