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Artist Profiles

Matthew Shipp: Traversing The Regions of the Mind

By Published: January 25, 2010

At two points in the recording session, about two-thirds of the way through, Shipp spoke into the microphone. The first time, he divulged: "Are you wondering why I do this? Is it a universal necessity? I don't know... I have to do this. I don't know. I am going to do this..." Then he played an exceedingly rattled improvisation that unfortunately never reached the final album.

Matthew Shipp

Immediately following that piece, he spoke for the second time, proclaiming, in reference to the piece just played: "That is cosmic piano." He continued to speak, describing Alice Coltrane as the "precursor to cosmic piano." He concluded with the statement that he believed he had discovered "another passage into it."

But, most significantly within the body of those words, with a voice whose inflection summoned heart, mind, and every thread of innocence, vulnerability, tenderness and aspect of human nature that could possibly be elicited, Shipp animated the definition of the cosmic piano. He said, "I am trying to get inside that spaceship... and fly away."

The moment he uttered those words, he codified his essence. With the piano, Shipp is reaching beyond the realm of critical scrutiny, right and wrong, the divisiveness between races, and the absence of compassion and love. No one can imitate him. His aspirations are singular. He is plunging into ..."that place where the mind rests in a heaven of silence and one can hear the hymns of angels." The Fourth Dimension.


In the creative process, the stream of events comes naturally. But the "eureka" moments are those that speak so loudly that they cannot be ignored. Those are the moments when the artist knows exactly what has to be done. That imperative drives the steps to be taken, after having attained a certain stage with the collective work.

Matthew Shipp has fearlessly carried out those imperatives throughout his career. The imperatives have become more sharply defined the more he lives through his music. With the making of 4D, he has decided to use the record as a means of "bracketing his language by bringing all aspects of it together...The summing up of everything" into a "dream notebook." Practically speaking, he "does not want to get caught up in his own language," and wants to step over commercialism. His intention is to stop recording and direct himself only towards performance.

Selected Discography

Matthew Shipp, 4D (Thirsty Ear, 2009)

Matthew Shipp, Un Piano (RogueArt, 2008)

Matthew Shipp, One (Thirsty Ear, 2006)

Matthew Shipp, Songs (Splasc(H), 2001)

Matthew Shipp, Before the World
Matthew Shipp, Symbol Systems (No More Records, 1995)

Photo Credit

Pages 1, 3: Lyn Horton

Page 2: Stefe Jiroflée

Page 4: AAJ Staff

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