The Creative Soundspace Festival, now in its sixth year, ventures out to the edges of the musical universe to see what various pioneers in improvised music are up to.
“It’s an important part of the musical spectrum to present,” says Tom Guralnick, executive director of the Outpost Performance Space, which produces the festival. “Some of the most important improvised music has been music that, at one point, was considered hard to sell, from John Coltrane to Ornette Coleman to the Art Ensemble of Chicago, but you can’t dispute the fact that they’re important.”
This Thursday and Friday, the festival, supported in part by a grant from the NEA, presents the current projects of four adventurers.
Guitarist Lily Maase returns to her native Albuquerque with a completely reconfigured group that includes Mike Kammers (sax), Greg Heffernan (cello/electronics), Alex Mallett (bass/voice) and Nico D (drums). “We’ve been talking about our love of prog rock and wanting to find a way to bring that great, really detail-oriented, ridiculous rock and roll ethic into the modern age,” says Maase. She places her artistic voice somewhere between the abstract musical knowledge she picked up at the University of North Texas and “this very, very kinetic sort of guitar mania” that has thrilled her since first hearing Slash play on “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Maase’s music reflects an emotional and musical complexity delivered with a visceral punch.
Percussionist Ravish Momin has lived all over the world—India, England, the Middle East, the United States—and his music “has always been about trying to attempt to bridge all these different things I grew up with,” he says. While his rhythmic structures may be rooted in Indian beats, he plays on a jazz kit, and he has recently been threading electronic elements into his drumming. His Trio Tarana, with violinist Skye Steele and cellist Greg Heffernan, achieves “a seamless mix between the written and the improvised,” he says, to create music that is at once oddly familiar but completely unfamiliar—what he calls “folk music from a country that doesn’t exist.” Like any folk music, it’s instantly accessible and simply profound.
Powered by two pendulums, a simple harmonograph creates intricate, abstract drawings by moving paper back and forth along one axis and pen along another. By tuning the frequencies of each to match a musical interval—say, 2:1 for an octave—one can create a visual representation of a pure mathematical and musical relationship. Deane’s Harmonograph 2X2—with Deane (lapsteel dulcimer), Al Faaet (drums), Joseph Sabella (drums) and Yozo Suzuki (guitar)—uses the metaphor of the harmonograph to “get past stylistic ways of playing and break things down to rhythm and pitch,” he says. As in a harmonograph drawing, Deane notes, individual lines are less interesting than the overall image. The individual voices are less important than the mesmerizingly “immersive kind of music” that they collectively create.
Mark Weaver’s quirky, engaging music blurs the line between written and composed and always seems to tell a story. His collaborators—Bill Clark (trumpet), Christian Pincock (trombone/valve trombone) and Jason Aspeslet (drums)—have proven extremely skillful at bringing his music to life. For their Outpost appearance, Weaver has written a new suite in seven segments inspired by a favorite story, Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligeia.” In appreciation of Poe’s work, Weaver’s created a piece that “combines music and projected images,” he says. “It’s not intended to be narrative, and the images are not intended to be illustrative of the story, but rather just to be a personal reflection.”