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Franklin Kiermyer: Joy And Consequence

Ian Patterson By

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AAJ: You talked about a continuum and I guess each of your projects doesn't exist in a vacuum. How do you see Further in relation to the music you've made before, particularly the album Solomon's Daughter (Evidence Music, 1994), which you made with saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders?

FK: I'm spending my life trying to evolve, so each album is at least a document of where I've gotten to at that point in time. My understanding of continuum is two-part. Ultimately, there is no past, present or future. Simply put, the more you let go of that conception/misconception/fabrication the more present you are. That presence is where all this music comes from, no matter what we call it.

But at the same time—in terms of how phenomenon appear to us—there is a relative past, present and future—things happened, things are happening and things will happen. So I think that if you can be honest about these two ways 'continuum' exists, the closer you will get to the essential experience that is what music is for.

We're all influenced and somehow shaped by our experiences growing up. What we've heard and what has moved us the most is a big part of our development. In the middle of the last century, the potential for a wide-spread transformation of consciousness began to erupt—kind of like a volcano. Many people thought it was going to burn away a lot of confusion and it would be the dawning of a more conscious global society. You know, the proverbial Age of Aquarius.

For young people now, that might sound like just a particular cultural fashion at a particular point in time, but for most people then, it was a real vibe and many people really believed in that transformation. Those are the roots of the musical continuum we're talking about here. It wasn't a fashion. This was the revolution and it was happening then. People might have mixed it with different political agendas, different tribal agendas and different spiritual agendas, but for me at least, the core of it transcended all of those artificial delineations.

I was a boy growing up during the '60s, not a teenager, so the effect on me was less a result of choosing an ideology and more of just growing up with that as the dominant force of my milieu. I was blown away by some of the music that came forth and so I naturally wanted to find my own way to feel that.

What people were trying to share—what they were channeling—was this experience of transcending the bondage of concept. The paradox is that to reach that level of performance, normally one has to master concepts and systems and techniques and that requires a very strong devotion to development—a very strong work-ethic. You'd have to devote a great deal of your time to developing as a musician and as a conscious human being. That's what the music came to in the late '60s and what it required to get there.

The bar got raised so high in terms of commitment, mastery, honesty and integrity that—and this is just my opinion—most people did not know what to do from then on. The result—this incredible music and the people who made it—existed as examples of what could be achieved, but continuing on from there required too much from most people. It required too much in terms of mastery of one's instrument, spiritual development, putting the artistic agenda before the desires for normal success, vulnerability, etc.

I was so moved by a desire to experience what I heard—not play what I heard others play, but have that profound experience and share it—that I said "That's what's I'm going to do. That's what's worth doing, no matter what." Then the next question one asks oneself is "Yeah, but am I the person who can do it?" For whatever reason I said "I must" and whether I can or can't is not as important as the need to do it.

It's not that I have been trying to take what somebody else did or take what was done in a certain period and go further with it. I've been trying to be honest about what I feel is the essential vibe and get deeper into that and go further into that. That's the continuum I'm speaking of.

For me and my way of looking at things I ask myself: "What is the purpose of music?" I try to give myself over to that with whatever resources I have to do the best I can, experiencing the answer to that question and sharing that experience. That's the continuum; it's a personal relationship with the creator—emptiness [laughs].

You have to give yourself over to the continuum but I don't think the continuum we're speaking about, musically or spiritually or even socially has a beginning middle or end. It is essentially primordial—it is the basis—and I think that's why certain music is so powerful. It comes from there and goes there.

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