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Kyle Bruckmann: Purposeful Discontent

By Published: December 5, 2006
I think I just started getting obsessed with [minimalist composer] Charlemagne Palestine at that time. And friends and peers like [saxophonist] Bhob Rainey and [trumpeter] Greg Kelley [influenced me]. I felt like we were neck and neck there for a while where I'd hear their records and think "Aha, now I have to one up them somehow. This incredibly exciting approach using very artificial micing and really playing with the studio and getting to the raw, physical sound of the instrument and something that is completely apart from the instrument's traditional role.

AAJ: You talk about using ProTools and post-production and then you also mention getting into the "raw, physical sound of the instrument. Is there not a dichotomy there? Or is this just the natural progression of using the technology we have now to further what you are able to do with your instrument?

KB: For me, personally, I definitely think it's the latter. I was really only interested in ProTools as a tool unto itself—something that enabled me to make really organic sound sound really artificial and completely reorient and dislocate the sound of my horn.

If I can pin down any through-line, any unifying thing going on in all my different projects, it is about that sort of weird discomfort and the blurring of dichotomies and things that should be opposing and very deliberately zeroing in on them and trying to muddy the waters. I think that's as true for Gasps and Fissures as it is for Lozenge and EKG and Wrack.

AAJ: Nice segue. Earlier this year you released Intents and Purposes, which utilizes your Wrack ensemble. So tell me more about that record and the difference between a group setting and your past, solo work.

KB: Again, it was kind of tripping into an opportunity before I realized it. I had been asked by a friend, a really great clarinetist and teacher and organizer in Chicago who had started booking a music series at Northeastern Illinois University, to do something—left it completely open. Something that would make sense in a chamber music series that was interested in doing new music and being a little bit more experimental. That just coincided with a thought that had just been brewing with me to reengage as an acoustic musician with composition, with actual pitch content and counterpoint and harmony and good old fashioned things like that. I'd been playing a lot of Creative Music—capital "C M —and other peoples' projects and really enjoying that but I felt like for me to focus on actually playing notes I needed to exert a little bit more control as to what those notes were and why.

I'd been thinking these thoughts already and then when I was asked to do this concept I thought, "Alright, it's time.

It was a big leap for me and it was the first time I'd done any composing for anything other than Lozenge. But it was really very gratifying because it was an opportunity to play something a bit closer to jazz in a context that I created myself. I had to create it myself because nobody was going to ask me as an oboist, "Hey, come play some jazz with us. So I had to come to other friends and find an excuse to be on the stage at the same time as [trombinist] Jeb Bishop and [percussionist] Tim Daisy.

So our first record came out on Red Toucan and that was a great experience playing with those guys but again, it was rather short. We played a few shows in Chicago and then there was a recording session [resulting in 2003's Wrack] and then I moved to California.

After I'd been in San Francisco for a couple years, I realized it was time to get going with creative work again. I contacted all the members of the original band [Bishop, Daisy, Lozenge bassist Kurt Johnson and violist Jen Clare Paulson] and two of them were not around. Jeb was taking a break—his ears were sort of screwed up at the time and he was taking a break from music, thank god he's playing again now. [Bishop and Johnson are replaced by bassist Anton Hatwich and Jason Stein on bass clarinet].

So [Intents and Purposes] again was a very organic process. I'd been thinking about and writing the tunes for a while but the actual rehearsing, playing and recording all happened within weeks of time. It was great and I feel incredible blessed to be able to work all four of those musicians.

Kyle Bruckmann AAJ: It was pretty amazing to get a package, not have heard anything from you before and hear Gasps and Fissures and Intents and Purposes. Those albums are, not necessarily different ends of the spectrum, but still very different records.

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