Music heard, remembered, and not yet realized. Koen Nutters
Memories, thoughts, actions, anecdotes and sounds generated, edited, reviewed and exchanged with Heather B. Frasch and Joseph Kudirka, Berlin, 2016
Post Music (Memories Of)
A living room, it's night time. Somebody strums a minor chord on a guitar, cars outside drive at a moderate speed and stop at the traffic light, a dog looks around nervously. Somebody pushes the record button, a sine tone fills the air, crackles abound and the cars drive on, their tires splashing through the thin layer of rain on the asphalt and through the cold, damp night.
A breath sound, a flute sound, thin, wisps. An e-bowed guitar note joins the sine tone's sensibility, with a bit more body. The string rattles a bit as it vibrates. This continues for a while and the dog chimes in with it's own nervous barks, settles down again and listens. Listens for strange sounds in the hallway and familiar crackling in the kitchen.
Thoughts, Quotes, and Messages
"The opening was like a sonic dream with strings scattered throughout the audience."1
A lot of experimental music does not easily give away its internal structure. The logic or strategy with which the sounding material is spread out or strung together is usually not to be understood by the listener. Does this bother the listener? Does this liberate the listener? Does this give the listener time and space to concentrate on other things within reach of her or his perception?
"Would it help to have me send you chord changes or just mention songs and what key I sing/play them in, or is it best to just do that all on the fly?"2
What is the connection between my musical memories and the pieces I haven't written yet, the notes I haven't played yet, and the ideas I haven't had yet?
Text Scores (Post Sound)
Through the idea of projecting music straight into the mind of the listener by means of written descriptions of sound situations, we land upon the notion of cutting out the middle man: the performer(s) in this case. Of course the physical realization of sound is also left out of the equation. "But, is it music?" I jokingly ask, to which Joe vigorously responds: "Yes, of course!" One could argue that Joe's paper pieces are the opposite of this particular interchange. In a way his paper scores select and organize the players, they initiate the filtering process by which an ensemble is put together. After all: It's not any kind of player who would perform a blank piece of self-made paper. These are players of a particular type of sensitivity towards concept, sound, and performance. They are, in themselves, the ideal performers to play this piece. I suppose this is one of the things that makes this an interesting composition: It describes, in its blank state, not the music to be played but the player to play it.
Future Music (Post Haste)
Another thought is that if music exists without a fixed, sounding, body, in memory, in concept or in the imagination, after it is written, played, or read, perhaps it also exists before it is played, and even before it is conceived. Somewhere in my mind there hides a piece of music at once clouded and informed by the memories of music past. I just can't seem to get to it. A structure too elusive to grasp. An order of sounds unclear.
I can only attempt to reach it through the compositional process of dishing out material in a non-linear way. Or perhaps by handing over part of the responsibility to others. Any attempt to start at the beginning and to work step by step towards the end is abruptly aborted after the first note is written down on the paper. What's next? The same again or something else? And what does it matter? Why should it matter?
Remembering a piece of music heard a long time ago coupled with the effort of trying to reach the form of a piece of music not yet realized.
With an irreversible
Tape Memories (Post Tape)
I'm thinking of a tape I lost in the '90s of a live radio broadcast of an avant-garde jazz band. I still have the case. I think I still know what it sounded like. An unreleased piece of music by Bill Frisell, played live by his sextet in the BIMhuis venue in Amsterdam in 1994. I remember the piece to be very sparse and pretty abstract: Nearly Not There. Then one day the tape was simply gone. It had disappeared out of it's case. All the info still there, dutifully written on the little folded cardboard sleeve inside. TDK D90. Type: Normal. Standard issue tapes for anyone recording stuff off of the radio or your friend's dad's jazz CD's or your uncle's Stanley Clarke LP's.
Thoughts, Quotes, and Messages
I cannot seem to get to it directly. It won't show itself in its pure form. Only shades and murmurs. Only vague ideas and intentions. Only distractions and interruptions.
What creates the connection between seemingly formless, abstract, avant-garde compositional practices and transforming folk music classics into conceptual vehicles for performance art and improvisation?
A gateway between past and present musical experiences. A way to realize two things at once. To give an audience something from your own early musical building blocks combined with present sensibilities. A display of the unhindered joy of playing the music that you love in the context that you like to play it in. A modified characteristic.
"Well, that makes things easier, because I now have another day to think about it."4
Post Music 2 (More Memories Of)
Back in the living room: We simply decide what instruments to play. Nothing said about form, duration, or material but a vague notion of playing something called: Post Music. I opt for sine tones played on the studio monitors, generated by maxmsp in my computer. I notice Joe has an e-bow to play his guitar and Heather has her flute and a few of her wooden cigar boxes with nice sounding materials inside. And those cars outside and something like a creaking chair taking the lead.
