Jen Allen: Annea Lockwood has been making, composing and recording sound since the 1960s. She studied at RCM originally as well in Germany and the Netherlands and now she lives outside New York with her partner Ruth Anderson. I'm loathed to summarise her work because it has used so many different object sources, sounds and instruments. The essay that I read last night was about how Annea's work is really about shaping sound and this idea of 'sonic intimacy' and actually that's one of the things I really wanted to talk a little bit about today, and I think it's one of the things that joins Nate and Annea's work. Some of you might be familiar with Nate Wooley - he's played at Cafe OTO a number of times. He's a trumpeter and composer and originally from a small town in Oregon from the timber county of the Pacific Northwest. He now lives in New York and he performs very regularly. So, those are two incredibly short introductions to people who have an enormous body of work behind them. Could you both introduce Becoming Air? When we were thinking about the program for this weekend you were both very clear about the process of this work being a collaborative joint one?
Annea Lockwood: I did what I often do when I'm contemplating working on a piece with and for somebody. I went to Nate's place with a little adderall, we sat down together with tea and I asked Nate what sorts of sound he likes to work with. I was really aware that Nate has an amazingly expensive and unusual sonic vocabulary but also I suspected that we shared some things in terms of our attitudes towards sound, what it means to work with it and how we like to work with it.
Nate Wooley: Becoming Air was originally part of a series that I was commissioning for a little festival I do in New York which is called for / with. The idea is that it's pieces made for and with composers and performers. I'd asked a number of people to do pieces for it before Annea but I think she picked up the spirit of it naturally. I think as far as anything I've ever done for that festival this piece embodies that spirit, and in a way whenever I'm thinking about it I think about the way Annea works. Annea and I got together and I played her some sounds, showed her some things I do that I thought might be sonically interesting. We just kept meeting and kept talking and sometimes I would bring up an idea and sometimes she would bring up an idea to the point that it was really - I by the way still think of this as her work -
Annea Lockwood: I do not.
Nate Wooley: - but I am tired of fighting her on it! So we have worked on it for a long time and it's a beautiful thing for me because it continues to change and I think that's the most exciting thing.
Annea Lockwood: It feels very organic. I can't wait to hear what you do tonight because I understand that the piece keeps growing and is getting longer and -
Nate Wooley: It's gonna be seven hours long.
Jen Allan: Without giving too much away, can you describe the piece?
Nate Wooley: I think you should describe your initial idea in the title. Because that really comes from you and I think it encapsulates what physically happens in the piece.
Annea Lockwood: I began by taking all those sounds home with me. I listened and listened and Nate gave me a pile of CDs which was fantastic because from listening to the CDs and reading your liner notes I got an even clearer sense of the way you think about working with sound and the way you think about releasing sound right. I started to link those different types of sounds and ways you create sound into a flow - starting with but not necessarily ending with breath. I mean, it's all breath, but starting with breath tones and moving through all sorts of articulations. Nate does things which are totally fascinating to my ears with thin sheets of aluminum held against the instruments so that they resonate in those sorts of beautiful ways. I sketched out a rough progression for the piece but what I figured out fairly early on is that we both love it when we're making sound and the sound slips out of our control.
Nate Wooley: Yes that's true.
Annea Lockwood: I had that very much in mind - making this structure really open so that there's always that probability, and then you don't know where you are and that is great. And then the sound sort of takes over.
Nate Wooley: The thing I feel like hasn't been explored in the trumpet - and the trumpet is in an interesting place right now as far as people being more experimental with it than has happened in the maybe 70s and 80s and 90s even - the thing that still gets hung up is this idea of a traditional virtuosity. Embracing the idea of failure as virtuosity has always been my primary thing as far as being able to be quick enough and understand how something falls apart and the beauty in that and instead of immediately correcting to get to that traditional sound, letting it fall apart and seeing what happens and then moulding that. There are very few composers that I've worked with that are very happy to do that. This is the first time I think where that's really just been a part of the piece and it is the way that I create pieces but I've always felt a little more secure if it's my piece because then the only person I have to answer to is myself. This is the first time where I really feel like we're in it together. That love of listening to what a sound does when it is unexpected, I know that when that happens that you're as excited about it as I am.
Annea Lockwood: Very much so.
