about the sonic openings under pressure project:
This is music composed specifically to unfold through collective improvisation, which means that the form of the music itself is directly shaped through mutual interplay among its participants, and that collaborative drama contributes centrally to the musical narrative a listener hears.
This approach to coordinating music poses a deliberate alternative to the relative one way flow of information that passes between composer & performer in much euroclassical practice as well as to that genre’s orientation toward the construction of sonic monuments, a propensity also shared by much pop music. Pop formulations furthermore have tended to compress rhythmic scope down to basic denominator background beats. And, while much contemporary improvised music may emulate open form as developed through jazz, the root African elements & attitudes out of which this evolved have many times been distilled out.
Collective improvisation can also be recognized as a theatrical personification of the dynamics of polyrhythm - that intricately sophisticated African model of coordinated multiplicity. Polyphonically organized music is able to integrate divergent voices, levels, directions & narratives; but the wave matrix of polyrhythm’s gravitational convergences & suspensions further enriches each moment of music with a holographic sensation of depth. This especially charges & activates the gaps & silences that envelop musical gestures & encourages attention beyond linear & sequential interpretations of activity to include more multidimensional perceptions of time & movement.
This music often explores making polyrhythm central to the organization & participation of the entire ensemble. One strategy has been to code polyrhythm into the music via a stacking of interrelated countermelodies that places each instrumentalist in a position of direct responsibility for the composite ensemble sound. The countermelodies - & the relationships among them - provide a thematic interface that supports both extemporized development & communications among improvisers as the music progresses. MetagrooveTM is an allied compositional process that associates successive, contrasting polyrhythmic constellations (i.e. grooves) to create a overall groovic resonance (in other words, a meta- groove).
Each voice in this ensemble maintains an equal distinct narrative foreground persona; & it follows that much of the compositional focus has been on developing music through the rhythm section. As Bakongo scholar Fu-Kiau Bunseki has put it, “Treble voicings represent our world, but bass patterns come from the spirit.” The bass not only carries on an independent melodic narrative at a pace appropriate to its register, but often functions as conductor of the ensemble, cueing shifts from one metagrooveTM constellation to the next. These shifts are also multidirectionally jointed, allowing an overall form to wrap around itself & construct an ensemble narrative that’s more oriented toward immersion than linear progression from beginning to end.
It’s also natural that drums figure prominently in a music that explores rhythmic harmony & multidirectional movement. Some listeners may at first be disoriented by percussion’s abundant role here. But, as a trap kit enables the playing of as many as four simultaneous lines, it can also be considered as contributing more than one instrument to the ensemble. The non-tempered tones enunciated by drums contribute a significant component of this music’s melodic & tonal framework. Even a casual listening to Dou Dou Njaye Rose’s orchestra of sabar wolofs from Dakar, for example, can reinforce a recognition that drums, all by themselves, have more than enough range to enact complete & nuanced statements on as high a level as any music.
Some market oriented & cultural perspectives argue that music shouldn’t overly stretch or challenge listeners’ imaginations. Contrarily, this music aims toward a threshold where some aspect is slipping just enough beyond a listener’s comprehension to invite a sense of wonder & mystery as a small reminder that there’s always something more happening anywhere than is already known & recognized.