Monday, June 25, 2007

beta lost in transcription

Two doozies on tape to transcribe this week. One subject, composer Nico Muhly, was hyperactive, bouncing off the walls, turning up speakers, thumping the wooden table in time to Colin McPhee and Benjamin Britten's well-intentioned but oblivious gamelan transcriptions for piano, jumping up to yank books off of shelves, playing snippets of new compositions, and speaking in rapid-fire. A stellar conversation, but unpacking it may take awhile. Add to it the fact that the batteries on my tape deck were slooooowing down (making normal playback even chirpier) and you basically have my interview with Chip'n'Dale. One choice line that probably won't make the cut:
"Jane Austen is soooo genius; she's way more bitchy than Flava of Love. She's working behind a curtain, but she's definitely gonna cut a bitch."
Another interview subject was trumpeter Eddie Gale, who played with the likes of Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Larry Young, and John Coltrane, in addition to releasing his own albums Ghetto Music and Black Rhythm Happening. I called him after his performance at this year's Vision Festival, and the man hadn't slept a wink. Gale had a voice like an old campfire: ashy, low, still smoky. A good five minutes would go by where I couldn't parse a single phrase. Some tantalizing lines that are forever riddled with maddening ellipses:
"Basically Sun Ra did his own recordings. It was very interesting the things that Sun Ra...he would include everything around him...He would create very beautiful, emotional...of music."

"Saw Lena Horne, Redd Fox in that area of Brooklyn. I got to play the clubs when under age...what was going on with the listen to gospel on the weekend, the blues on Saturday...people at parties and things...sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, we’d play after-hour parties for the community."

"Sun Ra, Cecil, Coltrane, people really doing what I’d like to get into...I heard something...there it is. In any form, in any styles...I used to do some vocalizing too...doo-wop singing on the corners as a kid. We used to get out there and harmonize, that’s where I got voices...dancing. Part of my songs were dances, they’d sing my songs and they would dance to it."

"That was too much...person involved, getting the right thing done, what I was doing. I had the other musicians giving me information...all of that. I hadn’t even...since 1969."