where we were

Pierre Boulez is apparently among those to have pointed out that as soon as a microphone is used with any acoustic instrument then one is dealing with electronic music. Presumably he made this statement of the obvious in defence of electronic music at a time when electronic or electronically mediated sounds were still a novelty to lovers of serious music. Now it appears that artist need only claim to be using new technology in order to be celebrated as creators of substantially new and qualitatively valuable music.

For those who care to look or listen no further, the concomitant of this may seem to be that an artist like myself using body plus the old mechanical technology of the saxophone must of necessity be irrelevant. But I'm just stating a fact if I say that I have and do and must think and listen further than that, for the sake of my own self-respect. I play music that is initially (and often exclusively) acoustic and generally "live" in the sense that it happens for me and for the listener in real time; in a world where most of the music that most people hear is coming out of loudspeakers, after the fact. I am always trying to find ways of using electricity that illuminate it and the interplay between electronic technology and acoustic sound, time and memory. When Phil Hargreaves proposed to me that we record some saxophone duos, I felt that we should try to highlight aspects of what recordings are - electronically captured and reproduced documents of sounds made in a specific place at a particular time. Phil was tireless in finding extraordinary acoustic locations in Liverpool, in which, over the years, we made a series of stereo recordings, concentrating on musical material of two sorts: often playing what was appropriate or beautiful or effective in the location, but also a selection of pre-agreed sounds (including held intervals) to act as constants which would further expose the differences between the various acoustics.

Then we used a computer to edit this digital information into one long piece, which includes some recordings in their entirety and fragments of many others. At times we used the reference intervals as bridges between recordings, in the hope of revealing the diversity and beauty of the sonic spaces and also for the peculiar and unique sound in the crossfade of one space blossoming into another during the same musical material. Although similar sonic experiences do happen to a lesser extent in day to day life, our aim is to accentuate the artificiality of the recording and editing process, rather than ignoring or trying to conceal it, and to expose, as much as a recording can, the specificity of spaces and sounds that only live acoustic music can completely celebrate.

This CD is the product of two or three meetings a year over the space of nearly four years - in some ways I wish we'd given it more time in fewer years, but when I hear the music now, I hear those days in Liverpool, warmer (metaphorically) and more accessible than London, and it reminds me of that eventful time in my life (two pregnancies, two children) and of the unfailing kindness of Phil and his family.

I hope that the above leaves enough unsaid for you to hear something of your own in our music . Thank you for listening.

Caroline Kraabel London 2004

It was all so simple to begin with. Before things spiralled so deliciously out of hand. Doubtless you have similar stories you yourself could tell, of seemingly small choices, almost casual decisions, running your life onto an entirely different track, spinning off into unplanned diversions through unmapped lands; but i get ahead of myself, and your stories will have to wait on another telling.

My story, the story of this recording, begins mid-2000. I'd secured funding for the first amere3 CD, which meant i had a little left over for another project. Something quick and easy, i thought, and it didn't take me long for the name of Caroline Kraabel to come to mind. I emailed Caroline to see if she fancied a duo CD. She did. So far, so quick and easy.

Then i had a thought - i'd just acquired some recording gear that was giving some good results, so why not find a nice-sounding room, and record there? No need for a studio. Easy. Quick. And then another thought. Why not more than one room? Idea followed idea, and soon the project was to record in significant buildings around Liverpool - a sort of acoustic portrait of us in the city, and our quick and easy project had mutated into something altogether more administratively unwieldy. I'm not sure whether i'm not advocating thought as a process, or whether thoughts are just more dangerous when they hunt in packs…

Anyway, i set off in search of the various permissions needed to record in the places i'd identified, and we struggled to work around the logistics of getting together to do the recordings, and gradually a library of tapes grew up of the two of us in different locations, bouncing ideas off each other and off the walls. The next problem that presented was how to edit six or seven hours of recordings into one CD, and another thought (damn them! How do i stop these thoughts?!): that they sounded best juxtaposed, and we decided to spin yet another layer of complexity into the project by computer editing the raw improvisations into one long piece. We hope you think it works, that it was worth it, that all the ideas were to some point. We were aiming for a recording that sounded like we were somewhere when we recorded it, rather than the anonymous international space that is the modern recording studio, and it's a long, long way from the quick-and-easy, done-in-a-day improvised music recording i first envisaged. It's been a long journey, and along the way we became much closer friends, both personally and musically, and big things happened in our lives. And now it belongs to the world…

phil hargreaves liverpool 2004


listen to an extract from the CD
this is the first 7'45" of the CD release, in MP3 format

Liverpool Collage