Eclectic I

Friday, September 15, 2006

Music Tech Journal wk 8

Improvisational Jam with Dr. Chandrakant Sardeshmukh

I apologise that this entry may take a while but I feel it is necessary.

Firstly I just have to emphasise just how much of an incredible experience that the Jam with Dr. Sardeshmukh and just as importantly the rest of my group was.

The entire day I was feeling a buzz or anticipation and nervous excitement. Despite my previous uncertainty of whether our group could reach a point of communicating musically instead of just "fighting for space" (a concern I raised in a previous blog post,) things just fell into place. I felt as a group we really interacted with each other and truly focused on how what we were doing individually contributed to the sound as a whole.

Dr. Sardeshmukh starting learning to play the Sitar from the age of 4! A principal student of the world renowned Ravi Shankar he has a very traditional Indian approach to his instrument and the way he makes music. This provided some benefits and some difficulties. Under the suggestion of Dr Sardeshmukh, the Lydian mode was used as grounds upon which base the music on. This created freedom through having a boundary to keep everyone together.

The idea of boundaries to offer freedom within the creation of music has become a very important idea to me through out this year, which I am realising to a greater extent as time goes on. From the classes with Christian describing the limited features offered by light version or close ended programs being a restriction useful to honing skills, to the ideas within Seb's Milk Crate project and the restrictions set within it, to realising how the stylistic restrictions of all musical styles ranging from classical to modern rock have offered freedom to music making in many guises. Sometimes these restrictions act as a guideline and others serving as a set of rules to deliberately break in order to achieve something new. Even Derek Pascal’s attempts at free music use rules creating boundaries (i.e. follow the leader) to act as what he described as a "spring board" into a music space. (I discussed this in last week’s blog.)

I feel boundaries played a highly significant role in my contribution to the jam. One of which proved to sadly create some difficulty for Dr. Sardeshmukh was that I was unfamiliar with the Sitar, and using a keyboard to follow his rag. I realise he was hoping for some more traditional interaction with those he was jamming with. He looked to me several times to do this but I was unable to do this. I feel grateful that Vinny was able to play the Jembe to offer something familiar for Dr. Sardeshmukh.

The idea behind my approach to the jam was not to play the Jupiter 4 in a traditional sense as you would say with classical piano or Jazz piano, treating the keyboard as a series of pitches to be played in order to create a melody etc. Instead I wanted to focus on the timbre of the sound created.

To do this I constantly altered functions on the Jupiter 4 and my Marshall amplifier.
On the Jupiter 4 this involved a deliberate focus on things such as the ADSR section to increase and decrease the duration of sounds. Towards the end of the jam this became greatly important as I moved away from long drawn out drone like sounds and into more percussive sharp attack sounds.

On my Marshall it involved constant changing of the volume to increase or decrease the prominence of what I was doing within the overall sound. Changing the Bass, Mid, and Treble levels and from switching between a Distorted to a clean channel played a massive roll in the changing texture and timbre of the sound.

The concept of boundaries within what I was trying to achieve played a massive role in the way that I limited myself to the manual function and the live exploration of the sounds, trying to keep in the overall feel of the jam and not come into conflict with what the rest of the group was doing.

My main self criticism is that I should have offered more variance to the sounds I created. It was a great challenge as I didn't want to change so drastically that I fell out sync with the rest of the group and had a sound that grated against what was happening although in Derek Pascal’s eyes (which I can fully understand agree with) this can be a very positive thing, In the context I think it would of contradicted and undermined what Dr. Sardeshmukh was trying to achieve. I also felt at times I was too loud in comparison to the rest of the group and needed to be more aware in that sense.

Another extremely important thing to mention is my direct interaction with Seb who was running a max patch he had created. The sounds I was creating was being fed into his computer and then my original sound was still being bi-passed into the amp while he took small samples of it and used the patch to alter the samples in real time and then play them back. The result was that he brilliantly complimented the sounds I produced by adding extra texture and rhythm. When he suggested we move into more percussive sounds at the end it added a new boundary to what I was doing which sparked a whole new approach. Now playing the keyboard rhythmically, Seb's patch added extra rhythmic variations to what I was doing. This meant that the rhythms I created had to be adaptable to any extra beats which he added.

I am extremely grateful for my collaboration with Seb as part of the jam as we communicated very well from the beginning and were very much open to each others suggestions. I was a bit conscious that I may have been controlling the output to a certain extent and I hope that Seb felt that he had an equal and fair say in what we created together.

Now that I feel I have justified what I was doing musically I want to express how impressed I am with what the rest of the group was doing in the jam. Dr Sardeshmukh provided a much appreciated 'head' figure to set the feel of the jam which we could then all follow and expand upon. The sound of the Sitar, with its beautiful drones set the scene for the grandeur sound that was to soon emanate from the group.

Vinny's loop of thunder like sounds added a stern seriousness as a backdrop, while his jembe playing (as mentioned before) gave something more familiar for Dr Sardeshmukh to work with. The Beats and the sitar together also gave something accessible for the audience to connect with. The importance of reaching the audience was something Dr Sardeshmukh raised as being heavily important in his tradition.

I felt as though Tyrell sat back in the mix to a fair extent, although his washes of sound turned up at some very powerful points in the jam.

Much in the same extent as Tyrell Daniel was a backdrop, and at times I was uncertain whether a sound was him or Tyrell, but irrespective he definitely added something positive to the overall sound.

Poppi's vocals were incredible. The way her voice would come through in jam with such a soft feel yet so powerful and pronounced was enough to make me forget what I was doing for a moment and just listen.

When Steven joined the jam on the piano, I couldn't help but wonder whether he was joining to offer Dr. Sardeshmukh the more traditional approach which he was hoping for from Tyrell and I or whether he was actually inspired to do so by the music? Regardless his addition to the Jam added another dimension which worked incredibly well.

Overall I felt as though I really connected to something ‘spiritual’ through that jam. Something that both Derek Pascal and Dr. Sardeshmukh feel is something that is part of the creation of music. Although as stated Dr. Sardeshmukh felt it was foremost important to reach the audience and that if the musician is truly involved in what they are creating then the spiritual element comes naturally anyway. And it is this sentiment that I feel most powerfully reflects what I gained from the jam and indeed a massive aspect of my creation of music in general.

Picture Reference

#1 Dr. Chandrakant Sardeshmukh. "Improvisation Workshop." Lecture presented at the Electronic Music Unit, University of Adelaide, South Australia, 14/09/2006.

-Courtesy of..
John Delany. John Delany's blog 15 September 2006. 16 September 2006.


Blogger John Delany said...

A very interesting read - I also wondered about Stephen's motivation to play piano (although it did work very well) so I'm glad he did.

PS. "Courtesy" was spelt wrong, near the end of your blog entry ;-)

4:45 PM  
Blogger Sebastian Tomczak said...

>> I am extremely grateful for my collaboration with Seb as part of the jam as we communicated very well from the beginning and were very much open to each others suggestions. <<

I agree. We have communicated well, and I feel it has been very much an equal two way collaboration.

>> I was a bit conscious that I may have been controlling the output to a certain extent and I hope that Seb felt that he had an equal and fair say in what we created together. <<

I think in this instance, it is a question of what my max patch could and couldn't do. So I felt a bit out of place. Nonetheless, it was a learning experience. I will have to add at least a tap tempo function, huh!

4:50 PM  
Blogger Luke.Digance - Eclectic I said...

In response to Seb. Yeah some sort of temp function that made it easier to interact rhythmically would have been really cool. Expecially when we were experimenting with the short clicks.

12:15 AM  

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