recorded live june 7, 21, 28, 30, 2006
in santa fe
gaspard: sacre bleu, botree
dezbah: voice, pharo, ‘sprong
dawn: quesera, smile
alex: basuka, sprawl, bish-bosh
plenum is both the name of this cd and a subtitle (of anarchestra) designating this specific group of people. In may of 2006, after playing all the instruments for several months, we decided to select a few and play only them as we would in a more conventional band. We also decided to investigate playing short (5 minute and less) pieces instead of continuous (hour plus) improvisations. As in the past, we didn’t discuss or direct what we would play prior to playing it.
The sixteen pieces included here are from our (usually) weekly sessions. They are presented in chronological order to document the evolution of our responses to this approach. Some have been edited for time (beginnings and endings), but no content has been altered. As always, no effects or processors (other than simple amplification) were used to alter the natural sounds of the instruments.
"To develop improvisation as a primary means of making music it will be necessary for most of us to change the ways we receive music (hear and listen). The expectations that have developed from centuries of being exposed almost exclusively to preconceived music carried out by non-autonomous performers have made many of (most of) us uncomfortable with and/or unable to understand the unknown and the unexpected. We will need to refocus our sense of expectation, learn to embrace the anomalies implicit in spontaneous self-organization, suspect the triteness implicit in order that derives from pre-limitations. As players we will have to re-think our expectations of ourselves and each other, rely less on roles and more on deeper levels of cooperation. We will have to learn to accept our symbioses without feeling disempowered by them (not an easy step in a society based of selfishness) and develop forms of symbiosis that free, rather than restrain, us."
"When I hear drum machines and synthesizers the images that come to mind are of patients in intensive care units attached by tubes to devises that regulate their heartbeats, force oxygen into their lungs, add nutrients to their blood and "manage" their pain. To me these represent the most joyless aspects of modern living, analogous to the way our habitats have evolved into sprawls of pavement constructed with the goal of making life better for our cars than for our children."
-Alex Ferris 2001
Anarchestra is a group (over eighty) of instruments (built -with two exceptions- by Alex Ferris), the people who play them, and the socio-musical ideas that inform their playing. The instruments are predominantly steel with a few adapted parts, such as tuning machines and mouthpieces.
The instruments were built to encourage non-musicians to explore the making of sound, to allow experienced musicians to make sound unconstricted by their technical habits and preconceptions, and to provide an alternative vocabulary of musical sounds.
We have duty towards music, namely, to invent it. -Stravinsky
Alex Ferris writes:
In late 1999 I was working as a welder/metal sculptor in Providence and having a series of conversations about music with Mike Rinaldi. In January 2000 he asked me to help him make some instruments and we made a xylophone and several mbiras using formulas and suggestions from Sound Designs by Reinhold Banek and Jon Scoville.
I left Providence at the end of February and moved to Chilmark. I got hold of Bart Hopkin's book Musical Instrument Design and began working on Dubass and Pedal Guitar. The idea for the pedal operated capo-fret came from a street performer, Eric Royer, I'd seen in Harvard Square a few years before, who'd had an ingenious one-man-band set-up.
My idea at that time was to integrate homemade instruments with standard ones to allow percussionists to contribute tonally, i.e., replace bassists and rhythm guitarists with drummers.
A year later, in addition to Dubass and Pedal Guitar, I had made Bass, Pilon, Thump, Paired, Lamellop, Harp, Bish-Bosh, Pig, E3W, Croon, Chant, Sir Gamelan, and the two bowed instruments that eventually became Bosco.
In March 2001 I began recording them, mostly to examine how the instruments could be amplified, still intending to integrate them into a traditional band.
The results, which I eventually named Rumor, changed my mind. I realized that the instruments worked well together and formed a band in and of themselves. I would have continued recording, but the ADAT I was using self destructed while I was working on the last piece.
That summer the instruments were included in a series of local performance/shows called Cafe Mobius and were played simultaneously for the first time by a group that included Paul and Scott.
At the second of these I met Rod Welles, a film-maker, who was documenting the show. The following summer he invited me to install the instruments (several more had been built by then) in his barn at Labyrinth Speakeasy in West Tisbury.
On August 22, 2002 the instruments were played by a large group of people under the name Anarchestra for the first time.
The sessions continued weekly with a fluctuating group of people, sometimes with an audience. Around Halloween a regular group including myself, Rod, Linzi, Paul, Charmaine, and Scott was established with others joining us occasionally. We recorded the sessions Moment/Um through The Geese Have No Choice, which document the evolution of our collaboration.
In April 2003 I moved to Santa Fe. Having a large studio, in which I could do both the shop work and the recording, for the first time, I took the opportunity to work on improving the recordable sounds of the instruments. In december I learned how to make magnetic pickups which cleaned up the sound considerably. I acquired a 24-track recorder and began making studies of different combinations of instruments resulting in the cds 4/04+, Bathtub / Three Pieces, . . . terofourdis. . ., and Residue.
In September 2005 Hot Flash, performed by Linzi, Gaspard, and me was recorded.
In October 2005 the instruments were installed at the High Mayhem Festival where, over three days, a few hundred people played them continuously for 10-12 hours a day. High Mayhem 2005, A cd of 86 randomly selected samples ranging from 27 to 57 seconds documents the installation.
In December 2005, with the shop/studio growing increasingly claustrophobic (and consequently less productive), we expanded into another space in the same building. The original space is now the joint workshop of Alex Ferris and Gaspard Cabanes and the new room is solely for music. The cds un coeur simple and Endurzbo were recorded there in march.
In January 2006 regular weekly sessions began around a core group of Dawn Edelman, Dezbah Stumpff, Gaspard Cabanes, and me.
In may, preparing for a show, we limited ourselves for the first time to a smaller group of instruments. Following that, we each chose a few and played them exclusively, as a more normal band would, for the next month. The material that constitutes the cd plenum was recorded at that time.
Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife ecology, said, "We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong we may begin to use it with love and respect." I feel the same way of thinking should apply to music and most likely everything else.
We have a world of pleasures to win and nothing to lose but boredom.