Charon as Muse: The Ferrying of Voices in Evan Parker’s Solo Saxophone Music to the Double-Bass as Creative Authorship

-Designing a Multi-Level Translation Methodology for Improvised Musical Networks-

Tom Blancarte


The transmission and communication of musical concepts and the ways in which they influence or interact with creativity are central to the ontology of music, but this aspect is rarely tackled head-on by musicians themselves. In language, the typical realm of semiotics and semantics, translation theory serves as a rich field for investigations into the nature of meaning and communication of meanings. In my research, I propose that the application of various translation theories to the field of music opens up new ways of exploring the “meanings” of music, as well as new methodologies for creating musical novelties. To demonstrate this theory in practice, I have chosen to develop and apply translation theories to Evan Parker’s solo soprano saxophone music and translate this music to my own solo double-bass playing, creating new and original solo music on the double-bass.

Project Overview - Table of Contents

Section I: Introduction

Project Origins



General Discussion of the Dennett’s Three Stances

Section II: Evan Parker’s Music Modeled using the Three Stances

Intentional Stance

Design Stance

Physical Stance


Section III: Translation / Ferrying the Voices of the Model


Physical Layer

Intentional Layer

Design Layer

Section IV: Results

Section V: Areas for Future Research

Section VI: Works Consulted

Section VII: Discography

Appendix 1: Correspondence with Evan Parker

Appendix 2: Correspondence with Peter Evans


Section I: Introduction

Project Origins

The project has two primary origins: first, my becoming enamored of Evan’s solo music twenty years ago and second, a discussion with bassist Mark Dresser about my own efforts to imitate Evan’s work on the bass. Since first hearing Evan’s music, I have wanted to try to do something similar on the bass. It’s a project that I’ve worked on to varying degrees ever since, primarily working with bowed harmonics and continuous playing to create similar effects to Evan’s solo music, though I’ve never focused exclusively on trying to dig into what he’s doing, but rather taking inspiration from his work. Dresser’s response to my attempts as heard on my first solo record, The Shortening of the Way, was that it was impossible to do what Evan does on the soprano saxophone on the double-bass. His reasoning was that the differences between an air column with a conical bore and a vibrating string were too vast, making any attempts to do what Evan does on the saxophone on the bass hopeless enterprises. I intuited that there was something defeatist about this criticism; I knew that translation to not only bass was possible, but also to other instruments, but I didn’t have the means to articulate my thoughts. So in addition to this research being about the translation of Evan’s music to the bass, there is the secondary goal of giving voice to this this intuitive reaction I had to Dresser’s criticisms.


As I was beginning to formulate my thoughts in the research, it was important for me to learn as much as possible about the contexts my work would be placed in, namely the world of solo bass improvisations, translation theory, and research into Evan Parker’s music.

Solo Bass Improvisation

The world of solo bass performance has a long history going back to Domenico Dragonetti’s works featuring double-bass and moving to the 20th century with adaptations of Bach’s Cello Suites (Gary Karr & Edgar Meyer), but the more appropriate context here is the world of improvised solo double-bass, of which Barre Phillips is the undisputed progenitor. Since his album of solo bass improvisations, Journal Violone, was released in 1968, the world of solo bass improvisation has flourished. Some of the milestones of the genre would be Dave Holland’s Emerald Tears (1977), Barry Guy’s Fizzles (1991), Peter Kowald’s Was Da Ist (1994), Mark Dresser’s Unveil (2005), and William Parker’s Crumbling In the Shadows Is Fraulein Miller’s Stale Cake (2010). A landmark album for solo bass music, Stefano Scodanibbio’s The Voyage that Never Ends straddles the boundary between documents of free improvisation and composed works for solo double-bass. Adding to the tradition and vocabulary is a horde of younger generation of players, including Kent Kessler, James Ilgenfritz, Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten, Brandon Lopez, Pascal Niggenkemper, Adam Linson, Adam Pultz Melbye, and others. The development of various approaches and techniques moved in step with composed works for solo bass, some of the most important being Jacob Druckman’s Valentine, Brian Ferneyhough’s Trittico per G.S., Iannis Xenakis’ Theraps, and Luciano Berio’s Sequenza. Sometimes, the techniques used in these compositions inspire their use in improvisations, and sometimes the innovations of improvisers inspire composers to use them in their compositions.

One striking aspect that emerges in the investigation of this world is that, with few exceptions, the approach is almost always monophonic. This was addressed at a double-bass convention by bassist Christopher Williams, and later brought to my attention by Mark Dresser. In music for the bass,

“the details, however elaborate and explosive (such as in pieces by Mark Dresser, Stefano Scodanibbio, or Xenakis), are oriented toward and around a clear, uncompromised center; be it a gesture, harmony, or sound mass, a single idea oversees the music and admits no leaks. The material may undergo many complex transformations, and the instrument itself may be treated with great orchestral invention, but rarely is more than one voice, part, or perspective represented and sustained for any length of time.” [1]

So, despite delivering a fairly harsh (but, upon reflection and much listening, justified) criticism of the field of improvised bass, Chris presents an opening here, an opportunity for exploration and research. I see Chris’ lecture as a call to arms, a call which I try to answer with this research.

Translation Theory

While this project begins with Evan Parker’s music and ends with my own solo playing, the path between is navigated through translation. Translation, etymologically speaking, means “to carry across” [2], and most languages have a similar etymology for their token of this word. This “carrying across” has been a guiding theme throughout my research, as it helps to consider the labor of the project as a kind of “Charon operation” where I need to carry various elements across a river of emptiness to the bass. [3] Of course, the devil’s in the details, and there are many things that either can’t ever “make it across” or at least can’t do this while also having other elements along at the same time. (Oftentimes, it feels a bit like a river crossing puzzle with the wolf and livestock that have to be ferried across a river, but without the clean solutions those puzzles typically possess).

It would be prudent to begin by addressing the fact that translation is typically something to do with language, not music. I was aware of this problem when I started, but I also had a strong intuition that music had so many similarities to language that there would be plenty of applicability of translation theory to music. To investigate these similarities, I picked up the book, Music, Language, and the Brain, edited by Aniruddh Patel. It’s a great introduction to the similarities and differences between music and language, though not in any way exhaustive.

From there, I read extensively on translation theory, linguistics, and the cognitive aspects of language. The history of translation theory is too complex to delve into here [4], but it is important to detail a strain of thought throughout the history of translation in the West, namely the idea that translation can operate on different levels. The boundaries between these levels has shifted throughout time (word for word vs. getting-the-point, to semantic/syntactic/lexical), but it’s the idea that language operates on many different levels simulanteously that was most important, and which ultimately led to my adoption of Dennett’s three stances (see below) for building my methodology. The other important discussion within translation theory is that of the role of the translator (whether she is a creator or a mere messenger, and what her purpose in translation is). I’ll address both of these concepts briefly here.

The main debate within translation theory has been between whether to use word-for-word translations or translations that get the main ideas across without worrying about the little details. The debate still rages in various forms today. Most modern solutions to the problem of translation use a blend of the approaches, getting into the small details when they are viewed as important, but ignoring them when bigger ideas can’t be sacrificed for details. These ideas informed the construction of my own methodology, and I happily discovered an article (Fu 1999) on machine translation in Chinese that used a three level model, the three levels being syntax, semantics, and lexicon, that was strikingly similar to my own three level model, confirming that I was on the right path. Essentially, the idea is that each area constitutes a level that has its own set of rules. All three levels are at work in a given text, and translation has to take each level and its rules into account. This maps beautifully onto the idea of translating musical material between instruments, where some of the musical material relates directly to some technical aspect of the instrument, but where other material is more or less independent of the instrument. An article by P. Atã and J. Queiroz on translating poetry by modeling the various constraints and modes of a poem before making a translation (Atã 2016) helped me to solidify my own model. [5] Constraints, according to Atã and Queiroz, are defined as the various ways in which aspects of a poem constrain or determine other aspects. For example, the meter of a poem sets a constraint on the number of syllables one may use and thus the selection of lexical tokens a translator has at her disposal, whereas a color theme sets another kind of contraint on the the semantic content on the lexical tokens to be used. Once these constraints are modeled, the translator has an easier time understanding the true structure of a given work.

The questions concerning which levels to use in a translation usually lead to questions of fidelity to an original text, which in turn lead to questions of the function of the translation, leading finally to the role of the translator herself. Typically, modern culture doesn’t acknowledge the artistic importance of translators, something that many in the translation community have fought to rectify. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the more artistic the text, the more important it is that the translator be a competent artist herself. The cases where a translator surpasses the artistry of the original are rare, [6] but it is the goal of many a translator. This was an important confirmation that I could use translation theory and the translation process to remain a creator of individualistic art, not merely to make derivative imitations of Evan’s music, forever in his shadow. Setting aside questions of the comparitive values of a translation and its source, we are also forced to acknowledge that all translation constitutes a transformation, and thus the creation of new work of some kind. (One important exception could be the rare case where the empirical facts of a translation through time are unchanged, but the context changes, ala Borges’ “Pierre Menard” [7]). Other than this example, translation always constitutes a transformation.)

This question of fidelity to original and where the creative weight is concentrated in a translation (i.e. how much freedom is a translator allowed?) calls into question the purpose of a translation: is it to deliver the original ideas in as “pure” a state as possible into the target language (I will hereafter refer to the target langage or music as TL or TM and the source language or music as SL or SM, respectively), or is it to create a work that re-creates the same experience one has of reading the original? These questions are addressed in a relatively modern sector of translation theory under the heading of skopos theory, developed by Hans Vermeer in the 1970’s, where the intents and purposes of the translator himself are considered before all else. [8] This question of intention in my translation was central to this research, as the intent to not be a mere imitator is key to understand the steps taken in the process.

The application of translation theory to music may appear obvious, but there is much resistance to the idea, particularly within the translation community itself. The argument against its application to music is that music is fundamentally different from language, in that music lacks the semantic content that makes language such a valuable tool for communication. However, though it can never be conclusively determined for obvious reasons, the consensus is moving away from Steven Pinker’s conception of music as “auditory cheesecake” (that is, that music is an evolutionary by-product of language) and towards the idea that music not only predated language, but that language is actually a subset of music; language is music with a new semantic layer. [9] So we can easily apply translation theory to music, particularly if we use a multi-level approach, by merely ignoring the missing semantic layer. (It is perhaps also important to note that not all language contains semantic meaning, but this doesn’t mean that it is necessarily considered to be untranslatable). [10]

But we can also address the problem of semantics head-on by examining the definitions of semantics and meaning in general. The definition of meaning is fluid, though I prefer Jean-Jaques Nattiez’ definition: “meaning exists when perception of an object/event brings something to mind other than the object/event itself”. [11] Under this definition, we can see that there are very significant meanings in Evan Parker’s music; for example, by creating illusions, the music brings to mind many things other than what is “actually” there.

So it is my hope that this research can open up a new area of translation theory that focuses on musical translation. Since translation constitutes a “carrying across” of something from one place to another, I could imagine that many different types of musical translation are possible (material from instrument to instrument, material from performer to performer, etc.). In some ways, this particular musical translation constitutes a kind of meta-translation, as instead of translating a specific utterance or collection of utterances in one language to another language, we are translating one musical “language” or style on one instrument (also analogous to a language) to another. So we are translating Evan Parker’s solo language from the “language” of the saxophone to the “language” of the double-bass; hence, a meta-translation.

A final note on translation theory, looking at skopos theory and my own intentions in this translation. One of the many primary purposes of translation is to conserve or preserve the original text, albeit in a new foreign medium; in my case, one of my primary intentions in translating Evan’s solo music is to preserve the beauty and ideas it contains.[12] While some musicians’ ideas or memes spread quickly through a musical community (e.g. Charlie Parker’s bebop language or Coltrane’s use of pentatonic cells), others are more rare. I liken Evan’s music to a strange creature like the duckbill platypus or a language isolate with strange grammars, and through translation I can help it to avoid extinction. So translation serves as a kind of cultural conservation effort in addition to its many other functions.

Prior Research into Evan Parker’s Music

There has been surprisingly very little critical research made into Parker’s music. Aside from his own essay describing his music, Man & Machine, De Mutu for Buschi Niebergall (Parker 1992), there are no extensive scholarly inquiries into the music. The two essays I found were of limited use: David Borgo’s Sync or Swarm (Borgo 2005) has a few chapters devoted to Evan’s music, though most of the focus is on the fractal dimensions of the music, which end up being fairly difficult to ascertain, as the methods for analyzing the fractal dimensions of sound don’t deal with the content of the music, but only the raw data of the sound of a given recording. [13] So tape hiss or other background noise can contribute as much to a recording’s fractal dimension as much (or more) as the ordering of pitches themselves. Of more interest were two chapters in John Corbett’s Extended Play (Corbett 1994), one featuring an interview with Evan and another using the Deleuzian concept of assemblages to assess Parker’s solo music, as well as that of Milford Graves. This essay (titled Ex Uno Plura) was very influential to my research, as Corbett addresses the ideas of identity, language, and polyphony [14] with relation to the music. In many ways, the observations here form the point of departure for my own research. Despite making use of a lot of philsophical jargon, Corbett does an excellent job of describing the gist of what is actually happening in the music at several levels, best quoted in full here:

“Multiple techniques that employ multiple parts of the Parker assemblage are combined not united; this combination then produces the effect of multiple voices… each line in Parker’s solo is created by the juxtaposition of body parts. One line is not, for example, connected directly with the tongue, one with the fingers. If the polyphony is ‘pseudo-polyphony,’ it is because there is always an element of horizontal linearity to the sound, and also because Parker is too modest to claim that he is really more than ‘one.’ But there is no longer a single player per se. In its place stands the figure of an assemblage, creating not a fugue (where voices follow one another) but music that - in its construction of various strata, to borrow a phrase from Deleuze and Guattari - ‘invents a kind of diagonal running between the harmonic vertical and the melodic horizon.’ In Parker’s music this diagonal, this pseudo-polyphony, serves as a musical critique of the inherent connection between technique and intentionality, and it points to the paradoxical status of ‘freedom’ in solo improvisation…” (Corbett 1994)

So here, Corbett manages to view the music from both the intentional and design stances (see more on this below). This idea of voices or identities was a strong one and, linked with Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the polyphonic novel, [15] made it easier to conceive of a path to translate these identities over to another instrument (and performer).

Other Work with Pseudo-Polyphony and/or “Translations” of Evan’s Music

Surprisingly, there are few musicians who have taken Evan’s memes (for more on memes, see the sections on evolution) and used them in their own music. One exception is the trumpeter and composer Peter Evans, a frequent collaborator of Evan’s whose solo trumpet music owes much to Evan’s. (A complete transcript of an interview with Peter can be found in Appendix 2.)

I’ll address his approach here in broad strokes:

Peter utilizes several techniques to achieve polyphony, but the one most similar to Evan’s uses auditory streaming (more on auditory streaming below). By spacing “the melodies apart, usually by an octave (and by) not hav(ing) any notes in common between the different registers”, [16] he creates two different melodies that stand in stark contrast to each other. He creates further variety by running these lines through polyrhymic patterns (typically 3:2, 4:3, & 5:4) to help the ear perceive these lines separately, because their speeds shift in relationship to one another.

Similar to Evan’s music, the illusions created are rarely perceptable by the musician, so what Peter hears while playing these polyphonic passages is very different from what a listener would hear.

An important difference between the two approaches can be seen in the preparation and development of the materials; in Peter’s music, due to the demands of the trumpet, the materials need to be prepared and practiced in advance before they can be developed and used live, while in Evan’s music, many of the materials are produced live. This is due in part to the construction of the saxophone, which more readily allows for the unconscious exploration of pitch material than does the trumpet.


“The fact is that translation involves having a mental model of the world being discussed, and manipulating symbols in that model. A program which makes no use of a model of the world as it reads the passage will soon get hopelessly bogged down in ambiguities and multiple meanings. Even people - who have a huge advantage over computers, for they come fully equipped with an understanding of the world - when given a piece of text and a dictionary of a language they do not know, find it next to impossible to translate the text into their own language.” - Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid

Douglas Hofstadter’s statement on mental models has served as a guide throughout the research process. It became clear early on that the creation of an accurate model of Evan’s music was going to be necessary if there was ever to be any hope of translating it to the bass. So Evan’s music would need to be analyzed from as many angles as possible: its context, meaning, etc. Musicological methodologies were the best tools of analysis, with focus on materials which could be carried over to the bass.

I began my investigations from Dresser’s modeling of Evan’s music as a conical air column and the comparison to a vibration string on the bass. Evan’s model of a closed tube makes the air column a bit more analogous to a string, in that all fingerings are ways of raising the pitch, similar to an open string that can only be raised in pitch by the various ways of fingering or creating nodal points for harmonics (we’ll leave subharmonics out of this). [17] But Dresser’s criticism is sound, in that there are many things that are simply not possible to replicate from one model to the other. I sensed that there was something missing in this model, and it was Corbett’s essay that pushed me into looking to language and semantics for answers.

To build a model of Evan’s music, I would need to utilize various musicological and linguistic tools. In practice, I have adjusted my model throughout the research as new methodologies came to light, so the model has been ever-evolving. The bulk of the modeling can be found in Section II of this paper.

So, as discussed above, I discovered the vast reservoir of translation theory research available and set to work finding ways to apply it to this project. The necessity of looking into the various constraints and multiple levels at work in his music was apparent quite quickly, as was the need to look at his music in greater detail than I had previously. Decisions about what exactly it was that I was modeling had to be made quickly before the project collapsed under the weight of too many models; Evan’s multi-tracked solo pieces were left out, but it was decided not to model just one period of his work, but to view the evolving nature of his solo work throughout his career as central to what needs to be translated. Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory (discussed below) also provided a clear path for how to model all of the elements in the solo music.

Finally, investigations into translation led inevitably to investigations into language and semantics, which led to my discovery of philosopher Daniel Dennett’s three stances, discussed immediately below.

General Discussion of the Three Stances

I have used the three stances of Daniel Dennett [18] to help organize my translation methodology, and Dennett’s work (in the fields of consciousness and evolution) has been a guiding light thoughout my research. To explain the three stances (intentional, design, and physical) briefly, we can use the a computer as our example. If we use the physical stance to analyze the computer, we consider its physical makeup: plastic, silicon, electricity, etc. The design stance doesn’t care about the physical makeup of the computer, but instead is interested in how it works; that is, how the software is programmed, the user illusions of the interface, etc. The intentional stance doesn’t care about either of these two stances, but is instead interested in the beliefs and intentions of the computer, which it can of course only have if it is some form of advanced AI. All three stances have something to say about the reality of a thing, and they are dependent upon one another. In some ways, using all three stances is akin to being able to perceive the whole elephant in the Eastern parable about the elephant in the dark. [19]

I stumbled upon Dennett’s concept while searching for a way to explain my skepticism of Dresser’s criticism that to do what Evan does on the saxophone is physically impossible on the bass; I agree that it is physically impossible, but that misses the point, or intention, of Evan’s music. It was in considering this way of thinking about the problem that I was reminded of problems with translation that I had encountered while learning Danish and attempting to translate some of Michael Strunge’s poems into English. There were many instances where a double-meaning couldn’t be carried over from Danish to English, but this didn’t mean that the translation was an impossibility, just that there were caveats. These experiences led me to consider this activity of imitating Evan’s music as a kind of translation, and I began reading heavily about translation theory (see above), a subject of which I was previously completely ignorant.

Section II: Evan Parker’s Music Modeled using the Three Stances

Intentional Stance

Psychoacoustics (auditory illusions)

An important utility of the intentional stance is that it addresses how we perceive something without knowing how it is constructed.[20] So we can hear pitches in Evan’s music without having to know how they are produced. This provides a convenient way to sidestep Dresser’s criticisms that the physics of the Evan’s music are impossible to replicate on the bass.

Psychoacoustics plays a very central role in Evan’s solo music. One of my earliest discussions with a friend about Evan’s music dealt with perceptions; my friend talked about how fast the music was, but my perception was that there were actually several slow lines moving simultaneously. I first met Evan after a concert in Austin in 2003, and I asked him about this discussion. He talked about different layers of activity, and said that I was essentially correct in my perceptions. In my research, I was looking into visual analogues for what I was perceiving, and found Bridget Riley’s art to share some properties of Evan’s work, namely that there were illusions being created by the perceiver.

Bridget Riley, Blaze I (1962)

As I read more on Riley and other Op Artists, I learned about the Gestalt principles of psychology and various optical illusions. One that stood out was the Necker Cube, an illustration of what is called multistable or bistable perception.

The Necker Cube - seen as a flat surface, a downward-left facing cube and an upward-right facing cube

The idea here is that though our brains can group objects according to the Gestalt principles with ease, there are occasions where the brain can group in several ways, but only one way at a time. The Necker Cube is an example of this. I thought that I perceived an auditory analogue to the Necker Cube in Evan’s music, and began to read up on the subject. This led me to the work of psychologist Albert Bregman, who laid out the principles of auditory perception in his work, Auditory Scene Analysis. In particular, the principle at work in Evan’s music is something known as auditory streaming.

Here is an illustration of how auditory streaming works. The axes are similar to Western notation, with pitch being represented on the y-axis and time on the x-axis. We can observe how, in one listening, the pitches are not grouped in any way and are hence perceived as “noise”. In the second way of listening, they are grouped as being played by the same instrument, so they are perceived as a “line” that moves all over the range of the instrument. In the third, the pitches are grouped by the listener by range, so that there is an illusion created that there are three “lines” in three different ranges, when in fact there is just one instrument playing all of the pitches.

When I presented Evan with these ideas, he responded,

“Multistable perceptions and those Necker Cube-like flips are a very good way of talking about what I am aiming for. Maybe it is even more like those books of psychedelic patterns which after staring for a while reveal a 3-D effect.”

The “psychedelic patterns” that Evan was referring to are called autostereograms. Evan’s comment led to the insight that his music is built upon the intention of requiring the listener to actively engage with the sound to make the illusion occur. Listening passively won’t be rewarding, because all the listener will hear is noise. The intent to create these illusions lies under the heading of the intentional stance, but we will wait until we look at the design stance before we try to understand how he creates these illusions.

In this stereogram, if you unfocus your eyes in the right way, you can see a shark popping out in what seems to be three dimensions.

The cover to the album released in conjunction with the completion of this paper, Sirat: 8 Translations for Evan Parker, is also a stereogram, a simple one that I designed myself.

Other Forms / Inspiration

When I first mentioned Bridget Riley and Op Art to Evan, he denied Riley as an influence but mentioned Frank Stella.

Frank Stella, Harran II

Stella’s work is quite diverse, but one can see with this example here, Harran II, that he toys with illusionistic effects without pulling fully away from the flatness of the canvas.

Mary Lee Bendolph. “Housetop” Variation, 1998 (quilted by Essie Bendolph Pettway in 2000)

The artists of the Mississippi community in Gee’s Bend and their quilts were the subject of a traveling exhibition that I saw in Boston in 2005. Evan pays tribute to their art on his album Time Lapse, on the track titled Gee’s Bend.

Liz Fritsch, Optical Pot

Liz Fritsch is a British ceramist whose pottery features detailed patterns and optical effects. Evan pays tribute to her on his album Process and Reality on the track, Diary of a Mnemonist (For Liz Fritsch).

Roger Ackling, Frieze

Roger Ackling makes sculptures from everyday wooden objects, oftentimes just driftwood. He uses a magnifying glass to burn intricate patterns into the wood. Evan has used Roger Ackling’s art for the covers of several of his albums, as well as referencing his work with the title to the solo album Lines Burnt in Light. The invitation to the listener to perceive “lines” in the music is plain, as are most of Evan’s references to artists in his titles.

Sufi Parables

Evan is a student of Sufi teachings, in particular the writings of Afghani-British writer Idries Shah. According to Shah, Sufism is a kind of esoteric philosophy within Islam but that actually predates Islam.[21] One of the salient features of Sufi teachings is the use of parables, in particular stories revolving around a Mullah Nasrudin, to illustrate Sufi concepts. These stories often function in ways that require multiple readings in order for their function to be “activated”. In many cases, there is a literal interpretation on the surface, but underneath lie several other interpretations. In order to understand the true meaning of the parable, the reader is required to have all the different interpretations in their mind at once.[22]

Looking at these interests of Evan’s together, a pattern emerges of a fascination with patterns, illusions and multiplicities of meaning and interpretation. It is important to take these interests into consideration when searching for possible intentions in Evan’s music, as these three interests align perfectly with our observations of the psychoacoustic illusions that are so central to his musical vision, and help us to better understand how we can get the most out of his music.