Jen Allan: That's the point of which I think this idea of sonic intimacy really comes together in your practices. I am loathed to use this term but there's something that you both seem concerned with which is about things being natural. I wanted to phrase it in a way of moving between composition and improvisation but actually I think there's something a lot more naturalistic and elemental about the way you both work with sound. That it is concerned not with the musicality or lack of musicality in something, but in the sound itself as having shapes and forms and rhythms outside of the structures of what we usually expect. Would you agree?
Annea Lockwood: Yes. We're children of Cage after all.
Jen Allan: I wanted to ask about this idea of the musicality of sounds outside of their compositional existence. The musicality perhaps of natural sounds like water, and air in this piece.
Annea Lockwood: Definitely.
Nate Wooley: Definitely air. For me I've always thought more of the voice than anything else and grew up with that concept kind of shoved down my throat of what the voice is supposed to sound like but was always more interested in all of the bits that we were supposed to leave out of the voice, even the singing voice. Being told on the trumpet that you should have a singing tone always kind of got twisted to trying to make the trumpet sound like coughs and ums and hiccups and things that the voice does that we supposedly hide but are the most human natural parts of our playing. We were joking about drones but that sort of thing - hearing someone speak or breathe in a normal pattern or a long sound that has a lot of micro events in it - all of those things seem totally natural and human. It becomes more about how can you make what you're saying the most human and personal as opposed to the most like a specific version of that.
Annea Lockwood: A template.
Nate Wooley: Yeah exactly. How far can you go to make your own template as opposed to fitting in within.. That's just from an instrumentalist point of view.
Annea Lockwood: What struck me very early on or what drew me towards wanting to work with other musicians was how moving it is to me when I feel a musician is willing to show himself or herself fully in the moment without holding back, without protection, without any sense of stance or image - just fully there, fully present. Those microtonal events that come through the voice and pitches and so on is so physically resonant of the being of the person who's making them and I've always found that really moving about working with others. It's a really important base to kick off from. It's wonderful when those things happen really.
Jen Allan: You mentioned there is a significance in the title about 'Becoming Air' It seemed like it was maybe a manifesto for the piece in the title?
Annea Lockwood: I confess it popped into my mind and it seemed right. Which is what often happens with titles for me. Sometimes I work at them a bit and I understand semantically, cognitively, the meaning that the title carries but this just had meanings that my brain would not latch onto semantically.
Nate Wooley: I remember early on though you giving me the imagery of a large lake and the water going up and then becoming gas and that's something I think about a lot because there is an uplift to the piece. I don't think if I explained what happens in the piece it would make sense but there is a feeling of this kind of quiet uplifting and becoming - becoming air. That's what I always think about when I'm playing it.
Annea Lockwood: It's as if it becomes a sort of revelation of how completely you are air.
Nate Wooley: That's true too. I hadn't thought about that.
Jen Allan: Does that also relate to the idea of landscape as it might be contained within your work? It seems like it feels significant to you and the place that you came from in Oregon. Landscape in the sense of place.
Nate Wooley: For me the specific kind of silence of an area has always been really important to me and I haven't lived in a place that silent since I was 16 or 17 so there's a certain nostalgia in that. It's as much growing up in the woods near the Columbia River as it is growing up with two Swedish parents that would say like two words a day. It's all kind of tied up to in this very Lutheran kind of upbringing. A lot of the music I make comes from that - whether it's very spacious and quiet or extremely dense because there were definitely moments as a 13 year old that I felt the need to explode and sound just to fill up the space. I tend to find myself drawn toward the idea of big, epic landscape in my head or rivers or mountains or trees. Certain things I'm drawn toward and I'm sure it's from what was surrounding me as a child.
Annea Lockwood: Your improvisations have this beautiful and subtle sort of arc to them - a long arc.
Nate Wooley: I think that slow unfolding of things -
Annea Lockwood: Like the contour of a hill.
Nate Wooley: Absolutely. If you're in the middle of the forest it ceases to become individual trees and just becomes this long arcane thing. Since I started improvising outside of jazz music the arcs were always long. I feel most comfortable when they're long.
Annea Lockwood: I do too.
Jen Allan: You've talked a lot about the sounds of New Zealand when you were growing up. Do you feel Nate's feeling of yearning for that in a nostalgic way?
