Thursday, November 30, 2006

solo: alone together


Well, I’ve been trying my hand at the solo guitar improvisation context for a few years now. It’s still, when I stop to think about it, terrifying, but it is getting a little easier every time, and, although I have yet to leap off the edge in this context, I’m beginning to find the geography a little easier to navigate—a little more comfortable. In fact, it feels as though the my most recent solo performance (just earlier this month), was the first time it came together in any semblance of a musical way.

Let me kick-start this thread on solo improvisation by outlining some themes and topics I want to return to.
Once upon a time I played the piano, and it was with that particular instrument that I first tried my hand at solo improvisation. Under the guidance and tutorage of CL, I studied strategies and tactics of pianists such as Paul Bley, Cecil Taylor, Keith Tippett, and, under my own steam, Marilyn Crispell. And it took years to figure out how to translate and transplant these pianistic techniques and strategies onto the guitar(ist). The process was, not just convoluted, but sometimes, well, backwards (realizing that existing guitar(ist) techniques could be redeployed as pseudo-pianistic ones).
The approach of creating and defining a vocabulary of boundaries and areas of exploration is something that probably warrants several posts to itself. This lexical approach to improvisation is associated with players like, say, Anthony Braxton, but in (very) different ways I can also discern in playing of musicians as diverse as Taylor and Pauline Oliveros.
The way I finally cracked (or at least allowed me my first steps into) the solo context was by listening to what the guitar had to suggest. The strategy I found was maybe more a very body conscious cyborg diplomacy than, perhaps, anything to do with personal expression.

Solo. Is that alone together, or is that in partnership by myself?

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