A final possible intention worth investigating in Evan’s music is shamanism. Evan has at times referred to his activity as shamanic, and others have made the connection from improvised music to shamanism.[23] [24] If we use Singh’s definition of shamans as “practitioners who enter trance to provide services”,[25] then Evan’s entries into “R-mode” to enter an altered state of consciousness should certainly count. But what “services” does he provide? One clue lies in its illusory elements. If we view consciousness as an illusion, a quite prevalent view today[26], then Evan’s creation of illusions that clearly are illusions can be seen as the shamanic journey to spiritual or unseen worlds (i.e. the “real” world behind our illusions) to share these visions with the rest of society. So one of Evan’s shamanic services is to show the listener the illusory nature of our reality. [27]

Correspondence with Evan

Evan was my external advisor for this research, and I used my conversations with him primarily to ascertain his intentions with his music. We also spent a good deal of time discussing my own intentions with the project and the nature of musical translation.

I have included an edited version of our correspondence in Appendix 1.

Design Stance

Actor Network Theory (ANT)

Actor Network Theory (hereafter written as ANT) is a theory/methodology elaborated by French sociologist Bruno Latour and explained in his book, Reassembling the Social. In this book, osensibly a sociology book, Latour points out some of traditional sociology’s failings, primarily the overlooking of just how many things influence each other and affect outcomes in a relational network. Latour encourages the reader to go slowly and look at all possible things in a network that have influence; he calls these things actors, and differentiates between actors in a network and mere intermediaries. In short, a thing is an actor is it adds or substracts, or changes, information in a network. A thing is merely an intermediary if it changes nothing.

I first heard of ANT through a lecture I saw online given by Berlin-based vibraphonist and philosopher Christopher Dell, [28] where he talks about how the instrument a musician plays speaks as much as the musician. This resonated with things I had heard Evan say about the saxophone, and made me realize that one of his intentions is to make the saxophone speak, while at the same time guiding that speaking into particular areas. So solo playing is a kind of conversation between the instrument and the musician.

One of the first things I did at the outset of my research was to draw an Actor Network for Evan’s music, which can be seen below.

-Actor Network for Evan Parker’s Music-

Here, I listed everything that is involved in the Evan’s music, starting with Evan himself and moving to the saxophone, the room and the audience. I then went into detail within those regions, dividing Evan up into the different parts of his body, including his brain, and then doing the same with the saxophone. Looking at this throughout the research helped me to make sure I was looking at the model the whole time so as not to miss any aspect of the music.[29]

Psychoacoustics (auditory perception)

One of the most important features of Evan’s music is the creation of polyphony on the solo saxophone, termed psuedo-polyphony by Evan due to the fact that there is only one true voice (Evan’s) making all of the music.

In order to create this polyphony, Evan makes use of the human brain’s grouping principles, covered under the heading of auditory scene analysis (ASA). In ASA, there are many different ways in which the brain organizes auditory signals, the most important for this research being something called auditory streaming.

This fragment is commonly used in Evan’s music. Two separate lines are grouped by register (marked by red and blue note heads), so that once the music moves fast enough, the listener perceives two lines. The example here only shows two lines, but once overtones are added, a third line can emerge above. Of course, if the range of the basic line is wide enough, four lines can be created. Thus, an auditory version of an autostereogram is created, but like the visual version, some effort on the part of the perceiver is necessary for it to be perceived.

Linguistics / Language

No application of translation theory to music can avoid a discussion of linguistics. I have used Ray Jackendoff as my primary source of information on linguistics. Despite the fact that he was important in developing, together with Fred Lerdahl, what is known as the general theory of tonal music (GTTM), I elected not to read more than short descriptions of GTTM in Patel 2008, as Evan’s music is not tonal and clearly has a very different “grammar” than the music of Bach or Beethoven.

But this brings us to the question of how to determine the grammar at work in the SM. The most important aspect of grammar that we will investigate first is that of syntax. To understand what syntax might be in musical terms, the following quote from Jackendoff’s Language, Consciousness, Culture is worth citing in full:

"…syntax is the solution to a basic design problem: semantic relations are recursive and multidimensional but have to be expressed in a linear string. In particular, propositional structure (who did what to whom) is orthogonal to information structure (new vs. old information, topic/focus/common ground). Syntax has to multiplex these conflicting dimensions of structure into a single output representation.” [30]

Most music in the world in syntactical, but the solo music is syntactical in ways very similar to language, in that it does precisely what Jackendoff describes here, by expressing concrete ideas simultaneously by inserting them into a line. Here, it is the auditory streaming principle that helps the brain to chunk these concepts so that we hear a polyphony that isn’t actually there.

Meaning, or semantics, is an important aspect of linguistics that emerges from this grammar. Of course, as discussed earlier, language typically points to something outside of itself as a semiotic sign for that external thing. In music, this can also happen (think of Puccini’s use of the melody from The Star Spangled Banner in Madame Butterfly, or even Bach’s use of the letters in his name in The Art of the Fugue), but in Evan’s music, it’s the psychological illusory effect that constitutes the semantic content of the music. The following quote from Jackendoff is appropriate here:

“A sentence is a set of three or more correlated structures: phonology, syntax, semantics, and its own principles of combination. In producing a sentence, one must map from a semantic structure (the meaning one wishes to express), through syntax, to phonology, which leads to the formation of instructions to the vocal tract. In hearing and understanding a sentence, one must convert an acoustic signal into phonology, which in turn can be mapped to syntactic and semantic structures in working memory. Language processing cannot go directly from acoustics to meaning or from meaning to motor control, because the correspondence is determined by the principles of the language (italics mine): think again of how the meaning ‘present time’ is related to phonological expression only as a part of meaning of the little sound z. And in the course of producing or understanding the sentence, the speaker and hearer need all these structures to be available simultaneously in working memory, as is clear form the fact that they know which words correspond to which parts of the meaning.” (Jackendoff 2007)

Music lacks a meta-language mode, where music can be used to refer to itself. But we could entertain the idea that repetition of musical ideas in different contexts invites the listener to think about these ideas in terms of their relationships to one another, solidifying their “meaning”. The unraveling and sequential layering of lines also provides a kind of meta reference to these ideas that allows the listener to hear the individual lines or ideas more clearly.

The term parataxis, an important grammatical aspect of Evan’s music, comes from Jeff Pressing’s monumental (but tragically overlooked) work on improvisation, “Improvisation: Methods and Models”. [31] Here, he uses it to describe the introduction of new material that seemingly has no relation to the previous material. In Evan’s music, parataxis occurs when a system of pitches shifts suddenly, without the usual slow addition or subtraction of material. As an element of syntax, [32] parataxis can psychologically be seen as a kind way to jump away from material, creating a zooming out effect that allows the listener to consider previous material in the light of new material. [33] Evan himself refers to these moments as “self-aware ruptures of stylistic coherence”. [34]

Another element of the syntax of Evan’s music is the revealing of various lines that had been syntactically interwoven; I call this effect unraveling. Oftentimes, very typically at the end of an improvisation, the various lines will start to converge on a single line, with the polyphonic illusion dissipating. This is usally achieved by focusing on non-overtone pitches, slowing the motion down, substracting non-extended technique pitches, or some combination of all three. The effect is akin to an illusionist revealing the mechanics of her illusion.

This leads us to our final discussion of the linguistical aspects of Evan’s music, particular as they pertain to translation and intersect with our perceptual systems. For translating poetry, P. Atã and J. Queiroz (Atã 2016) address the need for a model of the ways different elements of a poem constrain one another. The following diagram shows the way different aspects of Evan’s music constrain one another (notice how circular breathing constrains many of the other elements of the music). We use the term user illusion, borrowed from computer science, [35] to refer to the way that these mechanisms have underlying physical properties (e.g. a particular articulation is created by a motion of the tongue, but Evan’s consciousness chunks this experience into something called an "articulation). This model happens to be the view from which Evan makes the music; the small diagram of the pitches being organized as a line is meant to reflect the way he views it, where he concentrates on the different elements of the music and not the actually effect. The effect is actually intended more for the listener. In this way, we can view Evan as an illusionist who is primarily with the fuctional aspects of maintaining his illusions, not in appreciating them himself. [36]

In some cases, Evan can manage to perceive these illusions as he makes them. If he starts to focus on the illusions too much, he can lose concentration and the illusion falls apart, both for him and the listener. But he can sometimes manage to reach a second state where he can add new illusions on top of the illusions he can already percieve. But usually, at some point, these illusions collapse. The following two diagrams illustrate this process.

Evolution / Memetics

From linguistics, it’s only a short journey to the world of evolution. The bridge is provided by what is known as memetics. Darwin’s theory of natural selection is a substrate-neutral theory that can be applied outside of the field biology. When applied to the study of cultural evolution, the units of cultural information that are looked at here are referred to as memes.[37] Simply put, memetics allows us to view any cultural activity in Darwinian terms. But we need only look at the requirements necessary for natural selection to function in order to see how it works in Evan’s music.

The outlines of the theory of evolution by natural selection are clear: evolution occurs whenever the following conditions exist:

So we can easily see how Evan’s music contains variation; notes and patterns are continuously produced in an endless stream of information. Many of these patterns recreate themselves or at least are replicated through Evan’s memory. Finally, patterns survive and go extinct in the environment of the human-saxophone network, where some patterns are better suited to the “landscape” of the solo music than others. Just what do we mean by landscape? In evolutionary terms, a landscape is a model for the search space in which iterations live or die. In many ways, Evan determines many of the parameters of the landscape himself. For instance, it is Evan who decides that patterns that work well for psuedo-polyphony are desirable, increasing their survival rate. In this way, he can be viewed as the apex predator in the system, culling the herd by eliminating weak patterns. But some of the parameters are physical and less bounded by Evan’s subjective whims; certain patterns are bounded by the physics of the saxophone, others by the physics of Evan’s body.

The varation aspect of evolution and its interaction with fitness gives us an important insight into Evan’s music, in that much of its development relies on accident, or at least elements that are unintentional. Daniel Dennett puts it succinctly:

“Evolution is all about turning ‘bugs’ into ‘features,’ turning ‘noise’ into ‘signal,’ and the fuzzy boundaries between these categories are not optional; the opportunistic open-endedness of natural selection depends on them.” [39]

So it is in this way that the music evolves over time. Evidence for this evolution can be seen in the survival and development of material, as well as the “extinction” of other material. An example of material that is ideally suited to the evolutionary landscape of Evan’s music that comes up again and again is the pattern C-Db-Bb (in Bb); it has been showing up in his music since at least as far back as 1986, but is now prevalent in almost every single solo improvisation documented. When first asked about this fragment, Evan was silent. But after being pressed, what seems to have happened is that this pattern emerged as a kind of by-product of the regular activity of moving the fingers of both hands quickly. As it turns out, the saxophone has a natural tendency towards these three notes, as they can all be played with the right hand open, with the Db being played with the fingers completely open. So this is an advantageous set of notes on the saxophone if one wants to use the right hand for fingering lower melodies. But according to Evan, this is something that wasn’t consciously composed but emerged from many solo concerts. So, in classic Darwinian fashion, this seemingly random mutation (which was reliant on the structure of the saxophone, much like any mutation in DNA is reliant on the structure of the DNA itself) becomes an adaptation in the environment of Evan’s solo music. And like rabbits in Austrialia, it has thrived there! It is difficult to find one of Evan’s recent improvisations that doesn’t include this pattern.

For examples of extinct material, we have vocalizations (heard on Evan’s first solo saxophone record, Saxophone Solos, and never again), a kind of “sputtery” tonguing attack that still survives in his ensemble playing but died out in the solo music in the 90’s, and a technique of biting the reed to create a sound that would fill the acoustic space. In the cases of extinction, we have Evan function as the apex predator in the system, killing off “weaker” material.

One of the central concerns of this research, as well as in the realm of translation, is the phenomenon of creativity. Here, evolution reveals itself to be central to the creative process, as old information combined with other old information leads to new information. I’ll sidestep the subjective, conscious decision of a translator to see themselves as either an invisible conveyor of another’s ideas or as an active artist, and address the creative process directly from an evolutionary standpoint.

Daniel Dennett, in his landmark book on evolution, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, [40] makes a distinction between creativity and discovery, with discovery being a natural evolutionary phenomenon and creativity being a more conscious, self-aware phenomenon. As an example, he uses the discovery of calculus by both Newton and Leibnitz and contrasts is with the creativity of Shakespeare’s plays. (That is, calculus works regardless of who invented it, but if Shakespeare hadn’t lived, no one would have written one of his plays in his stead). For me, the useful takeaway is that things that can be discovered are tools (Dennett calls them cranes) that can be used to create. But nothing is ever “created” ex nihilo, there is always something before. So it seems apparent to me that this is at worst a false dichotomy, at best two ends of a spectrum. The only distinction here is one of general vs. specific; calculus works regardless of the language used to calculate it, so it’s a very general level of creativity, whereas The Tempest is a very specific level of creativity. All artistic and scientific processes are a feedback loop between discoveries and experiments of how to make use of these discoveries in various fitness landscapes.

So how does this all relate to Evan’s music? When we look under the hood at the nuts and bolts of the music (here, the actor network is useful to revisit), we can see how the music is the result of historical forces that meet in the person of Evan; small discoveries, communicated memetically to Evan, finding niches in the evolutionary fitness landscape of his solo playing.

To demonstrate this process of discovery as creation, we will trace Evan’s influences to show how the creativity of the solo music was arrived at by small, incremental steps and the putting together of disparate elements to create something novel. Aside from his own biological evolution, the more general cultural evolution of music, and the discovery/creation of the saxophone, we can look at the various techniques that Evan uses. Here is a list of some of them, with their sources as cited by Evan:

Even the decisions evolve based on the environment; the decision to use the technique of circular breathing came from a problem-solving situation, where Evan needed to match the ability of musicians Hugh Davies and Derek Bailey to play feedback for limitless amounts of time.

So if we put all of these discoveries of various techniques, none of which were made by Evan, together into the Design Space of the solo music, then we can begin to see how the music can be created, almost mindlessly. Of course, Evan’s mind, being the apex predator in the landscape, uses consciousness to make decisions about how to use various techniques, but even he evolved in a relatively mindless process.


Prior to beginning this research, I had never even considered transcribing Evan’s music. I’m not exactly sure why; perhaps I considered it to be technologically impossible, or that the music didn’t lend itself to this kind of investigation. [41] The technology for transcribing has made considerable advancements since I first discovered his music, with free programs like Reaper or even options through Youtube allowing the slowdown of playback while maintaining the original pitch.

I began with transcribing some patterns that I heard again and again, namely the pattern (in concert pitch) of Bb-B-Ab, which occurs in much of Evan’s music since at least as far back as 1986 (mentioned in the section on evolution/memetics). I then transcribed a section of two tracks from the album Whitstable Solo, the first of which features this pattern, the second of which features this pattern, plus another that has been used often in more recent times, Ab-D-Bb-Eb.

This pattern was the subject of Peter Evan’s composition 12 for Evan Parker, a piece I have performed as a member of the Peter Evans Ensemble.

The next transcription was the first 11 seconds of the third track on Conic Sections, featured here:

It’s not a perfect transcription rhythmically, but all of the pitches are there. An analysis of the pitches reveals that Evan is using a simple pentatonic scale, with polyrhythmic interplay between the left and right hands to create variety, while occasionally let overtones pop out to create a second layer. This texture is rather unique in his work, and it soon shifts to more familiar (for Evan) territory.

Another transcription is from the album Six of One. Here, Evan begins with a rather “traditional” monophonic, melodic approach. Using almost exclusively the notes of what what could be called a Bb Dorian b2#4 scale (containing the notes Bb B Db E F G Ab, which could also be considered the sixth mode of the so-called Hungarian Major Scale), he spends the first section exploring different patterns within this scale, before eventually moving into something akin to a Alberti-bass texture, where he uses pivot notes around his explorations of the scale. Finally, he enters a familiar texture of three and four-note groupings at fast speed to create polyphony. At the end of the piece, he reverses this process but in a very short period of time. Its formal structure is so organized that one would be forgiven for thinking that it was, if not completely composed in advance, at least planned that way. [42]


After looking at these transcriptions and listening to hours of music, we can begin to describe elements of the music that we can call style. Here are some of the elements:

Explorations of a small selection of notes and their harmonics

Particular note combinations, pools of notes, scales, etc. (e.g. Hungarian Major Scale)

Unraveling of melodies into one

Parataxis; sudden interruptions of a phrase by another

Layering of tonguing attacks onto a given phrase

Sputtery attacks (extinct)

Groupings of three (triplets) and fours

Polyphony of little melodic fragments


While the function of the performer of Evan Parker music as shaman is a part of the intentional stance, aspects of how shamanism actually functions in a musical context surely fall under the design stance. The use of repetition is a common shamanic tool, as is ceremonial breathing (here, circular breathing). But another interesting angle can be found in A.B. Lord’s excellent book on the singers of epic poems, The Singer of Tales, where Lord traces the history and development of the oral tradition that created epics like The Illiad. It is clear that the singers of these poems function as quasi-magicians, if not fully-fledged shamans. In terms of design, the memorized rote phrases that these singers use (the Odyssey’s “wine-dark sea”) are both a tool to aid in improvisational performance of epic poetry, but also a semi-magical way to induce a trance-like state in both the performer and listener. The use of memorized magical phrases in an improvised context maps quite nicely onto Evan’s music, and we can easily view his music as a kind of non-semantic epic poetry. The music is different every time, but it is still an identifiable music; improvisation as a tool for musical creation and performance as opposed to music that is defined by being improvised. [43]

Physical Stance


The acoustical issues of this project are what Mark Dresser reacted strongly to, and constitute some of the thorniest problems to be resolved in this research.

For this part of the research, I have relied heavily upon Kevin Moore’s doctoral dissertation (Moore 2014), which does a excellent job of describing how multiphonics and regular pitches are created on the saxophone. I will attempt a brief summary here:

The closed soprano saxophone is a conical tube which has a vibrating reed at one end. When the reed is sufficiently damped (i.e. had its strength reduced), vibrations created by the reed will resonate in accordance with the bore of the saxophone. The pitch will be raised as keys are opened up, shortening the length of the air column. At any one of these fingering/pitch points, harmonics are possible. By overblowing, the saxophone will start to vibrate in accordance with the harmonic series.

Another complication to the process is the use of cross fingerings, which are fingerings where some of the middle keys are open. This complicates matters by many degrees, as the higher frequencies move past these open holes, but lower frequencies escape. In some cases, these cross fingerings are used to create alternate tunings of “normal” pitches. In other cases, they can lead to multiphonics, where two or more frequencies are strong enough that they don’t cancel each other out but sound simultaneously. [44]

The primary application of these acoustical properties is the use of harmonics, to which the various fingerings for multiphonics have a tangentially related function, in that these multiphonic fingerings are richer and more “chaotic” in terms of possibilities for harmonics. The primary way in which Evan uses harmonics is through what he terms the “flam” effect, discussed below.

Another acoustical aspect of Evan’s music is his exploitation of the acoustics of the spaces he plays in to create spacial illusions. Frequently, a pitch or a group of pitches will resonate in a particular part of a room, and this will influence his choice of pitches as he uses these pitches to create the illusion of an ensemble of saxophones places at different locations around the room. This also serves as a reminder of the importance of the actor network in Evan’s music, as even the room in which he plays has a voice in the music.

The “Flam” Effect and Polyrhythms

One way in which Evan’s music produces the illusion of polyphony is through the use of polyrhythms. By dividing the ranges of the instrument up into different polyrhythms or polytempos, the auditory streaming effect is heightened. [45] Exercises of playing polyrhythmic patterns (3:2, 4:3, 5:3, etc.) divided between left and right hands on the saxophone make for an easy utilization of basic polyrhythmic exercises onto the instrument. But somewhat suprisingly, Evan downplays the use of strict polyrhythms in favor of an outcome of using them, namely what he refers to as the “flam” effect. It’s best to quote him here in full:

“None of my practice materials have ever been systematic. The polyrhythm studies are on going and intermittent as are all the other things I practice.I find it works for me to find a verbal phrase that acts as a mnemonic for the particular numbers: “nice cuppa tea” 3:2; “nicer than yesterday” 4:3, “first beat a five then a three” 5:3; and so on. Then it seems that there is a tendency to veer off the strict equal divisions toward some lop sided approximation. In African music (great generalisation!) there is a tendency for the polyrhythm to be shared between multiple players. The idea of the flam is in the end more useful, although it is a nice thing to be able to set up phrases across the two hands that are countable however uneven.”

The idea here is that through playing these alternating phrases across the two hands, a flam effect is created where harmonics pop out with greater frequency. So the flam creates a new layer of harmonics that can potentially create another layer in the stream.

R-Mode / Default Mode Network

Much has been said about Evan’s references to left-right brain lateralization, particularly with regard to Betty Edward’s groundbreaking book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Essentially, the idea is that each hemisphere of the brain divides up responsibilities, with the right brain handling global, intuitive issues while the left brain deals with more concrete issues. Evan has decided to adapt this strategy for his own music making, overloading his attention so that he can go into a more global, right brain perspective, which he refers to as R-mode. The current research suggests a more complicated explanation, which I will sketch briefly here.

A discovery was made recently that the brain has a certain kind of activity in a resting state, dubbed the default mode network. Since its discovery, much research has been devoted to its functions and the ways it interacts with other mental states.

In neuroscience, the default mode network (DMN), also default network, or default state network, is a large scale brain network of interacting brain regions known to have activity highly correlated with each other and distinct from other networks in the brain. It was initially assumed that the default mode network was most commonly active when a person is not focused on the outside world and the brain is at wakeful rest, such as during daydreaming and mind-wandering. However, it is now known that it can contribute to elements of experience that are related to external task performance, particularly if these are fluent tasks; that is, tasks that are relatively “easy”.

The main point that sticks out when reading about the DMN versus about brain lateralization studies is that the current research points to a much more nuanced and thorny picture of how these various mental states interact. Early theories of the DMN had it being a polar opposite to the central executive network (CEN), [46] but it seems in some cases that these two networks can be linked. The link between them could be something called the salience network, which “notices” various stimuli and decides which network should deal with them. For the purposes of this research, I have used the model of a DMN and CEN with a salience network being used to switch between them, but it should be noted that this research is very current and subject to constant revision. It’s my personal theory that the DMN relates to something that many performers refer to as a flow state, but that is outside the scope of this research.

A final note on the DMN; the use of alcohol has been shown to assist in shifts to the DMN, which many musicians use in small amounts before performance, to “calm the nerves”, which may actually be a way of talking about the DMN. When asked about this, Evan responded that he finds that “a gin and tonic settles the nerves and gives a little ‘Dutch courage’,” though less often for solo concerts.


Evan’s music is quite complex, but builds from simple principles developed and explored over multiple performances. So, the music not being written down in any way necessitates that it be something that exists, at least in part, in Evan’s memory.

Memory is an exciting field within psychological and neurological research, but I will only touch on some basic themes here. The field first opened up in the modern era with Frederic C. Bartlett’s book, Remembering: A Study in Social and Experimental Psychology, published in 1932. Since then, much research and development has been made, but in many ways, Plato’s model of memory functioning like wax tablets is still very relevant. [47] Many of the current models for memory use a “sketchpad” metaphor, such as the visuospatial sketchpad, where some information can be held in working memory for short periods.

Here, I have elected to use Baddeley and Hitch’s working memory model, [48] where the CEN uses two “slave systems” (the visuospatial sketchpad and the phonological loop) to hold information in short-term memory, and a third system, the episodic buffer, binds this information into episodic memories that can be stored in long-term memory. The phonological loop deals with auditory components (important for our purposes) and possesses two subsystems: an acoustic store, where sounds are stored but decay rapidly, and an articulatory loop where memories of sounds are rehearsed to prevent them from being lost.

While it is clear that there is more to be discovered in the realm of memory research, this quick sketch allows us to see how Evan can hold information in the slave systems (e.g. a fingering pattern) in a literal loop, while searching in long-term memory for other information or focusing on other aspects of the sound for minor or major adjustments. This quick thumbnail sketch suggests that the model of constantly switching between the CEN and DMN is most likely the right track, but this is something for future research to explore.

Evan himself has discussed the memorized aspects of the musical activity as being a kind of ars memoria situation, where he enters a mental “building” and plays around with familiar objects within it. He also discusses muscle memory as an important aspect of all music-making, and stresses that practicing patterns for fluency is an important aspect of his music. [49] Both of these memory models fit nicely into the Baddeley and Hitch’s working memory model, as well working well with our CEN/DMN model, though it should be noted that the working memory model could perhaps be adjusted to allow for the DMN to also handle information as well.


As Dennett and Hofstadter demand, we have a model of Evan’s music built from many different perspectives, sketched here again briefly: looked at from the intentional stance, we can see that Evan intends for his music to create auditory illusions, with these illusions inspired by various pattern-based visual arts and Sufi parables featuring multi-layered meanings. The multi-layered, multi-perceptual aspect serves a spiritual function in which Evan seeks to serve a kind of neo-shamanistic role, leading the listener to other spiritual worlds. In order to achieve a design stance, we use actor network theory to find all of the actors in Evan’s network, then use various methodologies to look at the stuff of the music itself. Assuming that the music possesses some kind of “meaning”, we can discover how this meaning comes into being by analyzing the music from listening and transcribing, then seeing how memetics, linguistics, and psychoacoustics intertwine. Finally, we can use the physical stance to try to understand some of the underlying physical properties of these designs, primarily in the way the music functions acoustically and in what happens in Evan’s brain in the various networks (salience, default mode, and central executive) and memory systems (working and long term memory).

