What’s my instrument?

About a week ago, I recorded an interview with Bryan Crump, for his Radio New Zealand Nights show. It’s a regular segment, where Bryan talks to a musician about their instrument, without mentioning the instrument by name. Previous episodes can be found in the Programme Library, on each Friday. It’s an interesting angle, and there are some good conversations there.

Mine was on air tonight, and it’s now online.
(Looks like WordPress won’t let me use the RNZ’s nice-looking embedded player – that’s disappointing.)

When Bryan’s producer first approached me, I was apprehensive, since I’m not particularly active as a performer at the moment. The conversation was more about the instrument than about me, and Bryan led me through some thoughtful questions. I even managed to fit in enough practice to (mostly) get away with playing on the radio.

Leading up to the interview, I was thinking about the role of playing in my musical activity – what is my instrument? A lot of the music I’ve made recently has taken shape in editing software, but I’m not going to argue for that as an instrument. I’ve become aware of an issue with projects such as Domestic Recordings, and collaborative work with Lee Noyes (of which another instalment is forthcoming): while much of the source material is instrumental improvisation, there’s a long process of editing, which distances it from the spontaneous starting point. I’m imagining getting myself into a position where I could play more, and edit less.

(And I’m aware of the need to write a section for my website that covers this stuff – it’s all composed music at the moment.)

There’s also the proxy performance of working closely with performers, which is intensely rewarding when those conditions come about. Recent ventures into open-ended notation seem to help with this – I’m thinking of the rehearsal process of As if to catch the fleeting tail of time, with Dylan Lardelli and friends, and the collaborative process with the New Zealand Clarinet Quartet, which led to The stars like years. I’m hoping to extend this approach in a piece I’m working on over the Summer. (And also to document some of the process here, once it’s under way.)

And right now, I’d like to back up writing about these things with actually doing some of them.

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