Sebastian interviewed bassist/composer Riaan Vosloo, who will be performing three concerts presenting ‘Foliage’, a ‘long-form graphic music score by composer/ guitarist Elliott Sharp that offers abstract instructions allowing for infinite possible interpretations by performing musicians’, directed by Sharp himself, on April 3-5
Sebastian Scotney: Riaan, I understand that in addition to your bass-playing and composing, you’re studying graphic scores for a doctorate at Birmingham Conservatoire?
Riaan Vosloo: I’m looking at an area of music which encompasses indeterminacy, aleatoric composition and improvisation- they all mean roughly the same thing but each one is concerned with putting the element of chance in a different place within composition and performance.
SS: What sparked your interest in the first place
RV: All the music that I study and play is concerned with the relationship between improvisation and composition and differing ways in which they can be combined- I think this is probably an area of interest for quite a large number of musicians. Each musician will all choose a unique way, from any number of options, as to how they will combine and reconcile these two areas- and that is the fun of it.
SS: And I understand Elliot Sharp does particularly interesting innovative different work with slides
RV: Elliott has written a number of pieces that use graphics and non conventional notation. The piece that we are performing is called Foliage. Foliage is a series of slides made up of manipulated notation-in performance the slides morph into one another making the written/graphic notation act like an animation- this is projected, and the musicians play from this projected animation.
SS Tell us more about him – where’s he from?
RV : Elliott is from New York, and has been associated with the downtown experimental music scene there since the 1970s. The downtown scene is a very loose scene that incorporates a vast array of different styles- from the minimalist composers, bands like sonic youth through to David Lang and John Zorn.
SS: Who inspired him?
RV: I would think that Elliott was inspired by different things for different pieces-for Foliage I would think that the work of Cage, Feldman, Wolfe, Brown, Braxton and possibly Cardew would have been primary influences. However, Elliott has also spoken about the influence of visual art on this piece- the score can work just as well as a piece of visual art.
SS How does it work with the slides in performance ?
RV: Foliage is a series of slides made up of manipulated notation-in performance the slides morph into one another making the written/graphic notation act like an animation- this is projected, and the musicians play from the projected animation.
SS It’s a bit like John Zorn’s Cobra/ there are similarities right ?
RV: Foliage is certainly in a similar area to Cobra, and also to Butch Morris and his conductions. All these works provide a formal framework without providing any specific musical information for the players. Because there is a form, the pieces will have a certain logic,even though the musicians are free to interpret rhythmically, melodically and harmonically.
SS This kind of work integrates genres, have we become too pigeonholed?
RV: The works we’re talking about seem to be able to take on the character of whoever is playing them- I would imagine that playing the piece with a contemporary classical group would make the piece take on that character. Whist playing the piece with Jazz/improv players would lend it that type of flavour. What is interesting is that the piece has enough compositional integrity to still be recognizable as itself.
SS Who else is in the band with you?
RV: Andrew Bain– Drums, Liam Noble– Piano, Jeremy Price– trombone, Alex Woods– saxophones, Percy Pursglove – trumpet, Jean Toussaint– saxophones (Birmingham only). And Elliott Sharp – guitar and conductor.
SS Where are you playing ?
Sebastian Scotney: And at the Vortex they have some other ideas about projection too?
Riaan Vosloo: At the Vortex as well as projecting the piece inside the building, the score will projected onto the side of the of the building. So that as you look up from Gillett Square outside, you will see the piece.