Section III: Translation / Ferrying the Voices


So, armed with a strong, multi-layered model of the source music SM, we move to the target music TM, the translation itself. The real work of translation occurs after all the data has been collected and organized, and things have to be carried over from the SM to the TM. Here, the translator makes their presence felt most strongly by making decisions about what gets carried over. [50] We have established, using skopos theory, that the purpose of this translation is not a one-off performance, a transcription, or an imitation, but a transformation leading to a unique new music utilizing the “meanings” of the SM. The huge advantage of translating a language or style as opposed to a singular work lies in the ability to translate various levels of the SM that may not be able to coexist in the TM simultaneously. It is also important to note that, through skopos theory, we can see that translation is a decision-making process, one that is guided both by practical and aesthetic concerns. In this way, translation can be viewed as a creative process with all of the actors in the various actor networks giving voice to their concerns; here, Evan’s intentions make themselves heard, the bass gives its own inputs and intentions, and finally, the translator is the gatekeeper or ferryman who determines which aesthetics and materials (including their own) make it to the other side. [51]

With our goals in sight, we get to work on details. But before proceeding, it is important to note that I will now be highlighting my own translation process, which represents only a limited selection of the whole set of possibilities for translation. The decisions made for which subset of possibilities is to be used are determined by my own aesthetics and artistic identity at the moment of translation.

The model above makes use of the three stances, with the intentional stance being simple to translate directly to the TM, the design stance being both translatable to the design and intentional layers of the TM, while the physical stance stays locked in its own SM, able to influence the design stance and only through the design stance be transferred to the TM. Now, we will walk through the process of ferrying some of the individual “voices” across the gulf between systems. The translation process isn’t particularly “clean”, and showing this process in written form doesn’t lend itself to easy reading. I’ve elected here to take a few aspects of the translation process and walk the reader through their journey from the SM to the TM, starting with a few words about how the physical layer isn’t directly translatable, moving on to show how I translated some intentions, and finally to how I translated some design aspects (with some physical aspects mixed in there).

Physical Layer

In the physical layer, we look at the physical underpinnings of the SM and the TM. In our model, this can inform the design layer (e.g. how harmonics can be used to create streaming) but can’t be translated directly from the SM to the TM, so I’ve elected to group all discussions of the physical layer with discussions of design. Again, when looking at Evan’s music from the physical stance alone, translation is impossible; it is only through using the other two stances that we can hope to translate anything.

Intentional Layer

The first layer to be actually translated is the intentional layer, as the intentions of any action are more important than the details, though we need the details for the intentions to be realized. As the intentional layer isn’t hindered by physical limitations, we can carry over as much as we can. Here are some of the primary intentions to be translated:

It’s worth discussing how these intentions can be ferried over to the TM and how this works within the model, albeit briefly. The key point to be highlighted is that most of these intentions have to be made into new intentions in the TM, where they can then be put into practice at the “lower” layers. That is, once we have the intention in the TM, we can then decide how to realize them in the design and physical layers, where they sometimes cycle back and forth into one another, without having to ferry something directly across from the design layer.

Auditory Illusions - Intention

There are countless methods for creating multiple auditory streams on the upright bass. One of the most important aesthetic considerations was to keep the music constant, mimicking the way Evan uses circular breathing to create a wall of sound. Aside from this, the main point here is that I intended to preserve as much of the design of Evan’s illusions as possible, but was open to what the bass might tell me.

Auditory Illusions - Design/Physical (Single-string streaming vs. multiple-string streaming)

In my practice, I quickly discovered that there were two basic design approaches to creating streaming of multiple registers: Single-string streaming and multiple-string streaming. To create streaming polyphonic illusions on multiple strings is relatively straightforward; create a line on one string and another a string below it, using a back and forth bowing pattern to articulate both lines. This kind of streaming, without using harmonics, is essentially the kind of streaming used by Bach in his works for solo cello or violin. Most of the transcription examples in this paper show Evan using this kind of streaming, in particular the bulk of the Three of Six transcription. But in order to create streaming on a single string, the use of harmonics is required. A simple form of streaming can be achieved on a single string by playing a pattern on the left hand while gently releasing the pressure until harmonics are sounded instead of a “normal” note. By rapidly switching back and forth between these two amounts of pressure, the harmonics and the normal notes will create two separate streams.

The use of these different kinds of streams is probably the most important aspect of my translation. But how closely should we stick to the actual material that Evan uses? This question will be partly answered in the design layer, but one interesting aspect of the creative side of translation reveals itself here, in how this intention is realized in the physical layer.

Harmonics on the bass function very differently than on the saxophone. On the saxophone, each fingering can be overblown to produce the entire harmonic series based on that tone, and these are the harmonics that Evan uses. The book best known for the exploration and control of these harmonics is Sigurd Rascher’s Top Tones for Saxophone, which Evan has cited many times as an important part of the development of his music. But on the bass, harmonics function much different. The primary harmonics are played by lightly touching a string at nodal points that divide the bass into whole numbered fractions of one (1:2, 1:3, 1:4, etc.). So dividing the string in half and lightly touching the string at this nodal point creates the first harmonic an octave above the pedal tone (open string). Dividing the string into thirds, we can get the second harmonic a perfect fifth above the previous note, and so forth. Bassists memorize these positions and use them to navigate the fingerboard. The problem in our translation is that instead of having the whole harmonic series over every pitch, we only have it available for four, one for each string: E, A, D, and G. And with my own intention of wanting the music to stay in the higher frequencies like in Evan’s, the lower strings aren’t as useable, so in practice, we have the harmonics available on D and G only. This severely limits the range of harmonic pitches available, creating a very tight cloud of pitches that emerges regardless of the pitches being used in the fully depressed range.

If this were the only option, it would be acceptable but limited. Luckily, there is another type of harmonic available: flautando harmonics. Flautando harmonics are created by bowing lightly at various nodal points while fully depressing the string with the left hand. The problem is that flautando harmonics are much softer in volume than normal harmonics, and thus create a much different effect than natural harmonics. They are also more difficult to control. But when the music is moving swiftly and the various pressures are constantly changing, flautando harmonics tend to start “popping out”. In the moment of playing, I am sometimes able to focus solely on the control mechanisms of the flautando harmonics in the range of music that I’m working on.

Allowing the instrument to “speak” - Intention

Evan has mentioned the importance of listening to the instrument and hearing what it has to say. This intention can be quickly ferried over to the TM to find out what the bass has to say; that is, it’s not about what the saxophone has to say that can be said on the bass, but what the bass itself has to say. Of course, in order to realize this, we need to take this intention down into the design and physical layers.

Allowing the instrument to “speak” - Design/Physical

As stated elsewhere in this paper, the primary technical issues that emerge in the translation are in the physical design differences between the soprano saxophone and the upright bass. This means that the translation to the upright bass will result in very different music, as even the intents and nature of their designs are wholly different from each other. The soprano saxophone is an instrument designed by Adolphe Sax in a top-down fashion to play notes in the the equal tempered twelve note system. The upright bass, on the other hand, has a long, winding history, being developed in fits and starts over several centuries (and still in development!), in a very bottom-up fashion, with any adaptation to an equal tempered system being in spite of the makeup of the instrument itself. [52] [53] That is to say that the instrument, given the opportunity to speak on its own, will not naturally speak in an equal tempered language.

How does this play out in the translation process? For my translation, I still approach the bass in terms of the twelve tones of European equal-temperament, but the problem is that many patterns using these tones aren’t particularly natural on the bass. Of course, I have nearly thirty years of experience playing many of these patterns, so many are “natural” at this point. But the ability to quickly, freely choose any pitch at whim is not realistic on the bass, whereas the question of range on the saxophone is much more a matter of mere fingering patterns. The idea of using other temperaments, like 13tet or 11tet, was considered but the results were too far from the SM for my liking. Instead, inspired by Evan talking about how he thinks of the saxophone as going down to a D on a fully closed tube up a Major 7th to a C# on an open tube, I looked at typical fingering positions on the bass, where an octave can be spanned across three strings. Using these different positions (the number of positions varies depending on how much the bassist chooses to use their thumb as a pivot to stretch the number of notes available per position, and thumb position presents a different set of possibilities and problems), I could use them as starting points for creating the TM. (See the design layer for examples of patterns using positions in thumb position). In this way, we see the bass, together with the hands, determining the boundaries of the pitch material.

Another way the bass speaks is through its multi-string design. The two approaches to streaming named earlier can be combined to add more layering, which is my preferred approach. The advantage of using a single string is that the entire bow can be used, which more closely replicates the long breaths Evan uses. (I hesitate to use the term phrase, as the music itself isn’t always affected by the length of these breaths). But with the two combined approaches, we can create more information and more layers.

As this technique is put into practice, new opportunities emerge; for example, the sound of the bow moving vertically (towards and away from the bridge) creates a new timbral layer of activity to be utilized in the streaming process. The layer can be separated out from the others (the vertical motion of the bow can be isolated from the horizontal motion) and investigated further. This is an example of letting the instrument tell me something and add its own voice to the music. Clearly an intention in the SM, its realization in the TM is a result of the interaction of all three layers. From here, we can see how an intention can lead to a design in a fairly straightforward manner, but interactions with the physical stance lead to very different results.

Fulfilling a “shamanic” role

The spiritual aspect of Evan’s music, as stated earlier, is enacted primarily symbolically, where the act by the listener of listening in such a way that the different streams separate from each other in the perceptual field leads (hopefully) to the realization that there is more to reality than “meets the ear”, as the case may be. The awareness of multiple modes of perception is integral to both shamanic and Sufic practices, and in providing this kind of spiritual guidance, Evan fulfills a shamanic role. Any translation of Evan’s music will have to create some kind of auditory illusions to have any hope of having a similar effect. This leads us back to the earlier intention of creating auditory illusions and onward to the other stances where the problem of creating streaming on the bass is resolved.

Of course, the auditory illusions address multiple modes of perception in the listener, but the switching of the performer into an alternate mode of perception (R-mode or the default mode) also constitutes an important aspect of the shamanic role Evan plays. In order to realize this intention, I trust primarily in the process to help to naturally get myself into this mode. But I also use alcohol to help ease myself out of an analytical state; for example, at the recording session for Sirat, I drank a beer at the beginning to help me make a shift to the default mode. Drugs of various kinds play in important roles in shamanic processes, and this is no different.

Design Layer

In the design layer, as outlined above, we are concerned with how the music is organized. Primarily, we’ll be looking at pitches and their syntax, and how we can create our own pseudo-polyphony or multiple streams. First, it’s perhaps important to get an overview of the model of for the user illusion aspect of the TM. The model below outlines the various constraints at work in the TM, which mainly deal with technical issues on the bass. The next few points of discussion will address some of these issues.

Polyrhythm Studies - Design

Evan talks about the flam effect and practicing polyrhythms (with the help of pneumonics) divided by left and hand patterns on the saxophone. Of course, he also has the ability to add other polyrhythmic layers with the tongue. On the bass, there is just the left hand and right hand, though exercises can be devised to be able to play multiple rhythms on each hand, making many layers possible.

Though Evan claims that none of his practice materials have ever been systematic, I felt the need to organize my practice to be able to have an overview of the possibilities. I’ve spent plenty of time prior to the research working on basic manifestations of polyrhythms, such as clapping them out on two hands, as well as playing much music that makes use of polyrhythm or polytempo. [54]

In order to build independence between the left and right hand, I devised some simple exercises that build upon a common four-note scale study I received from Jeff Bradetich while I was a student at the University of North Texas. The challenge was to learn how to maintain a rhythm in the left hand while articulate another rhythm with the bow in the right hand. There are two types of exercises: those where the left hand moves slower than the right hand, and those where the left hand moves faster than the right hand.

The following exercises are for using multiple strings to create the illusion of different voices moving at different speeds. They can of course be adjusted to be played across different string combinations and with fingerings in the left hand, but here the bow is isolated for focus. These bowings can create further layers of tempos and information on top of left hand information.

I hope that these exercises can be useful to all manner of instrumentalists in adding polyrhythmic elements to their music.

Pitch Studies - Design

Evan has long made use of various patterns to create new muscle memory paths to be used in improvisation. He makes frequent reference to Nicolas Slonimsky’s Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns, in addition to the creation of his own patterns, many of which do not repeat at the octave. One such pattern consists of stacked diminished thirds.

Of course, as mentioned above, the nature of the saxophone means that patterns such as these can utilized across the entire range of the instrument rapidly. The bass is more limited, as a pitch fingered in first position, for example, is too far away from pitches in thumb position to be played fast enough to create the right kind of illusions. So sets of pitches from the various patterns have to be harvested from the overall pattern so that they constitute a set of pitches that can be accessed rapidly, as in the following example:

This example comes from a pattern mentioned by Evan where one stacks diminished triads on top of each other, but removed by one half-step. So, for example: C-Eb-G-Ab-B-D-Eb-Gb-A-Bb-etc. Just running this exercise across the range of the instrument has its uses but isn’t particularly applicable to my translation. For that, I had to find useable sets of pitches in particular positions, which here are shown in thumb position.

One of the strengths of these types of patterns is that notes across the octave tend to “stick out” a bit more due to the relative lack of repetition of pitches. This is similar to Peter Evans’ approach of finding patterns an octave and a half-step away from each other to help get the voices in the different registers to “stick out” more.

In the course of the research, I have practiced many such patterns, some derived from Evan’s music, some that emerge from the natural meeting of my hands with the bass. It should be noted that pentatonic scales of various types are abundant in Evan’s music and also fit well on the bass; they also work well for creating illusions, because melodies or melodic fragments using fewer notes are easier to hear and distinguish from one another. [55]

Circular Breathing - Design

The reality of translation is that not everything from the source can be carried over to the target, so sometimes major decisions have to be made already at the the beginning of the research. One such decision in this translation process was the question of circular breathing. Much has been said and written about Evan’s use of circular breathing, sometimes dominating the discussion of his music to the detriment of other aspects. But it’s an important consideration, not least because the technique of circular breathing is what makes the rest of Evan’s music possible. It was a huge question at the beginning of the research: how to translate circular breathing to the bass? The simplest thought is to dismiss it, seeing circular breathing as a means to be able to play continuously on an instrument that relies on human breath, while the bass has no such restrictions. [56] But I wanted to give it more thought than that, and of course thought of making the bow analogous to breath. There are some similarities in the way that the bow sound will change as the bow begins to run out (something that bassists spend countless practice hours trying to minimize), and I worked with different ways to respect this aspect of the music. I even considered some extreme options, like trying to manipulate the bow with my head somehow while playing the bass as a tabletop instrument, but this I dismissed as not lending itself to virtuousity [57] on the instrument, something that Evan was in agreement about: “I could play Donna Lee on the same reed and mouthpiece set up.” [58]

Evolution Revisited - Design

I included evolution in the design stance in our model of the SM, and I’ve chosen to include it under the design layer in our investigation of the translation process, though the concepts of evolution permeate all aspects of the process; not only is all creativity in general an evolutionary process, with Evan’s music the result of very specific evolutionary processes, but the translation process itself is evolutionary. Again, the units of cultural evolution, or memes, help to explain these processes.

Everything in this paper is memetic; all of the words and the ideas that they communicate are memetic, and the idea is that these memes can be located in the new fitness landscape of the Tom Blancarte actor network, the source music (SM). Once there, they have to deal with new restrictions (the environment of the bass is very different from that of the saxophone, and I, as the “apex predator” of my own system, have different aesthetic tastes than Evan) and will evolve in new directions. We can see some of these differences in the TM actor netowork here:

It is important here to point out the creative nature of the translation process; in using Evan’s discoveries and the results of his own musico-evolutionary processes, I embark on a new creative journey that will continue to evolve in its own fashion. So a musical translation is not a mere copy of one music into a new environment, but a new generation of the memetic material of that original music.

It is also important to note that in comparison with the late stage Evan now finds himself in terms of the evolution of his music, I am very early in the evolutionary process. So much of the evolutionary change that will happen to the music will happen outside the limited two-year scope of this research.

Section IV: Results

Two years of research has led to several concrete products: a digital album of translations, Sirat: 8 Translations for Evan Parker , a single track, Sektet, released for free download during the Covid19 lockdown (both released on Marsken Records), and this paper, which I hope has provided a framework for understanding the relevant materials and their development in a given performance.

In addition to these concrete products, in order to meet the requirements of the degree program, I perfromed a solo concert, where I improvised using the various vocabularies and techniques developed throughout this research. In the absence of a recording of the concert or a detailed account of what precisely was played, I think it’s worth including an attempt at a short first-person description of an improvisation, just to show my own mental processes while playing these “translations”:

I try to relax my body but have the bow and the left hand ready to attack. I start over a nodal point, say over the Eb on the G string, where I know I have a rich multiphonic, a high G harmonic and an Eb if I fully depress my finger. I start to explore these different regions, perhaps using a polyrhythm that jumps from my left hand to the bow hand, maybe adding in other notes around it with the other fingers of the left hand. A left hand shape comes to mind or a rhythm, maybe a pattern of attacks on different strings with the bow, and then I give in to my muscles and instincts. My attention jumps from activity to activity at a rapid pace, making corrections or adjustments as needed, while the sub-routines that run the different patterns in my body run subconsciously. Let’s say that the left hand has a three note shape over a C-D-Eb on the G string with a composite sense of a 4:3 polyrhythm between the left hand and right hand bow attacks. The complexity of this quickly overwhelms my ability to maintain this with consistency, so my mind starts to wander and pay attention to other resultant aspects of the music. Another parameter is left hand pressure, so maybe I start to let this happen randomly, or maybe start to feed it into the 4:3 polyrhythm. Various harmonics pop out, both natural and artificial. I can begin to pick out new melodic shapes in those registers and try to make a proprioceptive connection to those shapes. A conscious decision to alternate registers helps to keep me in check. Maybe fatigue or boredom leads to new left hand positions, maybe adding or subtracting a note or changing the model rhythm (maybe it’s now straight 16ths or a new polyrhythm). Making these changes while being constantly vigilant of keeping the various levels of melody active is enough to keep the momentum going. “Problems” to be solved/resolved in the course of the music-making are: sufficient bow length remaining to maintain a given rhythm; having enough interesting variety; letting the mind wander too much; and how long to play before stopping.

Along with this paper, the most concrete result of my research is the solo album, Sirat: 8 Translations for Evan Parker. A bit about the recording process is probably necessary. The album was recorded in one pass, with only the first improvisation being discarded due to the microphone setup not being just right. I had a set of different starting points just to ensure variety, but the continuity of the recording session guaranteed that I would be able to enter a default mode. (I also drank a beer at the beginning of the session to help switch modes). The results of the recording are still surprising for me; as much as I listen, there are still parts that I can’t explain or that enter new areas that I have yet to fully explore in detail in performance.

The various translations produced on record and live are my own creations, but I consider them to be translations of Evan’s work because they carry much of the meaning of Evan’s music, taken from various levels of analysis. Rather than view this as a kind of failure to achieve my goal, the perceived imperfections in my translations are something to be celebrated as a rebirth of Evan’s music in new soil. For a living music to be translated properly, it must, by definition, continue to live.

Section V: Areas for Future Research

This research doesn’t end with this paper, the recordings I have made, or with the final performance; as this material has now become my own, it will be incorporated into a broader palette of materials in my own solo bass performances. I must admit that I now find playing monophonic solos to be deeply unsatisfying after working so much with Evan’s pseudo-polyphony. My hope is that my own solo music will evolve in ways similar to Evan’s and find interesting new niches unique to the bass; I will most certainly be touring more as a solo artist to continue to explore this language. It didn’t make sense for the purposes of this research, but other possibilities include exploring amplification and pickup systems to further replicate Evan’s use of room acoustics, and the translation of Evan’s overdubbing music (as heard on various pieces from Process and Reality and Time Lapse).

I also intend for this research to be a call to arms for bass players seeking to free themselves from monophonic solo playing, pointing the ways for others to evolve the work on the instrument. There is much to be explored in terms of neuro research; it seems to me that much could be learned from how this kind of improvisation works with regards to the various mental networks and memory models we have today. A recommendation would be that future research be careful to address memory and the different consciousness networks on equal footing and in tandem if possible, as this research suggests that they are closely intertwined.

Research into the relationship between creativity and evolution using memetics is definitely lacking, and this research can hopefully inspire others to more closely explore these relationships, both practically and theoretically. In addition, the connection between evolution and creativity opens the door to research that could pose a serious threat to the idea of intellectual property.

And finally, I hope that I have opened a door to utilizing translation theory in music, with others making their own musical translations of diverse musics. One can imagine that this can open a whole field of practical techniques for creative development.

Section VI: Works Consulted

J.R. Andrews-Hanna (2012). “The brain’s default network and its adaptive role in internal mentation”. Neuroscientist 18, 251–270.

J.R. Andrews-Hanna, J. Smallwood, R.N. Spreng (2014). “The default network and self generated thought: component processes, dynamic control, and clinical relevance”.

Madeleine Akrich and Bruno Latour (1992), ‘A Summary of Convenient Vocabulary for the Semiotics of Human and Non-Human assemblies’.

P. Atã and J. Queiroz (2016) ‘Multilevel poetry translation as a problem-solving task’. Cognitive Semiotics 9 (2): 139–147.

A. D. Baddeley (2000). “The episodic buffer: a new component of working memory?”. Trends Cogn. Sci. 4 (11): 417–423

Mikhail Bakhtin (1984), Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Roland Barthes (1985). The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art, and Representation

Derek Bailey, Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music (New York: Da Capo Press, 1992)

R.E. Beaty, “The neuroscience of musical improvisation,” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 51, 108-117.doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.01.004

Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator,” in Illuminations, ed. H. Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (1968; New York: Schocken Books, 1986)

Paolo Bezzera, “Translation as creation,” Estudos Avancados 26 (76), 2012

Susan Blackmore, The Meme Machine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones, translated by Emece Editores, 1956 (New York: Grove Press, 1962)

David Borgo, “The Ghost in the Music, or The Perspective of An Improvising Ant,” University of California, San Diego

David Borgo, Sync or Swarm: Improvising Music in a Complex Age (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2005)

Anthony Braxton, Tri-Axium Writings 1, 2 & 3 (Oakland, CA: Frog Peak Music, 1985)

Albert S. Bregman, Auditory Scene Analysis: The Perceptual Organization of Sound (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1990)

G. Spencer Brown (1972) The Laws of Form. (New York: Julian Press, Inc.)

Paul Brun, New History of the Double Bass (Belgium: Paul Brun Productions, 2000)

Andrés Claro, “Ezra Pound’s Poetics of Translation: principles, performances, implications”. Doctoral Thesis, Wolfson College, University of Oxford, Michaelmas Term, 2004.

J.M. Chen, J. Smith and J. Wolfe (2009) “Saxophone acoustics: introducing a compendium of impedance and sound spectra” Acoustics Australia

Lynne Cooke, “Around and About with Composition Circles 2”, in Bridget Riley: Reconnaissance (New York: DIA Center for the Arts, 2001)

John Corbett, Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein (Durham/London: Duke University Press, 1994)

Daniel C. Dennett, The Intentional Stance (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1987)

Daniel C. Dennett, Consciousness Explained (USA: Little, Brown & Company, 1991)

Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995)

Daniel C. Dennett, “Homunculi rule: Reflections on Darwinian populations and natural selection by Peter Godfrey Smith”, Biology and Philosophy 26 (4):475-488 (2011)

Daniel C. Dennett, “Illusionism as the Obvious Default Theory of Consciousness”, in Journal of Consciousness Studies 23 (11-12):65-72 (2016)

Daniel C. Dennett, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds (New York: Norton & Company, 2017)

Mark Dresser, “A Personal Pedagogy”, in Arcana: Musicians on Music, edited by John Zorn (New York: Granary Books / Hips Road, 2000)

Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, trans. James Fentress (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1995)

Betty Edwards, The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin, 1999)

John Elderfield, “The Change of Aspect”, in Bridget Riley: Reconnaissance (New York: DIA Center for the Arts, 2001)

Paul Elie, “The Secret History of One Hundred Years of Solitude” in Vanity Fair, January 2016.

Aiping Fu, “The Research and Development of Machine Translation in China”, Institute of Linguistics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In MT Summit VII, Sept. 1999.

Peter Godfrey-Smith, “Representation and Memory”, a lecture for the IHSPST & DEC, Paris, May 2012

Douglas R. Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Basic Books, 1979)

Homer, translated by Fagles, R., & Knox, B. The Iliad. (1998)

Phil Hopkins, Amplified Gesture, produced by David Sylvian (London: Opium (Arts) Ltd., 2009).

