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Andrew Cyrille - Richard Teitelbaum Duo
Double Clutch

Cat. No.: SHCD146

Personnel:
Andrew Cyrille  Ludwig drums, Zildijan cymbals, LP percussion instruments
Richard Teitelbaum  PolyMoog synthesizer, modified MicroMoog synthesizer, Zannini custom random generator, SYM-1 single board computer

Track Listing:
1. Dance Astral (A. Cyrille / R. Teitelbaum) 9:03
2. San Andreas Fault (A. Cyrille / R. Teitelbaum) 12:57
3. Cluck Cluck Clock (A. Cyrille / R. Teitelbaum) 11:09
4. Double Clutch (A. Cyrille / R. Teitelbaum) 15:48
5. Sliding on a Bubble (A. Cyrille / R. Teitelbaum) 9:54
6. Driving Pistons (A. Cyrille / R. Teitelbaum) 12:30

Total time: 71:54
 
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This historic session was recorded at Soundscape on Valentine's Day 1981 and was the duo's only American appearance. Kevin Whitehead, in his album note points out that: "The success of free-improvised depends to a great extent on something independent of equipment or technique, the ability to listen and respond... The choices Cyrille and Teitelbaum make, improvising in the moment, acknowledge the big picture, showing their concern with broad arcs of rhythm, dynamics, density and changing timbre. Richard takes these good old Milton Babbit blurps and whooshes and hisses and makes them flow like nobody else. The proof is everywhere. And the flow is oxygen for Cyrille, as it is for all swingers." This CD is an extraordinarily fascinating and exciting exposition of rare synthesizer and percussion artistry.


 
 
