Publication: Publication, artist(s)/author(s): Kristoffer Almås
In my project I've taken what has become one of the next steps in the evolution of the percussionists world. Percussion has no standardized setup, and because of this everything from playing the snare drum to making sounds on a cello can be a percussion piece, as long as it's performed by a percussionist.Being a percussionist is about finding the best possible solution to any musical task. And also accepting these task as they span from choosing mallets for the marimba or learning to program a synth for the desired sound.
The percussion and the voice has already been merged together in pieces like Touchér, The Wonderful Widow of 18 Springs, Corporelle, A flower etc. What I wanted to do in my project was to see how the voice, electronics and percussion would merge from a completely different starting point than these other pieces. Merging these factors from the light/pop music side was something that hadn't been done in this format before.
In the same way as I practiced any other setup piece I had to find the right sounds. And instead of drums this would be programing the synths. Also making sounds for the drum pads, or distorting sounds of the actual drums. The multitasking bit is no doubt the percussionist in me that had to solve. All this became easier as I got to know the setup.
Before any of the practicing could start I had to learn two extremely vital things in this project. I had to learn how to write songs, all alone. I've earlier made songs together with friends, but mostly just adding some drums. So in this process I've written 114 song, more or less finished, over the span of a year. Out of these songs I considered 100 of them not being good enough for more work. 14 of them I took on for producing them more and. Out of these I chose 9 songs to be performed live. This was a huge amount of work that has not only taught me a lot about new aspects of music, but has also taught me how it feels to really own a piece of music. And the value of that ownership-feeling I will transfer to more of my performing in the future.
The other thing I had to learn was to sing. I've never sung before. But I had used my voice for hip hop and rap. But the most challenging part of the percussionist singer is that phrasing was really like listening to a marimbist phrasing. I was not at all used to phrase with long notes, or used to the feeling of changing the sound of a note after it was started. To elaborate on the marimba phrase it's very much based on phrasing on the sustain of the last note played or using dynamics. But even this have changed for me after all the singing I had to do. I no try to approach the other percussion instrument with a more singing kind of approach.
So to the inevitable question about why this project is a percussionists project. A simple answer is could any other instrumentalist do this? A more elaborate answer is what I think a percussion-musician is. And that is a performer who is not performing on a specific instrument. But rather which performer is playing that instrument. We have reached a point where a percussion instrument is what a percussionist is playing. And that is so much more than only a drum.