Systematic specifics giving rise to the unexpected
I just returned from a lovely six week residency at the Banff Centre. I spent the majority of this residency developing a new project for solo drumset that uses an improvisational language based upon a system of ratios and rhythmic processes. Sounds complicated, and it sort of is. It was a real pleasure to spend a bunch of time delving into this black hole. When you begin exploring rhythm in a non-idiomatic context, the possibilities bloom like a fractal. Every pattern can be expanded in dozens of directions in any given moment, and every note within each pattern can be expanded (or contracted) similarly. Boiling down all this information and possibility to specific patterns and processes which can be practiced one at a time, in a way that ensures no combinations are left ignored, is a large part of this work. The way the drumset has adapted to music over the last hundred years (and vice versa) has lent a hierarchical structure to drummers' coordination. We're generally required to have excellent coordination between 1) our two hands 2) the left hand (snare) and right foot (bass drum).
Much less attention is given to coordination between
3) our two feet (aside from basic patterns like the samba)
4) right hand (ride cymbal or any other sound source) and right foot (bass drum), outside of requiring competency with playing these simultaneously for accents on cymbal + bd
5) right hand and left foot (hihat), outside of syncing up the jazz ride pattern and the 2 and 4 on hihat - The other exception is organizing opening/closing the hat in sync with right hand for splashes, "psshts", etc.
6) left hand and left foot - some snare and hihat "chick" interplay is common in jazz comping but this is rarely rhythmically dense, usually manifesting as linear figures on an 8th note triplet grid.
So a pleasant offshoot from working on all these coordination exercises within a fairly exhaustive structure has been an increased ability to communicate between the limbs, giving rise to interesting, less traditional rhythmic possibilities when improvising. I look forward to seeing what unexpected results arise from the continued study of this polyrhythmic system as the kinks in the coordination hose (both physical and mental) are straightened out.
Later this month James Meger (bass), Francois Houle (clarinet) and I will be joining composer, pianist and guitarist Itamar Erez to record some of his very cool new compositions at Monarch Studios. Following that, my trio Simple City will be spending a couple days tracking a record at Afterlife Studios with engineer John Raham and videographer Trent Freeman. Only A Visitor made a new record last Spring with Dave Sikula at Demitone Studios. Dave did an amazing job and it really sounds great. That'll finally be coming out in January 2019. Until then, here's the first single and video from the record. Video by the amazing Julia Hutchings.