Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bill Dixon Recording Residency
Firehouse 12/New Haven
Project Journal

July 10, 2008
We began the morning early, filming the ensemble without Bill, seated in a semi-circle downstairs in the wine bar, below the recording studio. Questions were directed to the entire group and to individual musicians. Some wonderful stories of experiences with Bill arose, along with a range of mostly parallel takes/assessments of the methodology that Bill employs in creating music and his overall significance in ‘this music.’

When we went upstairs to warm up, Bill had already begun work at the piano, and he continued while we prepared, finally voicing an entire page of horizontal material that we had used the previous day. What had been employed as distinct but linked language sets for each brass player now became a slowly moving harmonic bed played by the brass for an improvising grouping of contrabass clarinet, cello, bass, marimba and vibes.

It is worth noting one particular aspect of the music that we produced over the two days of recording that is distinct from the work produced with the full orchestra (17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur) during the summer of 2007. Nothing that we did here was conducted by Bill. He would rehearse sequences and events, adding verbal notes or demonstrating changes in individual/group stance (e.g., attack, spacing); and then say “okay, let’s try this. It should go on for about twenty minutes.” The music would begin. Bill would listen intently and occasionally make subtle indications when they were needed. For the most part, he would let the music unfold naturally, making corrections verbally afterwards and then recording another version. We seldom used playback as a tool.

Nick Rueschel took some marvelous formal portraits of Bill, alone and with different groupings of musicians against a white background and got images of the full ensemble in front of Firehouse 12. Isabelle (Michel’s wife) stood back from the goings on and took images of the photography in progress. You may remember Isabell’s candid images of last summer’s orchestra rehearsals, posted on this blog.
The ensemble arrived at a particular place at the end of the second day of recording that would have been a nice starting point for a curve of work. We really could have used another week to work together. Food for thought, indicative of the ironies of the struggle inherent in creative work in this culture during these times.
The Bill Dixon Recording Residency Project at Firehouse 12 is funded by the LEF Foundation and Firehouse 12 Records, and receives essential support from FONT: The Festival of New Trumpet Music.
Images by Isabelle Moisan.

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