Interview with Paul Bowman, first part
Interview with Paul Bowman, third part
Talking about Berio you have played his Sequenza XI, would like to talk us about this score and your experience playing it?
Never easy – even if one follows the shorter, unpublished version found at the Paul Sacher Library in Basel – it’s a work that embodies the spirit of Berio’s music for sure. For example, a great interpretive opportunity is imbuing a sense of playfulness during the moments of repetitive, second-timed whole/half step passages. In knowing Berio’s early influences, one can interpret these repetitive figures as possessing a hint of the “Theater of the Absurd.” Possibly, the randomness that marks the piece is also a reflection of Berio’s previous experience and use of the “Open Form” as espoused by Umberto Ecco. There are “jumping in” points in the Sequenza that one can use interpretively as guideposts for elements of form, ideas, thoughts and clichés. There are subtle items – pause markings, rest durations etc. - that help delineate the form. By knowing which writers, painters, musicians Berio admired and followed during his formative years as a composer, a guitarist can through careful study achieve an interdisciplinary approach, which makes for the well-rounded artist. But the whole work tests musical memory, as the guitarist would be well suited to make the connections between moments that come before and those that are to follow. It is interesting to note, that a few years after composing the guitar Sequenza, that Berio re-edited the Sequenza I for Flute – it seems that Berio was frustrated with the interpretations of flutists playing from the earlier 1958 Edition, which used more aleatoric notation. And that the guitar Sequenza is rhythmically precise in its notation, perhaps this work may have influenced his reasoning in revising the flute Sequenza.
Mode Records is one of my favorite music labels, how did you start working with them? Will you record again with Mode?
I certainly would like to record more for them. There is a possibility that Brian Brandt will publish the Boulez Le Marteau sans Maître I recently recorded with conductor Steven Schick, percussion group red fish blue fish and soprano Stephanie Aston. Time will tell.
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.?
Recently, I had an improvisation ensemble course during the spring ten-week quarter of the academic year at U.C. San Diego, which is a very improvisation-rich institution. There is much to be said for other styles/directions, i.e. “other repertories” one can choose, the models, the accumulation of “solo palettes,” the use of a conductor as in “sound painting” á la John Zorn’s Cobra, et al. However for me, participating in an improvisation is far better than being in an audience, unless it is really astounding. The people at U.C. San Diego are striving to be excellent in this realm, but I am not one of them.
In 1968 Derek Bailey asked to Steve Lacy to define in 15 seconds the difference between improvisation and composition, the answer was “In 15 the difference between improvisation and composition is that in composition you have all the time to decide what you say in 15 seconds, while in improvisation you have only 15 seconds” .. Was the Lacy’s answer a little too much ironic or is it a true one?
Well the question I have to ask the improviser is, “how many years and hours have you practiced your instrument, how many times have you collaborated in improvisation concerts?” These guys also have reservoirs of textural, soloistic “palettes” ready at a moments notice. So it’s not like the composer who has to agonize over choices, as the improviser is able to recall immediately. But I bet the choices from the composer for a majority of time will be more thoughtful and meaningful than musical choices from the improviser.
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 …
While doing research during my qualification writing, certain assumptions about music were challenged. I think that writing has helped to clarify many misconceptions on my part. It makes me realize, the more I know, the more it is that I don’t know.
It seems to me that there is a small music scene about classical guitarists dedicated to an innovative and contemporary repertoire, as well as you come to my mind the names of Marco Cappelli, David Tanenbaum, David Starobin, Elena Casoli, Seth Josel, Marc Ribot who played John Zorn music ... shall I speak about a music scene? Are you in contact with these musicians? Are there other guitarists you know and that you can suggest us that they move on these innovative musical routes?
I am not in touch with those you named, though our repertoire has benefited by the collaborative work with these artists. I admire Elena Casoli for her interpretation of works from her husband, composer Maurizio Pisati. In Italy you also have the innovative guitarist Arturo Tallini, whom I met when I performed at the Rome Academy with Harvey Sollberger in 2007. Arturo is now playing duos with the new music guitarist Magnus Andersson. In addition, I was grateful to meet the acquaintance of guitarist/conductor Stefano Cardi at my solo recital at the Rome Academy in 2005. New Music guitarists on the scene that I really admire are: Stefan Österjö, Jürgen Ruck, and Geoffrey Morris. I recently discovered a talented American in Michael Nicollela. My colleague at U.C. San Diego, Pablo Gomez Cano is also exceptional.
Talking about innovative composers, what do you think about John Zorn and the New York musical downtown scene, so ready to get and recode every musical language, improvisation, jazz, contemporary music, cartoon music?
Yeah I performed once a long time ago at Phil Nibblock’s Loft – one of the Mecca’s of the downtown scene long before there was a John Zorn on the scene. I did notice the downtown scene in New York – I played with the group The Bowery Ensemble in Lukas Foss’ Music for Six, which had comical and improvisational elements to it. But as I mentioned above, the improv downtown scene is not for me, and often consists of people with extremely large egos with posing manifestations. It’s more fun to play than to listen.
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