Wally Horwood, Adolphe Sax 1814-1894: His Life and Legacy (Baldock, Herts: Egon Publishers, 1983)

Ray Jackendoff, Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007)

Roman Jakobsen, “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation”, in: Translation, ed. R. A. Brower, (Harvard U.P: 1959), 232–239

Christopher Kasparek, “The Translator’s Endless Toil”, in The Polish Review, 1983

Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005)

Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain On Music (New York: Penguin, 2006)

Jirí Levý, “Translation as a Decision Process”, in The Translation Studies Reader, ed. Lawrence Venuti, (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 148-159

George E. Lewis, “Mobilitas Animi: Improvising Technologies, Intending Chance,” Parallax 13:4 (2007)

George E. Lewis, “Live Algorithms and the Future of Music,” Cyberinfrastructure Technology Watch Quarterly, May, 2007,

George E. Lewis, “Too Many Notes: Computers, Complexity and Culture,” _Leonardo Music Journal 10 _(2000)

Scott Lidgard and Lynn K. Nyhart, eds., Biological Individuality: Integrating Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Perspectives. (Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 2017)

C.L. Limb, A.R. Braun, 2008. “Neural substrates of spontaneous musical performance. An fMRI study of jazz improvisation”. PLoS ONE 3, e1679.

Graham Lock, Forces in Motion: The Music and Thoughts of Anthony Braxton (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1988)

Graham Lock, “After the New: Evan Parker, Speaking of the Essence.” Wire 85:30 - 33, 64, 1991.

Graham Lock, ““What I Call a Sound”: Anthony Braxton’s Synaesthetic Ideal and Notations for Improvisers.” Critical Studies in Improvisation, 10.21083/csieci.v4i1.462 vol. 4, 2008.

Ashley John Long, “The Modern Double Bass”, 2018, accessed September 24, 2018,

A.B. Lord, The Singer of Tales (Cambridge, Massachussetts: Harvard University Press, 1964)

Peter Margasak, “Evan Parker: Making Music with Music,” Chicago Reader, September 24, 2009, accessed August 22, 2018,

Alice Martin, “Translating Jabberwocky: Quoting with a Vengeance”. In Electronic proceedings of the KäTu symposium on translation and interpreting studies 4 (2010)

J. McVay and M. Kane. “Does mind wandering reflect executive function or executive failure?” Psych Bull. 2010; 136:188-197

V. Menon & L.Q. Uddin. “Saliency, switching, attention and control: a network model of insula function.” Brain Struct Function. 2010; 214(5-6):655-667. (PubMed: 20512370)

V. Menon (2015) “Salience Network”. In: Arthur W. Toga, editor. Brain Mapping: An Encyclopedic Reference, vol. 2, pp 597-611. Academic Press: Elsevier.

Brian C.J. Moore.; Gockel, H. E. (2012) “Properties of auditory stream formation”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 367 (1591): 919–931

Keith Moore, “A Multiphonic Reappraisal and the Alto Saxophone Concerto Radial”, Columbia University, doctoral dissertation, 2014

Edward Parmelee Morris. “Parataxis,” chapter VI in On Principles and Methods in Latin Syntax, C. Scribner’s Sons, 1901.

Charles Muses, “Consciousness and Science”, in Consciousness and Reality: the Human Pivot Point, ed. Charles Muses (New York: Discus Books, 1972)

Charles Muses, “Divine Pregnancy”, in In All Her Names, ed. Joseph Campbell

Tor Nørretranders, The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size (New York: Penguin Books, 1999)

Tenshin Okakura, The Book of Tea (Korea: IBC Publishing, Inc., 2008)

Ted Panken, “A Conversation with Evan Parker and Thomas Struth”, June 9, 2011, accessed on September 27, 2018,

Evan Parker, “Man & Machine 1992: ‘De Motu’ for Bushi Niebergall”, 1992, accessed on September 1, 2018,

Tim Parks. “The Dull New Global Novel”. The New York Review of Books Daily, February 9th, 2010.

Aniruddh D. Patel, Music, Language, and the Brain (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Ezra Pound. ABC of Reading. London: Faber & Faber, 1991 (1934).

Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose. Contributions to Periodicals. New York; London: Garland Publishing House, 1991. 11 volumes. (Edited by Lea Baecheler, A. Walton Litz, and James Longenbach).

Sam Pluta, “Laptop Improvisation in a Multi-Dimensional Space,” Doctoral Dissertation, Columbia University 2012

Jeff Pressing, 1998. “Improvisation: methods and models.” In: Sloboda, J.A. (Ed.), Generative Processes in Music: The Psychology of Performance, Improvisation, and Composition, Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 129-178.

Jeff Pressing, 1998. “Psychological constraints on improvisation expertise and communication.” In: Nettl, B., Russell, M. (Eds.), In the Course of Performance: Studies in the World of Musical Improvisation, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, pp. 47-68.

Daniel Pressnitzer, Clara Suied and Shihab A. Shamma, “Auditory scene analysis: the sweet music of ambiguity” in Front. Hu. Neurosci., 14 December 2011

Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 12 translated by Harold N. Fowler. (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921)

Sigurd M. Raschér, Top-Tones for the Saxophone: Four-Octave Range, 3rd Edition (New York: Carl Fischer, 1983)

Matthew Reynolds, The Poetry of Translation: From Chaucer & Petrarch to Homer & Logue (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

James Saunders, “Evan Parker”, in The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music edited by James Saunders (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009)

Idries Shah, The Sufis (New York: Anchor Books, 1964)

Idries Shah, Learning How to Learn: Psychology and Spirituality in the Sufi Way (New York: Penguin, 1978)

Idries Shah, The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin (New York: Penguin, 1993)

Idries Shah, The Commanding Self (London: Octagon Press, 1994)

Idries Shah, Knowing How to Know (London: Octagon Press, 2000)

Idries Shah, The Ants and the Pen (London: ISF Publishing, 2018)

Manvir Singh, “The cultural evolution of shamanism”. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, April 2018

Nicolas Slonimsky, Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns (New York: C. Scribner, 1947)

J. Smallwood, J.W. Schooler. “The restless mind”. Psych Bulletin. 2006; 132:946-958.

Stephen Snyder. “The Murakami Effect: On the Homogenizing Dangers of Easily Translated Literature”. New England Review, Vol. 37, No. 4, 2016.

Galen Strawson, “Life is Not a Story”, in On Life-Writing, ed. Zachary Leader (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015)

Dia Sulaibi, “The Translator as Writer: Exploring the Creative Force of Translation.” (Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2012)

Steve Torrance and Frank Schumann, “The spur of the moment: what jazz improvisation tells cognitive science”, in AI & Society,

Rosmarie Waldrop. (1984) “The Joy of the Demiurge.” Translation: Literary, Linguistic and Philosophical Perspectives. Ed. William Frawley. Newark: University of Delware Press.

Marina Warner, “The Politics of Translation”, in London Review of Books Vol. 40 No. 19, 11 October 2018

Translation - Theory and Practice: A Historical Reader, eds. Daniel Weissbort and Astradur Eysteinsson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)

Christopher Williams, “Polyphony, Paradox, Chuang Tsu and the Bass: a composer improvises, or vice versa”, lecture at New Music Forum, International Society of Bassists Convention 2009, Penn State University, PA

Section VII: Discography

Tom Blancarte, The Shortening of the Way, Tubapede Records 2013

Tom Blancarte, Two Lessons in Individual Multiculturalism: Live at Roulette 2016-2017, Marsken Records 2018

Evan Parker, Saxophone Solos, psi 1975

Evan Parker, Monoceros, psi 1978

Evan Parker, Six of One, psi 1980

Evan Parker, The Snake Decides, psi 1986

Evan Parker, Conic Sections, psi 1989

Evan Parker, Process and Reality, FMP 1991

Evan Parker, Chicago Solo, Okka Disk 1995

Evan Parker, Lines Burnt in Light, psi 2001

Evan Parker, Time Lapse, Tzadik 2001

Evan Parker, Whitstable Solo, psi 2008

Evan Parker, Work in Progress, Vortex Jazz Club’s Bandcamp Page 2019

Parker / Guy / Lytton, Atlanta, Impetus Records 1990

Parker / Guy / Lytton, At the Vortex, emanem 1996

Evan Parker/Paul Bley/Barre Phillips, Sankt Gerold Variations, ECM 2001

Stefano Scodanibbio, The Voyage that Never Ends, New Albion 1998

Peter Evans Quintet, Destination: Void, More is More 2016

Section VI: Appendix 1: Correspondence with Evan Parker

This appendix consists of heavily edited bits of the correspondence between myself and Evan over the course of the project. I’ve tried to stick to subjects that are relevant to the project itself.

Tom: So if we’re going to do it this way, I think I’d better give you a quick run down of the project. The basic idea is to “translate” your solo soprano music to upright bass. So it means first finding out what translating music might mean, then getting work on the process of translation. I’ve been reading a lot of translation theory, but this one quote from Douglas Hofstadter pretty much sums up what needs to be done: “The fact is that translation involves having a mental model of the world being discussed, and manipulating symbols in that model."

So to build a model of what your solo music is, I’m looking at the following angles or strategies:

- Actor Network Theory (from Bruno Latour’s Reassembling the Social, which looks into building complex networks of relationships) - Daniel Dennett’s three stances (the physical, design and intentional) - An evolutionary perspective (looking at the music as a directed evolutionary project) - from a cognitive angle

The idea is to try to build a model of what’s happening and then use this to decide what to take over to myself playing the bass.

So, with the first question, I’ll get right to it and get into some details.

Question 1

- The three note motif of C-Db-Bb (concert Bb-B-Ab) has been a part of the music since at least 1986. Can you talk about this motif, where it comes from and why it has survived in your music for so long?

Evan: This is a reply but with only some preliminary thoughts before I get to C,Db,Bb.

My preference for one question at a time in sequence is that it will help me to think things afresh and your second question will be, or at least could be, informed by my first answer. I am sitting in a hotel room in Athens having arrived quite late and remembering that Marina Warner has a piece about translation in the current London Review of Books. Plenty of quotes there. In fact, by her standards it wasn’t a brilliant piece but I like the way it ends: “Gregory Rabassa, asked if his Spanish was up to rendering García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, responded that the real question was whether his English was.” I am not suggesting for a moment that this is an aspersion on your idea of “translating” (your quotes) my solo soprano music to bass. That you should want to do this gives me a great deal of pleasure. With age comes the fear of losing relevance, your idea gives me the chance of a new “life” however abstracted the translation becomes. As a counter balance to any negative thoughts that the first quote may inspire what about “…revered translator Richard Howard’s version of a 1930 love poem by Paul Eduard [contrasted with] Beckett’s unpunctuated cascando communicates the original’s outpouring far beyond Howard’s more accurate version.”, from the same piece?

Tom: It makes me very happy to hear that you approve of the premise of the project; I have to admit that I was a bit afraid you were going to find it in bad taste and I would have to proceed alone. And your quote about Rabassa may be more auspicious than you realize; despite (or maybe because of) his finding the task of translation Marquez daunting, Marquez later considered Rabassa’s translation to be an improvement on the original (!) One quote from Quintilian on translation would seem to be appropriate:

“Even those who do not aim at the highest excellence should rather try to excel, than merely follow, their predecessors; for he who makes it his object to get before another, will possibly, if he does not go by him, get abreast of him. But assuredly no one will come up with him in whose steps he thinks that he must tread, for he who follows another must of necessity be behind him …. For I do not want translation to be a mere paraphrase, but a struggle and rivalry over the same meanings.”

But we could probably talk about translation for a while, but it’s probably important to keep our eyes on the ball; as Daniel Dennett says: "Translation is a process that requires comprehension.”

Evan: We can’t ignore Robert Frost’s “I could define poetry this way: it is that which is lost out of both prose and verse in translation.” Conversations on the Craft of Poetry (1959); often quoted as “Poetry is what gets lost in translation”.

There was a piece of writing I did some time back in which I proposed the machine translation of a poem (actually a piece of an epic poem by Peter Riley - I will find it when I get home) via a sequence of languages and finally back into English. It was a daunting project at that time, but the new German translation software - DeepL would be the one I’d use to try it now.

I have instinct based reservations about Dennett which I will clearly have to give some more thought and substance to before risking your irritation.

The Quintilian thought is just mangled prose in my reading.
If you “do not aim at the highest excellence” what would your criteria be for “try(ing) to excel” ? and how would you select the object to excel in the first place? David Tudor’s, “If you don’t know, why do you ask?” springs to mind.

Before you ask another question I will ask you one. What is the context in which you feel your solo music has relevance? Back in the early seventies of the previous century the relation between notation and improvisation was a hot topic. The feeling was that improvising instrumentalists were generating very useful material based on “extended techniques” but that they needed the sense of “form” that only a composer could bring to bear on their rag bags of ideas. Berio’s sequenzas, Bernard Rands’ work with Barry Guy and Stockhausen’s intuitive text pieces come to mind. Of what does this form consist which is not implicit in the raw material? Do you feel yourself part of this debate a generation later?

With regard to the translation: surely there has to be a better response to circular breathing and the demands it makes on the performer on a single reed instrument in terms of physical effort and technical control. I’m recalling and smiling at Paul Bley’s, ”Hey, I’m circular breathing!”

And your bonus question: Which of the physical components of your playing can be practiced/exercised silently away from the instrument?

As for C,Db, Bb I have no idea!

Tom: Not sure if I agree with the Frost quote myself. That’s a very dim view of translation! But I’ve never been a huge fan of Frost, so maybe that fits. It would be great it you could find the piece about machine translation; it sounds interesting and relevant to the discussion.

Re: Quintilian, I agree that it’s mangled. But I think the point is clear, even if when you break it all down, it translates to “even if you don’t aim for N∞ improvement of N, you should at least aim for more Nx, where x is greater than 1”. Which sounds kind of silly, I agree.

There’s plenty that I think that Dennett is wrong about, but I think his main points are sound (with respect to consciousness and evolution, at least).

Re: my sense of context, I would say that there are many contexts and threads that I would place myself in. Maybe first I would say that the solo work is in the tradition of solo bass improvisers making recordings starting with Barre Phillips and on to the present. I would also put it in the tradition of works for solo bass, though I find most of experiences with compositions for solo bass leave me cold in comparison to the work of improvising bassists. However, probably my most listened to recording of solo bass is Edgar Meyer’s recording of three of the Bach cello suites, so there are no hard and fast rules for me. Finally, I would place myself in the tradition of solo improvisers in general, from Anthony Braxton (or even back to Coleman Hawkins) to Derek Bailey, to yourself and many others who work with an instrument to investigate new sonic possibilities. As to what side I take in the debate, I think the debate about improvisers developing material that composers then appropriate is actually missing the fact that some improvisers have taken things from composers as well. Steve Lacy learning Webern melodies, Barry Guy using techniques from compositions for solo bass such as Jacob Druckman’s Valentine, etc. It goes both ways. What matters to me is the result; does it sound good (strong, vital) or not? More often than not, the improvisers win it for me. Not sure if that answers your question.

Re: circular breathing, this is a totally unexpected response! (I’m assuming it’s a response to my solo thing, right?) It’s funny, maybe it’s because I’m a bass player, but I’ve never given the circular breathing thing much thought. If anything, the attention the circular breathing gets has bothered me. I’ve shown your solo music to a lot of people over the years, and I always get pissed when they say something like, “whoa, I just realised that he’s circular breathing. Wow!” and my response is always, “what about all of the other shit going on? Is it really the circular breathing that’s most impressive for you?” I also think that with regards to translation, there are so many disadvantages the bass has to the saxophone that the one advantage it has is the ability to play without stopping quite easily. I’ve been looking at the circular breathing as an adaptation that, once implemented, allowed your solo music the space to have continuous repetition and thus more opportunities or affordances for working with consciousness/unconsciousness. So I guess I was looking at it from the perspective of a dragonfly that sees the first birds evolve the ability to fly and that it does things that the dragonfly never dreamed of. I feel like you’re saying that the dragonfly needs to evolve feathers to be taken seriously! Or something like that. Bad analogy, but I hope you get my point.

The circular breathing is essentially “invisible” to the listener, but it seems like you put high value on its role in focusing energies and getting the body fully involved. Is this correct?

For the answer to your bonus question, the short answer is very little. I do work on polyrhythms that get applied to the instrument in various ways, but that’s really just preparatory work before I get to the task of seeing what happens when I “input” them into the instrument.

And finally, C-Db-Bb isn’t random. It’s a sequence that works well on the left hand of the saxophone, allowing you to apply other patterns with the right hand. But I’m interested in how conscious you are of it. It’s obviously a pattern that’s buried within a ton of other notes, but it seems to be pretty prominent in the music to a point where I would be surprised if you hadn’t considered leaving it aside at some time. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s survived either because you’ve chosen to let it or because you’ve never noticed it. I doubt the possibility of the latter, and the former implies some kind of conscious choice to allow it to continue to live. No thoughts on that at all?

Evan: You may know that Barre’s first solo record began life as material which his colleague composer Max Schubel (check this) was going to “organise”/ resequence/edit in the way that I mentioned was starting to happen in that late 60s early 70s. The engineer was Bob Woolford who a bit later recorded Incus 1.

Tom: Re: circular breathing, this is a totally unexpected response! (I’m assuming it’s a response to my solo thing, right?)

Evan: Yes. The first piece of the two will need closer listening from me to hear beyond the obvious first response which is exactly like the “I just realised, he’s circular breathing.” one you report of responses to recordings of my solo recordings. In a way it is already covered by Bley’s profound witticism which, if it says anything, says that this continuous sound would mean nothing on a piano, a synthesiser, a cello why are you making such a fuss about it just because it is a saxophone? By the way I agree with him and I hope you are right that it is sort of beside the point but at the same time without that technique I would not have discovered the interesting stuff which depends on it. So in effect I was asking what would be the equivalent, the “translation” for you as a bass player.

A further observation which would also need further listening but each of the pieces is 17 minutes long and each at a point somewhere from about 14 minutes gradually takes on a quality that I might interpret as a shift from left brain to right brain dominance- not to say you are no longer thinking but the relationship between thought and musical outcome is different.

Tom: Ok, I have a lot of thoughts here, so please bear with me.

A quick aside: I didn’t consider the first track on my solo album as a “translation” at the time; it was more of taking some of your ideas and techniques and using them as inspiration for music for the bass. So the work now is much more focused, though I’m still unsure how much I want to do a strong translation that would be a kind of one-time recording/performance or if I want to do something that is something that I can take with me and make my own. Translating music or translating a process. Will this project be the beginning or end of something? If it’s truly a process that I’m translating, then I see that the circular breathing issue is the Big Bang of your process, and that in the absence of that possibility on the bass, I’m going to need to come up with my own Big Bang, which could lead in very different directions that that your music went into. That’s one of the big questions I have for myself right now.

I think it’s important for me to keep focus on methods and to have an overview of what I’m doing at all times. I mentioned in an earlier email that I wanted to use Daniel Dennett’s three stances to get a picture of the thing to be translated; the idea is that different aspects need to be respected at different levels. He talks about looking a things from a physical perspective (so here, maybe the physics of sound and the instruments involved); a design perspective (maybe the notes and different sounds and how they’re put together- I was reading some about Gregory Rabassa’s translation method for One Hundred Years of Solitude, and he claims to have read it as if it were written in English, so maybe an equivalent here would be to listen to your music as if it were played on bass); and finally the intentional stance (maybe we could call it the poetic stance for the purposes of this project - I think the discussion we’re having now about the circular breathing fits in at this level). I think that a good translation would include aspects of each level. Right now, I’m thinking that I could find this “Big Bang” for the bass and still take things from the lower levels after things are in motion.

There are no direct questions there, just ideas that want to be responded to. Any responses to this?

ps I sent my solo album to Mark Dresser when it was released and asked him for feedback. At some point, I would like for you read bits of our conversation; his responses are what gave me the idea for this project.

Evan: I would be wary of changing your playing position or the tuning of the instrument in arriving at this translation. It has become almost holy writ for me that I play the standard instrument. I could play Donna Lee on the same reed and mouthpiece set up. Back in the late 60s, especially in the duo with Paul Lytton, I built new instruments, made reeds from thin metal, from plastic sheet - changed the instrument in order to produce the strangest, most un-saxophonic sounds possible. (Of course you could choose to work on a translation of this period but I don’t think that was your thinking - there is the Lebanese trumpet player based in Berlin who wants to reconstruct all those old invented instruments - I will remember his name in the morning!)

The problem with this study is that it will also require a kind of archaeology of the mental and physical disciplines I used to get the ball rolling. I no longer practice the way I practiced back when the Big Bang happened. In fact the “official history” of the how and why of developing cb is that it was to match the controlled feedback being used by Derek Bailey and Hugh Davies in the Music Improvisation Co. I think it is true, but at this point it is simply the answer I remember having given many times before to the question. I was also irritated by the essay the Steve Reich wrote about “music as a slow process” my feeling being that a process did not have to be based on simple arithmetic in order to qualify for the use of the term. I will try to dig out the piece I wrote in response.

In seeking to translate isn’t one of the great qualities of improvised music that it is a kind of Esperanto. Look up Eco on Universal languages

I re-read parts of the Marina Warner piece in LRB 11 October and feel it is pretty much up to her usual high standards. It might be worth your tracking down.

Tom: I read what I could read for free of the Warner piece after you first mentioned it. I’m going to see if I can get the school I teach at to get a 6 month subscription. I will get a copy of Eco’s book on the search for universal languages; I’ve never read him, but it seems like now might be the time to finally do it.

I have to say that I’m pretty sure that no music is a universal language, at least not in any sense of ‘language’ that meaningfully relates to the common definition of ‘language’. First, there are so many different kind of musics out there, and understanding of them requires enculturation and training. I know this from teaching, as pretty much all I spend my time as a teacher on is training in how to hear and make sense of various musics. Of course, in the same way that a linguist might be able to quickly learn new languages, especially languages in the same family, a musician or listener trained in a particular idiom can more quickly learn to ‘understand’ another musical ‘language’. But for all my training in jazz and European classical music, I’m a relative novice in African and Indian musics, and something like gamelan is pretty much completely foreign to me. I can take certain pleasure in the sounds, but I think there’s more to the music than that. Maybe there are more aspects of music that are more readily accessed without enculturation than languages, but I don’t think this makes the higher-order levels of organization of sound any more universally accessible than those of any other language. Maybe music is a subset of language…? (I’m also thinking that my preference for longer-working groups and solo music as opposed to ad-hoc groupings reflects these beliefs I have.)

I’ve been reading Aniruddh Patel’s book, Music, Language and the Brain; I found the following passage on meaning in music of interest:

“An example of a position with a very specific view is that of the philosopher Kivy (2002), who argues that ‘meaning’ should be reserved for the linguistic sense of reference and predication. In this view, music does not have meaning. Indeed, Kivy (personal communication) argues that music ‘cannot even be meaningless,’ because music does not have the possibility of being meaningful in this linguistic sense. In this view, asking whether music has meaning is like asking whether a rock is dead: It is a ‘category error.’… Kivy readily acknowledges that music can have ‘significance’ and ‘logic’ (in syntactic terms), and that music can express emotion. In rejecting the notion of musical meaning, he is taking a highly specific view of ‘meaning,’ perhaps in order to avoid diluting the term to the point at which it ceases to make useful distinctions in discussing the varieties of human thought. At the other end of the spectrum, the music theorist and ethnomusicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez has argued for an inclusive use of the term ‘meaning.’ Nattiez (1990) considers meaning to be signification in the broadest semiotic sense: Meaning exists when perception of an object/event brings something to mind other than the object/event itself. Implicit in this view is the notion that language should not be taken as the model of signification in general (Nattiez, 2003). Also implicit is the idea that meaning is not a property of an object/event, because the same object/event an be meaningful or meaningless in different circumstances, depending on whether it brings something else to mind (cf. Meyer, 1956:34). That is, ‘meaning’ is inherently a dynamic, relational process.”

But as far as this project is concerned, I’m thinking that the ‘languages’ in play here are the soprano saxophone and double-bass; having done some translation of Danish poetry into English, I find the problem-solving of transferring vocabulary and sound from language to language to be most metaphorically apt in the instrumental aspect.

Another half-formed thought: if we’re talking about ‘universal languages’ in respect to improvised music, I’m just thinking how rare it is to hear people react to your solo saxophone “language” when improvising by speaking the same “language”. Isn’t it usually that people either stop playing or maybe just pick up on the density of information rather than interact with the more complex information on its own level?

So I got ahold of the Warner piece and am in the process of reading the Eco (I’m assuming that you were referring to The Search for the Perfect Language).

The Warner piece has some great things in there; I’m definitely going to have to check out that Polizzotti book! This one in particular was great:

‘if we think of the source text not as a defined monolithic whole, but rather as a zone of energy always in flux, endlessly prone to different assimilations and interpretation, then we begin to understand better the work of translation, which, like any communicative act, shows itself to be not only possible but dynamic.’

