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Questionnaire: Bryan Eubanks (2007)

November 2, 2010

1. Have you got any formal musical training, and what do you draw from it now?

I took basic piano lessons at age 8 (a horrible winter, 7:00 am lessons!) and saxophone lessons at school for a few years, also as a child, but I don’t feel that I draw anything from that other than retaining some knowledge of the saxophone when I started playing again on my own terms 10 years ago. I have learned most from playing on my own and collaborating with other musicians. I plan on continuing this path of study for the rest of my days.

2. What kind of equipment/instrument do you use, and what is you relationship towards it? What do you think lies behind your choice of the equipment/instrument?

I play the soprano saxophone and an open-circuit electronic/samplers/ ipods instrument. I don’t combine the two in any way, they are completely seperate areas of interest. My relationship to the saxophone is of a cloudy nature; sometimes very satisfying, sometimes not. I think a lot of these feelings come from dealing with the intense history of the instrument and the shadow so many players have cast. Which leads to the idea of a desire for one’s own voice, however, this concern is consistently outweighed by the joy of playing and an increasing detachment from these kinds of judgements. Also, I assume that through diligence and continued playing I will eventually be very good, in my own way, at what I arrive at. I guess this instrument chose me rather than my choosing it, it could have very easily been the trumpet or clarinet back in elementary school, but since it was the saxophone it was easy to pick up again. I continue to play it because there is a magnetism to the warmth and depth of acoustic sound.
My relationship to the electronics is much more deliberate and personal than the saxophone and is compelling to me because I have been building it and changing it over the last 6 years to arrive at a pretty solid piece of equipment that provides multiple avenues for music making. Although I discovered open-circuit playing by accident and in a vacuum, I chose to pursue it (albiet intuitively, not technically) and have learned what I needed to when I needed to. Electronics provide a more non-referential and free aspect of sounds, plus with samplers there is an ability to work with time and the placement of like sounds that is different than acoustic instruments.

3. What is it that attracts you towards musical experimentation?

I guess that I am attracted to sounds I find beautiful and experiences I find beautiful. Often, these are both found through examining areas I am not familiar with or by expanding on areas that I am familiar with. I don’t remember how I came to making this music, but I think it was a natural evolution out of creating things in the material arts. Working with music allowed me to play with so many elements of composition at once or individually and have nothing left to show for it but the experience itself. I found, and still find, this very appealling.

4. Why are you involved in improvisation, and how do you perceive it?

I was in Portland, Oregon, and playing alone and within a duo called BEDS, which was a sort of psychadelic jam band, and our material was totally improvised, and based on these really personal and ignorant ways of dealing with our instruments and making music. It was very fun, and the other guy in it was a very close friend but eventually this ran its course and I wanted to get deeper into music and improvisation than this project could allow. Around this time I met some like minded people who were also going in this direction, Joe Foster and JP Jenkins, and we collectively began our development in music which lasted almost daily for about 3 years.
The importantance of these early experiences is that they were concerned with personal relationships to musical vocabulary, technique, and playing partners, and all this has really stuck with me and colored how I approach any situation. Although, I am comfortable working in new or unknown collaborations, the best music seems to happen with people with whom I have certian affinities for, and where we can let the music evolve over time into something without forcing our ideas into it, it seems to take time for collective ideas to gestate in the act of playing before they can be perceived as a realized music.
Ultimately, I would say that improvisation is the most natural and economic means of producing music, and in living life.

5. How do you perceive the relation between planning and spontaneity in improvisation?

I play a lot, privately and in public, and I let my music develop slowly, so naturally I repeat ideas and examine areas over and over again for periods of time. This doesn’t seem bothersome to me, and I don’t consider it an insult to improvisation, on the contrary, I consider it improvisation. I don’t see improvisation as an “in the moment” always-totally-new and fresh spectacle, but rather as a meta-concept to guide the holistic development of something personal over a long period of time. So I may control, or plan, what I am working on for short periods, but this always leads to something unplanned and new, which is then developed over time. In the end the music is most important however it is arrived at.

6. Do you “practise” for an improvisation, and what are your general thoughts on the idea of “practising” for improvisation?
When you improvise, do you use sounds that you’ve already “tried out”, and how much room is there for actual sound experimentation?

As I said previously, I work with the same sounds quite often, sometimes maybe too much, so I become familiar with them and what they can do and how they can be used. So, yes, I use sounds that I have tried out, but the way they are used is not known to me beforehand in an improvisation, and there are no limits on their use that are pre-determined. I don’t, however, practise for particular improvisations, which seems impossible, but I would devote time to something that wasn’t entirely improvised in order to see what would or could work beforehand, which is the same proces that would happen in real-time if I were improvising. I suppose by improvising you are always practising for improvising and I am almost always playing in real-time and improvising. I enjoy this energy of a sound developing in ways I couldn’t have predicted or planned, even if it is a sound I previously have used before. This is probably one of the big joys of improvising for me.

7. How do you evaluate an improvisation? What is it, according to you, that makes one improvisation better than another?

The way I evaluate music is very subjective, whether playing or listening it boils down to how it leaves me feeling afterwards. I am hesitant to create a hiearchy of what is better or worse because this music is constantly in process so I try to relax about it. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work regardless of aesthetic details.

8. When you are recording for a release, does the awareness of being recorded influence your playing, and in what way?

I don’t record with a release in mind, but rather release something if a recording exists of something I would want to hear again. I have attempted to cultivate a focus and discipline in music making that I enter with each time I play whether privately, publicly, or for a recording. I am not really casual about it, and don’t feel satisfied if I am. I don’t record too much these days, but i think the question of recording is interesting because it is a delima particular to those of us who have grown up in a world where that technology is readily available. I don’t know what my attitude would be towards making music if I never had recorded or this wasn’t possible. Although I run a small label and think recordings provide wonderful experiences, I still think that this music is best heard live and in real-time.


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