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Evan Weiss: Soundscapes

By Published: May 30, 2011
EW: Yes, actually I have. I'm just starting to get into that a little more now, using this project as a springboard. I'm working on some projects around Dallas—just a couple short film projects. As for having video accompany the music at the live shows, I actually had thought of that and had been talking with a video artist about collaborating, but it just never pieced together for this particular project, due to deadlines. But I'm really excited about cross-disciplinary project experiences, and for my next project I would definitely like to have a video aspect.

The equipment keeps getting cheaper and cheaper. You have these indie-rock garage bands traveling with really cool video artists. You're starting to see that more in jazz with the younger generation, but I guess it's not huge yet. But I think it's just a matter of time.

AAJ: The spoken vocals on "Left of Center" are Norwegian. Is there any significance to that?

EW: Well, we wanted that sort of sprechtstimme sound, which happens to be German, I believe. But our vocalist, Hildegunn Gjedrem
Hildegunn Gjedrem
Hildegunn Gjedrem
, happens to be Norwegian, and we said, "Well, she knows Norwegian, so why not Norwegian?" [Laughs.]

It was more about the way the language sounded; the particular country doesn't have too much significance with me. I just liked the way those words sounded in that language. It's really beautiful—like Germanic, but prettier. [Laughs.]

AAJ: What are you ultimately trying to say with the album title, Math or Magic?

EW: In my press release, I discussed the balance between mind and heart, where on one hand we're using all our knowledge of theory, but then [on the other hand] we can't write good music solely based on that knowledge. Knowledge is not enough to create art. [Knowledge] is more on the side of craft. I think it's a combination of the two; it's the combination of coming up with something you really feel emotionally and spiritually [connected with], and then using the theory you've learned to execute that.

Going back to the earlier conversation I had with Paul about the tree, the only reason those guys would think of chopping down the tree is because they know houses are made of wood. If you're in the woods, you wouldn't think to chop down a tree unless you knew what to do with it. Again, we're coming from two different sides: ideas translated into theory, and then theory being translated back into ideas.

AAJ: Calling your music jazz is painting you in a corner. How would you classify your music, or can you?

EW: I think most of my favorite music I listen to these days isn't very classifiable. I think now we're not so locked into, like, if you're going to play jazz, you hang out with these people and you play music with swing. Like, it used to be that jazz was swing music; it used to be that classical or orchestral art music was all in that old classical style. Now you have classical composers using all sorts of jazz rhythms and harmonies, and jazz composers using all sorts of classical theory. You have different sorts of world music, like Balkan and Gamelan music. South Indian music is hugely influential in the modern jazz scene. A lot of the guys on the forefront are studying with South Indian masters.

I would definitely classify my album as jazz, but what I wouldn't do is classify jazz as music that always swings, or always, well, anything. Jazz is just sort of becoming a word for music with improvisation.

AAJ: Jazz music is certainly not at the height of its popularity. However, jazz is not a standalone term anymore; it seems to be disseminating throughout the other genres.

EW: I think part of [jazz not being as popular as it once was] can be blamed on the business of music. You know, certain artists are popular, but they're popular because they have millions of dollars behind them. I mean, if you put enough money behind anybody you can make them popular. There's a certain element of that, but I think there's also an element of jazz musicians separating themselves. In a way, a lot of jazz musicians have shot themselves in the foot by making their music so theoretical and so esoteric that all of a sudden it's not fun anymore. Most people want music that's fun, or at least music that touches them somehow; people want to be moved by music. I think if your main goal is to display your technical prowess or to succeed at some mathematical equation, then you lose that heart aspect in music that everybody connects with in the first place. Instinctually, as humans, that's why we listen to music.

AAJ: What was it like studying with Don Lanphere
Don Lanphere
Don Lanphere
1928 - 2003

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