And she hints at something here that really got me inspired:

“The boy’s chant is eerie and fills her with dread, yet the lines are a simple mnemonic for learning the meaning of the Latin homonym in different forms and cases. Instead, the enigmatic riddle on apples and naughtiness makes the words sound like a spell, couched in the kind of gibberish associated with the devil’s work and the speech of the possessed. It exercises the power of the unintelligible, with all of incomprehension’s capacity to inspire fear and alienation. The advocates of translation argue that their work is enlightening, that they illuminate and explicate the unknown, and that consequently translation between cultures can dispel fear of the strange and the stranger, and ease hostility.”

I think that this ‘power of the unintelligible’ is particularly relevant to the musical translation, though I would be quick to add that it can also inspire awe and wonder in addition to fear and alienation. I think this is an important part of the translation that I want to preserve; the sense of mystery and wonder at the heart of the music, all the while assaulting that very mystery with rationality.

I’m also happy that she mentioned Dryden; I knew about his appropriation of ‘paraphrase’ and ‘metaphrase’, but hadn’t read that he had the third category, ‘imitation’. A nice parallel to the three stances…

Reading Eco, I’m thinking of ‘universal languages’ in relation to the project, and right now I see two, both branches of the ‘universal language’ of science: the language of acoustics and the language of natural selection. I think that these are languages that can help to carry information across the gulf between the two ‘languages’ of the saxophone and the bass.

Your remark about ‘personal archeology’ got me thinking about creating a kind of narrative of the solo work and seeing if you can help me to fill in holes. Should we try it?

In that vein, I’m curious what you think about this article if you have the time: I find that his description of a ‘non-Narrative’ type fits me quite well, and maybe that informs my approach to this project. It’s slightly beside the point, but I’m curious how you view yourself.

Evan: At this point you have probably read the Marina Warner reviews more closely than I have! I realise that if I am to do my job properly I will have to keep a complete file of our exchanges. I am having trouble remembering the context in which I talked about “personal archeology”. I think I have everything so far but you have occasionally sent from a different email address. It would help me keep track of the discussion if you used one address for the further communications.

I always like it when people call out a “category error” - I have done it myself in the use of the terms “composition” and “improvisation” as if they are antonyms in some sense. But suggesting that the terms “meaning” and “meaningless” should be denied any use in relation to music seems rather like a debating trick, “for the sake of argument”.

Having established that even the meaning of the word “translation” in this context has to be defined, you could start by telling me what you think “translation” in this context isn’t. (Given that you are not me and a double bass is not a soprano saxophone.) And then in some way analogous to those mathematical proofs which eliminate all solutions except what’s left…

I will read the Strawson piece. I remember his father was famous in the 60s for a book called “Individuals”. The idea of academic philosophy being a family tradition is making me smile wryly. I have one line from Sallust, I came across his statement on lying: aliud lingua promptum, aliud pectorum inclusum genere, translated as “When what the tongue utters is different from what is in the heart.” In turn a translation from Kant’s German in his “Metaphysical Principles of Virtue”.

This risks giving the impression that I stroll the meadows around Faversham or more likely the courtyard of the alms houses (I tried to insert a link but I have forgotten how to do it) Kant tome in hand, declaiming in Latin.
The truth is that today I was very happy to discover that a tenor mouthpiece which I use on the instrument down here at the moment has potential to be as good as my number 1 mouthpiece. Then I practiced the phrase ascending semi-tone /major 3rd/descending tone/ minor 3rd/ascending semi-tone/tone/descending tone - the first eight notes to the bridge of Milestones (the second more famous tune with that name), in all keys in all registers.

Tom: I can see that I shouldn’t have used quotation marks for ‘personal archeology’; here’s what you said that I mis-remembered:

“The problem with this study is that it will also require a kind of archaeology of the mental and physical disciplines I used to get the ball rolling. I no longer practice the way I practiced back when the Big Bang happened. In fact the “official history” of the how and why of developing cb is that it was to match the controlled feedback being used by Derek Bailey and Hugh Davies in the Music Improvisation Co.”

I will continue to read the Eco and put together a list of things that the translation wouldn’t include, as you suggest. I’ll also work on a timeline of the solo music with my guesses and observations about different practice materials that may have been involved. It would be great for me to get some musical material to get to work on… the theoretical aspect of this is fun, but it’s ultimately about the music.

Re: meaning in music, I’m curious as to your own thoughts, since you seem to be sure that music has some kind of ‘meaning’. (For the record, I’m not of the opinion that music has no meaning, but maybe I just want to be careful about how I define the word).

Re: the Strawson piece, I have to admit that I’m confused by your response. Is the Sallust quote related? Are you implying that Strawson is being dishonest in the article?

Evan: I can quickly answer the question about the G.Strawson piece. I read it once and quickly but it read like classy journalism and in my view was certainly not written from the heart. He did however raise the name of Pessoa and his heteronyms. Maybe of at least tangential relevance to our discussion. More on this and other topics as soon as possible.

Tom: One thing I’m super-curious about is what kind of work you did on polyrhythms and when you first started that. I can’t really hear it on the first two solo records, but maybe knowing what kind of work you did would help clarify the story. I know that you’ve mentioned being inspired by African drumming on Ocora records but I was curious how specific that inspiration was. Did you sit down and try to transcribe things and apply them to the instrument or was it more that it gave you a sonic image that you tried to recreate on the saxophone?

Evan: I am not sure when exactly I began to work on ratios beyond 2:3 and 3:4 and then quite how rigorously but the essential realisation is that the flam. In drumming terms - is really the thing that, coupled with the acceptance that “broken columns” are the fundamental (no word play involved here). Almost all so-called “extended techniques”, multiphonics, altissimo and pseudo polyphony are all built from those broken columns. Hearing the overtones and then working out how to access and control them. I have heard of “false” harmonics but I am not sure what the string equivalent of a broken column would be.

Tom: I definitely want to hear more about the polyrhythmic practice. In particular, was it methodical practice of extending with integer relations (from 3 over 4 to 5 over 4 to 6 over 5, etc) or did you ever get into more truly African cross-rhythms, where there is a set of particular rhythmic identities that line up with each other over a polyrhythmic ‘grid’? I ask because I can’t really hear direct evidence of either in any period of the solo music. (But I was transcribing some material on Conic Sections and noticed that some things sound very “African” when slowed down).

Re: the broken columns - This is one of the central themes of the whole project. Maybe now is a good time to mention that I was inspired to do this project because of a conversation with Mark Dresser. He was giving me feedback on my solo record (the same one I sent you the link for) and was talking about the illusion of polyphony and how few bassists really explore this aspect of music. When I mentioned that I was inspired by your music, he immediately responded that the differences between a conical instrument and a vibrating string were too different to be able to make a useful application of techniques from one to the other. He did mention that he thought that Scoddanibbio’s The Voyage that Never Ends was the closest you could get (I’m assuming you’re familiar with that, but I can send a link if you’re not). I strongly disagree with him, and so this project is in many ways a formal rebuttal to his claims.

Re: so called “false” harmonics - I think you may mean flautando or falsetto harmonics, which I think would be roughly analogous (Dresser also said as much, though his argument is that flautando harmonics aren’t loud enough on the bass to get the same effect).

I’m happy to hear you talk about the “flam” aspect, as this is also how I intuited what was happening. If you look at it this way, you can use a similar left hand technique on the bass to get various kinds of harmonics, multiphonics and fretted notes popping out in somewhat unpredictable ways. Add in flautando harmonics (which are a right hand or bow related technique) and there are tons of possibilities. This is also what inspired me to use Dennett’s three stances in this project; my argument is that Dresser is looking at it from the physical stance (at the level of acoustics) and I want to look at it from the design stance (from the level of function).

Evan: None of my practice materials have ever been systematic. The polyrhythm studies are on going and intermittent as are all the other things I practice. I find it works for me to find a verbal phrase that acts as a mnemonic for the particular numbers: “nice cuppa tea” 3:2 “nicer than yesterday” 4:3 “first beat a five then a three” 5:3 and so on. Then it seems that there is a tendency to veer off the strict equal divisions toward some lop sided approximation. In African music (great generalisation!) there is a tendency for the polyrhythm to be shared between multiple players. The idea of the flam is in the end more useful, although it is a nice thing to be able to set up phrases across the two hands that are countable however uneven. So the broken column is closed at certain points to produce conventionally fingered tones. I have been working at solo music as only a part of my performance life and when I have a few solo concerts in a row then I would hope to test certain well known materials to breaking point and in the process find something new. In fact the old complaint about a certain approach to improvisation being akin to practising in public is more or less true in my case. The thing I have said about realising the instrument could just as well be seen as a closed tube that can be opened in various ways as the more conventional open tube to be closed in various ways, relates particularly to the selection of a static fingering for say low B leaving the option to open say the middle A and G keys in a pattern against the F and E keys. There are a limited number of such possibilities and then the overtone selection is available to add further pitch choices. Part of the reward for me is to take things beyond the limit of control both in terms of fingering patterns and overtone selection and to create a situation of unknowns. All of this becomes much more problematic if the aim is to generate notatable material…

Tom: I understand (intuitively) wanting to “create a situation of unknowns”. But I want to unpack this a bit. What’s so appealing about this? Is it about creating these unknowns and then slowly getting familiar with them until they’re no longer unknowns? Or is the goal to create the unknowable and stop there? Is the listener side important? You’ve often talked about illusions in the music, and I’m wondering if you actively try to create different kinds of auditory illusions. For example, Peter Evans wrote a piece for his quintet that took a melodic fragment that shows up in your solo music a lot, and he told me that when he showed it to you, you didn’t recognize it. It’s my impression that this fragment is an emergent result of the music, so it would make sense that you wouldn’t recognize it on its own. But maybe that’s not the case?

Btw, multistable perception is when the brain can perceive a thing in multiple ways, but not simultaneously. A Necker cube is a typical example. I was reading some articles about auditory multistable perceptions, and the term “pseudo-polyphony” came up, which made me wonder if there was a conscious link to multistable perceptions on your end. Here’s an example article on the subject:

Evan: Ned Rothenberg and I have been talking for years about whether that aspect of LH/RH rhythmic independence coupled with overtone selection can be justifiably called “polyphony”…I have given up caring much about terminology. There was a programme on early (“Reithian” BBC TV called “Brains Trust” in which brainy people sat around and discussed thorny topics for the edification of the masses. The conclusion was almost always, “Well I suppose it depends what you mean by …” (insert your own word) This was in the days before “Continental” Philosophy (i.e. German 19th century translated into French 20th century) gained any foothold in Oxford or Cambridge and decades before you could add translated from mid 20th c. French into late 20th c./early 21st c. American English. (You probably know the book “Fashionable Nonsense” by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont as a follow up to Sokal’s paper “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” in Social Text?) And, since I have it painstakingly copied out, and can never read it too often, I will also add a favourite bit by E.P.Thompson from his “The Poverty of Theory”:

“…structuralisms engross this area from every side; we are structured by social relations, spoken by pre-given linguistic structures, thought by ideologies, dreamed by myths, gendered by patriarchal sexual norms, bonded by affective obligations, cultured by mentalites, and acted by history’s script. None of these ideas is, in origin, absurd and some rest on substantial additions to knowledge. But all slip, at a certain point, from sense to absurdity, and in their sum, all arrive at a common terminus of unfreedom. Structuralism (this terminus of the absurd) is the ultimate product of self-alienated reason - “reflecting” the common sense of the times - in which all human projects, endeavours, institutions, and even culture itself, appear to stand outside of men, to stand against men, as objective things. as the “other” which, in its own turn, moves men around as things. In the old days, the Other was then named “God” or Fate. Today it has been christened anew as Structure.”

When you say, “creating these unknowns and then slowly getting familiar with them until they’re no longer unknowns.” That is a very good summary of what I am about. Another way of putting it is that the “known” is simply a platform from which to discover new “unknowns”. Meanwhile this mostly takes place in public spaces for audiences! (this concept will in future be termed *) The practice done at home is for the most part just maintenance of the “Known”, although I have lately been happy to find that a certain relaxed relationship with recording also offers chances/glimpses. But then the engineer is also an audience and I have been wondering whether this helps or hinders.

That lower line Peter notated is an example of something that I stumbled on and it then became known. ( Known material is essential given *). There is a mambo like quality which notated in isolation from it’s context could be from anywhere.

Multistable perceptions and those Necker Cube-like flips are a very good way of talking about what I am aiming for. Maybe it is even more like those books of psychedelic patterns which after staring for a while reveal a 3-D effect. Before the material becomes known it has to be scanned, filtered and sifted from the unknown. This process needs camouflage because of * - other layers of activity have to make the naked research nature of this less apparent. Some kind of surface of competence needs to be maintained and by good chance this can also generate further unknowns almost as side effects!

Tom: I hadn’t read that Sokal book, but I had heard of the paper before. Reading a summary now, I can see that Bruno Latour is one of their targets. I’ve been reading his Reassembling the Social as part of this project. I agree that he’s infected by overly-verbose Continental philosophy like Derrida, but I think his main ideas, in that book at least, are sound. And thanks for mentioning the Sokal book; I’ll put it on my list.

I quite enjoyed that E.P. Thompson quote when I first read it years ago in John Corbett’s chapter on you in Extended Play, and went on to read a good chunk of “The Poverty of Theory”. Having mentioned Latour before and thinking about the Thompson quote in context of Actor Network Theory, I wouldn’t be surprised if Thompson was an inspiration to Latour. While not nearly as grandiose as the Thompson quote, this maybe gives a hint of what I’m referring to:

If we decide to accept this second source of uncertainty, then sociology becomes the discipline that respects the dislocation inherent in making someone do something. In most theories of action, there is no such dislocation because the second term is predicted by the first: ‘Give me the cause and I will have the effect.’ But this is not the case when the two terms are taken as mediators. For intermediaries, there is no mystery since inputs predict outputs fairly well: nothing will be present in the effect that has not been in the cause. But there is always a problem with this apparently scientific way of speaking. If it were really the case that input predicts output, then it would be better to disregard the effects and be attentive to the causes where everything interesting has already happened—at least potentially. For mediators, the situation is different: causes do not allow effects to be deduced as they are simply offering occasions, circumstances, and precedents. As a result, lots of surprising aliens may pop up in between. Such a distinction affects all agencies, whether it is the one whose figuration seems ‘abstract’—like ‘state of productive forces’—or ‘concrete’—like ‘my friend Julie’. As long as they are treated as causes simply transported through intermediaries, nothing will be added by the vehicles chosen to carry their effect forward. Causes, in such a strange and very archaic theology, are supposed to create things ex nihilo. But if vehicles are treated as mediators triggering other mediators, then a lot of new and unpredictable situations will ensue (they make things do other things than what was expected). Again it might look like hair-splitting, but the differences in the type of cartography are immense. The first solution draws maps of the world which are composed of a few agencies, followed by trails of consequences which are never much more than effects, expressions, or reflections of something else. The second solution, the one preferred by Actor Network Theory, pictures a world made of concatenations of mediators where each point can be said to fully act. Thus, the key question for a social science is to decide whether it tries to deduce from a few causes as many of the effects that were there ‘in potentia’, or whether it tries to replace as many causes as possible by a series of actors—such is the technical meaning that the word ‘network’ will later take.

Concerning multistable perception and autostereograms (the 3D magic eye illusions you mentioned), it makes me wonder what your thoughts on Bridget Riley are, and in general if you see what you do in context of the Op Art movement? The process is completely different for Bridget Riley, but I find the effect on the viewer to be somewhat analogous to the the listener of your music.

Another related thought: is there a kind of rough analogy to made between R-mode in relation to your music and the “wall-eyed” vision necessary to unlock the 3-D images in autostereograms?

Re: tapping, there’s a long history of tapping that goes back way before Steve Vai. Even on the bass, I’ve heard stories of Oscar Pettiford playing unaccompanied bass solos where he was playing melody and bass line by tapping with the left and right hands, but that’s unconfirmed. It’s actually a technique that Mark Dresser has used quite a bit; his use of it has an important extra dimension, as he uses pick-ups on both ends of the string, so that by using a volume pedal, he can get four tones at once (two for each hand). It was actual something I worked on quite a bit a long time ago when I first had the idea of adapting your solo music to the bass, but I stopped working on it because to perform it would require a setup like Mark’s, and I’m just too lazy about gear to get into that. But it’s something that I’ve reconsidered a few times, particularly just when I started this program. Maybe I’ll explore it sometime in the future. And about the music you first linked to, my main problem with electric bass has always been that it’s not much of a “black box”. That is, what you put into it is what you get out, without much added information. A bowed string is a much wilder beast that seems to give more affordances for unknowns. My feeling has been that the electric bass encourages a dead-on-arrival type of music-making which I’m not too interested in.

Evan: I agree that the bass guitar is a more limited, less noble, instrument. And that staying with your instrument, unadapted, is the challenge.

That E.P.Thompson quote has perhaps gathered some dust but then so have I. Latour is indeed discussed in the book by Sokal and Bricmont. Not knowing French beyond schoolboy level it is hard to know how well he is translated. In English it is pretty turgid.

I am not sure what to say about Bridget Riley. I started looking at everything on line about Rose Wylie - she lives in a village nearby - and has achieved fame and attention at a late stage of her life having painted non stop since she was a student. It is very easy to like her and very hard to like the work. It is said that her husband Roy Oxlade was the better painter but I can’t find much on line. Somehow this moved sideways to looking at a series of short films about Richard Tuttle whose work is very different but who presents the same mixture of great personable likeability and a problematic body of work.

Then Frank Stella popped up. I learned a bit more about Philip Johnson and his glass house and the surrounding complex of buildings. I only knew him as the father of post modern architecture. The glass house is completely out of Mies especially the

I need to go back and check the precise proportions. I didn’t know he was such an important collector of Stella’s work.

The soprano is lying there in the open case and I have picked it up a few times.

Tom: Interesting that you talk about artists who are easy to like; my impression of Bridget Riley is of something that is very hard to like. Somewhat unpleasant, really. And the fact that she has other people paint her paintings is disturbing, as well.

I think my awareness of Frank Stella has been hindered by the noise of modernity; I think that every time I see one of his pieces that I like, I can’t place it in some kind of archetypal modelling of what his art is like. Going to have to check him out some more.

I’ve always been averse to historical fiction, as I prefer to read history and then imagine stories in those settings myself. The application of historical lessons in totally fantastic settings has always been more my cup of tea. Have you ever read any Frank Herbert? He’s great at blending ideas from diverse fields in a science fiction setting. But maybe I’ll try a little of this Sansom guy.

Evan: Bridget Riley - yes, I share your reservations. The ones that hide behind that, “Well it’s in the tradition of the Renaissance studio - they all had assistants who painted the backgrounds…” and so on… Maybe even more outrageous to the point of nausea are Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst.

I first knew and loved the early austere Frank Stellas and was somewhat shocked when he started using curves and then sculptured canvases and then, in effect, painted sculptures but now I see it all as one story. I think noting the chronology would resolve some of your worries.

I read “Dune” and enjoyed it but it has faded in the interim - I wondered at the time if he has been influenced by some Sufi ideas. I didn’t read any of the sequels or subsequent work. Any recommendations?

I think with Sansom it will either take hold after five pages and you will want to read all 6 (now 7) books or you will move to a different cup of tea.

On the music/playing side I have been working on a pattern ascending and descending 4ths conjoined by a minor 3rd - say asc D G C Eb desc Bb F. (Then if asc again by minor 3rd to Ab you have all seven notes of Eb major scale) In music maths terms quite “trivial” but depending on which key and which register it can be physically very easy or quite tricky. I wonder how that would work on the bass? all keys all registers. There is no immediate use for such material but that’s true of almost all practice stuff in isolation!

Tom: I’m happy that you’ve been mentioning the patterns in all 12 keys things; it’s something that I used to do years ago but had kind of stopped, but I’m realizing now how much of the facility I have now is due to that work. That set of perfect fourths up and down reminds me of patterns that I used to work on that I lifted from Scott Lafaro solos; on the upright bass, they’re hard to get in tune, especially when playing fast. (It’s funny how stupidly easy they are on a fretted instrument, like the electric bass or guitar). It’s definitely a different animal playing patterns in 12 keys on an instrument with keys or valves, whereas on string instruments with even interval tunings (i.e. the bass tuned in perfect 4ths), you can take one pattern and simply move it around anywhere on the instrument. Which brings me to another thought: oftentimes, practice on a string instrument is focused on being able to really hear what you’re playing before you play it, precisely because it can be so easy to just move the fingers and get pitches coming out. There’s a whole discussion of “validity” in the jazz world about being able to hear what you play, where if you can’t sing the pitches you’re about to play in your head, it’s not really “valid” as music. Your talking about creating a “situation of unknowns” seems to fly in the face of this. Any thoughts on that?

Evan: what is the range of the double bass? comfortably larger than a normal human voice (discounting Roy Hart and Alfred Wolfsohn) so are you going to confine yourself to the range you can sing and squeak? What is essential is to connect with the “voice” of the instrument and have that voice become yours. This is the “validity” which matters. Adding the notion of words, sentences, grammar, oratory even (I’m tempted to add elocution!) - then each of these facets of potential vocal expression can be conceptualised and the necessary physical and mental control improved by appropriately devised exercises. Following a train of perhaps trivial thought, the typists’ “Quick brown fox…” comes to mind. Somewhere there must be a notebook of difficult to do things which by identification and the isolation of the problem and the designing of exercises. I’m thinking now of a French master of flute studies one of whose books was very good for getting the RH little finger under control. Unfortunately I can’t remember his name and the books are buried too deep in boxes under boxes.

Tom: I agree with everything you’re saying, but that wasn’t exactly what I was getting at. I was more interested in the apparent conflict between this idea of “hearing what you play before you play it” and the idea that you create a bunch of unknowns in a performance. Maybe it’s better that I give my explanation and then see if you agree or have something to add. I would argue that the idea that not everything is known in advance adds excitement and drama to a performance, as well as giving the audience a peek behind the curtain at the process behind the music. If you practice in front of the audience, as you say, then it’s a way of inviting others into the creative process. But maybe you have some other thoughts on it? (Tangentially related to that, I’ve been listening a lot to Six of One lately, and it’s seems like the most “programmatic” of the solo albums, in that there seem to be pieces that are consciously demonstrative of things that had been developing up to that point. For example, on Three of Six, it seems to be a study in the use of a particular scale {let’s call it a Dorian b2#4 scale} which unfolds from single note lines, to creating lines around pivot tones, to adding two or three notes to every ‘melody’ note. I’m curious if you remember it that way, if at all.)

Evan: Dorian b2#4 sounds good.

I sometimes try an opening note or scale or pattern before I start to record a solo piece. I will listen to that record and see if it triggers any useful memories.

Your phrase saying the scale “unfolds from single note lines, to creating lines around pivot tones, to adding two or three notes to every ‘melody’ note” sounds like a good assessment of how it works. I may or may not have had the complete scale in mind before I started.

Evan: A quote from an interview with Nicholas Roeg seems pertinent: Do you remember the period of making “Don’t Look Now” as being a positive one? Film is a curious thing: you’re preparing it, working on it and thinking about it for a long time before you get to shoot the thing. Suddenly you give birth to this piece. Filmmaking is like being a jockey. After the race, interviews with jockeys are very interesting. One interview stuck in my mind—and I’m aware it sounds a little mad making the connection between moviemaking and horse racing—when they said to a jockey, ‘you were lying third, did you know you were going to come through?’ ‘I was third, but I wanted to hold him back until he wanted to go. I just felt him: HE wanted to go’. The horse is the one who’s directing the jockey. It’s the same relationship between a film and a director. Sounds a bit airy-fairy, but it’s true. There’s a marvellous line in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre when the old man stops at the foot of the mountain, and the old man picks up a rock and says, ‘Nahh, that’s fool’s gold!’. But suddenly, in another scene he starts dancing. ‘What’re you dancing for you old ass?!’ and he says, ‘You don’t see the gold beneath your feet!’ In filmmaking, the gold is often located in the most unlikely places. The world is full of theories, but nine out of ten, if not ten out of ten begin to change. Our creativity is bound by our experience.

Evan: a quick first response to the matter of Daniel Dennett, where he says in a work offered by the Wikipedia entry (sorry for that, I hope it is accurate) from “On Giving Libertarians What They Say They Want"—Chapter 15 of his 1978 book Brainstorms:

“Fifth—and I think this is perhaps the most important thing to be said in favor of this model—it provides some account of our important intuition that we are the authors of our moral decisions.”

If “we are the authors of our moral decisions” who is the author of morality? Yes I believe I have already said that I believe in God but that I am not a Religionist.

On the other hand, where he says :

“Postmodernism, the school of “thought” that proclaimed “There are no truths, only interpretations” has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for “conversations” in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.”

I see echoes of his old Oxford philosophy studies. It is essentially the same sentiment as E.P. Thompson’s view and I can heartily agree. I must try and find you the great Steve Bell cartoon of the visit for the award of an honorary degree to Derrida at Oxford (or was it Cambridge?)