Annea Lockwood: I recognize it. [Nate] hasn't articulated that before that I recall but I definitely recognize it.
Jen Allan: What is that landscape like in New Zealand?
Annea Lockwood: They're young mountains so there is often a real sharp gradient to them. A lot of rock slipping, falling and sharpness. Energy. And whole other bird songs, birds which evolved somewhat differently there, different strains of birds. I get nostalgic for that. For the landscape - I have the sense that one has a place - I wonder if that's what you're talking about - I have a sense that we have a particularly beloved a place in our minds and in our hearts which become a place almost to retreat to, a place to go to when this extreme, extraordinarily contentious world just becomes too compressing. We can go in our minds to these places and just release into that place.
Nate Wooley: Yeah, I think it's for me it just happens to be where I grew up. I don't know if either of you been to the Pacific Northwest but it's beautiful. It's essentially a cold rainforest and it's gorgeous and I think that would be the sort of place that people would mentally retreat to when they're on the bus in New York. I just happened to actually really be able to remember it.
Annea Lockwood: I think these places are very concrete in our minds. Places we have known as children, begin as children. I talked to a Lebanese painter about the courtyard of her grandparents house in Damascus which she had once chatted with me about, I recorded her talking about it, and that was an extremely concrete location to which she clearly returns mentally no matter what is happening in that city or what's happening in her life as a releasing - a release into ease and place of quiet ease and water.
Nate Wooley: And home.
Annea Lockwood: Home, yeah.
Nate Wooley: Whether it was your home or not it becomes a sort of home.
Annea Lockwood: It is a home, it's the home of the spirit.
Jen Allan: I want to draw this also to your fascination with water -
Annea Lockwood: Obsession you could say.
Jen Allan: Everyone should have an obsession like this! Can you trace that in your own history as a composer or musician, where you realised these things about water that meant you weren't going to let go of it.
Annea Lockwood: Not other than the obvious thing that I've referred to sometimes of growing up with water and it being very much a presence in our lives and a power. We were lucky, we grew up seeing a wild river, a truly wild river as kids which constantly, as mountain rivers often do, constantly changes its course from one year to the next. Very powerful, you had to be very careful crossing it. My father was a mountaineer and a lawyer in that order taught us carefully how to cross such rivers and so the force, the strength, the non-human powers of rivers was given to us really early on and just stayed.
Jen Allan: One of the things that really struck me in your conversation with Louise back in December was the way you articulated the vastness of sound and the variety of sound that comes from water. You hear things that I hadn't noticed before. The piece that the choir are doing later, ‘Water from Memory’ is all about the different sounds that water can make and actually doing the piece is making me understand more about the sound of water. We have a tendency to think of water as the lapping of waves on a beach and it's much more than that.
Annea Lockwood: It's immensely powerful, very complex. One of the things I love about water - which is also one of the things I like about your poem - it is never the same from one articulation of to another. It's a living thing and it keeps changing. I can remember hanging up by the Danube river in Germany one night and finding a little spot where the water went over a being clumpy tree root and made an excellent sound when it sort of tucked in or curled round into the root. It was night and I was tired and I wasn't seeing my gear well and I thought, "I'm not going to record this tonight, I'll come back tomorrow, forget it". In the morning it had rained up river, the roots were underwater, there was no chance. I like these lessons. It's so transitory you know. You can hear a great water sound now and then in an hour it maybe different. Here's another one which always makes me laugh. In Newtown in Connecticut I was recording a tributary and I wanted to record a sense of a broad stretch of small wave action across the river. It was shallow across the river by the bank and I stuck my tripod in the water and stuck the mike near the water, really close and I just went and sat on the bank with headphones on and watched my levels and sat there and sort of daydreamed for a while. It was a really nice sound and then something made me look out and the water level was then up to the bed. I leapt into the river, yanked up my mike, got everything to dry land and realised there was a weir upstream and it had released some water. But the beautiful thing about it was as the water was released from upstream it quieted the action of course on the surface so I got this absolutely built in natural fade out into silence. I mean it's constantly changing. Just listening to detail in water and this tremendous vitality and energy being released inside that detail. I think that's one of its attractions for us really.
Jen Allan: I could really hear that in the diffusion last night. It was almost having water sounds in this new sound system is like the perfect way to test it because there is such a frequency band and clarity and -
Annea Lockwood: Built in resonance too.
