A Visit with the Professor (2.21)
The first piece that I heard of the Professor’s was “Territorial Moods” from Stories (Tzadik, 2000) and soon after, the self titled track from Grand Unification (Tzadik, 1998). Multidimensional, untethered and charged, they represented some of the most beautiful solo percussion playing that I had ever heard and spoke directly to my core.
I began listening to more of MG’s works and reading about his studies with the healing arts: the heart, acupuncture, herbs, and martial arts. What resonated the most was that he recorded his student’s heartbeats and had them play along with the recordings, rather than a metronome. His belief was that playing with the rigidity of a metronome was not only unproductive, but actually unhealthy and dangerous to the body. He was searching for a human, healing relationship between pulse and music.
After speaking regularly within my New York circles of my fascination with MG, a fellow percussionist gave me his phone number. I was warned: “make sure you call him ‘Professor.’” And that the Professor had physically tossed a former student out of his window… and that he may ask to perform acupuncture on me. I held on to the number for sometime and finally in 2013, worked up the nerve to call him. That began a game of phone tag that lasted for over a year and culminated in a voice mail invitation to visit his home near Jamaica, Queens.
As I turned the corner onto the block, there was no doubt about which house was his. The exterior had thousands of broken mirrors and tiles positioned in abstract mosaic forms. The plants felt like they were calling out, radiating a kind of mystical energy. His wife greeted me warmly at the door and walked me down to the basement laboratory where the Professor was stationed. He looked smaller and gentler than I had imagined, nestled like a spacecraft pilot, surrounded by multiple computers, microscopes, recording devices, and ritualistic objects.
I prepared a long list of questions and some rhythmic ideas to open the dialogue, but within a few moments, I had a feeling that he didn’t want to follow an agenda. Instead we spoke freely for several hours, topics meandering between: the honesty of solo drumming, why we choose to play specific instruments and sounds, music as identity, his connection to afro-cuban music, love of family, stem cell research, building immunity, strength, how to “live” the music, his current interests (which he claimed were money and happiness), and the importance of notating music in order to prove legitimacy. He shared some humorous anecdotes about Sunny Murray having the jitters and Cecil Taylor hiring people purely for the hang. Also, on the music of Charles Gayle, Kidd Jordan, Jiunie Booth and Ahmed Abdul Malik.
Much to my surprise we didn’t touch the drums. Actually, I don't recall seeing many drums in his lab. He did play me some electronic music that he was working on, which included samples of William Parker’s heartbeats. He also showed me some coolers with animal cadavers (I forget what kind they were exactly and what his plans were).
At the end of our meeting, he had a big smile on his face and said, "I know your energy."
I composed the following pieces with him in mind (and in heart):
Tao Te Ching (Adler, Carlberg, Kim, Takeishi, text by Lao Tzu) in Pranam (Circavision, 2008).
Pulses (Adler) In Fourth Dimension (Chant, 2019).
Nuearth (Adler) In Fourth Dimension (Chant, 2019).
Relative(s) (Adler) In For a Gallery on the Moon (Chant, 2020).
Milford Graves left his physical body on February 12, 2021. RIP, professor.
Future Rhythms (1.21)
In response to the challenges of remote music creation during the age of Covid-19 and the current hinderance of sonic latency, I predict that future rhythms (in popular, concert and experimental music forms) will become: slower, less metronomic, less quantized, more independent, more conversational and more extreme than ever before as they embrace the following:
- Pads, Fermatas and Grand Pauses where a musical event’s duration is not related to a pulse or a number of beats, but rather very slow moving, organic gestures of long tones contrasted with thick silence.
- Big, Fat, Sloppy Down Beats where sections change or hits happen not following a precise, sharp moment in time (like the initial attack of a metronome’s click), but rather following a wider beat or macro time (like feathers falling into one’s hand).
- Independent Orbits where loops of varying length occur simultaneously, yet independent of each other, each other's specific pulse rate and subdivisions.
- Conversational Etiquette where performers alternate in uninterrupted musical statements relating to a given theme(s).
Though (in many ways) these concepts accept the natural rhythmic disconnect inherent in remote music making, thereby moving against the idea of rhythmic togetherness, it is my strong recommendation that to compensate, every note and sound be performed with the utmost intention, conviction, patience and attention to dynamics, articulation and stylization.
Questions on Time? (10.15)
What is time?
“Time is the measurement of change.”
“Time is of your own making...”
Who is time?
"Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river;
it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger;
it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”
~Jorge Luis Borges
Where is time?
“Everywhere where there is interaction between a place, a time and an expenditure of energy there is rhythm. This includes:
B)Interferences of linear processes and cyclical processes
C) birth, growth, peak, decline and end.”
When is time?
"Time is, time was, but time shall be no more."
Why is time?
“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”
Don't have time?
"To say 'I don't have time' is to say 'I don't want to.'"
Want more on time?
“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present.
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”
~ TS Eliot, The Four Quartets
music is a conversation
a reflection of what is within and what is without
a physical and sonic release from holding
a mapping of pathways through the creation, repetition and destruction of patterns
a celebration of the present moment
an expression of respect towards one's self, community and global environment.
the instrument is a spaceship
an extension of your voice
where do you want to go?
what do you want to say?
follow the ear
obsess over the perception of time
find comfort in the extremes