40+ hours of archived Itinerant Mind broadcasts (2016 – now) at Wave Farm WGXC90.7fm … the sound of artists 16,846 kilometres apart improvising through a wire.
Since February 2016 we’ve been producing at least an hour of recorded material for broadcast on Wave Farm. But generating a lot more material each month has gone into the making of that one hour broadcast each month.
Listening back to the archive is an interesting reflective act. Pick a random month and settle in for some deep listening.
Our output as artists and in particular presenters on Wave Farm depends on regular long form improvisations to which we have dedicated a considerable amount of time over recent months. We’ve consciously stripped back our instrumentation to just sax and guitar with none of our usual use of field recordings, electronics or code. Itinerant Mind this month epitomizes this. Comprised of edited parts of four improvisations that together extend over four and a half hours this mix is high pitched and intense…kind of “brittle” in it’s sonic qualities. A word used to describe our sound in a recent WIRE review.
We were joined again this month by guitarist Ross Oliver for “Morning/Nite” a live hour of improvised and distributed sonic exploration. Itinerant Mind in April was a live improvisation directly referencing our influences including Bachalard’s view of time, producing a work composed of paradoxical, disrupted and unrepeated sounds juxtaposed in a triangulated and tangled engagement. Tune into WGXC 90.7 FM Wave Farm at 11:00am each month on the first Saturday morning US Eastern time. https://wavefarm.org/wgxc/schedule/y1e2ta
It’s after two o’clock in the morning when I get offline – around 5:00pm in the UK, and 12:00pm the previous day in New York. The last thing I’d said was “I’m going to bed…” I feel strange. Not much I had planned meticulously over the previous days had played out. The samples and midi files I had tweeked responding to the agreed improvisational concept hadn’t felt or sounded the how I intended in the telematic swirl of our Wave Farm broadcast. What I’d heard as bells were manifested as string-like, the pianos shrill, not jazzy (brittle they said in a recent WIRE Review). The field recordings I typically use as textures seemed to be drowned out. The mix was chaotic and the screeching feedback inherent in our live work was there for much of the performance. The space I imagined leaving for the other performers had been replaced with an ambiguous noise I couldn’t yet decipher. Annie and Ross’s enthusiasm for what had transpired was puzzling. As we finished Annie had said it was one of our best performance. She liked the ways we’d listened to each other. What had they heard that I didn’t? A viable space must have been there I tell myself. We weren’t playing blindly, each isolated in our own bubble. As we’d played I felt in turn, a relaxed “go with the flow” vibe, anxious as things unfolded, focused as we struggled to reach some kind of sonic consensus that visited fleetingly as we progressed through the two hours online – then finally I let go – it was ok whatever transpired. At some points it all seemed to gel – like just prior to going live and then again at the very end, but as the broadcast had progressed the chaos reigned … normal for improvisers I tell myself…normal…but there is nothing normal about this space, this tangled engagement … the sound of artists 16,846 km communicating in real time through sound and deep listening.
Listen for yourself here…
We use Mixlr and Skype for our live broadcasts via Wave Farm and more regularly to improvise between Australia and the UK. Our live page can be found here. Back in rehearsal/recording mode, we have just been exploring two new compositional propositions both exploring to an extent the potential of incorporating AI derived content into our telematic improvisations.
In other news and despite the typo on our name – our album “Shadowed” made number five in this month’s Rays Jazz at Foyles top ten list in Jazzwise magazine (the UK’s biggest selling jazz monthly and the leading English language jazz magazine in Europe). Neat!
We (Annie Morrad and Ian McArthur) live at opposite ends of the planet. We compose and play collaborative live performances through the use of digital software Mixlr and Skype .