Jen Allan: Exactly. So I'm going to ask about something a little bit different which I think relates to both your work. I've mentioned the choir piece and one of the things we talked about is and how from humming you can get high because are vibrating your body and I read that recent interview with you and you talked about being interested in the physiological changes that can be induced by sounds. Sound as an actual high, physical high. That has quite a deep history in your work and fascination with sounds, is that right?
Annea Lockwood: I would think it's probably true for both of us.
Nate Wooley: I think so, in different ways. A similar thing from different directions.
Jen Allan: Yeah I've read you [Nate] describe wanting to induce ecstasy, something that you wanted to do with Seven Storey Mountain in particular.
Nate Wooley: Yeah. I mean with that particular set of pieces that specifically is all they're meant to do. This series of pieces called Seven Storey Mountain, the original idea was to try and create different musical situations where people from different musical worlds could come together and produce something that was not religiously based (although the title comes from Thomas Merton) could create a sense of ecstatic being within the audience and within the ensemble. Could you create a composition that has classical brass players, people from rock and noise music that don't read music, modern jazz players and write a score so that they all feel comfortable enough to let go. What happens when an ensemble let's go over a certain arc? What happens to the musicians and what happens to the audience? And so there's been five versions of that and it's grown. The last version had 19 people and then version that I just received funding for is 30 people. It's just big waves of sound. It's not elegant at all. It's just this big, big kind of like head bobbing waves of sound and people have different reactions to it in the group but definitely in the audience you get everything from people kind of feeling dazed and high to being - we've had a couple of people start crying and have to leave - very visceral reactions because it just doesn't let up. It's an arc that happens for 50 minutes of extreme sound that doesn't ever let up and different people handle that in different ways, or process that in different ways. That's that's kind of the purpose of it but it's being done through the means of how do you bring people from different worlds together and place. C Spencer Yeah next to the pianist from I.C.E. and have them both like feel like they can let go and yet freak out. and.
Jen Allan: The difficult thing I think about collaborations is that they often end up being one person's work next to another person's work and whether that's the musical thing or interdisciplinary thing they are just two things happening at the same room. Actually to have a collaboration where the authors or composers or players, where the lines are blurred and as an individual you can't work out which bits belongs to whom. Is that a part of 'Becoming Air' as well?
Nate Wooley: For me that's always been what collaboration is about. Even in free improvisation and jazz music which I'm still pretty heavily involved with you would think that that's always the end result but it very rarely is. It's more often two people speaking over the top of each other. Definitely when I've previously had people compose things for me it always becomes hierarchical. "What I'm saying is this and you are repeating it in this way." This piece I really feel is a dialogue where essentially you're watching two people trying to figure things out together in front of you. The result is part of a continuum. To me that's what music is supposed to do, bring people together to work on something together and then present it to people in the audience in a form that is endless. There's never a moment like, "this is what we figured out. Here's the results of our survey. See you guys in 20 years.' It should always be, "here's what it was tonight. We're going to put our heads together over a beer at the end and it'll be different." That's why it's so satisfying for me to work on a piece like this.
Annea Lockwood: It sort of sits in a bowl of trust.
Jen Allan: I think when you talk about bringing different musicians together, ostensibly both of your practices are completely different and you're from slightly different generations from different parts of the world and different histories, but actually when I started looking in more detail at your work there are so many crossovers. About your attitudes to sound, the way I seem to think about it. I think in very successful collaborations there's got to be something a bit more personal or a niceness to the personal interactions between people. That's what makes these things possible is people getting along with each other.
Nate Wooley: Yeah. I mean I've had a lot of things word I haven't gotten along with person and it's turned out nice too, but this is so much easier and more enjoyable to have something lovely come out of a lovely friendship. If the peace ceased to exist I'd still be happy to have had this to have a friendship arise in this way.
Annea Lockwood: The friendship I cherish, what a gift. We're having fun.
Jen Allan: Is that something that you look for in the collaboration as well? Because Xenia [Pestova] who played the piano, she went your place to develop that piece and to get it right together. That seems to be a really important part of the way you work.
