Part 8 of this series and once again I’m in a trio with Erin Brophy and Daniel Kern. This track take a different path. Erin play flute, with gives things a lighter texture. I start out playing 3 Paiste Bell Cymbals placed upside down on my bass drum. I get a nice long resonance from them, but the hard rubber mallets also give a bright initial attack, so it’s both percussive and not. The thing to notice is that I am playing a steady rhythmic motif. With the 3 notes from the cymbals, it’s also melodic. Now there’s a misconception among some people that playing free, is just that all the time, and that any sort of repeating rhythms/meter are shunned.
Playing free is not just playing with some sort of wild abandon.
As you should have learned from this series so far, playing free is a well thought out expression of musical ideas based upon both previous work, and reacting to what is happening in the present moment. This means that, if I was playing a traditional drum set, I might break out into a swing pattern or a rock beat for an extended period of time. Because this is not preplanned, and I don’t know how long it will go on, it is still improvisation. Now if I was to play a jazz swing pattern and the others joined in with me, it would still be free because none of it is preplanned. There is no head to start with and go back to. There is no fixed key signature or time signature. All of what we are playing could disappear in an instant and change into something else.
Free improvisation can contain repeating rhythms/meter.
So I play this pattern for a while and it is a nice contrast to the theremin. I speed it up and then dissolve it into more random notes on the cymbals, pressing the drum head to get a bit of vibrato. Then the theremin changes and I decided to change my sounds, removing the cymbals and going to just the bass drum. In a contrast to what I just played, I start a long roll, adding a deep, sustained tone to things. Then losing one mallet, I create a rhythm both by striking the drum with one hand, and rubbing the head with the other. I get a nice contrast of the staccato hits with the mallet and the legato finger nail scrapes.
This goes on for a while until I drop the mallet and start playing swirling motions on the drum with my fingers and nails. Right here I’m thinking texture. Swirling/scraping sound. Then things move to hands & fingers. I’m thinking more traditional hand drumming here.
Playing the drum open and ringing.
Muffling it with my hand/s.
Pushing the head to change the pitch.
I listen to the flute and react to the various trills Erin is playing. I move into a traditional conga pattern I learned eons ago from a great player named, Montego Joe. And as the sunlight fades, so to does the music.
Articles Origin: Improvisation, Part 8 – Bettine/Brophy/Kern Trio