Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Back To Liminal

It’s been a busy summer with Rusty Romance-- a few road trips, Including a show at the Moxie Festival in Lisbon, Maine. But the band schedule is settling down for a while, so I’m at last finding time to catch up on this journal.
An earlier trip to Maine with the band-- staying in New Harbor, a beautiful, tiny Maine lobstering port-- filled me with inspiring images. I spent some downtime sketching the rocks, water, and boats. Now, back home in Vermont, I’ve been painting from those inspirations a few mornings a week. The other mornings I’ve been working away at my latest novel, about which I’m not ready to say much.
One exciting thing about painting is the way it has reinforced my ideas and approaches to musical composition. Back in May and June I created two long pieces that will likely make up my next CD, tentatively titled THE FIRST LAST OUTPOST. Both pieces begin with the same “drawing”: a performance on lap steel and looping device recorded in real time. But then each piece is worked into a “painting” with what I call transformations and sound-smears: like sonic brush-strokes; manipulations of light, shadow, texture.

As these works formed, I found myself returning to the ethos of my earlier concept of Liminal Music. To explain that concept a little better, here’s something I wrote in a 2005 retrospective:

Thoughts on Composition, Spring Equinox 2005

I’m sure that I share with many other composers the desire --the deep yearning-- to make sonic structures that I want to hear, that I want to exist in the world.
This imagining and this yearning most often lead me to the making of sound assemblages--evocations of place and landscape, inner and outer; narrative songs set within and woven with reference points of musical style and memory-- that while not always exactly, in the end, what I might have imagined them to be, turn out to be exactly what they need to be, even with all their mistakes and imperfections.
In the composing, improvisation, recording, and production processes--most often solitary--I have used the spacial considerations of effecting, panning, and mixing to leave an empty space for myself, and, by extension, for the listener.
In one sense, this is the ultimate creative self-centeredness: putting myself at the center of the sonic world. Of course, the inherent paradox is that this presence reveals itself as an absence: A silent space, in the midst of other spaces both silent and sounding.
When I began composing music that tended toward the-- for lack of a better word-- abstract, I realized that I was making works that, while stemming from the ambient tradition, did not work very well as background music. These were pieces that asked for focused attention, that needed the listener to share in the intended evocation of inner and outer landscapes, both experienced and conjured.
In looking for a name to describe these works, I came to see that the music was about places both real and imagined, about states of in-between: between sleeping and wakefulness; between land and water, between darkness and light at dusk or dawn. Thus the name: Liminal Music.