Tom: I read the Muses essay. I have to admit that I’m a bit wary of Muses. I have a long-standing policy of distrusting people who purport to offer insight into possible afterlives. But I didn’t find this essay to be so egregious in that regard. I’m choosing to take his larval stage metaphor as a metaphor. I’m curious how you take it. Or rather, why you pointed to this essay in particular as a clue to your belief system. It’s interesting… the ritualized encoding of the meanings reminds me of chaos magicians “charging” their sigils. Are you familiar with any of that? Hypersigilism, chaos magik, etc.? I was also thinking that his interpretation of the hexagram as being a kind of Sufic philosopher’s stone approach to “work” or process. I considered the musical work as my own philosopher’s stone for a long time now, myself.

I have read Muses before; I picked up a copy of Consciousness and Reality years ago after reading an interview where you mentioned him. I was re-reading some of it in preparation for this study and found some stuff that was surprising similar to Dennett, though very different in tone and presentation. This part in particular:

“We live in a projection world of solid, neuro-’wired’ holograms - a world of simulacra. Physical science by its micro-analyses, through instruments, of input data ordinarily received only by the bodily senses (or by instrumentally detecting signals not sensorily perceivable) has revealed a great deal of the modus operandi of the production of our sensory observations. Thus what appears to our senses as a table or a vase, say, is - we are now told - ‘actually’ a configuration of minute whirling particle-waves, all these components constantly involved in complicated patterns of motion vying in velocity with the speed of light. That, we are told, is the reality of the table and the vase - as well as of the leaf and the sunset. It is as though we were told while witnessing a cinema of some beautiful building that the projection machinery and lights were the ultimate reality of what was being depicted on the screen. It is merely a series of colored dyes on some plastic film being projected at sixty-four frames per second by a thus-and-so specified apparatus and that is all. So we are told. Yet here we demur, saying, But that is not ‘all’ at all; for that scene existed or exists somewhere, and the projection apparatus is, if anything, the more illusory of the two - certainly not the ultimate reality of the scene it serves to depict. Indeed, the entire science of the projection is irrelevant to the scene’s reality. In summary terms, the means of depicting something is not ‘more real’ than the reference of what is thus depicted.”

Though I find his value-judgement of the different versions to be premature; it all depends on whose vantage point we’re looking at of this from. I also find the hints of conspiracy (“so we are told” and all that) to be distasteful and unworthy of his main points.

The same day that I bought the Muses book, I bought a book on memetics by Susan Blackmore (a fellow Bristolian) called The Meme Machine. Dawkins wrote the forward, where the clears up the confusion about his “disowning” the term, saying that he was more upset by how people were misusing it. So maybe one of the misuses of it is what led you to make the comparison to theories of symbiogenesis? As far as I can tell, a theory of memetics simply accounts for cultural evolution and way to have natural selection explain the evolution of our big brains, bypassing the apparent contradictions that occur when a purely genetic explanation is used.

More importantly, I find the study of memetics very relevant to this project. Blackmore defines a meme as anything that can be imitated, which I think that, coupled with it’s applicability into a theory of Universal Darwinism, could be a useful way to consider my approach to a translation. If the various approaches you employ which I can imitate can be considered memes subject to natural selection, then it seems that memetics is something I should be taking seriously. Any thoughts on that?

Evan: A first remark: bright as Dawkins may be he is also the author of a book called “The God Delusion”. The fundamental problem with his approach is that he confuses religious assertions of privileged access to the mind of God with the existence of God. Confusing the bath water with the baby you might say. Dennett, I just don’t know enough about but he seems equally full of himself. If I wanted to get into the kind of surprisingly journalistic style each of them uses in his “atheist” writing I might risk saying they have made themselves and their own certainties the subjects for worship. A little bit like that old jibe about Marxism being a religion without a God - even if the Marx, Lenin and Stalin functioned as good substitutes for the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. If I have a certainty it is a simple one: this Universe, or whatever we choose to call All and Everything, that which impacts on our consciousness, does not seem remotely likely to have come about by the emergence of matter from nothing, nor does the subsequent evolution of the known Universe to include life forms including our own species * seem even possible given the exquisitely tuned restraints of the various physical constants necessary for the evolution of life - the so called “Goldilocks” dilemma.

Magic is an interesting parallel alternative to the above argument.

When Musès, already in his 80s, went to Eastern Russia, Mongolia and Tuva to meet living shamans he felt the true force of a system for developing powers that was in complete variance with Dawkins’ Laws of Science. I feel fairly sure that I have witnessed one instance of paranormal control that defies the commonly accepted “Laws of Physics”. But the miracles of everyday life will do for me. An Omnipotent force produces mechanisms of fractal miraculousness. Or put another way in the sleeve notes to Giuffre’s “Free Fall”: “Yggdrasil - the Great Tree whose roots bind Heaven and Earth together.” When Musès talks about the exquisitely tuned endocrine systems of butterflies he is simply witnessing what might be termed “the miracle of God’s Creation”. Let me cut this short and say please don’t confuse organised Religion with a belief in a Purposeful Universe. In Musès’ interpretation of the I Ching, in addition to being seen as a divinatory tract it can also be read as a narrative of the life of spiritual development reaching it’s zenith at hexagram 63, 64 representing a return to another cycle of earthly existence. (This is his essay in “In All Her Names” co-edited with Joseph Campbell but largely edited by Musès in his unmistakeable style, which I think you find “distasteful”. I would call it “robust”) I think your summary of the meme idea is fair enough but I am not sure that I am misrepresenting his ideas. I think I said something like “desperately trying to plug the holes in NeoDarwinism”. It is simply forthright language with a touch of the journalistic but I don’t think it represents a misuse of the term. I am just one of many people who think his contribution to evolutionary theory has been over-estimated. I hope I find time to look into Susan Blackmore, however time is precious.

But we stray a long way from basses and saxophones.

It seems almost as though I am avoiding Three of Six… It is true that I will clearly need to listen to this at some point. However, at the moment I am in Brooklyn staying with Ned Rothenberg with only an ipad. My recent dealing with solo material has been with recordings made earlier this year. When I get home I will send you some of these that I hope will put the older recordings in what we might call their “evolutionary context”! I am scared that I have made so little progress in the many years between Six of One and 2019.

As far as the machine translation: do you know the German software called DeepL? It may serve at some point to illustrate what translation does to poetry - back to that “what is lost” old chestnut, or those old chestnuts if we include Adorno’s “poetry after Auschwitz”.

If the Evan Parker language of the soprano saxophone is a dialect of Sardinian what is the Tom Blancarte language of double bass?

Tom: Thanks for the Spencer book. I read the preface and it looks fascinating; it’s going on my (now very long) reading list.

Concerning Dawkins, Dennett, Muses, etc., I think there’s plenty that evolutionary theory can say about the “exquisitely tuned endocrine systems of butterflies” without recourse to any higher beings or magical explanations. That’s not to say that there’s no room elsewhere for said beings or explanations, though!

But I’ll set aside the grander theological debate for now and instead ask a more pointed question: in what way (if any) does your solo music relate to your views on a Purposeful Universe?

As far as the machine translation: do you know the German software called DeepL? It may serve at some point to illustrate what translation does to poetry - back to that “what is lost” old chestnut, or those old chestnuts if we include Adorno’s “poetry after Auschwitz”.

I used to do this sort of thing to all kinds of texts when Google Translate first went online; I would take a text, maybe something as prosaic as a recipe or list of ingredients, then put it through as many languages as I could, over and over again, until I got tired and put it back into English again. The results could sometimes be surprisingly profound. But as these translators have gotten better and better, the results have gotten more staid and predictable. I haven’t done one of those in a long time. I don’t recall ever doing it to poetry, though. I quickly ran the first stanza of Whitman’s I Sing the Body Electric through this DeepL program and its limited selection of languages and got this:

I sing the electric body, The soldiers I love will testify against me, and I will testify against them, They won’t let me go until I go with them, tell them, And I will destabilize them and have them carry the weight of their souls.

Was it doubtful that those who corrupt their bodies would hide themselves? What if those who pollute the living were as bad as those who pollute the dead? What if the body did not do as much as the soul? And if the body was not a soul, what kind of soul is it?

Which came from this:

I sing the body electric, The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them, They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them, And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves? And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead? And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul? And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?

Pretty boring, though the second line is pretty funny, considering how the meaning has changed and considering Whitman’s sexuality. But saying that this is something that “translation” does to poetry isn’t really true, as none of the machine translators I’m aware of have poetry as their goal; their purpose is to translate everyday, banal meanings. Nothing as lofty as poetry. So of course there’s going to be much that is lost in translation. But that’s why, at least up til now, translation of poetry is something that only humans can accomplish with any degree of “success”. Though I’m reminded of the assurance of chess experts just a few years ago that no AI could ever be better than a human, and we know how that’s turned out!

If the Evan Parker language of the soprano saxophone is a dialect of Sardinian what is the Tom Blancarte language of double bass?

My first response to this is to say that there’s no way I would consider your “language” to be a mere dialect of Sardinian! (I’m assuming you’re referring to the launeddas here.) But IF I were to take that analogy to be accurate, I would say that my own “language” is a kind of creole language. But I think it would be more accurate to call your own language a creole as opposed to a dialect. Or really, the whole analogy is just off; I think it’s better to consider a musical language as something more analogous to a writer’s style than an entire language in itself. The instruments can be better seen as analogous to languages. So in that sense, the launeddas and the saxophone are maybe like two Romance languages (say, French and Romanian) and the bass is more like something in the Finno-Urgaic tree; that is, almost totally unrelated! The transfer of musical approaches from one instrument to another leads to many problems to be solved that lead to new approaches in the respective languages, particularly if those approaches deal with the uniqueness of the instrument itself. Put another way, how to translate a poem in English which deals with play between verb tenses into a language that doesn’t have a future tense?

Sorry to throw another question on top of the others, but it’s one I’ve been meaning to ask for awhile and keep forgetting. I’m listening to Saxophone Solos right now and I’m wondering if it was your intent to create any auditory illusions (psuedo-polyphony) that early on. Was it something that started to happen and you started to follow the idea down the rabbit-hole, or was it an idea you had in your head and you were looking for techniques to help achieve it?

Evan: The real initial impetus to investigate those auditory illusions was Coltrane’s approach to soloing on My Favourite Things. Before I had heard the Atlantic record I had read a review in Downbeat which talked about Coltrane’s seeming to play two lines at once. A short reply for once.

Tom: I found a good way to summarize the project I’m doing, reading the attached paper about poetry translation:

“What does it mean to translate the materiality of a poem? Following the characterization of the poem as a multilevel system of constraints that functions as an “experimental lab” for language experiments, we suggest that to translate the materiality of a poem is to perform a “multilevel translation:” to select a set of multilevel constraints from a poem in a source language and rebuild analogous multilevel constraints in a target language. Put in another words, to translate the materiality of a poem is to replicate, in a target language, a similar scenario used to perform semiotic experiments in the source language.”

So, I’m thinking about trying to dig deeper into some of the mechanics of the music. I’m curious about your thoughts on the ‘melodic’ aspects of the music. An analogy to weaving or threading seems to be conscious on your part, whether it was there before you started the solo music or if it was emergent. (I’m thinking of some of your title references to things like the quilts of Gee’s Bend or to Liz Fritsch that seem to make this plain). On some of Whitstable Solo, there are even some spots where I can imagine you taking this analogy into the ‘unraveling’ of some of these melodic threads into single-line melodies. Does this fit with how you’re thinking about it?

Another tack is to think about the relationship between the various little melodies or melodic fragments found in the music. I found a dissertation discussing Ezra Pound’s approach to translation (link) where there is much discussion of the ‘charging’ of words by their arrangements in relation to one another:

“Words gain charge insofar as they are placed in precise mutual relations, in precise arrangements where the angles between them multiply their energy. ‘That is what Ezra means by charged words,’ writes Madox Ford. ‘Properly considered, single words in themselves have no magic beyond that of a certain euphony… that apart, no solitary word can be much ‘charged’. On the other hand, when you put two or three words together they come to life - or die’. In what concerns the production of the ‘poetic plus’, then, we are not too far from the structuralist approach to language as a whole: meaning appears as an effect of differential relations among words.”

By analogy, it would seem that there is a special magic in the way some of these little melodies get ‘woven’ together in your solo music. Any thoughts on that?

Evan: I just sent you a short piece that I recorded about a year ago. I listened to it this morning - not the way I start every day - and for some reason this weaving question made me think it would stand some objective listening. You may have identified aspects of what might be work in progress.

I see that one of the authors of the paper is also a researcher of “niche construction theory”. If I have understood the gist of it, this seems to be the study of how organisms modify their environments in order to increase their survival rates. I have been very impressed by a person who I hope would not be offended to be described as a herbalist - Stephen Harrod Buhner - I started with his “The Lost Language of Plants” but now have most of his books. I think NCT might be a branch of science of which he might approve.

Do you know the ceramics of Liz Fritsch? Her work is unaffordable now, but once a long time ago she said she would make me a version of the piece called “Quantum Pocket”. I saw an exhibition of her work that more or less moved me to tears with its beauty. That is something that also more or less happened when I saw the whole grouping of small works on the mantlepiece at Roger Ackling’s old apartment in Hackney.

To be able to show a collection of related works which survive the time of their making can only be done in music by overdubbing. I tried to get to some equivalent places with the Tzadik CD “Time Lapse”.

Ezra Pound is a difficult case. I was moved to sell all my books when I read the account of the end period of his life. He never really gave up his fascist views. Of course he had a “way with words” (and ideas).

I think the piece I just sent may work with these “little melodies” but they morph from one to the next rather than being woven.

Tom: When I listen to the piece you sent me, I perceive it primarily as a ‘dance’ or ‘weaving’ of the melodic fragment Db-Bb-C with other melodic fragments, some of them familiar, others new. Db-Bb-C disappears at 3:14 to be replaced by a pattern that I recognize, and then reappears briefly at 3:38, then is back for good at 4:30 until the end.

My question is this: how are you perceiving the various melodies? Are you thinking of a single line that swerves through different registers and then, through repetition, picking out emergent melodic fragments after you hear them? Or are you aware of the melodic fragments in advance and place them in contrast to one another intentionally? This was actually a question I tried to ask you years ago the first time we met; I think I posed it as either perceiving the music as one fast line or multiple slow moving lines. I’m trying to find out if we mean the same thing when we use the ‘weaving’ metaphor.

I want to discuss Liz Frisch and Ackley later, as well as NCT and especially this overdubbing concept. (I’ve purposely avoided the overdubbed aspects of the solo music for this project to keep myself focused, but very curious about your thoughts on this.)

As for the Pound question, I don’t have any issues differentiating between the artist and the work. A real world example would be the fact that Elvin Jones was a wife-beater but made incredible music. A more extreme hypothetical example would be to imagine throwing out the theory of relativity if it were discovered that Einstein had in fact kept hundreds of kidnapped children locked up in his basement for sexual amusement and to satisfy his cannibalistic appetite; the theory is not dependent upon the moral character of the one who devised it.

And one more metaphor to help ask my question: if you’re an illusionist creating musical illusions, are you ‘seeing’ the illusions yourself or are these meant for an audience while you do the work of construction the illusions, without being able to enjoy the illusions yourself?

Evan: I think that I realise that certain small adjustments in the essential control mechanisms - fingering patterns, overtone selection, dynamics, accent patterns and articulation - are behind the illusions and that I should focus on them and not the resultant illusions. Being taken by the illusion can disturb the control mechanism/s and either lead to collapse of the illusion or a sustainable modification of the first state into a second state. Feedback loops on feedback loops.

Tom: “a sustainable modification of the first state into a second state” - Can you talk about this a bit more? If I understand it correctly, this is actually a case of you managing to gain conscious control over an emergent property, a kind of stepping outside of yourself and not snapping back into yourself when you realize that you’re not in yourself. A case of turning an unknown into a known and then holding onto this new known to create new unknowns. So you try not focus on the illusions, but sometimes you do anyhow and that can then sometimes, instead of causing the pattern to collapse upon being the focus of attention, allow you to control the illusion to take further steps of development. (I’m imagining that many of the shifts in material that I’ve been calling parataxis are moments where the focus of attention results in a collapse of the pattern).

Or am I misunderstanding that completely?

Evan: I am not sure I can say much more to clarify the relationship between the physical aspects of playing and the resulting “music”. I have sometimes compared the mental process to that involved in juggling but it also has something in common with plate spinning. Or in more respectable terms with ars memoria. Whether the resulting recording justifies such pretension or not I leave to you to decide, but the acoustics of the Lines Burnt in Light church made me think of that process whereby a known physical space is used as a series of loci for particular “object” to be memorised. Frances Yates’ "The Art of Memory"was the first place I read about that. In that church I had the feeling that I could place different elements in different corners of the room. (I had not been drinking!) I will send another longer piece from a little earlier last year. I hope it has some material you have not heard before!

Tom: Here are two articles that made me think of the project, which you might find interesting. and an article referenced in the above:

I was thinking of making an analogy between your ‘language’ vs. Coltrane’s early and middle-period ‘languages’ and English versus more difficult languages (i.e. Japanese). It seems to me that the clarity of Coltrane’s language and its heavy use of easy-to-translate pitches allowed it to be the basis of a kind of lingua franca in the current jazz world, whereas your music is so saxophone-based (its syntax incorporates so many of the physical idiosyncrasies of the instrument) that it can be quickly dismissed as being impossible to duplicate on another instrument. (As Mark Dresser tried to convince me). For me, one of the joys of this kind of creativity (musical translation) is that the impossibility of the task opens up seemingly limitless possibilities.

In answer to an earlier question, whenever I ask questions about pitches on the saxophone, I’ve been assuming that you think in Bb, not concert pitch. Is that true, or do you think in concert?

Evan: Murakami had a job early on as a jazz coffee shop “master”. I wonder if the late Kunio Nakamura knew him? He had such a shop in Sendai called jazz + Now.

I suppose Murakami’s writing, in its easy translatability, would be at the other pole from writing like the Joyce of Finnegans Wake, Arno Schmidt or Perec? Early on in our discussion we talked about the translation of poetry and many of the same conclusions would apply to such particularly personal prose styles.

In fact I don’t think in terms of pitch names at all while playing but they are useful in this discussion and I also use them to notate specific patterns that I am trying to get under my fingers. I have gone back to look at further implications of the physical lay out of the saxophone. Closing all six keys with the first three fingers of each hand (D on the instrument), raising the fingers of the right hand (RH) gives G. Raising the remaining fingers on the LH gives C#. This “asymmetry” in the sense that equivalent acts, raising all the fingers of each hand as a block, produce different intervals D-G a fourth G-C#a raised fourth. This fact is at the root of much of the LH/RH rhythmic interplay and of the so called poly-rhythmic effects. The further extension is based on the fact that this same ascending interval D - C# - a #7th - with the use of the little fingers for Eb and G# is the compass of all 12 tones. All kind of patterns I call “closed” can be played using only that range. The patterns derived in this way can then obviously be played in other parts of the instrument using the bell keys and going up to the side keys. I wonder if it is possible to produce all 12 tones within a #7th on the bass from one hand position?

Tom: I’m realizing that I might have misunderstood before; so all of the chromatic fingerings from D up to C# are what you consider “closed” fingerings, even if it means that none of the fingers are depressed? So what are “open” fingerings then? The alternate fingerings?

Re: fingerings on the bass in one position, this is possible if one uses Rabbath fingerings (where you use the thumb as a pivot to stretch wider). But to compass an octave still means using a minimum of three strings. The issue here is that it makes much more sense to play the kind of note-based patterns you use (like these interwoven lines from your most recent work) with the fingers rather than the bow. The downside is that you lose the ability to get all of the extra harmonics that are available with the bow. And there’s still a vast difference in playability of certain intervals. (For example, if I set up to play a D chromatic scale starting on the D on the A string, to play a minor second between E on the A string and F on the D string means a slight shift as well as a change of string, where a minor second between F# and G on the D string is very easy (just alternate between the 1st and 2nd fingers on the left hand).

It’s an interesting dilemma, and it strikes at the heart of my interest in looking at your intentions as well as what you actually do. I found an interview with you where you once said that while you were interested in extended techniques, you were most interested in what the saxophone was built to do (play chromatic pitches). The funny thing with translating this “intent” to the bass is that the bass wasn’t really designed in a top-down manner like the saxophone was. It’s not designed to play tempered scales (at least not well), and has essentially been forced into playing these notes. So if we let the bass “speak”, then it’s less likely to have much to say about tempered pitches than the saxophone does. It doesn’t mean that I’m uninterested in playing tempered pitches on the bass, but that maybe the priorties get inverted from yours. Does that make sense?

Finally, just to respond to the bit about translatability, I’m actually just a bit curious about your thoughts and feelings regarding the translatability of your own ideas and work and what that says about meaning and communication. Any thoughts? (And yes, I would put writers like Joyce, Schmidt, as well as Pychon on the other end of the translatability spectrum from Murakami.)

Evan: just a quick clarification. I can see why using the term “closed” to describe the interval between D ascending to the C# above creates confusion. I mean closed in the sense compact - the minimal interval within which all twelve tones may be played To produce the D six fingers are closing keys, to produce the C# all fingers are off the keys with all the standard fingerings for the chromatic sequence between. Sorry for expecting my private terms to make self evident sense.

All other issues will take a little more reflection.

Evan: A musician wanting to compose in the moment (= “improvise”) should beware of developing too specific a relationship between practice and performance. Nevertheless the mental and physical aspects of instrumental control must be maintained and developed. In some ways the further the practice material is from unmodified usability the better. Practising in the specific (“closed”) range D - C# ascending is probably a good example of material with little direct usefulness - as are the overtone studies taken from Rascher or the flute studies for right hand little finger from Marcel Moyse etc. The hope in working this way is that the fingers and mind stay limber and ready to respond to the musical imagination.

Here endeth the lesson.

Tom: But I’m curious to dig a bit deeper into why you asked the question about an analogue of the “closed” range on the bass. What are you thinking there?

Another thought/observation I’ve had and just haven’t had a chance to articulate it: it seems that in recent years you’ve been concentrating more on pure note material, with less emphasis on overtones. It seems like there are variety of “voices” you use for creating pseudo-polyphony, and early on it seemed there was a tendency to have the two primary voices as overtones and standard notes. But it seems like a lot of the recent work has been on paring it down to multiple voices with primarily standard notes. Maybe this is what you’re thinking when we were talking earlier about the weaving metaphor? Does this match your own intentions/observations?

I guess this relates to the “closed” position topic because in moving these ideas from the saxophone to the bass, the bass is rich in harmonics (maybe richer than the saxophone in some ways), but the saxophone is clearly far superior in making the playing of “standard” notes facile. The bass is famously bad at this by comparison. I’m curious about your thoughts in reaction to this.

Evan: I still want the controlled activity in the upper partials.

Evan: I’m afraid if you dig much deeper the emperor may turn out to have no clothes at all.

As a consequence of our exchanges and the listening to recent recordings I told you I would do. In the sessions from last year and this there are patches of great ingenuity mixed up with filler material - something like the enormous disproportion between diamonds and the rock from which they are mined. As you would expect the diamonds are things that I am not sure how they were produced. How much appetite do you have for diamond mining? There is a lot of material here. I’m playing it now and right this moment a diamond popped out but now it’s gone…

I have had several not exactly sleepless nights but certainly some questions to self about what the hell I am up to. I have already worn out the comparison with juggling (but saying that already makes me want to research the history) In this questioning - what is it for? and so on - I thought of plate spinning and how amazing that can be. But when it ends what has happened? somebody span some plates in a rather amazing way - where is the profundity of a late Beethoven string quartet, the searching and communication of the depths of the soul? It lacks gravitas (that’s the word). I will have to live with this and maybe the feeling will produce some kind of epiphany…

Your advice may well be “don’t hold your circular breath”.

Meanwhile the answer, such as I can give one, is in the email to which it was a response.

Tom: I’ve been thinking a lot about what you’ve written. I think that, throughout our correspondence, I’ve detected an aversion to ‘deconstruction’ or ‘dissection’ of your work. Maybe I’m wrong. I myself have always been annoyed when people talk about things in reductionistic terms, then continue by concluding that something is ‘just’ this or that. Just because we can atomize a thing and look at the guts of it doesn’t mean that that’s all it is; as Terry Pratchett (who I’ve never read) apparently wrote: “It doesn’t stop being magic just because you know how it works.” Of course looking at the guts doesn’t tell the whole story. This is what I love about Dennett’s intentional stance; it’s important to know what the intentions and desires of a thing or maker of a thing are to get the full story.

That brings me to your diamond metaphor and how apt it is to what you’re doing and how one could use what you’re doing to better understand their own life. We’re often taught that life should ideally be ecstatic all the time, that every moment should be as amazing as possible. But we have need for boredom and the mundane to give those ‘diamonds’ value. And it takes work and patience for those diamonds to be discovered/made. (Your armature metaphor is another great way of expressing this). This embracing of the mundane and routines is (I think) one of the things that’s attracted me to your approach and the music itself.

