scott fields

Scott Fields, musician

Un- and Barely-Released

New on the site: Bonus Tracks. We’re starting with what was intended to be CD2 of what ended up being a one-CD set from my 2001 large ensemble recording of “OZZO” plus all of the tracks from my debute as a leader on CD, 1993’s LRuuning with Scissors.”

Joseph Jarman

Word reached me this morning that Joseph Jarman has died. I knew Joseph just a little, but for a long time. My teenagers rock band rehearsed in the basement of our drummer’s parents’ enormous house in the Hyde Park neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. Because the drummer’s mother was Joseph’s close friend, he was often just hanging around upstairs. He would listen and make supportive comments. Although I never had the nerve to ask to play with him back then, I did listen to ad hoc sessions he had at the house. A couple of years later, when I was part of an incredibly loud free jazz trio that was heavily influenced by the AACM events I attended in the neighborhood, he came to a couple of concerts and said kind things and didn’t mention the issue of my attempted appropriation of the AACM approach. That wasn’t universal. After one of these concerts Pete Cosey was so mad that he headed up the center aisle, yelling and shaking his fist at me. His friends intercepted him.

When I was in my early 20s, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin (coincidently at about the same time as Joseph’s bandmate Roscoe Mitchell, whom I didn’t know at the time). I stopped performing entirely and went months without touching my instruments. Fifteen years later, having confirmed that although life as a musician is tough, everything else is worse, I started taking lessons and playing occasional gigs. That’s when I called Joseph to ask if he would perform as part of a quintet that I would assemble.

Joseph pretended to remember me. He came to Madison, where we rehearsed for two days and then performed his compositions in Edgewood College’s beautiful chapel. That’s the photo below (by Joseph Blough).

Not much longer later, I asked Joseph to play in an octet for what turned out to be my first CD released on a label other than my own. It was also my first modular composition, “48 Motives.” He suggested that during his visit that he and Marilyn Crispell, who was the group’s pianist, for no extra fee, play a fundraising concert for the project. My trio with two other members of the octet, Matt Turner and Vincent Davis, opened. I hired a pair of engineers to record Joseph and Marilyn’s set, which I later produced as the CD “Connecting Spirits,” for the Music and Arts label. Shortly before my trio went on stage, Joseph asked what material we were going to play. I said some of the Motives from the octet. Marilyn and Joseph looked at each other and she said, on no, we’d better play something else. If I’d kept my mouth shut, Connecting Spirits would have included a collection of my little motives.

Perhaps two years later Joseph played on my second modular composition, 96 Gestures, which was released as a triple CD on CRI. This project, a 12-member ensemble, included a premier at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Unitarian Meeting House where we had recorded Connecting Spirits. The approach of Joseph throughout the project was collective and subtle. But when I saw him see Roscoe in the audience, he played as beautiful and powerful a solo as I’ve ever heard from anyone. I wish Roscoe had been in the booth during the recordings.

Although we spoke on the phone a few times later, the last time I saw Joseph was when I attended several recording sessions for the Art Ensemble’s PI Records release “The Meeting.” Lester Bowie had died and Joseph had returned to the fold, although, as it turned out, briefly. There was clearly tension among the members and Joseph and Roscoe were vaudevillian in their complements of each other’s playing. CRI had recently closed and their catalog passed to New World Records. I had acquired the remaining copies of the CRI pressing. Joseph gave me the complement of asking for CD sets so that he could give them to students at his Dojo in Brooklyn. He said that my concept of compositions that had no fixed form and could be constructed in infinite combinations fit his Buddhist teachings. At the premier of 96 Gestures a few years earlier, after the first half I said to the audience “We will be back in 20 minutes to finish this piece.” Joseph said to me “How can this piece ever finish?”

Joseph could be difficult, but he was never difficult with me. When I was a teenager he was nothing but supportive. And as an adult the only time he showed impatience was when he saw that other ensemble members were trying to take advantage of me. One of my fondest memories is after the first take of 96 Gestures, a session during which Joseph rarely spoke, the youngest and least experienced member of the group decided to explain to the rest of us exactly how he thought the piece and recording should go and how the conductor should react to hand-signal suggestions from the musicians. When the young guy finished, Joseph looked at me and said “I would be more interested to hear what the composer thinks.” That may not seem like much, but it meant a lot to me.

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Phone Booth

My most recent modular composition for large ensemble, “The Assassination of a Mojave Desert Phone Booth,” has been granted support for performances, recording, and CD production. Infinite thanks to Kunststiftung NRW for the vote of confidence. 

The performances and recording will be in spring 2019. 

Barclay in the can

Today at Topaz Studios we mastered “Barclay,”  the third and final Scott Fields Ensemble CD of instrumental versions of Samuel Beckett plays. It’s off to Ayler Records for release in December. 

Barclay Sessions

Tuesday and Wednesday we recorded the final of my three Beckett CDs, Samuel Barclay Beckett, at Topaz Studios. Dominik Mahnig stepped in at the last second to replace our decapacitated percussionist.  Thanks Dominik. 

Editing Tuesday. Mixing Friday. Mastering Saturday  Then it’s off to Ayler Records for release.

 

Used Book News!

Last night I finished the final composition for my third and final CD of instrumental settings of Samuel Beckett plays. When I started the project this book was brand new.

The CD, "Barclay," will be released by Clean Feed Records in September. Live premier in Bonn later in fall, with performances in Münster and Dortmund to follow.

This project is supported by Musikfonds.

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Parasitic Mention!

A Burning Ambience interview with Dr. John McGrath about his new book "Samuel Beckett, Repetition and Modern Music," mentions my two Beckett CDs (Beckett, on Clean Feed and Samuel, on New World) and my upcoming Clean Feed CD Barclay." 

https://burningambulance.com/2018/04/06/beckett-music/

It's the stingy man who spends the most

10 years ago I set the Samuel Beckett radio play "Cascando" for the New World Records CD "Samuel." By the time we had slogged through the other tunes in the recording session, it was clear that Cascando wouldn't fit on the CD. Hollenbeck said "We have time. Let's track it anyway." The other two looked ready to strangle him, especially Schubert who had required oxygen after tracking "Not I."

When I agreed to record "Barclay" for Clean Feed Records, the third and final CD of my Beckett project, I figured I was ahead of the game. One piece was already written. A few edits and it would be ready to go.

This plan has failed. Not only does Cascando sound as though I wrote it 10 years ago, it is horrifyingly similar to "Rockabye," from the Clean Feed CD "Beckett."

After cutting and pasting for a day, I now realize that I have to start over from scratch.

 

 

 

 

 

more reimagination, new victim

A few years back the Haydn Festival in Brühl, Germany commissioned me to reimagine the Haydn Sun Quartets for my String Feartet of violin, viola, cello, and electric guitar. As with most reimaginations, it was aesthetically satisfying to imagine away most of the original.

After the premier the String Feartet went into the studio to record the double CD "Haydn," which was released on Between the Lines.

Now just down the road a piece, the Beethoven 2020 Festival, a celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth, has commissioned me to reimagine the fantastic late string quartets, again for my String Feartet. Many thanks to them, and for the In Situ Art Society, which is the engine powering the project, for the vote of confidence. 

 

Return of a non-native son

For the first time in 14 years I will be playing in Wisconsin. So far there will be two solo acoustic guitar performances. July 27 I will be at the Arts and Literature Laboratory in Madison. July 28 I will be playing in Sturgeon Bay. And I'm beating the bushes for more possibilities. Speak up now or risk waiting until 2032.

For these gigsI will be playing material from my 2015 New Atlantis Records  CD "burning in water, drowning in Flame," plus newer pieces.

 

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