everything is in the instructions
Composer of contemporary chamber music and opera and certified master of the Japanese shakuhachi flute Jeffrey Lependorf cites an insightful incident he had with iconoclastic composer John Cage that reveals much about typical misconceptions about what is right and what is wrong in music and art. Lebendorf wanted Cage to clarify his vague instructions for a theater piece he was assigned to assist a choreographer to prepare. But Cage insisted, kindly enough, that “everything is in the instructions.” After the performance of this piece, and following the standing ovation, Lependorf asked again Cage for his opinion, and Cage, typically but again, kindly enough, answered that he “did everything wrong.”
Back to the present. Lependorf’s collaboration with idiosyncratic guitarist and composer in avant-jazz and New Music Scott Fields does not bother itself with questions about what sound right or wrong. All sounds are beautiful, as Cage once said, and these two masterful and resourceful musicians do not attempt to replicate any form of new world music or new-agey, meditative kind of interplay (as the Shakuhachi is associated with the Zen school of Buddhism), or to follow any familiar concept.
The two musicians suggest how innovative and original music of the 21st century can sound. Music that patiently, almost methodically, explores new timbres and sonic options; uses silence as basic element; is compassionate but never sentimental, gifted with dark humor but not emotionally detached; and always demonstrating deep listening and careful sensitivity to the the most fragile qualities of the music making process and and its immediate options.
The improvised pieces “Objects in Relation to Other Objects” and “The Politics of Solitude” are masterful expressions of the high art of these two musicians. Music that is comprised from brief, abstract and subtle articulations, loosely connected, but eventually accumulate to profound, mesmerizing pieces. The intimate, chamber interplay on “Oh yes” and “Tip bloused” is simply timeless with its thoughtful references to classical, contemporary and East-Asian music. The surprising cover of John Coltrane’s “Naima” is a moving tribute to the great master, performed with deep emotional gratitude but without reverence, wisely sketching this timeless classic.
Unique masterpiece. — All About Jazz
The musical meeting of innovative guitarists Elliott Sharp and Scott Fields came by coincidence. Both were aware of each other’s work for many years, but the opportunity of playing as a duo never arose. Each is a master composer and improviser with extensive experience accumulated in various formats. Sharp pioneered the usage of fractal geometry, chaos theory, genetic metaphors and using software in his compositions. Fields, who, like Sharp, plays the soprano saxophone, was commissioned for orchestral compositions.
When Scott was performing in Lisbon and heard Sharp was scheduled for Lisbon’s Jazz em Agusto festival, he joked with the Clean Feed label manager Pedro Costa that it would be a good idea to play with Sharp. Costa thought that was an excellent idea, and Fields emailed Sharp, who liked the idea. The pair played few concerts and Costa arranged the recording sessions that produced Scharfenfelder (Clean Feed, 2008) and Afiadacampos (NEOS, 2010).
The DVD features two performances. The first at the Loft in Cologne on May 2009, and the second at the NOZART festival in Cologne on March 2010. Cameras focus from various angles on two tall, bald-headed guys seated facing each other and playing custom-made steel-stringed acoustic guitars in small spaces. The two blur any attempt to categorize their music in distinct genre or style. They move freely between free improvisation, sonic searches, minimalism, blues and contemporary music in compositions based on conventional notation or graphic notation, all with impressive command, elegance and sharp sense of humor.
The two have different approaches, though both are interested in finding new forms and structures. Sharp tends to be more provocative, investigating the guitar’s timbral range, searching weird-sounding tunings, non-Western sonorities and the syntax of any musical motif or sonic fragment. Fields is often the more reserved player, opting for a clear narrative and theme. They have developed an affinity and their relaxed, supportive interplay contributes to their ability in completing ideas and deeply understanding each other. Sharp and Fields do not try to deny differences in their musical languages. They explore their unique identities through these arresting interactions and spontaneous interpretations.
The generous DVD offers, beside the two live sets, a short interview where both talk about their approaches and musical bond, plus an insightful 26-minute recording session. Highly recommended. — All About Jazz