Annea Lockwood: It's such a fascinating process. Working on fine detail with two minds focused in the same way, four ears focused in the same way, it's really satisfying process. And it has to be egalitarian, it really does, I have to be not telling Xenia, 'yeah, I want it this way. This is how you do it." More, " here is a tool, and this is how it can start resonating a string." Yeah.
Jen Allan: Is that's something you learn by doing or as a natural gut feeling or -
Annea Lockwood: It really comes out of that earlier interest of mine and having been able to work with people in such a way that the being of the person I'm working with is free to be fully expressed and fully present.
Nate Wooley: That seems so natural but my wife is a cellist and an amazing technical cellist and she's had people write things for her and she's done pieces. The other day she was playing some thing that was really difficult and I said, "well why don't you talk to the composer, just say look my hands aren't big enough to make that thing and it's hurting me." She goes, "well, the composer doesn't care if it's hard." And I thought "wow, that's the opposite experience I've had from everybody I've ever worked with", and she's, "like yeah that's specific to you. This is the actual world." I didn't realize how special these kind of relationships are where you are free to express a thing. In the other part of world that she lives in, which is also very avant garde music, you're really a machine to express someone else's thing. I found that it opened my eyes to the way a large portion of this music is is put together which is so different from what we've done. I think the way you work with other performers, the way I've worked with other composers -
Annea Lockwood: - and the way the performers and composers we work with yet more -
Nate Wooley: Absolutely.
Annea Lockwood: It seems to me we have a large community of us who are taking this approach, mutually we recognize each other, we work together, play together.
Jen Allan: There is something to be watery about all of these things.
Annea Lockwood: Fluidity, sensitivity.
Jen Allan: Yeah, and we're talking about trickle down. You work together and then you work with other people. It's like you're describing a river mouth.
Annea Lockwood: Yeah I got very lucky when I was here at the Royal College of Music and when I went over to Cologne actually even more so to study, because I started on a project of setting five of Kafka's parables to music and God, I was so specific about how each sound had to be produced, with how I could come up with a graphic that would really express I wanted that sound just the way I wanted it. Of course eventually I realised this is unplayable, not something people are going to want to tackle. It's just totally unrealistic and set it aside and started working with glass instead which was a lot more fun and it works a lot better. It was a terrific lesson fairly early on. That fixation on control basically and the sheer fact that one instrument is going to try to produce that sound this way and another cello will try it slightly differently. The sound is always going to be beautiful anyway. You're not going to be able to fix it which is a lovely thing.
Jen Allan: I was quite intrigued as to whether you still feel like you are rebelling against a prior formal training or if that stuff is just so far down the line it's invisible now?
Nate Wooley: Well I had a very informal training before my formal training in that my dad ran a big band on the West Coast that was full of people that had fallen out when the big band era ended in the 70s.
Jen Allan: You started really young right?
Nate Wooley: I think I was just turning 13 when I started playing with my dad and that band played like three or four gigs a week. That education was from guys that smelled of Scotch, in the back for four hours a night, telling me how to finger a certain note or not to tap my foot because my time sucked. Just real hard lessons like put plastic bags in your pocket so you can put meatballs from the wedding and there - all kinds of very informal training. Then the rebellion came because when I got into college then it was all about, "no you do it this way and you never play that note on this core." I was like," Well I've heard people do that every night and it sounded amazing." So clearly I'm going to take all this stuff with a grain of salt. The grain of salt then became kind of like a full blown pushback by the time I got out of school but it was only because I'd started by that. My dad didn't really have a formal training. He was good and could read music but he had no idea what a chord symbol was or any of that stuff. I was very lucky actually.
Annea Lockwood: I think my belief really is that whatever training one receives one responds to, and becomes interiorised at deep levels and continues to be useful really, but very diffused. Hard to pinpoint how training in listening to polyrhythm ends up affecting the way I edit. It's a connection that I can't tease out. But just as I really believe that although from one era or part of an aesthetic era we like to believe we're overturning all the paradigms of the previous era and bravely setting out something new, in fact I really believe that we are on a continuum, and it's not a simple continuum, it's not absolutely definable continuum but I believe there is an aesthetic continuum for us all.
Nate Wooley: It's not purely forward either, it's moments of turning back and -.
Annea Lockwood: Forward is a sort of boring concept.
Nate Wooley: We've seen a lot of bad forward moving.
