With beginnings in Uganda, and the seed sown there of a lifetime of interest in global cultures, it is no surprise that Stephen Kent has traveled the world, living at various times in Africa, England, Spain, Australia and, for the last 15 years, The San Francisco Bay Area. In Australia, in 1981, as Music Director of Circus Oz he first connected with Australian Aboriginal culture and the Didjeridu.
Inspired by the power of the land, and the support the group gave to Aboriginal issues, he learnt circular breathing and wrote music for brass instruments, sounding unmistakably like the Didjeridu. While he has always had great respect for Aboriginal people and their culture Stephen has never tried to imitate traditional styles on the Didjeridu. Instead he has pioneered his own unique style, with the Didj at the center of his many compositions in contemporary music. Widely regarded as one of the pioneering innovators in the modern world of the Didj [Didge, Didjeridu Didgeridoo] he was a founder of the groups Trance Mission, Lights in a Fat City, Beasts of Paradise & Furious Pig and has made six solo CD’s, with more imminent releases concentrating on the Didjeridu forthcoming. A recurring presence throughout Stephen’s recording career from, Lights In a Fat City to Oil & Water has been producer Simon Tassano. His new project, Living Labyrinths (Family Tree), a live recording, is a record of his first time meeting with a computer (programmed by Greg Kuhn) in Oakland’s Chapel of the Chimes, on the Summer Solstice.
Musical collaborations are at the heart of Stephen’s work some of his more recent collaborations include, artists as diverse as Tuvan throat singers Chirgilchin, Korean Samulnori Drummers, frame drum wizard Glen Velez, Japanese Taiko luminary Leonard Eto, Markus James & the Wassonrai, flute legend Paul Horn, Airto Moreira, multi-media group Magnetic Poets at the Torino Olympics, and vocalist Eda Maxym’s new band Imagination Club, in which he plays guitar & other instruments, as well as the didj. He also spent a day opening for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, at Stanford University.
Past projects and collaborations of note include, Steve Roach & Kenneth Newby, Zap Mama, Habib Koite & Bamada, Megadrums, Omar Sosa, Badi Assad, Mino Cinelu, Michel Portal, Boukman Eksperyans, and the legendary ex-Doors drummer, John Densmore, among many others. He continues to perform all over the world. See more at http://www.stephenkent.net
STEPHEN KENT - Living Labyrinths
Living Labyrinths is the product of a series of unplanned conditions all lining up synchronously on the evening of the Summer Solstice, in Oakland California’s Chapel of the Chimes - a mausoleum, designed by a series of luminary architects including Julia Morgan, that houses the remains of over 300,000 people.
A couple of days before that, I received an invitation from Gregory T. Kuhn (sound designer, friend and sometime collaborator/sound engineer with early versions of my band Trance Mission in the 1990’s) to present ‘his’ slot at the annual Garden of Memory event at the Chapel of the Chimes. This is a Solstice evening of simultaneous New Music performances all over the labyrinthian corridors, chapels and cloisters of the Chapel of the Chimes
Never having been invited to play this event before I happily agreed to jump in. Greg’s concept was for me to play solo and selectively process the Didjeridu live through a series of harmonized delay settings he had specifically written, in the Maxx software program, with me in mind. At the root of his program idea are mathematical calculations based on sacred geometry and astronomy.
So on the Solstice I met Greg at the Chapel of the Chimes, found our location in the Cloister of the Cherubs, got wired and immediately pushed my fledgling multi-media boat off into a 4 hour exploration of the idea, experienced by a moving procession of the Solstice throngs that wander the Garden of Memory, and the spirits of the multitudes that reside there permanently. There was little sense of it as a “Performance”. More as a seamless musical JOURNEY into hitherto uncharted waters.
This was as organic an experience in creating music as I have ever experienced in 25 years of working with the Didjeridu. I was lost in the moment and lost in the voyage of discovery that this moment took me into. Beyond the first piece I played, which began in altogether familiar territory, I stepped into the unknown, the familiar refuge of most Didjeridu players, and never looked back.
The discovery, some months after the event, that the first part of my performance had been actually recorded, was a surprise to me. At the time of playing I had zero sense that any recording was being made. After hearing the results much later I only regret that the rest of the 4 hours was not also immortalized on disc (only about 100 minutes was recorded onto the Hard Drive).
The CD, Living Labyrinths, is pretty much a true reflection of what I played that day in the order in which I played it and with very few edits or changes – there are no overdubs and, in the pieces that make it onto the CD, no edits. Apart from the re-placement of 1 piece alone, the music on Living Labyrinths is exactly in the sequence that I played it live. Warts and all! So, yes, you do hear all the fluffed notes and dysfunctional moments that occur in the discovery of a blind alley here and there in this, the most openly honest and organic collaboration with technology that I have ever embarked on with solo Didjeridu.