Spaces and Places: Jan Bang sessions

Last week, we were lucky to have a visit from Jez Riley French, Jan Bang and students who were about to perform at the Punkt festival in London. The emphasis was on creative responses to music making, and combining acoustic and electronic elements within music.It was also relevant to the spaces and places module, as we were asked to think about the chapel performance space, and how we would exploit the reverb of the area.

The two-day session started with a talk from Jez Riley French, who gave us a great insight into his process of capturing sounds. He was showing us recordings from his excursion into the Humber Bridge’s structure, during which he broke down each snapshot to explain the origin of the sound, and how he had captured it. Quite a few sounds were completely uncharacteristic of their origin, such as the suspension cable, and the reeds in the park near the bridge, so it really did create some otherworldly sounds that were much more than literal recordings.

He was then joined by Jan Bang, who explained their work method on a collaborative project together. The field recordings served as the basis for instrumental pieces, with the character and contour of Jez’s sounds serving as a melting pot for the musicians. The afternoon then had a brief talk about the Punkt, and an overview of their social collaborative environment. Inspired by this, we were then put into groups and told to make a piece of music to show the following day.

I found it fairly difficult to begin with, as it’s been a while since I’ve written music with a group of people (the last time being in 2015), and I didn’t know exactly how “out there” the others were interested in going. We started with playing through a chord structure, and adding in moments or vague sections that would happen, with players dipping in and out, and the overall dynamic. It was quickly decided that I should focus on more repetitive, riff-based guitar playing instead of comping to the chord structure. This meant that the piece had an anchor, and was less like a standard piece. We ended up with saxophone, and myself on guitar being fully improvised, and the piano taking the mantle as a repetitive riff-based thing, but only using a four chord cycle.

I brought in a multi-effects pedal the next day, in hopes it would let me be more creative with how I played, with things like delay becoming possible. I suggested a technique I first heard in the Sonic Youth song “Antenna” where a delay pedal has its time shortened until it starts oscillating on itself, rising in pitch. This became a signal of the piece coming to a close.

When we performed, it felt a lot more free than in the rehearsal space, and it was much easier to understand how our playing would sound in the Chapel acoustics. Following our performance, we had a 20+ minute jam, where every person played their instrument, and we were encouraged to avoid structure and time signatures as much as possible. It was also emphasised that we didn’t need to be playing all the time, and should always consider the overall sound above all else.

The sessions really helped me remember the way in which I work creatively, as having a quick turnaround before the performance forced me to work in the group efficiently. I learned a lot, and really enjoyed it.

Leave a Reply