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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Interviews

Bob Belden: Jazz Adventurer

By Published: January 28, 2013
AAJ: You are touring with Animation now. How are audiences responding to this material in concert?

BB: To my great surprise, we seem to have found a spot in the sound spectrum that the modern jazz audience has rarely heard before. We are expanding a very specific jazz language known only to the hip cognoscenti. You know when you get to the right spot inside the minds of the audience when they don't know when one solo ends and another begins. The focus of the audience on what we do onstage is incredible. It's a real match between the minds of the musicians and the audience. We are creating a new universe and it unfolds to an audience that wants to go to this other place and trusts you to get them there and back. The energy and intensity of our live gigs has grown so far beyond what was recorded on the CD that there is no reference to the original music anymore. There is a seamless nature to what we do onstage that mesmerizes the audience.

We have a lot of footage up on YouTube and this documents the development of the band as it happens. You can hear how the band owns the music from the moment the sound begins and once you own it, you can do anything.

We performed a concert at London's Tabernacle (July 3, 2012). The concert was meant to introduce a refined live presentation concept that builds on what is already going on in the pop music world but we are taking the idea to a new and different level. Joining us that night were Serafino DiRosario, a magical live audio visionary, and Brandy Alexander, a live video projection team. What we did on that night was an Ambisonic concert. Ambisonic is about using the entire aural space of a venue and making that space part of the presentation of the sound. The Ambisonic engineer becomes part of the band, mixing us in and out of the sound canvas. This live mixing allowed the band to not only improvise to the song but to the texture of the projected sound and the imagery that was being projected into the band. In some cases, the layering of the band image within the projection suggested a potential for 3-D simulated visualizations. As Ambisonic would also be considered part of an aural 3-D spectrum there is a lot of room for connected creativity and narrative.

What this opens the door to is to be able to create a live movie experience along the lines of an IMAX theater using improvised music and specifically created videos to tell as story and using the Ambisonic surround audio elements to enhance the total experience for the audience. In this format, the narrative concept of em>Transparent Heart comes alive as you can see and hear the sounds of the city in a larger aural field, and the enhancement of the songs "Seven Towers" and "Occupy!" using surround sound and video push the performances into a truly unique environment. For instance, on "Seven Towers," we use video footage I took during the actual 9/11 terrorist attack—I was a block away when plane number two hit the south tower—and manipulated this imagery. So you mix that with the sounds of military and police radio broadcasts during that time frame and you have a narrative within the music that goes way beyond the notes into a very visceral and surreal world where sound and light merge into a convergence of a new way of thinking about "jazz" and how to perform the music. It updates the basic theatrical aspects of Orson Welles' version of The War of the Worlds from a radio play to a realist documentary in mixed media form.

What we are doing is raising the creative and production bar by applying extreme imagination to all of the tools available within a tailored vision. This will hopefully render music in an indefinable spot that the totality of the concept could be metaphysically rationalized as an experience and not by a two-dimensional segregated style or generic performance. You would come to an Animation concert knowing that you are involved in something special and in the moment that we live, unpredictable.

None of these ideas would even be considered nor produced by any recording company other than RareNoise. Giacomo Bruzzo and RareNoise in many ways will own the future of jazz.

AAJ: Are there any plans to go back into the studio with Animation?

BB: That is up to Mr. Bruzzo. We do record every gig (video and audio) so there is plenty of music in the can. And Animation has a few unissued CDs as well to put into the mix if needed. I have an idea for a follow-up to Transparent Heart and the complexity will be far greater than any jazz project undertaken. The complexity is not about the cost or logistics but of the interconnectivity between sound, motion and light within an improvised context. I am not thinking in the traditional term of composition, but of framing: more a film aesthetic. To frame music you have to include the perspective— meaning, in my mind, the complete spatial, aural and visual environment that would be part of the sound narrative. Visual, but on what level? 3-D? Holographic? Multi-panel projections? The sound on what level? Ambisonic? Dolby surround? Directional surround sound? What is the live sound/constructed sound ratio? Then how will the music from the band embed into this landscape?

I am, in essence, "composing" a feature film. My method is simple. I imagine a complete performance in my head. I think, rethink and replay, and adjust in my imagination until I feel that it's correct and then I make actual demos or write down what it is that I hear. I can actually hear every note played by any instrument my imagination puts into my virtual playback system. Sometimes I will sit at a dinner table and then grab a napkin and furiously scribble forms, chords and directions of something that just got refined in my head.


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