The Chapel Session: Improvising with sound and image

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by colleague Prof Tony Brown’s son, Elliot, to see if I would help him out with a film project he’s doing. Tony is aware of some of the playing I’ve done and, wondering if a short snippet of improvisation on soprano sax might be a suitable subject for Elliot’s film work, he put us in touch. Basically, Elliot is exploring the fragmentation and piling of images and the idea of recording different short performances on multiple cameras then layering them together felt as if it might be a productive one.

Around experimental art, performance and music since the late 60s, I’ve been tangling seriously with improvised instrumental playing and vocalisation – both free jazz and free improv – for 30 years or so and have played in many settings from solo to 50+ player performances. This, however, was the first time I’d played three short solo performances separately but with a view to them then being presented together – kind of overdubbing without being able to hear the original. With Elliot supported by second camera work by Usman Shah, we did the session straight off without re-takes in the Chapel at MMU’s Didsbury campus on Wednesday last. Have a look and a listen…

For me, Elliot’s approach enables a visual form that is particularly open to multiplying those deliciously provocative musical accidents (and collisions) that one hopes for as an improviser, indeed that are at the core of what improv is all about. It is an approach, also, that is beautifully attentive to music as a continual becoming of simultaneous fragmentation and integration – a process that the film renders in a very subtle way.

Geoff Bright

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