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Chris Schlarb: Are You Creative?

By Published: December 31, 2007
CS: Yeah, absolutely. In a weird way that's what the whole piece is about; it's about time and memory. There's recordings on there of my children playing this little wind-up pump-organ at around seven or eight minute mark, I mean, those are instruments that my kids were playing with. Then later on I have the music box that I took out of its casing and was playing the individual springs on it.

There's this weird concept that I've seen attributed to Frank Zappa, xenochrony I believe, and he used to do all these live recordings and then he would go back into the studio and overdub a guitar solo. He was constantly acting as though a piece was always in the process of being written. I found out about that a few months ago and I thought it was really interesting because it's a very similar idea, time is not a straight line here because not only was the piece composed out of order it was assembled and written completely asynchronous as if there was no beginning and no end and those things only happen because we really have no choice.

All these people were contributing parts to it and they had no idea where it was going to end up or in what context or anything.

AAJ: What has been the reaction of the musicians involved on hearing the final piece?

CS: Really, really encouraging and very positive. It's funny because maybe half the people on the album were people that I had never met before or had a relationship musically with them, and I'm really curious to know what they think now that I've been sending out copies of the record, because they heard from me once, maybe three or four years ago, and they never heard from me again. The next time I pop up it's like, "Do you remember participating...?


The feedback I got from a totally disparate group of musicians, like Bhob Rainey the saxophonist, who said it was a fantastic piece and said how much he enjoyed hearing his saxophone used in a completely foreign environment. Nick Rossi, who plays with Dave Douglas and Philip Glass, said it was a really interesting piece, and it goes on and on, I've been really happily surprised. It was really a wonderful experience from beginning to end.

I'm used to making, I don't know, maybe adventurous music that I'm not used to people connecting with on an emotional level, and that seems to be really happening with Twilight & Ghost Stories. People are connecting with it on a deeper emotional level, and it's kind of allowing them to absorb all of these weird things that are in the piece.

It takes a lot for an audience to get past the unfamiliarity of the musical environment; they get hung up on live sounds or dissonant sounds, and I thought that would happen with this too, but it's not and it's kind of disarming [laughs]!

I was constantly heartened by people's willingness to give something of themselves, without really knowing; you know it could have been a total disaster [laughs]! I think about that every once in awhile; I really could have done something that all these people disliked, shot myself in the foot, you know, all these great artists whom I admire so much.

AAJ: You are promoting the album in quite an interesting way, could you tell us about that?

CS: We're doing a number of listening events across the country with the album in quadraphonic sound. I've just completed a quadraphonic mix, and the relationship between all these sounds and listening to it on four speakers is totally different. The normal mix on the record is very dense, there's a lot constantly happening; on four speakers all of a sudden it hits that space in a very different way.

You know, I'm looking forward to seeing how these listening events go because all the people I was giving copies of the record too, the people that were really connecting with it, were all telling me, "I went on a bike ride... or "I went for a walk. And I put it on my iPod, or "I was driving in my car and I had to drive for three hours, and I listened to the record over and over again. Every single time somebody was forced to focus on it, forced to listen to it, and I started thinking that if we had some listening events that's going to be the probably the best way for people to be introduced to this piece of music, hopefully in an environment where there aren't a lot of distractions.

So there's going to be events all over the country and at each listening one of the people who collaborated on the project will be hosting that event. I didn't want there to be any listenings in any cities where there wasn't going to be an actual representative. I got invited to a festival in Athens, Georgia, and I'll actually be performing Twilight & Ghost Stories the same night all the listening events are happening all over the country.

AAJ: What are the challenges of performing this piece live?

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Download jazz mp3 “White Dove In The Psychic Temple” by Chris Schlarb