Re: gravitas, are you saying that you think that your own music lacks gravitas or that plate spinning lacks gravitas? (I didn’t know what plate spinning was before you mentioned it.) I would just say that your solo music unmistakably has gravitas. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered someone who thought it trivial. But comparing it to Beethoven… not so sure why you would do that. Romantic music, with its extensive and almost scientific exploration of the use of functional harmony and orchestration to guide/control the emotions, opened up the doors to some great art, but at the same time opened the doors to some dangerous mind-control that’s been co-opted by countless capitalists for nefarious purposes since. Beethoven has a certain type of gravitas; your music simply possesses another type.

Evan: I think I mentioned that I have started to do some practice each day. The stuff I sent yesterday was much more about improvising in concert or for recording.

Although I did a little check to see if that very personal material is still “there”, I settled on some a rather precise note sequence. I can’t remember which note I first played the figure on but let’s say ascending C F Bb B E F# and then descending reversed F# E B Bb F C.

Quite liking the pattern, I then analysed it, i.e. 4th,4th, S, 4th, T and tried to play from low Bb, B,C etc. I was surprised how the difficulty of execution varied with each specific transposition. With this kind of stuff I usually play four times at a comfortable speed and then four times double that or at least as fast as possible.

So it seems there is still a place for note and interval names at least sometimes when I practice but the aim is to keep developing the connection between mind, fingers and embouchure.

Tom: This is good! I want to zoom in a bit more and also zoom out.

To zoom in: can you talk a bit more about how you’re thinking of the music while you’re playing? We’ve already talked before about the illusions and whether you perceive them while you’re playing, and now, from the next to last email you wrote, it seems that you have a very physical, mechanical way of thinking of the music in the moment. Are you using these patterns that are a part of your daily practice consciously (starting an improvisation with one of these patterns, for example) or do they make it into the music unconsciously? Are you setting up algorithms and letting the music play you? How much agency do “you” have in the music, once it gets started?

To zoom out: as I wrote above, we’ve talked at length already about the creation of auditory illusions, but we haven’t really gotten into the why of them. What are they for? Is there a greater significance to them? A parallel I could imagine would be the manner in which Sufi parables can (and should) be read with many different interpretations to get the “full”, desired effect. Is it something like this? But a Sufi parable is usually “composed” to have this effect; if aspects of the creative activity are unconscious, how does this comparison hold up, if at all?

Evan: Yes the illusions can distract to the point where loss of control ensues. This may or may not be a useful new line for potential development or something that can be quickly incorporated in the flow where the interruption or loss of control happened - eg if working with rhythmic elements of 2s and 3s and a 1 or a 4 gets played then the pattern might shift from 2 3 2 3 2 3… to 2 3 2 3 1 2 3 2 3…or 2 3 2 3 4 2 3 2 3… this might be an example of setting up algorithms and letting the music play you as you say. The more predictable the sequences become the more they call for disruption. It could be that I start with a pattern that I have been working on but this is less likely than that I will throw myself in the deep end and see what happens How much agency do “you” have in the music, once it gets started? is a very good question. I suppose the time honoured answer is that “I” disappear and the music plays itself. I think it is more that different parts of the mind/brain complex start to take the roles of listener, critic, fan, egomaniac and these different characters may start to talk to one another eg the fan may start to think something along the lines “this is amazing, how did I do that?” while the critic replies “it wasn’t so amazing, anyway your finger slipped to make that first glitch” - leaving who or what to make the music? The work of Robert Ornstein on left and rightbrain dominance and Shah’s concept of the “commanding self” take you deep into these questions.

the why of auditory illusions… well we are back to plate spinning, juggling, legerdemain, entertainment. If I am fully engaged there is a sense of risk - no plates get broken but in the refined little world in which the work is evaluated, given significance I can succeed or fail (or mostly a bit of both). By comparison I sometimes think of the Dick Higgins text piece for Fluxus: “CLIMB INTO THE VAGINA OF A LIVING WHALE.” Now that would be high art.

ps. That phrase, C F Bb B E F# is so much harder in some transpositions than others and the way thinking of the note names actually interferes with the finger control will keep me at it for a while.

Tom: Can you talk a bit more about how you think of the Commanding Self in relationship to your playing and the loss of control? (Though it’s been a while, I’ve read the Shah book three times and am curious about your thoughts and interpretations of the thinking there.)

I have two other lines I want to explore:

(I’m also curious about another element that seems to have “gone extinct”, a kind of sputtery playing that can be heard, for example, on “Four of Six”. Any ideas about why that has disappeared?)

Evan: I am really annoyed but I can’t find my copy of “Commanding Self”. My use of the reference may be somewhat unfocused but I meant to say that although we like to think of ourselves as rational beings in control of our lives the truth is that we are many different fragments each of which has its own virtues or vices. While playing there is certainly room in my head for a sometimes welcome sometimes unwelcome critic, a forgiving uncle and then a cynic who knows that however bad it is it is probably good enough and anyway it won’t last much longer. Your “decider” is clearly there too but he works slowly in the background and maybe takes strength from the time between playing. The “sputterer” may just have lost his place in my head. He may come round again (in the next life?)

Certain kinds of repetitive practice may reveal weakness in the physical control of the instrument. This morning I was poking around in an old notebook and found a study that I had started to work on but then dropped. There was a book, one of many, by Marcel Moyse for flute that was full of exercises just to strengthen the RH little finger (I can’t bring myself to write “pinky”, oh I just did). A series of four bar figures each to be played four times as the clarity developed then the tempo was increased. Using this same thing for some absolutely “mechanical” patterns that generate the almost polyphonic quality, I realised that certain patterns where I was messing up were cleaner when I added circular breathing to the pattern. This is counter intuitive, maybe you have experienced something equivalent? By making the task more complex it solves the problem. The term “mechanical exercise” makes it clear that this is dealing with the mind/fingers relationship by isolating specifics, reducing them to a pattern and then drilling them ad nauseam.

Polyphony comes out of a relationship with the instrument which after all takes breath and two hands to play. Of course the LH and RH function differently than on a double bass where as a generalisation the LH chooses the notes and the RH the articulation. The breath/embouchure combination deal with the articulation and given the access to the overtone series certain high pitches can be sustained across a range of varying column lengths.

Useful terms for future use:In French drums are batterie and in restaurant kitchen they also speak of the batterie de cuisine so maybe we can use this term as an expression of all the stuff we bring to the instrument and the instrument itself. Your batterie as a bass player and mine as a saxophonist are different. In the kitchen the chefs speak of the mise en scene which if I understand correctly is the way they like to lay out their station before they begin.

Evan: Perhaps of dubious relevance but nevertheless:

I have been reading and enjoying Thomas Mann’s “Der Erwählte” in the translation as “The Holy Sinner” by H.T.Lowe Porter.

I was moved by what seemed to me, knowing nothing of the original, the skillful mixtures of parody, archaisms, neologisms, invented language and self aware ruptures of stylistic coherence. I was reminded of the same kind of techniques in Flann O’Brien’s “At Swim Two Birds” and the AACM’s “Ancient to the Future”. (and perhaps of relevance - some of my solo work)

I was prompted by this enthusiasm to see what people thought of Lowe Porter’s work and not a little disturbed to see that she was the victim of quite acerbic criticism. (see link), but relieved to see the passage:

“While Luke 10is remarkably accurate and Mrs Lowe-Porter less so, she does, it seems to me, come closer to the rhythm, the melody, indeed the style of those narratives’ (Hatfield 1990: 192). Michael Wood, discussing the relative merits of Lowe-Porter and Woods, writes: ‘I have to say I find the language of both Lowe-Porter and Woods lucid and serviceable’ (Wood 2003: 4), a view which is echoed by Peter Craven: ‘I don’t think [Woods’] versions improve the original translations of Helen Lowe-Porter (although they sometimes correct her errors), and I once stopped reading his Buddenbrooks because it seemed inferior to hers’ (Craven 2007, no page number). And in an extensive comparative essay published in 1999, the poet and translator Martin Greenberg defends Lowe-Porter, arguing that her versions are far more idiomatic than those of her successors Luke and Woods. In his view, much of her work has ‘the cadence, the lyrical lift, the forward movement of the original, without stumbles or hesitations’, whereas the more modern, literally accurate versions are ‘sluggish’, ‘clumsy’, ‘literalism verging on the grotesque’, ‘deficient in literary feeling and literary style’, in places ‘cardboard stuff, pure contrivance’. He concludes: ‘I found myself turning away from Woods, irritated and often bored, to Lowe-Porter’”

What is my message? Watch your step!

Tom: Thanks for sending this. I’m finding that as I finish up this period of research that the idea of applying translation theory and practice to music is one of the more exciting aspects of this whole endeavor. But I know that I’m going to get a lot of shit from people (maybe even you!) when I put out an album of “translations” of your music; that’s why it’s so important that the written description of the research process is as clear as possible, to make sure that people can learn understand what I mean by a “musical translation”. (Of course, it’s also useful for myself!)

In this last phase, I’m interested in getting some specifics from you. I’m very curious to know more specifics about what you’re referring to here:

the skillful mixtures of parody, archaisms, neologisms, invented language and self aware ruptures of stylistic coherence. I was reminded of the same kind of techniques in Flann O’Brien’s “At Swim Two Birds” and the AACM’s “Ancient to the Future”. (and perhaps of relevance - some of my solo work)

The “self-aware ruptures of stylistic coherence” I’ve been referring to as parataxis, after the literary term. I suppose we could consider the “unraveling” of the knot of lines in your music to be a kind of rupture, but I’m not sure that’s what you’re referring to here. But I’m not sure what a “neologism” would be in your music. Or even parody. Can you elaborate?

Evan: As I opened up with “Perhaps of dubious relevance”, I hope you will forgive any fumbled attempt to justify the terms I used.

So coming back from literary writing to live performance is already quite a jump but I suppose the “neologisms” would perhaps be those moments where something new happens of where something old is used in a new context. Do they say “jump cut” in film editing? Once a period of looping has established a state of predictability then the introduction of a sudden change of dynamic or speed or timbre might be a kind of neologism. Parody is something that arises in my mind when I am coasting on personal material that is too familiar, such moments would not necessarily be apparent to others or, when again, even if only in my own mind, I am referencing Coltrane or Dolphy or Giuffre. I said excuse fumbling! Almost any aspect of translation is grist to the mill of our conversation and I realise that it may not all be strictly relevant or even coherent.

Tom: No, it’s great to get a tiny peek inside your head! Those terms make sense, though neologism seems to be pretty broad a term for the different things you describe.

It’s funny, I thought that I had come up with that term parataxis (or at least its application to music), but I was re-reading some of that Jeff Pressing stuff I had sent you a while back and realized that I had picked it up from him. Memories are strange things!

Speaking of memory (and the Pressing paper, too), I’m curious about memory in your playing. You’ve said before that there is no plan, but I find this hard to believe. It could be that we have different definitions of plan; my definition is quite broad. I would say that even instructions of elimination are a type of planning, e.g. the decision not to start by playing the head to Donna Lee. It could also be the idea of being open to possibilities, e.g. being open to the idea of stopping the music rather than having the music be one long circular breath performance lasting 20+ minutes.

It seems that a part of the plan (by my definition) is an investigation of areas previously visited i.e. memories. Can you talk about the process of interacting with your memories and how you might plan for organizing these interactions in a performance? Or part of a plan might be that you consciously avoid some of these memories to find new areas to explore, e.g. a new pattern or scale that you have been working on but haven’t incorporated into a solo improvisation.

I’m also thinking about memory as it relates to your definition of parody; when you’re thinking of referencing Coltrane or Dolphy, are you thinking of a remembered pattern/melodic fragment that pops up in your playing? Do you ever embed these things in your playing consciously?

Tom: I was wondering if you’ve given any more thought to my last email. I was reading some of Ray Jackendoff’s Language, Consciousness, Culture, and was wondering if you could give some more information about your own thought processes in the solo music. Here’s a chapter summary from Jackendoff that is maybe relevant:

“- Even the simplest and most routine actions reveal a complex hierarchical structure, some of which is stored in memory as action schemas and some of which is the result of composing stored action schemas online.

-Some aspects of a stored action schema can be applied either to perceiving others performing the action or to executing one’s own action.

-The structure of an action can involve both social and physical planes. The physical plane can involve both functional description (what is to be accomplished) and more strictly physical description (what motions accomplish it). The latter is linked to the actual motor script that realizes the action as muscle activations guided by proprioception.

-The structural relations underlying the composition of actions include the combination of actions as Head, Preparations, and Coda of a larger action; Concurrent Modulation of a Head; Modulation of a Process by checking, which can terminate the Process; Temporally unordered Heads (e.g. measuring water and measuring coffee); Simultaneous Heads (e.g. shaking hands and making eye contact); and probably other possibilities. These structural options can be thought of as constituting parts of the ‘grammar’ of actions.

-One stores vast amounts of information about how various devices work, potentially at every level of specificity from very particular (the faucet in my kitchen) to very general (electrical appliances). Perhaps ‘naive physics’ is one of the most general schemas in this class: ‘how physical objects and substances work.’

-One also stores vast amounts of information about the canonical location of particular objects. -Much of the online composition of action is not driven by explicit choices in stored routines; making all the choice points explicit would lead to computational explosion (the Frame Problem). Rather, stored actions are to some degree skeletal and schematic. The full complexity of executed actions is a consequence of

a.composing multiple stored actions;

b. Instantiating and binding variables in the schemas to suit the current context, including composition with other actions. The variables include characters in the action and locations to be moved to.

-Composition is often motivated by a discrepancy between the current situation and the situation required to initiate an intended action. The discrepancy is a matter of physical necessity (getting your hand to the right place or handling an object), a matter requiring perceptual attention (the dirty coffeepot), or a matter of foresight (running low on coffee).

-A discrepancy triggers a call to the action lexicon, which is answered promiscuously by all reasonably appropriate stored actions. The action actually executed is selected according to minimum cost, where cost is at this point a highly context-dependent wild card.”

Evan: I just had a quick look at the Wikipedia (sorry!) entry on GTTM. A question about the term “head” - what is it used to define?

It is clear that academia is a place for considered reflection, the careful construction of theories and methodologies. Although I don’t want to denigrate such activity, I am fairly sure that this is not much in the mind of a free improviser (me) - even one who has set out to “translate” (you).

I am sure there are ways in which such language could be used to analyse specific instances of translation using retrospective dissection.

However such ways have neither the speed nor the mode of consciousness which generated the original and its translation.

(I wouldn’t want a descent into the “automatic writing” of Surrealism even though it clearly can be seen as relevant. Davey Williams made reference and possibly use of equivalent techniques.)

The discovery in real time of something new might be the Holy Grail for me.

Tom: I think that the idea of a “head” is similar to a subject of a sentence in grammar. And, although most of us don’t diagram our sentences in real time as we speak or write, or even listen, the grammar is there all the same. (If you have a rebuttal to THAT, I’d be very curious to hear your argument!)

As far as musical improvisation is concerned, I would imagine that a “head” in music would be any bit of material that is being manipulated. For example, a four note pattern that gets manipulated in real time; the four note pattern is at the “front” of our consciousness, but the other activity might be occurring “lower” than that. What I’m looking for in your music is which parts are at the front and which parts are underneath. As a listener, I would assume that the infamous C-Db-Bb pattern would be a head, but from what I’ve gathered from our discussions, it’s actually further down in the hierarchy than that. Does that make sense?

However such ways have neither the speed nor the mode of consciousness which generated the original and its translation.

I’m actually thinking that maybe we can run with this to get a kind of heterophenomenological account from you of how YOU view the modes of consciousness that generate the music. Can you elaborate?

Evan: I want to try a different line for the discussion. Please forgive me if I am repeating ideas that have already been touched on.

The primary insight is the one I expressed a long time ago: that although the saxophone - apart from notes above C# on the instrument going via the side keys to F above - was designed as an open tube in which notes are selected by closing keys, it can also be seen and played as a closed tube which can be opened at different points. The solo improvisations from a certain point fairly early on started to exploit possibilities which produce quarter tone and smaller intervals by selecting the length of the closed tube. The range from low Bb upward B,C, C# and D is clearly the basic set of choices. But the idea can be taken further where the lowest notes in the LH G, Ab can also be taken as the “pedal”, By dividing rhythmic patterns between the remaining available keys in the LH descending C#,C,B,Bb,A,Ab,G RH desc F#,F,E,Eb,(according to choice D,C#,C,B,Bb, . On a good day poly-rhythms between fingers of the same hand might be used.

Side keys in the RH give options to vent the E, C Ab apertures but the pitches produced will be determined by the closed length and other ventings. The activity is tactile and given the option of continuous tone production via circular breathing there is also an important further control mechanism for pitch in the manipulation of the embouchure and selection of overtone options. The names of the pitches are not in my mind. The sequences of ventings are the “spinning plates”.

The question of the ratio of found fresh and how much is well known in a given performance itself varies from performance to performance. Specific reed behaviour coupled to acoustic properties of the performance space often plays a very significant part in determining which pitch choices are made. The fact that I am a “performer” looking for “success” may mean that I fall back on a known sequence to keep up a certain momentum. The oft maligned “muscle memory” has allowed slow accretions and modifications in which the unknown becomes the basis for the new unknown This approach has much in common with traditional musics. Any conical bored tube with six or more holes in it (three for each hand) can be played using this combination of techniques.

I lost two or more weeks to this virus which has set me back in terms of embouchure strength, but each day I am playing enough to remind myself of the bookmarks. I remember stuff, the stuff I remember suggests line of further development.

Evan: Try this and see if you get the same effect as I do. Stacked diminished triads, the first note of the second triad a semitone higher so ascending e.g. C Eb F# / G Bb C# / D F Ab. Start the first one on your low E string and then moving upward from there second one on the F and so on until you run out of instrument. Something may happen as you get higher, there will certainly be issues about which strings to use but the interesting effect you may find is that you stop thinking about the note names. Of course there are many other combinations of triads and connecting intervals. This is the one I was working on when I became aware of this effect.

Tom: This pattern really helps to elucidate a lot in your music. I remember reading an interview with you years ago talking about patterns like these. I think I remember it being something like tritone/half-step/tritone/half-step, etc. (so C-F#-G-C#-D-G#-A). I used to make up patterns like that, just to get some different shapes under my fingers. This pattern has some interesting properties. (I went ahead and wrote out some of this, mainly so I can use it in the final paper, not because I’m generally in the habit of writing these sorts of things down. I’ve attached them in this email.)

Some observations:

I was actually surprised to find out that it had 7 different iterations or “modes” before repeating itself. The relatively simple algorithm makes it easy to get lost as one moves of the fingerboard.

Another fun feature is that each four note cell marks out a kind of “bluesy” triad. I tried to write this out on the sheet music I attached; one cell is a minor triad with a #4, another is a minor and major triad smashed together and the third is a major triad with a b2. These all make for great melodic shapes that are still open-ended.

I also observed that it has a parallel shape at the perfect 5th; that is, if you harmonize the notes a fifth above, you’ll always use notes from the pattern. This is a great feature for use on the bass, which is tuned in parallel fourths.

My immediate thought when given material like this is, “how do I use this in my translation project”? Long scales up and down the fingerboard aren’t so relevant there, so I have to look for shapes that can be played quickly and easily. (I imagine that your observation about the saxophone from open to completely closed compassing a bit over an octave being somewhat analogous here). Distances across three strings in one position are really optimal for fast repetitious playing. So I isolated six different patterns in thumb position (where the distances are closer together, allowing for more notes per position) and wrote them out. It’s interesting, because some of them resemble patterns that I play already, but others are totally new. Definitely some great material for practicing!

I have to admit, though, that I don’t really observe the same effect of not thinking of the note names, mainly because I typically think in terms of shapes anyhow. Which brings up a point that I’ve thought about a lot in this whole process, namely the difference in construction of the bass versus the saxophone. The saxophone is a top-down instrument, constructed specifically to play equal tempered 12 tone music, while the bass is an instrument that has been coopted and forced to adapt to equal temperament. This becomes a bit of an issue when we talk about letting an instrument speak, because the saxophone “speaks” in relatively clear 12-tones, while the bass is much more garbled, while the natural harmonics are much more restricted on the bass than the saxophone. I’m just curious what you think about this in terms of this “translation”. Any thoughts?

Evan: Just to be clear, initially I thought of this kind of practice as being something to do with getting beyond that octave replication on the saxophone from the fingered D up to C#*, six fingers down up to the open tube, the second time with the octave key down. This structural given makes the replication of 7 note scales in both octaves just using the octave key for the second octave rather easy. That little pattern generates 9 note patterns in which the replication is avoided. A kind of automated homage to Eric Dolphy if you like.

Now whether this poses any similar issues for the bass is not in my grasp. The reason for suggesting that you try it was to discover whether the practical doing of it led to a place where the note names and the interval types disappear and the thing just becomes an issue of ear and hand position.

My recommendation would be to leave the notation for the final paper but to drill this pattern and others of you own devising without reference to notation, simply as calisthenics in order to develop “muscle memory”, that oft denigrated body control without which a toddler could not learn to walk and a pianist could never play a Chopin etude.

Scale = scala = ladder - to be internalised so that ascent and descent are as natural as walking up and down a known staircase. Arpeggio = harp like playing - to be learnt so that playing alternate notes of a scale is as natural as running your finger across the strings of a harp.

Hybrid forms which use elements of both scales and arpeggios represent the next step in developing instinctive familiarity with the instrument.

You probably know patterns titled “four mutually exclusive triads” pages 177 and 178 in Slonimsky.

Another factor which I may have touched on before is that that same * D up to C# allows any twelve tone row in closed position. I am thinking about this a lot but again the transferability to bass is more complicated.

Maybe the multiple ways in which a major 7th can be positioned and then the distribution across strings might make for an interesting set of studies?

All of this is about practice with a view to removing physical obstacles between the mind and the instrument when improvising “freely”.

Tom: I have one little question for you as I’m writing; maybe you’ll find this one a bit crass, but I think it’s actually an important one. I know that you enjoy a good fermented beverage as much as I do, and I know that for my own practices, I much prefer to perform after having a drink or two; is there anything there worth investigating? Do you prefer to do the solo thing stone cold sober or does a beer help to make the shift to R-mode a bit easier? I know it might seem a bit mundane, but I realized its importance for me when doing the recording of the album associated with the research (I had to have a beer at the beginning of the session to help the body and the mind get into a flow state).

Evan: I find a gin and tonic settles the nerves and gives a little “Dutch courage”. Less so for solo but certainly for club gigs. In fact this abuse of the Dutch “going Dutch”, “Dutch auction” etc. actually in this case it might be a reference to the effects of gin. See subject line (pot valiance - see Wikipedia) We used to import geneva from Holland before London Gin took over.

Section VII: Appendix 2: Correspondence with Peter Evans

Tom: Can you talk about the relationship (if any) between your own explorations of polyphony on the trumpet and Evan’s on the saxophone?

Peter: My introduction to solo improvised music was back in college - Eric Dolphy’s early solos, Braxton, Cecil Taylor, Milford Graves and Evan. The latter two were featured in an article in John Corbett’s book “Extended Play”. I read this before checking out the actual music, which was of course back then pretty hard to find, even at a good music school library. Corbett paired them in the article because of their exploration of multiplicity in their instrumental practice. Just even reading it made me excited, I couldn’t wait to get my hands (ears) on the music. So then finally when hearing Evan’s solo stuff I was struck by the unity of form and content - more so than most other improvised music I was hearing. What I mean is that the technical explorations he was undertaking on the instrument had their perfect “container” in the music, the structures.

At first, I was thinking of how to create similar types of variety on the trumpet. Over the years, the constant jumping around between extreme registers (which on sax is done in a totally different way) on trumpet seemed like just too much work. Not a sustainable or physically pleasurable way to play. So I’ve found various other ways to create the sense of multiple voices on the instrument.

Tom: One similarity between these types of investigations on the saxophone and on a bowed string instrument is that there is a great potential to invite unintentional sounds (happy accidents or mistakes) into a solo sound world, mainly because the types of accidents that occur on these instruments (typically higher frequency harmonics) are both easy to make and aesthetically pleasing. It seems that the trumpet has a greatly diminished potential in this regard, due in part to the demands on embouchure to play even “normal” tones and to the relatively unaesthetic appeal of “error notes” on the trumpet. From this, one would guess that the creation of polyphony on the trumpet requires more planning or preparation than on these other two instruments. What are your thoughts on this?

Peter: I know what you mean and even think string and wind players need to be careful with that stuff! I personally don’t always appreciate the invitation of accidental harmonics in wind/string music. Obviously in the right hands it can be great. I guess being a musician myself, and hearing a lot of music, I think I can kind of tell when a given player is courting those sounds intentionally and when they are simply losing control of their idea, then trying to cover it up as something purposeful.

