Spark of Being, Words
I’ve always felt that no matter how complex the music gets, it should always be built from the smallest and simplest of ideas. Beginning with a few small motifs suggested by the materials Bill showed me, the score for Spark of Being was conceived with the musicians in Keystone in mind. A lot of the development of the piece comes about through improvisation, but there is also a great deal of empathy on the part of the musicians towards the smallest bits of information given to them. The compositions on this box are, as you will hear, all cobbled together using various gatherings of a few key elements.
The initial impetus for writing was the collaboration with images. Bill and I started this project at the same time, and we passed material back and forth repeatedly. That’s what I think is responsible for the particular tone of this music. In making Spark of Being I also had the opportunity to work closely and over long periods with DJ Olive and Adam Benjamin. A lot of that work had to do with finding sounds and tweaking them to get the effect we were looking for. I also relied on Adam Benjamin’s expertise in GarageBand, and Olive’s in Ableton Live, software applications I ended up having to learn for myself. It created a situation where, when the rest of the band showed up (Marcus Strickland, Brad Jones, and Gene Lake), we were able to put our experience improvising together to work in this entirely new sonic environment. Likewise, the editing and mixing process was long and involved, many hours spent with Geoff Countyman and Tyler McDiarmid working with the materials. They were kind enough to teach me several other indispensable computer apps.
As I step into a new involvement with music in the digital age, I don’t believe past lessons should be thrown away. The streamlined model of Miles Davis’ ensembles has always been important to me. I don’t think you can minimize the power of extreme editing and its influence on the perception of revolution in the sound of his groups. The music is so naked at times that the sound becomes everything. That is not lost on me, though I hope that’s not all people hear when they consider this box set. The suite-like extended improvisations and compositions of Don Cherry and Woody Shaw are powerful examples that I treasure. Likewise, sonic explorations by Jon Hassell and Bill Dixon, though radically different in end result, are also influential models for me. By naming these names here I am not claiming any credit or ownership, merely point out a few connections. This music does not come out of the blue, uninfluenced by precedent. But neither is it a slavish recreation. My intention is to make an amalgamation of many inspirations that become their own creature, hopefully adding something of my own that is of value. I’m limiting myself to trumpeters here so the notes will be of reasonable length.
Perhaps more than all those inspirations from the past, I also draw sustenance from a younger crop of trumpet players, among them Ambrose Akinmusire, Avishai Cohen, Nate Wooley, Peter Evans, Jonathan Finlayson, Taylor Ho Bynum, Kirk Knuffke, Greg Kelley, Amir ElSaffar, Ibrahim Maalouf, Jason Palmer, Kris Tiner. The landscape of new trumpet music is richer than ever, and quite honestly, these players (and others) have given me profound inspiration and reason to push forward. Their influence powerfully affected my thinking in making this music.