Mixlr is an Internet radio platform through which McArthur broadcasts electronic sounds, field recordings and live mixing. Morrad plays live improvised alto and tenor saxophone against these. Skype enables the artists to create networked live improvisational performances but also enriches their work through its inherent defective elements. Skype produces effects such as time delays, glitches, feedback and distortion. These problematic sonic artifacts have been widely discussed in discourse about telematics and live performance in terms of latency and the challenge it presents to artists. However, in the live improvisations of Morrad and McArthur these otherwise undesirable and unpredictable ‘accidents’ are all utilised. The use and extension of prior technical or experiential understandings to produce sound art creates the potential for new knowledge and language.
When playing a live instrument with the digital a unique is formed. Whereas digital sound is electronically mediated, the traditional instrument is forged from established understandings of music shaped within a Western scalic use of wavelengths. Playing saxophone requires physical responses formed from a reaction in the breath through a bamboo or plastic reed and fingers on a set of metal disks. Expanding such a technical device by re-contextualising or extending its intrinsic dimension to re-arrange or reinterpret existing concepts can communicate, re-communicate and delineate new positions on established tropes or generate novel sonic concepts. In live performance and improvisation the networked digital environment created by Skype produces an uncertainty about what is coming next. A human player creates rhythms that one can predict but live digital output is inconstant. This exciting and emergent aspect manifests as interference, feedback, glitches, frozen screens, delays, echoes repeating back, and environmental sound sent from the original source.
A frozen screen can be a nuisance, but also provides space within the piece – a moment for reflection on what was heard. Glitches provide a textural palette of information. As an enlivening element the delays and repeating back enable a complex sonic dialogue through which the artists can respond. The repetition of continuous sounds alters over time and can be augmented on each repetition, creating complex, momentary expanded improvisational spaces.
Reclaimed is a mixtape of earlier Morrad+McArthur material on Soundcloud. It collects in a new mix, material from our first album and a selection of longer ambient and field recording based tracks as well as a few more recent tracks that don’t appear on our albums.
We’ve started to promote our recent CD “Shadowed”. It’s a self produced limited edition now in stock at Ray’s Jazz at Foyles Bookshop on Charing Cross Rd, London’s most famous bookstore.
You can stream “Shadowed” as well as our previous albums now on Spotify.
The November, December, and the upcoming January 2019 broadcasts of Itinerant Mind are completely devoted to concluding our work on The Grid for Project Anywhere. We will post about and discuss each program separately beginning here.
The urban focus of The Grid has been centred on three very different urban conurbations London, Sydney and Chongqing while the outcomes of the project have been broadcast on Wave Farm WGXC 90.7 FM in New York. Each of these three final Project Anywhere broadcast’s has one of these cities as its sonic focus
November’s iteration of Itinerant Mind begins the triology with Sydney and the proposed emphasis on the drone as a sonic form.
In our collection collecting and broadcasting of material for the Project Anywhere work “The Grid” we have for the most part kept the material separate in that it has not been mixed in any way – just played as raw data, drones, field recordings, conversations and improvisations.
As this project draws to a close, the November broadcast “Project Anywhere (DroneMix)” marked the first of several where our Project Anywhere content taken from the cities and streets of Sydney, Chongqing and London is coalesced into a whole work in itself. Although you will hear material from all three sites throughout the emphasis in this mix is the drone – the Sydney component of The Grid project.
For more info on this project visit: https://www.projectanywhere.net/the-grid/
Over the time Morrad+McArthur have worked together, we have accumulated a huge archive of recorded online interactions and improvisations. Although in producing Itinerant Mind each month we have sometimes included fragments of our conversations and other incidental moments, much of what happens in and between the improvisations is not used or is “curated out”.
Our broadcast for October 2018 “The things we left out” was a dense sound collage that mashes together layers of previously discarded or left out edits, conversations – often around making plans, discussing strategy, trying to connect, mistakes or other malfunctions.
This is juxtaposed alongside or layered over new improvisations and drones for Project Anywhere, parts of our recent album, and excerpts from Annie’s recent Mansions of the Future performance “ Reaching Zero” with General Practice co-founder Nick Simpson. Others who make brief appearances in the mix include our regular guests Fouad el Baidouri and Ross Oliver.
Direct link to the archived broadcast.