Liner Notes

Impressions of a piece on this CD, via a letter from Andrew Cyrille: "Imagine one sliding on a fragile, somewhat slippery, delicate, wafting bubble moving through the air. One is sliding to and fro, side to side. However, one is somehow attached to the bubble and not able to be released from it. One experiences an aeronautical traveling adventure prompted by the caprices of a mildly blowing wind. Not being able to navigate, one observes what is taking place around one, with the feeling of moving through time with little punctuation."
From an answering machine message from Richard Teitelbaum: "My equipment on that concert was a PolyMoog synthesizer, a MicroMoog synthesizer, and some modifications and custom stuff, namely, an analog random generator that I had made in Italy way back in the '60s. And then there is a computer, a single-board digital processor. It's pre-MIDI, so the instruments are analog, but the PolyMoog puts out a control voltage which gets converted from analog to digital and goes into the computer, where it goes through all kinds of delays and loops and sequences and overlays and multitracks, in real time and then plays the MicroMoog with it.
"That's what I think is going on. Plus this square-wave generator with a random pulse width, but it's not only that; it's also a staircase generator with random pulse width. What this means is, it can either make a trill that would be random" - he sings one, slightly stuttery - "or three-step." He sings a three note arpeggio, randomly changing its order. "You can speed it up, slow it down or make new steps or make them narrower, and if you really speed it up it turns into something more like noise than pitch. That's as much as I can come up with at the moment."
Do not be fooled, gentle reader, by the false dichotomy these quotes suggest: a white academic's dispassionate intellect versus a black jazz drummer's intuitive response. None of us is ever so simple, and meetings of remarkable men like these rarely so uncomplicated.
A little historical perspective is called for: both players had been bucking expectations for a long time. Cyrille is typecast as - what's that stupid archaic term? - an avant-gardist, and his credentials along that line are impeccable. A decade with Cecil Taylor of course, and time with John Carter's magnificent octet, and his own solo concerts and drum duos, and his rowdy groups like the long-running Maono. (As Andrew reminds us, Romulus Franceschini had added electronics to one tune on Maono's Celebration recorded at Ali's Alley in the loftjazz '70s.) However, Cyrille would prefer folks also remember his stints with, say, Howard McGhee, Mary Lou Williams, Illinois Jacquet and that great talent scout Coleman Hawkins. For Andrew, it is all one musical continuum, an implicit point behind the drummer's quartet, Pieces of Time: Cyrille, Don Moye and Milford Graves mixing it up with bebop percussion's founding father Kenny Clarke.
The Dutch drummer Martin van Duynhoven recalls studying with Cyrille in New York 1976: "It amazes me, that people you meet are often different from what you expect. I figured, now I can study with someone I admire, and really hear about creative music. The first thing he gave me was 'Manteca', Dizzy's bigband score. I had to learn how to play it from a tape with Andrew playing very softly, so l could play along. We talked about it every three weeks. I learned a lot from him, but he didn't say one word about free-improvised music."
Nowadays, one can forget what a pain in the ass it was to play electronic music in the 1960s, when Richard Teitelbaum got involved in it, notably with the groundbreaking Musica Elettronica Viva. That group was (and is) dedicated to getting audible circuitry out of the university sound studios and out into the real world in real time. One's tools tended to be homemade, huge, cumbersome, slow, given to mysterious breakdowns. That's a main reason some folks interested in improvised music saw computers as the enemy, chose instead to develop crude devices whose instability was encouraged, like Michael Waisvisz's 'crackle box', in which the performer's body entered the circuit and affected the sound every time an exposed connector pad was touched. Teitelbaum favors greater control. As late as the early '90s he was still lugging around a desktop computer to run his formidable equipment, not yet free of its own whims.
Cyrille and Teitelbaum have known each other since the '70s. Their first recorded meeting was on Leroy Jenkins' fine Space Minds, New Worlds, Survival of America (Tomato). In the late '70s they played some concerts together in Europe, as a duo, or in trio with Richard's longtime collaborator Anthony Braxton. As Andrew recalls it, the Soundscape concert on Valentine's Day 1981 may have been the duo's only American gig. Cyrille had proposed two nights of duets to Verna Gillis, director of that midtown Manhattan loft: one with Jimmy Lyons (documented on Something in Return, Black Saint) and this one.
"Richard and I both like to look for new horizons, delve into things other people might find foreign. You have to keep an open mind. Playing with people from another tradition is not always as difficult as folks might think. You find what you have in common and build from there. I did that with the Russian drummer Vladimir Tarasov too - someone else who uses electronics.
"I've always been interested in electronics, but was never able to connect my drums to a synthesizer. With Richard I could look for sounds, find sounds, match sounds and integrate them." You already know what Teitelbaum brought along. Cyrille came with full trap set including double bass drums, a fournote Osi slit drum, tambourine, police whistle, cowbell, African agogo bells, vibraslap, Audubon friction birdcall, bicyle horn, fog horn, these little accordion-pleated plastic hammers from Woolworth's that squeak nicely when they strike a surface, and some other stuff. "I needed a couple of vans," Andrew laughs. "I used to bring all that same stuff to solo gigs, and duets with Milford too. It makes me think of the great old drummers like Sonny Greer and Chick Webb." That's an unusual comnection to draw under the circumstances.
All that armor they bring isn't macho posturing but prudence. Because one nice thing about playing with Teitelbaum is, you can never be sure what sounds he'll coax from his speakers - only that he will have thought a lot about the question beforehand. If you run into Richard a few weeks before some gig, you may hear him muse aloud about the choices to be made and their deeper implications. In a way, the Yale-educated composer has stayed true to the language of '60s ivy-league computer music, with its atonal abstractions and irregular rhythms, the first half of "Sliding on a Bubble" offers some good examples. That collegiate style arose at a time when proper composers still opted for extensive serial procedures , and serialism was never hailed for its rhythmic snap. But Richard has superb timing, a sense of organic momentum. He may loop and sequence, but you rarely find him letting something repeat without tinkering with the parameters. Which, come to think of it, is not so far from serialist thinking.
Teitelbaum's great strength is that he combines premeditation with excellent improvisor's instincts: he brings to music a well-reasoned gut-sense of what works and what fits. There is a suggestion of a kora in the delicate sounds he laces through "Dance Astral". He draws a long conceptual line between midtown and West Africa, ancestral home of percussion discussions. You want their version of a drum choir, hear the woody "Cluck Cluck Clock". Cyrille says, "You can talk about the effortless energy put out by computers, compared with the physical effort you need to play the drums. But Richard produced energy that I like; we could find space and play slowly. It didn't have to be all uptempo."
The success of free-improvised music depends to a great extent on something independent of equipment or technique, the ability to listen and respond. Derek Bailey proposes an ideal of free improvisation which is always about the present instant, sans reference to what happened a moment ago. In this system even thinking in terms of bars seems a cheat. But music-making always incorporates memory, of course; that's why Derek always remembers to sound like Derek. The choices Cyrille and Teitelbaum make, improvising in the moment, acknowledge the big picture, showing their concern with broad arcs of rhythm, dynamics, density and changing timbre. Richard takes all these good old Milton Babbit blurps and whooshes and hisses and makes them flow like nobody else. The proof is everywhere. And the flow is oxygen for Cyrille, as it is for all swingers.
Both musicians exhibit a curiously calm demeanor on stage. Watching Richard, you can't tell if things are going exactly as planned, or if his computer has just crashed. Either way, he'll cope, roll with the setbacks, get to something else that'll work in a hurry. Watching Andrew, whose music-making is more visual, you again see a sound-scientist at work, somehow radiating cool even as sweat pours off him. His studies have made him comfortable with many rhythms, beats, instruments, beaters; he combines the fruits of his research with a drollery that might lead him, in those days, to play snare drum with maracas, or pick snares with his teeth while striking the drum face with a stick - just picture that last move - or blast an air horn just to make the listener jump.
You can, if you wish, visualize something or other when you listen to music, as Andrew Cyrille did. Your images are as valid as his, as far as that goes. Look again at his impressions of "Sliding on a Bubble" and you'll see he's a good writer - has to be, to make that pile up of adjectives in his opening sentence slither so - whose imagery reveals his appreciation of elasticity. It's another key reason he's one of the most creative and satisfying drummers around. As verbal impressionist he does not limit himself to metaphors from the natural world though, giving pieces after the fact titles like "Driving Pistons" and "Double Clutch". ("Double-clutching, I think of driving a car, shifting up, which has to do with changes in tempo. Or maybe it's double-clutch, as in both of us grasping for something.")
The titles are like the duo - out of the world of machines and the world of the organic - but each player represents both worlds. (You think the trap set isn't a great modern invention?). So think of Cyrille and Teitelbaum as two adventurers, compasses out, orienting themselves even as they're prompted by the caprices of each other's wild blowing.

Kevin Whitehead
Amsterdam, 1996
 
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