4.3.1: BOL

 

BOL  is my trio featuring keyboard player Ståle Storløkken and drummer Tor Haugerud (Both of who also use live electronics from time to time). We started playing together in 1995[1]. We all come from a jazz background; Haugerud and Storløkken were both educated as performers in the Jazz Section at the Department of Music, NTNU. They are both part of the modern Norwegian jazz scene, where they have been developing their style of playing in numerous musical projects over the last 20 years. The music of BOL is genre-crossing, influenced by a lot of the music “of our time” (which for us means from about the last 40 years). We have always worked with a mix of our own compositions and different types of improvisation. The complexity of these compositions has varied, from through-composed works or melodies with chord progressions and defined form, to open sketches with more or less defined melodic, rhythmic and textual material as components for improvisation. The structures for improvising have also varied, with the improvisations sometimes being part of performing a composition in various ways, and sometimes being totally open, but still part of a larger form between other compositions. In some pieces, the lyrics are the only structuring component and point of departure.

 

Example IV, 1:  BOL: Excerpt from a live concert, Tromsø, 2010

 

 

This is a “planned” improvisation from a club concert, and the lyrics used were written by the Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge and translated by Robin Fulton. The lyrics and the fact that I start solo, was in principal the only structure/plan, although previous versions and rehearsals have also created a kind of “formula” for this sequence. My roles in this sequence are as follows:

 

0.00 Speaker: reciting the poem (meaning, naturalness, focus)

0.11 Speaker and Soundmaker; looping some of the words in the G/F patch (MaxMSP, described in Chapter 2) and varying with density and EQ-filtering. (Processed sound, although recognisable words; “un-natural”, moving towards peripheral zone; accompanying.)

0.53 Singer: singing with a Lexicon pitch shifter-effect (rather natural, melody in focus).

1.50 Looping some of the melodic phrases, first with lyrics, later without.

 

A short reflection on the “loop phenomenon”:

An interesting thing about melodic loops like these, is, from my experience, that they can change function and roles gradually. The obvious repetition of something that has recently happened can take away the importance of meaning and the loop becomes an echo, a sound carpet. After repeating a loop for some time, it can therefore be experienced more as sound than meaning, exemplified by my definition of roles as changing from singer material (the original input) to soundsinger (the first repetitions) to soundmaker (after a while). This is not necessarily “the rule” with loops. First of all, they will probably be experienced differently depending on who is listening – further it depends on what kind of loops are used, and not at least on how they are played (how many layers, how much repetition, for how long, how much variety in the layers, sound and amplitude, etc.).

 

Going back to the example at 1.50: The looped phrases are used as an accompaniment, and I experience them as an “echo” from earlier on (the initial phrase). I gradually bring them down in amplitude and thereby form them into a background. This makes me think of them as an example of the “loop phenomenon” discussed above, moving from soundsinger to soundmaker, gradually transferring from meaning to sound, from the singer role to “sound and function”. 4.40 to 6.28: Soundmaker: the G/F loop is functioning as an “accompaniment” for the synth.

7.16 Soundmaker: after a keyboard solo part, I introduce a pitched down loop with long grains and low density in the G/F patch, moving into a new section of the improvisation. The opportunity for introducing new elements and colours into an improvisation like this, without actually taking a main focus, is something that I find much easier when using electronics rather than the acoustic voice alone.

 

This is a good example of the way we work in BOL: sometimes improvising a “tune” by using melodic and rhythmic material, but in a very free way.

 

Example IV, 2: BOL: Excerpt from “Nature is not Beautiful”, live at Avant Garden, November 2011.

(This example is also discussed in Chapter 3.) This excerpt comes from a performance where recordings of a text cycle, read by the author Siri Gjære, are played back in parts, in combination with the use of speech, improvisations and compositions. Here I take the role of the speaker in a very concrete way, making a somewhat political comment on the recorded speech (which is a more metaphoric text in Norwegian). I then take part in the improvisation by using the DJFX- looper, sometimes obviously connected to my vocal impulses (soundsinger) and sometimes disconnected, as at the end of the improvised section (soundmaker). The improvisation transforms into a composition and I take the singer-role.

 

Example IV, 3:  BOL: Excerpt from “Nature is not Beautiful”, live at Avant Garden, November 2011.

 

 

 

This is another sequence from the same performance. It is an open improvised sequence, but with “electro-transparency” as an articulated musical idea. Here Tor is using his tone-generator and Ståle is playing some noisy sounds. My roles in this sequence:

0.00 to 0.22: Soundsinger: “text” and Ring modulator-effect (which is an effect I use throughout this sequence) – a hint of meaning, but distanced, towards the peripheral zone.

0.22 Soundsinger/soundmaker; using the Ring modulator effect with almost no direct signal in the output (some voice sound through the reverb).

1.06 Soundmaker: I use a sampled loop from this sequence in the G/F patch, down-pitched, which I fade in and out throughout the rest of the sequence.

1.41 Soundmaker: more percussive sounds, still with the ring modulator-effect, more of this at 2.11.

2.22 Soundsinge/soundmaker: I go back to some of the softer Ring modulatar sounds used earlier. (The sequence then transforms into the introduction of a subsequent composition.)

This sequence exemplifies a very typical situation for the ‘soundmaker’. There are no other pre-defined structures or functions within the trio-format here, and the whole improvisation is sound-oriented.

 

 

Ex. IV, 4:  BOL: Excerpt 2 from “Skylab Audiovision”, live at Verkstedhallen, 2009.

 

This is from a performance where we worked with video and installation, improvised music where musical and visual structures and ideas were connected to a collection of selected poems written by the Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen and translated by Roger Greenwald. (A demo video can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/8802365). We cooperated with video artist Pekka Stokke and technological scenography designer Sivert Lunsdtrøm.

This sequence occurs towards the end of the performance, and I am using sampled loops from earlier speaker and singer roles, as soundsinger/soundmaker material, fading in and out and mixing levels and also putting on an additional glissando layer (from 1.42). Especially towards the end of this sequence, I experience that I have an instrumental approach even if the vocal sound is close to natural. I believe that there are several reasons for this:

– The repetition changes the function of the music in loops, as discussed earlier.

– The rest of the music is loud and energetic, and the voice sound is also therefore mostly experienced as an integrated part (Bergsland’s stream integration, see Chapter 3).

 

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[1] (BOL started as a quartet, with saxophone player Tor Yttredal, and became a trio in 2003)

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