The concert


This is my examination concert recorded on the 14th of May 2013. On stage I didn’t want to explain in technical terms what I was about to do so I used a metaphor since I knew the audience contained quite a lot of people who weren’t musicians. My work with SlowBass has been like building a small town by hand, figuring out what I like my town to exist of, what kind of buildings I want and how many park benches there should be and where they should be and so on. I wanted the audience to think of this concert as a guided tour around this small town with the possibility of finding their own areas of interest within letting their imagination run free. I never wanted this music to be exclusive for bass players so it was always important to try and present it in a way that made sense to anyone.
But of course there is a technical side and here is how the concert was constructed inside my brain.

I start off with a minimalistic idea playing the note C for quite a while and then introducing some bass notes. This felt like a good way to make the audience focus and listen to the small variations in one note so that when a new note appears their ears will notice. It was also a nice opening for me to get comfortable on stage and dealing with potential nervousness. I would say that perhaps 50% of the bass notes where improvised and 50% where planned ahead. After this I make the presentation mentioned above.

Then we move on to the Indian neighborhood in my small city. I play alap, jor and jhala in a raga called ”Bhoopali” (another version of me playing this raga can be heard here). I knew from the very start that I wanted to include this and it was never a question in my mind to have it anywhere else than in the beginning. It continues on the ideas from the first piece with making the audience listen to small changes and also allowing my ears and fingers warm up. The scale of the raga is a major pentatonic (E – F# – G# – B – C#) so it is easy to listen to harmonically. Except for the first couple of phrases this is all improvisation.

After the raga I wanted to make a transition playing the E and slowly change the context of how it is heard by making it the second instead of the root moving into D harmonic minor with some variations, using tremolo as the main technique in the right hand. A few days before the concert I thought of using nail polish just to give some extra flair and I used my idea of contrast – similarity, painting the left hand black and the right hand white but having one finger on each hand turquoise. Since my nails got painted just before the concert and I’ve never worn nail polish previously I realized in this particular moment that the surface of my nail has changed (maybe not a huge surprise looking back on it and perhaps something I should have tried beforehand) using the tremolo technique felt a little bit unusual so this part became shorter than I anticipated. Then I move to the scale ”A Hijaz” (A – Bb – C# – D – E – F – G) with some variations but the biggest change in this part is the introduction of a oriental rhythm called ”Masmodi” played on the instruments body and also utilizing the slapping technique. Here I wanted to shift the attention towards rhythm since a lot of focus has been on melody in the previous parts. The notes and chords are improvised within the scale. My choice of stopping playing notes and only working with the rhythms on the body was not something I decided on before the concert but it felt like a good transition to the next part where I start off with playing a short call and response first between notes and body and then between notes and foot. The stage was covered with carpet which made it hard to get a clear sound from the feet so I had to stomp rather hard to make it heard.  The call and response serve as an introduction to the piece “Sultani Yegah Sirto”.

After this I wanted to move into a different sounding area so I decided to play around with different harmonics and also detuning my E string. The combination of harmonics and the low bass note works really well in my ears and I wanted it to serve as a vague moment for the audience of what is happening since everything leading up to this has been about notes or rhythm and this part for me is more about atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed playing around with the harmonics located on the 8th and 10th fret on the D and G string which are hardly ever used but reminds me of the gamelan music from Bali. Short improvised transition while I tune the E string back and make my way to the next part which starts on C playing a Bulería rhythm with my thumb using my palm to mute the strings.
This is a flashback to the first piece I play using the same kind of bass progression with a C on top but playing around with different rhythms. Here I once again wanted to use the foot for keeping and also changing the rhythm. Later this evolves into a slap improvisation that turned into something almost sounding like Swedish metal band Meshuggah (I saw them in concert five days earlier and I suppose that served as the influence for this part). My next transition contains some use of the flamenco technique golpe but a phone rang in the audience which broke my concentration and made me move on a bit quicker than I would have liked.

Next part is my composition “For Her ears only”. The previous part was a build up where I wanted to play fast and loud to have the effect of this piece. Here it is all about taking the time playing slow and trying to make every phrase as important. Most what happens in between the melodies is improvised but some phrases are the result of just practicing this piece over and over finding out sounds I like. I end it in a similar way to how I start the concert by playing one note – B in the high octave.

The sum it up I see the concert as three parts: The Indian, The Oriental and The Jarrett. Now I’m not including the first piece I play because I see it as an introduction although its function is important. Each of these parts consists of three parts and has different elements of contrast and similarity. The Indian is one mode for a long time with three different speeds giving the change where as The Oriental have three modes but follow a similar structure in terms of developing speed. So I think of this second part as the Indian structure (alap-jor-jhala) but with a completely different tonal material. The two parts contrast in the notes but in my mind they are similar in structure. The last part, the Jarrett, has its own structure that contrasts the Indian but bring back some musical ideas previously heard so it also offers some similarity. One could say that the entire concert is an Indian structure where the Indian part serves as the alap, the Oriental as the jor and the Jarrett as the jhala. Overall I’m happy with how the concert turned out. Having these structures allowed me to have the kind of freedom on stage I was hoping for but still having a clear direction. I’m looking forward to continue working with these ideas to see how they evolve in the future!