Only in the last year have I explored working with invited accidental harmonics in a controlled way on trumpet. You’re exactly right about the challenges. One of the things that I do in the preparation of my modules is try to craft them in such a way that if I were to let loose a more random sequence of harmonics on a given valve position, the specific notes that come out “accidentally” interact with the module as a whole in an interesting way. Then in my practicing, I practice “nailing” the modules as well as letting them spin out of control a bit, hitting “wrong” notes on purpose. I got this idea from playing with and watching Craig Taborn - this idea of meta control - controling how much your are in/out of control!

Here’s a specific example, and you can hear it on the track “For Eric Fromm” on “The Veil” starting at around 2:00.

I attached the basic figure that I use at 2 min mark. The high note, the written “A” is already hard enough to hit accurately. So I work on that as I add the polyrhythmic processes to the figure. Then. to create more variety, I will send that high A up the overtone series on valve combination 1&2, often while keeping the other notes where they are. So in a way there are two different modules happening - the original Ab major-ish figure, spinning around + the sound of the A harmonic series going up to B, C#, D# F , F#, all microtonal of course. Then sometimes I will move the entire figure (meaning the contour and valve combinations) through the overtone series.

I do this with distortion from the lips as well, been doing that a long time. You can hear that on “Chorale” from Veil - one simple melody gets shoved up and down the overtone series…

just one more thing as it relates to the happy accidental tones - super clear example of what im talking about in the opening of eric fromm:

i’m messing with an arpeggiation of concert Bb minor. when i “mess up” the top concert f, the overtone below is a D natural, which is cool since it’s both a harmonic series function as well as a Bb major rub against the Db…

Tom: It’s funny that you mention Extended Play; I just re-read some of that “Ex Uno Plura” chapter this morning to summarize some of it my paper. I think it’s still the only writing on Evan’s music that gets to the heart of what his music is “about”: the multiplicity/polyphony. But it’s interesting that you say that found all of that bouncing around between registers that Evan uses to create the illusion of polyphony is too tiring to do in a pleasurable way on the trumpet, because it seems that your solutions for creating polyphony make use of precisely this same auditory streaming principle, by having voices grouped by (extreme) register. Is there a fundamental difference in your approach versus Evan’s? And a question parallel to this: how closely did you analyze Evan’s music looking for ideas of how to create polyphony?

Tom: I think that a quote from Evan seems like a good reference for this section:

“Another way of putting it is that the “known” is simply a platform from which to discover new “unknowns”. Meanwhile this mostly takes place in public spaces for audiences! (this concept will in future be termed *) … Before the material becomes known it has to be scanned, filtered and sifted from the unknown. This process needs camouflage because of * - other layers of activity have to make the naked research nature of this less apparent. Some kind of surface of competence needs to be maintained and by good chance this can also generate further unknowns almost as side effects!”

It seems to me that when you talk about modules, you’re talking about prepared knowns. Perhaps one difference in the approaches of you and Evan are that the trumpet maybe requires more preparation. Evan talks a lot about how most of his practice for the solo music occurs onstage, but it seems like this would be more difficult to do with the trumpet; the physical demands of the instrument demand more “composition” than the saxophone (or bass).

I’ll try to explain what I mean by way of an example: on the bass or guitar, a given melodic or harmonic shape is consistent across the fingerboard, so if I want to manipulate a shape, I can do this easily, without knowing how it’s going to sound in advance. I can do this even while maintaining good tone production, so it’s only after I’ve played that I know what the result was; it can be something completely unpracticed. Of course you can do this on a trumpet as well, but it takes many more mental calculations in terms of fingering combinations. The only thing that might be equivalent on the trumpet might be the harmonic series, which maybe explains why you mention it when talking about losing control or making acceptable “mistakes”. It seems like you tend to create these modules, as you call them, where the primary variability in terms of pitch comes from the harmonic series, so there’s a known, limited range of how any “mistakes” are going to sound. It’s a much tighter sound world than Evan’s, at least in terms of preparation required. It’s almost like you create little “reservations” of different pitch sets, where the tools that the pitches get to play with are usually the harmonic series.

A different limitation occurs on the bass as I’ve been looking at ways to recreate what Evan does, and this also relates to the harmonic series. The harmonics on a saxophone always relate directly to the fingering at any given time, but on the bass, there are many different kinds of harmonics. The so-called natural harmonics relate only superficially to fingered pitch, sometimes relating to the fingered pitch by sheer coincidence. So if a given pattern across two strings uses a given pitch set, the natural harmonics accessed from that position will actually only relate to the two open strings being used. So no matter the infinitely possible fingering and pitch combinations possible on the G and D strings, for example, the natural harmonics for all of these pitch combinations will always be harmonics of G and D and no other fundamentals. So there is a kind of gravity that always pulls the music towards these sets of overtones, something that doesn’t happen with either the saxophone or trumpet, which are both much more “chromatic” when it comes to the overtone series.

That’s not really a question, just something to respond to. But a quick technical question: when you’re listing pitches on the trumpet, are these in concert or in Bb? In concert, would the fingerings for your pattern from “For Eric Fromm” be 1, 1, 0, 1-2, 2? I got thrown off when you mentioned the 1-2 valve combination. In Bb, would the fingering for that pattern not be 2-3, 2-3, 1, 0, 1-2? Just so I understand what you mean when you talk about putting a figure “through the overtone series”.

Peter: Ok first of all, just for the sake of clarity… for right now when I’m talking about “polyphony” on the trumpet, I’m referring to a really limited set of materials- these “module” things that have a couple of melodies inside of them that I cycle through different polyrhythms. There are lots of other less literal ways I try to make the trumpet seem like more than one voice but since this particular method is so easy to talk about lets stick to it for now. It’s also really in its early stages of development, which is also cool. If you find that limiting, just let me know. You obviously know my playing really well, so just mention a different piece or texture if you want to go into some different territory.

When I say that the bouncing around is tiring, I mean around the extremes of the registers, which I’m not doing that much. It’s reserved only for certain moments, it’s not like the default. In terms of the basic principal, in this case I think it’s a bit similar in terms of separating voices by registers. Bach does the same thing in the violin/cello solos. But you’re right it has to be prepared and managed a lot more, and differently. When I prepare this little fragments of the “known” what I try to do is1. space the melodies apart, usually by an octave 2. not have any notes in common between the different registers. So in other words if there is a g in the bottom, I don’t have any more “g” in the module. My hunch is that the ear needs some help separating the different notes out and that having all different pitches moving around only helps. Then I also make sure the number of notes in the total module is interesting - 7 or 11 or 13 or something, so that when I filter through a composite polyrhythm, phasing occurs and it’s not the same relationship between the notes every time. I also practice truncating the module itself, extracting certain mini melodies or set of notes…

I check out Evan’s “De Motu” which I think is a pretty good description of what he does. Other than that I didn’t analyze much. I think so much of what he does on soprano has to do with the mechanics of the reed and the instrument, that it just doesn’t apply to the trumpet. The ideas can be applied in different ways however.

I think the idea of knowns as a way to jump to unknowns, and that in a performance we’re trying to find unknowns and deliberately allow the known stuff to go off the rails… is a pretty good description of improvisation in general. I’ve heard lots of improvisers basically say the same thing in different words.

valve combos - I was speaking in concert. The high “G” in the module I sent is written as an “A” and it’s combo 12. The fingerings for the whole thing are 23, 23, 1, 0, 12, just like you said.

Peter: The thing you mention about exploring harmonics on a figure over the D and G strings- this is what I’m consciously going for on the section of “chorale”- the initial melody at then gets pushed in its complete shape up the overtone series. I think whats cool about it is as the melody gets translated higher, the pitches in the melody change and become closer… then if I want I can bring out the sound of the fundamental underneath for contrast, like strings can do that too.

Tom: I’ll respond real quick to the thing about bass harmonics. Imagine that you only had four valve combinations corresponding to an E, A, D, and G. You can only access the notes that are overtones of these (and there are lots of overlapping notes). This is what harmonics are on the bass. And the way they get used is like this analogy: imagine that you have a chromatic organ with four keyboards, but in between the pitches you have overtones. Each keyboard is spaced a fourth apart from the next one. The overtones are based on the four strings, but their proximity to one another is always a fourth apart. So, in the middle left of the keyboard, you have the top keyboard with pitches B1, B3, C1, C3, C#1, C5 (very flat), D1, D2, C5 (very flat) Eb1, etc. So the harmonics get spread across the fingerboard, laid on top of the chromatic part. So anytime you want to access the high registers, you only have the choice of the harmonics from a maximum of four strings, and in any particular region, there tends to be a lot of overlap. So the intuitive use of harmonics has more to do with their proximity across the strings than within the a given harmonic series, like on the trumpet. It’s fucking weird when you think about it that way, but it’s interesting to think that the harmonics on brass are so integral to how you play, but they’re a very limited set of extended techniques on the bass.

Tom: Because you have to be concerned with the mechanics of making these illusions work (hitting the right notes, switching between different rhythms/polyrhythms), I suppose you don’t always get to hear how the illusion works for the listener. Is there a significance to the fact that you aren’t hearing the same thing as the listener?

Peter: In terms of listener perception versus my own, I often record this stuff and listen back precisely for this reason. I want to have some idea what’s happeening on the other end, since while I’m playing I can’t really step back and listen to the composite. What’s fun about this is that after I listen back to a recording, I can go back into the lab and actually arrange the materials in such a way that they will have specific perceptual effects for a listener. This obviously can only happen to an extent but I do think about it.

And finally, a broader question: why these illusions in the first place? What is the appeal of creating polyphonic music? Is monophonic music not enough?

The whole thing that attracts me (and seems like tons of others) to improvising is that it’s really just a method to get into whatever you want to call it: the zone, flow state, peering behind the veil, transcendent consciousness, etc. One of the things that seems necessary to approach this state and sustain it is to place oneself in a challenging environment, or an environment where the “I” disappears somewhat. the activity takes on it’s own life and the “result” is something beyond what the person doing it can really handle. Taborn described it as creating purposefully unmanageable situations for himself. So the goal is actually mental/spiritual and the musical aspect of it isn’t exactly secondary… but almost! The way an improviser gets themselves into this elevated state could really be anything, however it seems like creating a web of independent voices that can’t be tracked in real-time by the conscious mind of the person playing is a pretty common method.


  1. When consulted for this research, Williams distanced himself from the language in the original text, stating that while he views it today as “posturing”. ↩︎

  2. See Kasparek 1983 ↩︎

  3. “Because the translator is always led to rummage the recesses of his language and the richness of its vocabulary, its source of sayings and proverbs, its forms of sign language, in short, its multiple semantic and morphosyntactic resources, in the attempt to solve similar problems imposed on him by the original. He knows that he works with a finished text, to which he needs to give new life, to perform a Charon operation - to borrow a metaphor from Topior -, but in such a way that the characters in the text-boat do not lose memory and the work can satisfactorily cross its Styx, arriving alive at the other side: the translator’s target language and culture. To build this crossing the translator has to go through a creative process similar to that experienced by the author of the original, considering, of course, all due differences and specificities.” (Bezzera 2012) ↩︎

  4. For a short but comprehensive overview, see Sulaibi 2012. ↩︎

  5. for a visualization of a model of the constraints in Evan’s music, see Section II, Linguistics / Language. For a model of the constraints in my translation, see Section III, Design. ↩︎

  6. On Gregory Rabassa’s translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude into English: “García Márquez himself read One Hundred Years of Solitude in the Harper & Row edition and pronounced it better than his Spanish original.” (Elie 2016) ↩︎

  7. Borge’s fictional short story, in the form of a book review, details the re-writing of Don Quixote by the author Pierre Menard, despite his never having read the original. See Borges 1962. ↩︎

  8. For a brief summary of skopos theory, see Sulaibi 2012. ↩︎

  9. For a discussion, see Levitin, Ch. 9 ↩︎

  10. For more on translating words with no semantic meaning, see Alice Martin, “Translating Jabberwocky: Quoting with a Vengeance” Martin 2010. ↩︎

  11. “An example of a position with a very specific view is that of the philosopher Kivy (2002), who argues that ‘meaning’ should be reserved for the linguistic sense of reference and predication. In this view, music does not have meaning. Indeed, Kivy (personal communication) argues that music ‘cannot even be meaningless,’ because music does not have the possibility of being meaningful in this linguistic sense. In this view, asking whether music has meaning is like asking whether a rock is dead: It is a ‘category error.’… Kivy readily acknowledges that music can have ‘significance’ and ‘logic’ (in syntactic terms), and that music can express emotion. In rejecting the notion of musical meaning, he is taking a highly specific view of ‘meaning,’ perhaps in order to avoid diluting the term to the point at which it ceases to make useful distinctions in discussing the varieties of human thought. At the other end of the spectrum, the music theorist and ethnomusicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez has argued for an inclusive use of the term ‘meaning.’ Nattiez (1990) considers meaning to be signification in the broadest semiotic sense: Meaning exists when perception of an object/event brings something to mind other than the object/event itself. Implicit in this view is the notion that language should not be taken as the model of signification in general (Nattiez, 2003). Also implicit is the idea that meaning is not a property of an object/event, because the same object/event an be meaningful or meaningless in different circumstances, depending on whether it brings something else to mind (cf. Meyer, 1956:34). That is, ‘meaning’ is inherently a dynamic, relational process.” pg. 304 ↩︎

  12. See the section on memetics for more on Evan’s ideas as they manifest in the music. ↩︎

  13. One could also say that Borgo uses only the physical stance to investigate fractals in Evan’s music, whereas the true fractal intentionality of the music can only be comprehended using the design and intentional stances. I recall reading interviews with Evan where he talks about fractals when I was in college and running into the same issue, but the three stances give a clearer view of the problem. The investigation of fractals in Evan’s music was sadly not a part of this project. More on the three stances below. ↩︎

  14. “… in his music Parker articulates an alternative mode of production in which - although the musician sets a group of variables in motion and steers them in a general direction according to shifts in his attention - the details of the music are as much determined by the interaction of chosen systems as the ‘desire’ of the performer. It is in this sense that Evan Parker is doing research, both on the possibilities of music for solo soprano saxophone and on the possibilities of subjectivity.” (Corbett 1994) ↩︎

  15. Mikhail Bakhtin saw in Dostoyevsky’s novels a revolution in the approach to writing fiction, where instead of the characters all serving various functions to deliver the author’s message, the characters in Dostoyevsky’s novels are independent of the author’s views and interact with each other on their own terms; Bakhtin’s name for this new type of novel is the polyphonic novel. For the more on Bakhtin’s theory, see Bakhtin 1984 ↩︎

  16. See Appendix 2 for full discussion ↩︎

  17. For more on subharmonics, see Dresser 2000. ↩︎

  18. For a detailed discussion of the three stances (intentional, design, and physical), see Dennett 1987. ↩︎

  19. The fable of the elephant in the dark deals with blind men touching different parts of an elephant and mistaking the parts for the whole, failing to correctly identify the elephant for what it is. In the same way, if one uses only one stance to analyse an object, much of the “point” will be missed. Evan also referred to Idries Shah’s parable of the ants and the pen (a similar parable) as a warning against reductionism as a methodology, though I would refer anyone critical of reductionism to Daniel Dennet’s distinction between good reductionism and greedy reductionism. See Dennet 1995 ↩︎

  20. “One can be asking on the one hand for something rather like a definition, or on the other hand for something rather like a theory… What do all magnets have in common? First answer: they all attract iron. Second answer: they all have such-and-such a microphysical property (a property that explains their capacity to attract iron). In one sense people knew what magnets were - they were things that attracted iron - long before science told them what magnets were. A child learns what the word ‘magnet’ means not, typically, by learning an explicit definition, but by learning the ‘folk physics’ of magnets, in which the ordinary term ‘magnet’ is embedded or implicitly defined as a theoretical term.” (Dennett 1987) ↩︎

  21. see Shah 1964 ↩︎

  22. For a book full of these Mulah Nasrudin stories, see Shah 1993. ↩︎

  23. "The idea that traditional folk tales from many cultures have underlying unities, which may be interpreted as narrative grammars, is a fairly well established one . Explanations of this fact have tended towards one or the other of two viewpoints. A common (particularly European) perspective in the study of oral tradition and folklore has been a focus on their repetitive and imitative aspects, with the frequent assumption of an Urtext which has undergone historical and geographic transformation. A powerful opposing view, and one which seems increasingly relevant as a description of referent-based improvisation, is found in the ‘formulaic composition’ proposals of Milman Parry and Albert Lord. Formulaic composition was formulated from Milman’s intense study of the Homeric epics, particularly the Odyssey, and given further support by research work on Yugoslav folk epic poetry by Milman and Lord. It is also considered to be applicable to other oral epics such as Beowulf and the Chanson de Roland, and has been used to analyise Latvian folksong texts. In this view epic oral poetry is created anew at each performance by the singer from a store of formulas, a store of themes, and a technique of composition. These is no ‘original’ version; instead the tradition is multiform. A ‘formula’ is a group of words regularly employed under the same metrical conditions to express a given essential idea; it has melodic, metric, syntactic, and acoustic dimensions. By choosing from a repertoire of roughly synonymous formulas of different lengths and expanding or deleting subthemes according to the needs of the performance situation, the experienced performer is able to formulaically compose (in real-time, hence improvise) a detailed and freshly compelling version of a known song epic. As a result of the composition system, instances of pleonasm and parataxis are common. The formulas considered as a group reveal further patterns. In the words of Lord (1964): ‘…the really significant element in the process is… the setting up of various patterns that make adjustment of phrase and creation of phrases by analogy possible’. (p.37) In addition, the permutation of events and formulas may occur, as well as the substitution of one theme for another. Yet the traditional singer does not seek originality with this technique, but heightened expression. Lord speculates that formulas originally grew out of a need for intensification of meaning or evocation. ‘The poet was sorcerer and seer before he became artist’ (Lord 1964) ↩︎

  24. Manvir Singh, “The Cultural Evolution of Shamanism”, in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (2018), Page 1 of 62 doi:10.1017/S0140525X17001893, e66 ↩︎

  25. For more on shamanism, see Singh 2018. ↩︎

  26. For more on consciousness as illusion, see Dennett 2016 and Nørretranders 1999. ↩︎

  27. The link between the shamanic intentions and Sufism is quite strong: “Formal religion is for the Sufi merely a shell, though a genuine one, which fulfills a function. When the human consciousness has penetrated beyond this social framework, the Sufi understands the real meaning of religion. The mystics of other persuasions do not think in this manner at all. They may transcend outer religious forms, but they do not emphasize the fact that outer religion is only a prelude to special experience. Most ecstatics remain attached to a rapturous symbolization of some concept derived from their religion. The Sufi uses religion and psychology to pass beyond all this. Having done so, he ‘returns to the world,’ to guide others on the way.” (Shah 1971) Here, Shah’s description maps perfectly onto a model of Evan using the music to point the way to other realities than mere sound. ↩︎

  28. see video here ↩︎

  29. For more on dividing Evan up into independent separate parts, see Corbett 1994. ↩︎

  30. See Jackendoff 2007 ↩︎

  31. See Pressing 1998A ↩︎

  32. See Morris 1901: “Parataxis may be considered, as may any syntactical problem, from three different points of view: first, the psychological aspect; second, the means used in language to suggest the paratactic relation, and third, the resulting forms of sentence.” ↩︎

  33. Ibid: “It has been said above that in connected discourse there is no such thing as complete independence of thought between two continguous sentences. As long as one concept-group remains in the memory of the speaker, so long a relation continues to exist between that group and the thought which is in process of expression." ↩︎

  34. Evan Parker, private correspondance. See Appendix 1 ↩︎

  35. see Nørretranders 1999 ↩︎

  36. for more, see Appendix 1 ↩︎

  37. Coined by Dawkins. For more discussion, see Dennett 1991, Dennett 2017, and Blackmore 1999 ↩︎

  38. See Dennett 2017 ↩︎

  39. See Dennett 2017 ↩︎

  40. See Dennett 1995 ↩︎

  41. “There’s an analogy with the spokes on a revolving wheel. Everything’s in motion, the rim of the wheel is supported by the spokes, but when the whole thing is turning you don’t see the spokes any more. If the thing didn’t have that speed of rotation, it would make sense to count the spokes and think about them one at a time. But the whole point is to get the thing revolving and the spokes are only there to enable the rim of the wheel to turn. There’s some kind of equivalent of that in the music. You could, you can, after the event, slow the thing down and look at how all the pieces fit together. But the whole point is that the pieces fit together that way in order to generate the speed of movement which is the music… The music is not what you hear in analysis, it’s what is there in the real time performance.” Evan Parker in Lock 1991. ↩︎

  42. I asked Evan directly about this, but he said there are never any plans. ↩︎

  43. Evan makes reference to the armature in a sculptor’s studio: “I have talked about the Cage criticism of improvisation being limited by habits before by saying why would I be any less aware of my habits than the listener? These habits can also be termed “tropes” in the current, well fairly current, parlance. Habits can also be thought of as being like the armature in a sculptor’s work but given the time based nature of their use in music then they are not hidden in the final work but possibly celebrated.” ↩︎

  44. This is a ridiculously simplified explanation of the acoustics of a saxophone. For a far more detailed explanation, see Moore 2007. ↩︎

  45. One could observe that the opposite is also true; by playing many instruments simultaneously, the illusion can be created that the sounds are coming from one instrument. For more, see Bregman 1990. ↩︎

  46. See Menon 2010, 2015 ↩︎

  47. “Please assume, then, for the sake of argument, that there is in our souls a block of wax, in one case larger, in another smaller, in one case the wax is purer, in another more impure and harder, in some cases softer … Let us, then, say that this is the gift of Memory, the mother of the Muses, and that whenever we wish to remember anything we see or hear or think of in our own minds, we hold this wax under the perceptions and thoughts and imprint them upon it, just as we make impressions from seal rings; and whatever is imprinted we remember and know as long as its image lasts, but whatever is rubbed out or cannot be imprinted we forget and do not know.” From Plato, Theaetetus. ↩︎

  48. See Baddeley 2000 ↩︎

  49. Here, we can see how memory intersects with the default mode network, as the more fluent a task is, the easier it is for that task to be handled by the DMN. ↩︎

  50. For a more in-depth discussion, see Levý (2008) ↩︎

  51. It is perhaps worth noting that the more actors and uncertainties (to borrow more language from actor network theory) are introduced into a translation process, the greater the chances are that creative solutions will be necessary. This shows why a translation from soprano saxophone to soprano saxophone might not be as interesting as a translation from soprano saxophone to bass, due to the greater number of actors involved. Of course, the same holds true if the target medium lacks sufficient actors, as a translation to a more limited instrument like the triangle would demonstrate. It’s an important point for future translators of musical languages to consider. ↩︎

  52. For the history of the saxophone, see the excellent Harwood 1983. The quote here attests to Adolphe Sax’s decided invention of the instrument (as opposed to a gradual, multiple author theory of invention): “Reduced to basic essentials, a saxophone is a conical tube of fairly generous proportions, pierced at appropriate intervals on the shortening-hole system and allied to a mouthpiece with a single beating reed similar to that of the clarinet… Since he was able to bring out a practical construction which has not changed its essentials to this day, the shadowy forerunner (William Meikle’s alto fagotto) in no way affects the validity of his invention." ↩︎

  53. For an in-depth history of the double-bass, see Brun 2000. The following quote addresses the cumbersome nature of the instrument, and hints at how ill-suited it is for playing most Western classical music: “Long reputed to lack ability and quality of musicianship, ridiculed for how they played, derided as the ‘lame ducks’ of the orchestra, the harshest invectives and the most pejorative nicknames were used for the double bass players who were denied the name of artists and portrayed as mere ‘hewers of wood’ and ‘drawers of water’. As a rule, they were not held in much consideration and a tarnished picture of the double bass’ credibility generally prevailed, that of an instrument that generally did ‘not inspire trust’.” pg 80 ↩︎

  54. I studied West African drumming at the Univerity of North Texas with master drummer Gideon Alorwoyie and have played music that focuses on polytempo variations in various ensembles with Peter Evans. ↩︎

  55. “Even in cultures with microtonal divisions of the octave, such as India, any given scale typically involves between 5 and 7 pitches. Importantly, this limit is not predicted by human frequency discrimination, which is capable of distinguishing many more tones per octave. Instead, the limit is almost certainly due to the compromise between the desire for aesthetic variety and universal constraints on the number of distinct categories the human mind can reliably keep track of along a single physical continuum.” (Patel 2008, pg. 19) ↩︎

  56. Evan himself remembers his development of circular breathing being a reaction to guitarist Hugh Davies being able to play sustained notes without pause, so the use of this technique by Evan could be seen as a translation solution itself, with the reverse translation back to the back being a simple matter. ↩︎

  57. I use Sam Pluta’s definition of virtuosity here, with virtuosity meaning “the ability to instantly access any technique, sound, note, fingering, or timbre available on one’s instrument.” See Pluta 2012 ↩︎

  58. Evan Parker, private correspondance. See Appendix 1 ↩︎