Tape Memories 2 (Post Tape)
I can also clearly remember listening, for the first time, to a tape of the Metallica album Master Of Puppets on my parents' stereo, sitting on the couch in the living room. This must have been around 1988. Headphones on, volume pumped up. I remember the sensation of having discovered a new level of heaviness. And I remember the impact the sound, the tone and the energy had on me. The riffs, the voice, the tempo, the drum breaks. It was all very exciting. I also remember listening to Napalm Death's Harmony Corruption in a local music shop but somehow the sound of that record made me feel a little nauseated. It was perhaps too big of a jump from the stuff I was listening to before. I still have the Metallica tape in a box in Amsterdam, but the thrill of that initial musical experience is a very distant memory.
The Düsseldorf Oktett by Radu Malfatti is a fascinating piece of music with a hidden, underlying structure. Listening to the electronic version I realize I have no idea what is going on, not even after I spend some time at the piano figuring out which pitches are being played. Yet I find it incredibly intriguing and somehow comprehensible. Not to mention very beautiful. I send an e-mail to Radu to ask him for the score, because I'm curious how it works but also because I hope I can organize a concert to have this piece performed again. After looking at the score everything becomes very clear and a whole different view of the piece arises. The score explains the process: a very simple structure obscured by several parameters kept open for the players to decide for themselves. A slowly sinking major scale that finally ends up as another major scale a half step down. Unrealized unisons of pan-septatonic displacement. Simple scales smeared out over many different octaves. An exploded view in time and amplitude of a simple modulation.
Post Music 3 (Even More Memories Of)
The guitar string is vibrating and makes a sort of rattling sound. Things come together and then quickly dissolve again. The dog shakes its fur. A very quiet sine tone hangs in the air for quite a while and is finally joined by another, much louder and shakier, e-bowed guitar tone and a whistle tone played by Heather. It stops and is reiterated. Joe coughs. Near the end of the piece sine tones gather and create a denser texture. A sense of obvious closure. Something rigorously creaks for a while. The end appears to all of us at the same time. The obviousness of a 20-minute period, no matter how loose the structure is. The recording ends with the sound of someone grabbing the recording device and pushing the stop button.
Thoughts, Quotes, and Messages
If music is as ephemeral as we seem to perceive it: its manifestation as an unrealized idea is worth just as much as a finished composition. Written, played, recorded, played back, heard. Thought of, dreamt of, talked about, joked about, framed, theorized, written up.
"If you send some chords changes I prepare myself a bit, and then with one rehearsal will be ok I think. Of course if there are some specific melodies to play, if they are written, we earn time. Looking fwd. I"5
Notational Obscurity 2
Taku Sugimoto's Mada, played by Akama, Alvear, Bondi and D'incise, also appears to freely float around without exposing any clear structural properties. But after listening a little closer it seems to be a setting of a four-octave-wide chord that, little by little, reveals itself and reappears in different instrumental and intervallic combinations to highlight the different colors produced by the pitches, which mostly remain loyal to the octave they initially appear in. Without having seen the score I feel it must be notated quite precisely. But, of course, perhaps I am missing the big picture: the actual process by which these pitches are spread out and instrumentated.
Since Taku often describes himself as a composer of frameworks I wonder how much the ensemble still had to fill in. How many decisions about timing, instrumentation and material they still had to make. Anyway, the combination of players, instruments, composition and composer works amazingly well. No matter how it came about. If I don't ask one of them I guess I'll never know. Do I want to know? I think in this case I do. I want to break down the last vestiges of the idea of the composer-genius being in full control of what is going on. It has never been like that. And it will never be like that. Everything happens in collaboration with others, with formal abstraction and with the help of notational obscurity.
Post Music 4 (in retrospect)
It was all very delicate and considerate. It wasn't very sparse but also not very full. It didn't move forward very fast. It just went from moment to moment in a very nice way. I slowly faded in my sine tones and they always seem to add a little something to the situation. One time blending very nicely with a relatively low e-bowed guitar note. I think the whole piece lasted about 10 minutes.
Thoughts, Quotes, and Messages (The End)
"For sound's evanescent nature both spawns the analytic imagination while evading its grasp, supplying such imagination with degrees of fantasy and poetics."6
"Also, Boris suggested trying to get something like this to happen at Sowieso, as he could play the piano, we could recruit a drummer, etc. I just wouldn't know how to approach Old Mc Dutchie about it."7
"The lost words the fragments of what's left trying to understand or remember......"8
(1) from an e-mail by Heather Frasch
(2) from an e-mail by Joseph Kudirka
(3) lyrics of the composition Beginning by KN quoting Michel Chion in Brandon LaBelle's Background Noise Perspectives on Sound
Art (New York, Continuum, 2007), p. 147.
(4) from an e-mail by Joseph Kudirka
(5) from an e-mail to Joseph Kurdirka
(6) Brandon LaBelle, Background Noise Perspectives on Sound Art (New York, Continuum, 2007), p. 205.
(7) from an e-mail by Joseph Kudirka
(8) from an e-mail by Heather Frasch