Annea Lockwood: Let’s think about Möbius strips instead! We absorb a heck of a lot from our training and it does sort a bubble up.
Nate Wooley: Absolutely. When I was younger trying to find ways to break out of the grid and you think that you’ve found it but it was just a recasting of everything you already knew in a different grid. You finally give up on it and it becomes less about a grid than thinking about the filter, or not filtering, or kind of manipulating what you already have in a way that's new to you. I remember that one of the few usable pieces of advice I ever got from John Zorn was that that the thing you should try to do is to make the people that play with you all the time be surprised by what you play. I just thought it was really nice. Those are the people that besides you know your playing the best and that becomes less about thinking of brand new material, but instead finding new ways to just filter the knowledge you already have. The people you play with the most often know the language but you can change the syntax and a way that kind of shocks them. That's a satisfying change to the way that you perform.
Annea Lockwood: Then everybody's alert.
Nate Wooley: Then it opens them up to a new thing too.
Jen Allan: Lots of what we've had done this weekend is fairly recent work actually isn't it. 'Becoming Air' is from 2018, 'Water and Memory' is from 2017, so these are brand new works in there; everything we've had is different but somehow the same.
Annea Lockwood: Seems to me probable. I can't give a clear answer, butI think so yes. I can see connections from the 70s through to now.
Jen Allan: Are you thinking like that when you are composing now, do something new or do something different or surprise yourself even?
Annea Lockwood: I'm not really consciously aiming for that. I'm working with two percussionists and two pianists at the moment, they have wonderful ears, and we are meeting whenever they can, they tour are a lot like Nate, and we have a narrative really for the piece that we're forming together. It's also a very open collaboration. And no, we're not thinking, "ah, that's a new sound!" Or, "that could make a new statement!" God forbid. I don't really want to be didactic and make statements anymore. I did with the glass concerts, I did it then. I'm more thinking, "oh that sound that Ian just made with something will connect beautifully to something that Ning's been doing on the strings of the piano and then Ning walks up with a piece of foil she just ripped off - this was this really delighted me the last time - she had a roll of foil, she just ripped off a little piece and slightly crumpled it in her hand, just a little bit and held it up and we put our ears close to it and that was surprisingly resonant. It was absolutely beautiful. It was like ice cracking, an astonishingly lovely crisp clear full sound. We thought, "yeah that's the end." It just sort of fell into place right then and there. I think probably trying to be concerned with creating something which is new per say is a sort of mirage. It's a red herring, right? Wrong intent, wrong intent.
Nate Wooley: Yes, absolutely.
Jen Allan: It's abstracted from yourselves as players -
Annea Lockwood: No, because it's connected to self. So connected to self, right?
Nate Wooley: Yeah. Just before I left on this trip I was reading these conversations between Hal Foster and Richard Serra, and Hal Foster keeps asking Serra to talk about prime objects. "This is a prime object of this, the first time you did that is leads to the -" But there was a lot of pushback from Serra which I think makes sense in this conversation because no one sets out to make a prime object. That's only viewed from you know history 20 years later and usually only viewed by other people. It's not like you set out to do that. It just becomes a moment and maybe there's something that has to take place over seven or eight or nine or 50 iterations for you to feel like you've completed that work, or maybe you never complete that work, but the meantime there's other things that are keeping you active and it's only the thing that you're doing now that becomes kind of the prime object. "This is that the thing I'm doing now and it's the most important thing to me, and when it comes out then I'm actually done with it." Whatever history thinks of it or whatever place that takes in the world of music doesn't really matter. If you try to make it matter you're screwed.
Annea Lockwood: Yeah, then you're really screwed. But what about the idea that living as an artist, working as an artist a way of exploring one's world. Human world, non-human world, phenomenal world and so on - it's a way of getting or learning a tactile connection to one's world.
Nate Wooley: And that ultimately changes all the time.
Annea Lockwood: Yeah, constantly changes. It's a flow and it's an exploration sense. Nice way to explore.
Jen Allan: So I'm aware that we're getting towards the end of time and I really wanted to make sure I gave you all the chance to ask some questions as there is still an awful lot to talk about.
