Monday, June 23, 2008

Un-Futile Jamming

Andrew Bird describes his two (!) new records. On the second one, which is (for now) instrumental:

I’ve been meaning to mention that I’ve been working on another record at the same time as this one. It’s supposed to be an instrumental record and I’ve been switching between sessions of the “song” record and this more indulgent ambient experimental record. I recently spent another week at the Wilco loft playing with percussionist Glenn Kotche of Wilco and Todd Sickafoose, a brilliant upright bass player from Brooklyn. I just thought, let’s put us all in a room and see what happens. These guys are some of the most virtuosic, thoughtful musicians I know, in keeping with my vow to only make music with really good people...

So this instrumental record is full of homeless melodies, polyrhythmic pizzicato, Debussy-like, minimalistic string passages thrown from a rotating speaker, and lots of really inventive percussion. I just want to make sure it’s engaging enough to warrant the packaging involved in a separate record. I’ve admitted to myself that it may only be an idea reservoir — a place to breed future songs and also catch some of the overflow of ideas from the “song record.” That’s sort of what I did with “Weather Systems,” a record that preceded “The Mysterious Production of Eggs”; it was only invented as a way to take the pressure of too many ideas off of the latter record. I think this record will be different, though; it’s going to rely more on the subtle textures of sound and resist the verse-chorus shape.

I’m trying to get over this mental block I have against the validity of instrumental music. I think this tension between craft and experimental, improvisatory indulgence is healthy. My wariness toward “jamming” is based on years playing in listless jazz combos where everyone pulls out their real books and plays “Song for my Father” or “Equinox” for the umpteenth time. That feeling of futility just became too much for me to bear. After getting tendonitis in the summer of my 22nd year playing jigs and reels for Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts as they waited in line for the privy at a southern Wisconsin Renaissance Faire, I swore I wouldn’t associate that sort of futility with music again. A decade later, I’m loosening those reigns a bit.

I am so there.

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