Jane Ira Bloom
AAJ: The interplay between you two is so incredible. That’s another aspect of this album that really stands out, the idea of not just one person responding interpretatively to Pollock’s work, but people responding collectively. Would you mind explaining a little how you structured that?
JB: There was a little bit of discussion that went on about the qualities of each piece. You have to understand the history that I have with these four people goes way back. There’s a lot of shared musical vocabulary, and history that we share. Those things don’t happen overnight. In terms of applying ourselves to the compositions and the music, I have to credit the musicians because in a sense they are as equally gifted composers as they are improvisers, they’re spontaneous composers in a sense. So putting this material in their hands is like sharing the paint brush, if you know what I mean. Collaboratively you get in a zone where you are reflecting and reacting without thinking. It’s not a thinking process. And again I credit the musicians in that they have very sophisticated ideas about how they improvise and the choices they make. Not only the sounds, but the silences. The instrumental vocabulary they have at their command. My god, Mark Dresser can make the bass really sing, and I can say equally of Bobby Previte, there’s such a beauty in the sense of mercurial flow in his rhythmic ideas that I find very exciting...
AAJ: What you just said about the use of space is something I want to go back to because it was a very unexpected element to me. Particularly considering the specific works you were responding to. Pollock’s often described in terms of endless motion and layers, and so forth. There’s certainly not a lot of empty space on his canvases, yet some of your pieces employed quite a bit of...
JB: Negative space.
AAJ: That brings up an interesting theoretical question. I would have thought there would have been a temptation to play...
JB: To layer and layer and layer.
AAJ: Exactly. How did you come to that?
JB: I can’t say I remember being conscious of that. Again, I think it just got translated in what I intuited. Sometimes I feel—and I don’t know how you feel about this—the whole process of being stimulated by the artwork coming up with musical ideas, and thinking about the fact that his ideas came from musical ideas, this big circle, its almost like it opened an unanswered question...it’s the imagination rolling on. It’s not the end of a process or a definitive anything. It’s just thought provoking and emotion provoking.
AAJ: What about texture? Texture was such an important element to Pollock’s work. I was curious how you captured that element.
JB: Orchestration. Timber is probably the word we’d use. The timber, the quality of the sound. I was very keen—particularly when I was setting up this project—about these particular instrumentalists, and how unique their sounds are. The quality of Fred Hersch’s touch on the piano. Have you ever gotten ten pianists in a row and asked them to play the same note with the same finger? You’d be very surprised how the quality of touch on piano can change sound. Likewise...Mark...on the bass. Just the sound. Not only the fantastic array of extended techniques he uses, but just the quality of the sound. And likewise Bobby.
AAJ: And that’s something that can’t be notated.
JB: No, that’s sound. That’s their voices. That’s the paintbrushes, the timbers, the colors. And what they do with them. And the infinite possibilities to combine them.
AAJ: I was just about to ask about that in terms of the Pollock.
JB: Well, one of the things we haven’t gotten around to talking about, which intrigues me most—because you have to remember I’m a melodic player. I’m interested in melody and the melodic line, the linearity of melodic writing and the way the instruments handle that and toss that around with one another. That had a very specific relationship to what I felt when looking at the paintings. The great beauty of lines curving and arching all over.
AAJ: You talked about the movement of Pollock’s painting being so important. Is that how you interpreted the sense of movement, through melodic development?
JB: On many levels. On a micro level. If we’re talking about technical music ideas. If you look at some of the melodic lines that are in some of the compositions, they’re not written in sixteenth notes and eighth notes or carefully measured and metered forms. They accelerate and retard. They clump in groups of five, and sevens and nines. They roller coaster up down and around. That kind of motion and flow is something I’m very interested in melodic line writing. You hear a lot of unison playing between me and Fred, and then arching around one another...On the micro level, that’s going on in the writing. On the macro level, the technique that I use of trying to create Doppler like effects by actually physically moving the bell of the horn. Like 180 degrees at different velocities past the microphone is key to many of the movements in the pieces.