Audience: It was really great to hear you talk about sound in itself and some of the kind of images you brought up pointed to some otherworldly or transcendental experiences, especially when you talked about this collective, creating this ecstatic state of mind. You also earlier talked about sound falling apart and beauty of failure and the virtuosity of failure which is a really nice phrase actually. Is there ever any conflict between the bodily production of sound material in the actual making of the sound and these kind of like other otherworldly-
Nate Wooley: For me there is a personal push and pull because of my work has to exist in a world outside myself. I spend most of the time working on the straight trumpet technique traditional technique because you have to go out and do those things. but it's always been the bodily part of it that has been the most interesting to me. There was a period of looking for new ways to play and being more interested in the failure of things and how I could achieve that, after 30 years of playing and a ton of school and all this stuff and a lot of that came specifically by separating the way that I used my body and the horn. There was a long period of time where I didn't think about notes but just which fingers were being depressed and trying to keep make those things completely separate and just seeing what would happen with the horn. Probably the only thing that I really saw through to completion on that series was a series of solo pieces called 'Syllables' where it was the different shapes of the mouth that we used to create phonetic sounds and then holding that, blowing through it and seeing what happened on the trumpet to free up any kind of control. It's like doing things with the body to release control and those things become extreme bodily situations. Then at a certain point you want to actually be able to control them so you try and learn how to do that and hopefully then you get to a new place where you do more jacked up stuff to your body. I ended the syllables pieces because I broke all my front teeth.
Annea Lockwood: What?!
Nate Wooley: Yeah. Then you take a step back and your teeth fixed and then you try and think of what other way can I do this without - now that I'm 44 - that won't destroy my teeth. Yeah so the shorter answer is yeah. That's very much at the forefront because I can't achieve that by transcending classical technique, like someone like Peter Evans can. I don't have that so I'm finding a different way of finding a voice that is the closest to me and that's the way I've done it.
Annea Lockwood: That is fascinating. I'd sort of gathered that from reading your notes on 'Syllables' but -
Nate Wooley: My dentist was very unhappy with me, but also very happy.
Annea Lockwood: It's a process - you describe some divorcing a physical action from it's old or it's inculcated association, right?
Nate Wooley: Yeah. It forces you to give up on good or bad. So whatever comes out there's no way to give it a qualitative reading. It's just is what it is.
Annea Lockwood: You can't imprison your mind about it. That's a huge thing to tackle.
Nate Wooley: And you will be unsuccessful.
Annea Lockwood: And it will fall apart.
Nate Wooley: Yeah I like it. It's good.
Jen Allan: Great. So I think we have time for one more question.
Audience: Yes. I'm just wondering what the compositional process is for you, given that we've been talking about connecting all these various sounds together. How do you make a piece out of this wealth of material? Is it in the editing you get some kind of structure?
Annea Lockwood: Are we talking about a pieces for human performance or are we talking about river stuff, for example. Which would you prefer?
Audience: I was thinking about the field recordings, about how you narrow it down to making it a piece.
Annea Lockwood: First the sites that I've recorded that I choose to use in the final mix have to still titillate my ear. Second they have to not be similar to one another, so there has to be real flow of change through the succession of sites. Next, I settle down to see if I want to E.Q them or leave them be, but beyond that I try to establish about how long and what the duration of that site should be in the final edit and I do that subjectively by trying to figure out how lon a listener might want to stay with that site, might still be engaged with it. Then I start thinking about cross fades or abrupt edits, and I like to work both ways because then what becomes important to me is that I don't unconsciously settle on a rhythm of durations, a rhythm of some similar periods for cross fades, some sort of pattern like that doesn't establish itself without my realising. So I chart the actual durations and the durations of the cross fades and the nature of the cross fades and look at that on paper for a while, and it goes from there. A lovely thing about rivers is that if you start at the top and go to the bottom you have a structure. The structure is a given which is beautiful, and I could never conceive of starting at the bottom and going to the top. It seems counterintuitive. Those are the sorts of things that I'm thinking about. Then I sit with all of that edited mass of material and start to imagine a spatialisation of it, where those various sounds are going to appear in the space, how they're going to move through the space and I take it all to a wonderful guy Paul Geluso at NYU, Harvest Works, terrific audio engineer. Really, really good at spatialisation. I take it to Paul and we look at it and we try it out and mess with it and that's really it.
Jen Allan: I want to say a huge thank you to such a lovely conversation, and thank you to all of you for coming.