Adam Rudolph: The Mysteries of Creation
Stepping back briefly, In the Garden , a double-CD concert recording featuring Go: Organic Orchestra and his longtime mentor Yusef Lateef was issued in late 2003, also on Meta. Although it was the third Organic Orchestra disc, it was Lateef’s first recorded outing with the group.
“I’m interested in varying my musical palette,” explains Rudolph. “Musicians always have more than one musical idea going on. And I always enjoy working in a collaborative sense with musicians who I respect and who challenge me and I can offer something to. I’ve never been a journeyman, where I work with 1,001 people. Yusef is special because he’s been my mentor and my teacher and he treats me as a peer. He’s opened a lot of doors both creatively and personally.”
Yet another Rudolph brainchild, Go: Organic Orchestra is a twenty-four-piece Los Angeles-based ensemble comprising twelve woodwind players (flutes, clarinets, bansuri flute, bassoon, oboe and bamboo flutes) and twelve percussionists (udu drums, congas, djembes, riq, frame drums, tabla, dumbek, bata, gongs). Instead of relying on written notation, Rudolph conducts them in an improvisational style using physical gestures and signs.
“We perform in a completely open format. We create this sonic landscape, but the kind of music we do invites the listener to be an active participant. And it’s exciting for an audience. It’s like reading a great book.” Rather than being a major breakthrough in music, this is merely getting back to basics. “The first creative gestures humans made had language and dance and music and painting. Just think of the first time humans came together, gathered around the fire. You know there had to be some music going on and storytelling.”
“People listen to music for a lot of reasons – comfort, nostalgia, background music, lifestyle. And I appreciate all of that. But I’m interested as an artist in reflecting my experience as an artist. This is one of the funny things about CDs, too, because the music should be live music. The energy of the audience is captured. It’s thrilling because it has a lot of authenticity and love, and this vision of real freedom and real democracy in an idealized sense.”
In addition to this push towards greater freedom and egalitarianism, the Organic Orchestra incorporates several other disparate ideas that hark as far back as Rudolph’s early experience composing with Don Cherry in Sweden.
“While I was there, Don started showing me some of Ornette Coleman’s concepts of composition. I have always had an uneasy relationship with Western music. My idea is to have an improvisational concert with as much aesthetic and functional focus in each piece of music with the least amount of written music possible. I’m trying to get away from the paper.”
The resulting hand gestures and signs are part of a unified system Rudolph calls Cyclic Verticalism. This system uses African polyrhythms in combination with Indian rhythm cycles; this in turn gives birth to the music/letter grids, language and sonic themes, Indian ragas and “diadic and intervalic harmonies” Rudolph uses to conduct the orchestra. It also spills over into his other projects.
“It’s a compositional tool. I wasn’t composing rhythm figures for the session with Omar the way I do with the Organic Orchestra. But it’s something I deal with every day, so it’s very much a part of my hand drum language. I used these grids and graphic notations that are the cells from which I conduct [the orchestra] and I gave them to Omar. It was something new for him, some of these 9-tone rows, but he was open to it. He got it. And it worked.”
While all this talk about Cyclic Verticalism and diadic harmony has the potential to sound like a foreign tongue, Rudolph isn’t out to alienate anyone. The way he sees it, complexity is another route to simplicity.
“The thing is,” he says, “in music, the more you move into higher spheres, it’s like moving into the highest dimensions in physics. As you step above styles, you see the elements that go into creating music, and they’re more and more simple. In terms of tonality, it’s all based upon overtones. Everything in rhythm mathematically comes in 2 or 3. Odd is the male energy. Even is the female energy. The tension comes from the male and female rhythms.”
Rudolph also forgoes heady theorizing when giving drum workshops for beginners. Because he embraces the rather generous opinion that the capacity for art rests in everyone, he doesn’t believe that it’s absolutely necessary to know the ins and outs of composition in order to create something genuine and meaningful.