All About Jazz

Home » Articles » New York Beat

127

Computer Music, Part 2

Nick Catalano By

Sign in to view read count
Last month we initiated an exploration into the world of non-traditional electronic musical "instruments," by referencing experiments that Wallace Roney had undertaken by including a turntablist in his band a few years ago. It was merely one example of the burgeoning use of the turntable in music, and I noted the interest it had for me when writing about the band one evening at Joe's Pub, in New York City.

Use of the turntable was a useful point of departure for further exploration, this time into the realms of computer music. I alluded to laptopper Sam Pluta—a professor of computer music at The Manhattan School of Music and a performer at the computer. In recordings of his work, Pluta refers to himself as a "live processor," just as other musicians would call themselves trumpeters or drummers. In the past couple of years he has recorded a few CDs in which the innovations made possible by the myriad sounds available on a computer are put on display. One of the CDs released this year, Ghosts (More Is More , 2011), from trumpeter Peter Evans' quintet, contains an excellent example of Pluta's pioneering efforts.

The music combines traditional acoustic improvisers—piano, trumpet, bass and drums—performing alongside Pluta and his live processing. Unlike turntable sessions ,where the performer's scratchings were spontaneously juxtaposed with acoustic sounds, Pluta's live processing ponders rhythmic, harmonic and melodic strains, revealing his expertise with all the sonic possibilities of form and composition.

Neophytes interested in this exciting musical innovation will find Ghosts aesthetically entertaining as well as instructive. In the cut "One to Ninety-Two"—an interpolation on the classic "Christmas Song" by Mel Torme—a trumpet melody line is multiplied by Pluta's processing, with intriguing harmonic results. Victor Young's "A Ghost of a Chance," with its whole note lines, provides an opportunity for even more of these harmonic excursions. Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust," with its challenging intervallic leaps, has always been a tester for jazz vocalists, but here it is merely a prospect for more of Pluta's processing talent.

Throughout the recording, Evans' playing deftly sets the mood for this novel group. The other musicians—pianist Carlos Homs, bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Jim Black—are also conscious of their roles and carefully understate their expressions, effecting an organic meshing.

For awhile now, computer filtering has made its way into the recording sessions of many styles of music. In jazz, altoist Rudresh Mahanthappa's Samdhi (ACT, 2011) uses processors with intriguing results. The future of computer music is naturally wide open, and it will be interesting to see where it takes us. For now, Sam Pluta and his cohorts are among many musicians who have fired up our senses and fermented our imaginations.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Sonny Rollins Remasters Legendary Album with Clifford Brown New York Beat
Sonny Rollins Remasters Legendary Album with Clifford Brown
by Nick Catalano
Published: August 21, 2018
Read Eric Reed at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club New York Beat
Eric Reed at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club
by Nick Catalano
Published: July 29, 2018
Read Cecil Taylor: Courage in Creation New York Beat
Cecil Taylor: Courage in Creation
by Nick Catalano
Published: May 3, 2018
Read Bobby Sanabria & Band at Dizzy's New York Beat
Bobby Sanabria & Band at Dizzy's
by Nick Catalano
Published: March 29, 2018
Read African-American Music: A retrospective at Jazz at Lincoln Center New York Beat
African-American Music: A retrospective at Jazz at Lincoln...
by Nick Catalano
Published: March 9, 2018
Read Jelly Roll Morton Front and (Lincoln) Center New York Beat
Jelly Roll Morton Front and (Lincoln) Center
by Nick Catalano
Published: September 19, 2017
Read "Bobby Sanabria & Band at Dizzy's" New York Beat Bobby Sanabria & Band at Dizzy's
by Nick Catalano
Published: March 29, 2018
Read "Cecil Taylor: Courage in Creation" New York Beat Cecil Taylor: Courage in Creation
by Nick Catalano
Published: May 3, 2018
Read "Eric Reed at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club" New York Beat Eric Reed at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club
by Nick Catalano
Published: July 29, 2018
Read "Seven Women (Plus Three) 2018 – Part VII" Bailey's Bundles Seven Women (Plus Three) 2018 – Part VII
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 9, 2018
Read "Abdullah Ibrahim at the Michigan Theater" Live Reviews Abdullah Ibrahim at the Michigan Theater
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 25, 2018
Read "David Lyttle & Joseph Leighton at Keady Clachan" Live Reviews David Lyttle & Joseph Leighton at Keady Clachan
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 10, 2018
Read "Jazzdor Berlin" Live Reviews Jazzdor Berlin
by Henning Bolte
Published: June 29, 2018
Read "Preach Brother Preach: James Cone, Founder of Black Liberation Theology Lights Up the Lessons Taught by James Baldwin and Colin Kaepernick" Beauty, Love and Justice: Living A Coltranian Life Preach Brother Preach: James Cone, Founder of Black...
by Christine Passarella
Published: June 12, 2018