The first question is always the classic one: how does it start your love and interest for guitar and what instruments do you play or have you played?
The Beatles are the cause of my interest in guitar. I started playing when I was 14 years old. Later it was blues, Jimi Hendrix and the rest of the rock guitar material. I began improvising after hearing Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton. I learned to play standards and then began a self-directed course of study in guitar and improvisation. I’ve only had a few guitar lessons, otherwise I am self-taught. I played trumpet for about a year when I was 12 years old. I began playing double bass in 2000 at age 45. I am a decent improviser on piano and drums, but I have never performed on either one, yet.
You have released a new album with Chris Cretella, called Storms. How did it start this collaboration e and why did you choose to play classical guitars?
Chris was my student at New England Conservatory of Music. I knew him before he enrolled and knew that he was a very strong player. So our lessons were very advanced, about improvisation, technique etc. Since his graduation we have worked together in a few settings. We decided to work on this duo quite deliberately. Once we began we knew quickly that we had to record it.
I have enjoyed a lot your book “Perpetual Frontier”, shall we try a game? I ask you the same questions you have asked to the musicians who you interviewed in your book, I’m curious to read your answer: “What were and are your main musical influences?
On guitar, Jimi Hendrix, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Derek Bailey, Rene Thomas, Blind Lemon Jefferson, John McLaughlin, Baden Powell. More broadly, blues, jazz, West African kora music. African fiddle music, Gnawa music, Gamelan, Tibetan Chant Music, Indian Music, Messiaen, Cage, Elliott Carter, Charles Ives, Ornette Coleman, Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Evan Parker, Braxton, Fred Hopkins, Monk, to name a few.
How do you express your "musical form" both in execution and improvisation, whether you're playing "in solo" or together with other musicians?
For years I composed. My technique emerged partly due to my compositions and also due to serious study of the methodologies of improvised music. gradually I began to understand that I didn’t need composition, that the way I played was the composition. My use of what I call the properties of free music functioned in ways that shaped every aspect of my performances solo, and in groups, by providing me with many points of reference in the process of making the music.
Do you develop a "form" by default making adjustments as necessary or leave the "form" itself to emerge depending on the situation, or exploits both creative approaches?”
Some of my work is organized prior to the performance. But most of it is what I call a resultant form. It is formulated in the process of being made. However I use very specific materials in process to shape the music in a way that varies within each duration of performance.
Berio in his essay "A remembrance to the future," wrote: ".. A pianist who is a specialist about classical and romantic repertoire, and plays Beethoven and Chopin without knowing the music of the twentieth century, is also off as a pianist who is specialist about contemporary music and plays with hands and mind that have never been crossed in depth by Beethoven and Chopin. " You play both traditional classical and contemporary repertoire ... do you recognize yourself in these words?
Although I actually don’t play classical—I am an improviser, I do see myself in these words. I study music all the time searching for an understanding of the design and expression. And I don’t believe that contemporary music should be devoid of the qualities of classical music. However I do believe that those qualities need to be rendered in ways that express our time, our world now. And I believe that rigor in music extend itself to an expression speaks of the deepest and most searching view of existence.
What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possible to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.?
I use improvisation to make music. I never make “an improvisation” and I think musicians who do are terribly naive. Improvisation enables me to configure music in subtle and complex ways on a spontaneous platform. The work in preparing to make music this way is in the study and understanding of how improvisation can be used to achieve this goal. But the result has to be heard as music and not as mere process.
What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises .
Great question! In my work, an error occurs when there is an attempt to compose something within the performance, using improvisation that is meant to provide more order than is actually needed. As if someone tries to insert material meant to formally organize the process with identifiable material. That kind of attempt inhibits the process with too much control and so that is what I think would be an error or wrong, in the negative sense.
Otherwise, the configuration of ideas/materials/decisions when encountering a contingency that may not be what is hoped for, or expected, is to me, an opportunity to create a new result.
The one exception to these situations would be when I personally just cannot accurately play what I am attempting to play. In which case I attempt to utilize what I get and carry on either with another try, a variation using what I got, or a shift to something else.
I have, sometimes, the feeling that in our times music’s history flows without a particular interest in its chronological course, in our discotheque before and after, past and future become interchangeable elements, shall this be a risk of a uniform vision for an interpreter and a composer? The risk of a musical "globalization"?
This doesn’t bother me. I am not a linear thinker so I enjoy tracking the ontological framework of everything. As an artist in the world, I am generally in a state of mind that is a combination of contemplation, inspiration, fear and horror. The world is amazing and terrifying to me. No matter what art and music have done to evolve us and civilize us, humans continue to devolve in new a horrifying ways all the time. So it is necessary for us artists to remain open to what is new no matter where it comes from, and try to be as inclusive as possible. I think this is a very exciting time for the area I work in because it has grown to be Global and new things; techniques, ideas and communities of musicians are popping up all over.
Let’s talk about marketing. How much do you think it’s important for a modern musician? I mean: how much is crucial to be good promoters of themselves and their works in music today?
I am not sure. There are facets of the music business that stagnate rather than generate a future forward sensibility and so old things always do better than new things. Therefore it’s necessary to know your own market and to build it yourself if one that welcomes you doesn’t already exist. The parts of the music scene that support me are mostly grassroots or musician run with some exceptions.
Please tell us five essential records, to have always with you .. the classic five discs for the desert island …
I don’t know if this list is the 5. But it would do
Albert Ayler Spiritual Unity
Alhaji Bai Konte Kora Melodies from the Republic of The Gambia, West Africa
Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsies
Jimmy Lyons/Sunny Murray Jump up/What to do about
Evan Parker/Barry Guy Obliquities
What are your five favorite scores?
5 that I love. Not sure what are my absolute favorites. All chamber or orchestral
Olivier Messiaen Sept Haiku
Charles Ives Calcium Light Night
Elliott Carter 1st String Quartet
Sofia Gubaidulina Concerto for viola and orchestra
Witold Lutoslawski String Quartet
With who would you like to play? What kind of music do you listen to usually?
The only person I wanted to play with who I haven’t played with yet is Ornette Coleman. He’s very old so I doubt it can happen. The people I enjoy playing with or would like to work with more are Anthony Braxton, Barry, Evan Parker, John Butcher, Peter Evans, Agusti Fernandez, Mat Maneri, Chris Cretella, Yasmine Azaiez, Brad Barrett, Nate Wooley, Ken Vandermark, Alex Ward, Andria Nicodemou, Jim Hobbs, Mat Maneri, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tyshawn Sorey, and a few others.
I drive a lot. Most of my listening for enjoyment is in my car. It’s normal for me to listen to Mozart, Bob Dylan, Brian Ferneyhough, Scodanibbio, Ornette Coleman, Rev Gary Davis, Derek Bailey, some traditional African music and some noise improvisation or any similar mix during a drive.
Your next projects?
New Cd’s II will be releasing a new solo guitar recording this winter, a new electric trio called Mess Hall, duo with the bassist Brad Barrett, trio wth Nate Wooley and Evan Parker, duo with Evan Parker and a 5 piece chamber work called Ultra with feathure Agusti Fernandez on piano.
When we will see you playing in Italy?