Text by Craig Shepard
Dear friends and colleagues,
Greetings from a quiet day “between the years”. Most of my work recently has involved batting, mass loaded vinyl, deck flooring, rock wool, and resilient channels. Very happy to share the little I now know of sound attenuation. Deep gratitude to Dave Ellis of Ellis Island Design for his consistently solid advice.
A very large new 10-year project is on its way. More news on that when ready.
Below, please find some moments in sound which really touched me in 2015.
Wishing everyone health, prosperity, light and joy in the New Year.
Listening in 2015
I am sitting in the front row at Phill Niblock’s Experimental Intermedia. Chris Mann walks in the room. At a moment, he switches to performance mode and my ears perk up. Through his half whispered, half mumbled fragments, meaning begins to coalesce. I catch the phrase “cost of denial”, and am sent in to a stupor, as if I just banged my head hard on a door. I am reminded once again of the power of art.
Standing at the back of Church of the Annunciation, I perform Robert Fripp’s “Eye of the Needle” with the New York Guitar Circle. There is a tenderness that I have yet to hear in any recordings of the piece. As the performance progresses, the texture thickens, and the interweaving patterns become more dense. I have direct contact with a 2003 performance Palestrina’s Lamentations of Jeremiah on Renaissance trombone with Ulrich Eichenberger, Christian Brühwiler¸ Martin Zöbeley, and the Munich Vocal Ensemble. I also have a sense of skiing downhill, not sure if I am going to fall. The guitar rhythms continue and the piece ends. I am standing in my feet.
I am standing outside of the Jazz Schmiede in Düsseldorf performing Anastassis Philippakopolous’ Song Nr. 6. As I play the tones outside at a comfortable mezzo forte, I recognize Craig in the music. It’s not Craig trying to sound like someone else. A window opens up, and I have a sense of an expanse of possibility. I notice a bead of sweat running down my right temple.
The New Thread Quartet performs Assaf Gidron’s Saxophone Quartet at Church of the Annunciation on Music for Contemplation. A silence is passed around the group within the soft unbroken three note chords. It bends and twists, stretches, and swirls.
Dave Whitwell stands to my left at Church of the Annunciation performing withStuart Dempster and 10 other trombonists on MufoCo. Stuart sends a tone down the line. I play the tone, and slowly turn my bell to pass it to Dave. Our eyes meet. He begins to play, slowly turning his bell to pass it to the trombonist on his left. I sense a connection all around the room.
Erin Rogers sits at a desk with a telephone headset on. I hear the clicking of keys of the keyboard. She quips directions into imaginary people on the other end. Occasionally, there is a blip or squawk from the saxophone. I am transfixed, wondering how the piece holds together.
I stand on the beach at Cefalu in Sicily after 10:00pm. I hear a soft wind in my ear. In the distance, I can see flashes bronze lightning backlighting towering clouds. I almost feel the low rumble of thunder, but there is no sound.
As Doug Farrand softly strikes a small bell, the late evening light fades, and I note the passing of evening into twilight.
Pacing around the Green in Hanover NH, I can hear the drone of 40 Trumpets from Chosen Vale perform Trumpet City. Christian Wolff walks over. “This is beautiful. Really really good.” Years of shame and self-doubt roll away.
Changing subways, standing on the platform, I can just hear a distant guitarist playing. Continuing down the platform, I can just hear a lone saxophone. I stop, and listen to both simultaneously. I find a spot where I can hear both equally. The rumble and squeal of an approaching subway drown out the duo.