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  Fieldwork has recorded in 2002 one of the best debut records for years  ("Your Life Flashes", Pi Recordings, 2002). An inusual trio  (sax, piano and drums) formed by three musicians with a long experience with some of the most interesting musicians, here's an interview from december 2002 with this three great musicians: Vijay Iyer, Aaron Stewart y Ellio Humberto Kavee.


TOMAJAZZ: When did Fieldwork start?

VIJAY IYER: We came together as a trio in the summer of 2000 in New York City, but we all have associations that go back to the early 1990s in the San Francisco Bay area (California).

T: You worked in a very unusual way. How many hours and how many compositions has Fieldwork rejected until the recording of "Your Life Flashes"?

VI: I am glad that you could discern all this in our music. It's true, we have logged perhaps hundreds of hours in our rehearsal process, and what you hear is just the tip of the iceberg in some ways. There have been a
number of pieces that we spent a lot of time on but don't perform so much anymore. But some of our pieces get revitalized when we discover new approaches to them. We try to write music that's open-ended enough to allow for such discovery. I think mainly our compositions are just ways of organizing our sonic activity in time - they're not simply "tunes," but more like systems or concepts that we explore collaboratively. We place a lot of faith in that collaborative process, and from what you say, it seems that you are hearing traces of it.

AARON STEWART: The process we go through with each new piece is similar to that of an individual who is learning a new language. The musical concepts that we are exploring in this group constitute relatively unfamiliar territory (at least for us), so each composition has its own specialized language that we have to learn in order to manipulate the piece fluently.

Once we have worked on a new piece for a period of time, we begin to see how the specific rhythmic/ harmonic language of the piece relates to the compositions that we already know. We are then able to fit the new piece into our pre-existing musical lexicon. In this way, we have created our own "language" that is unique to this group--and this language is not something that can be duplicated without a process similar to the one that we have employed.

In other words, the rehearsal process is not simply a way of getting to the music (the "final product") as quickly as possible; the music and the process are enfolded within one another--the music ultimately produces more process, and vice versa.

ELLIOT HUMBERTO KAVEE: It's like a question and an answer: one of us brings a question to the group (a composition) and the three of us "discuss" it (play the piece, experiment with it). We are constantly suprised and delighted by the answers we come up with, always changing! We find this is a good way to balance the individual and the collective.

T: Which are the main elements in your work?

EHK: Rhythm, sound, space, interaction, change, awareness of the moment, emotion, harmony, melody.

AS: My primary interest is in the investigation of the interrelationship between artistic, scientific, and spiritual inquiry--all of these being mechanisms that have been created by humans in their effort to comprehend Nature. For me, Fieldwork is a sub-process within this larger process.

VI: All of this is crucial for me as well. I would add the sheer human drama of exploring and pushing the limits of one's ability, knowledge, and skill. I always crave the sound of exploration; it's a very human, warm, alive sound.

T: And your main influences?

As a pianist, I'm influenced by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Andrew Hill, and Cecil Taylor most primarily. I've also spent some time studying West African drumming and South Indian rhythmic ideas, and I worked for several years in Steve Coleman's bands, so all that has oriented me in a rhythmic direction. Many of the artists coming out of the AACM have made an important impact on me as well - particularly the orientation towards information, experimentation, and collaboration. Also, in this group in particular, I think of our process in terms of what I know about the spiritual science of yoga - a working through of resistance to reach new levels of awareness and insight.

EHK: My primary influence is the spirit of creativity itself and various ways of connecting with that spirit. Ritual, in preparation and performance, conditions the sound and space. The great performers have always inspired me, whether they be actors, musicians or poets. The groudbreaking innovators of 20th Century theater (Grotowski, Stanislavski) have influenced me as well. I am highly affected by who I have collaborated with in the past (see http://www.elliothumbertokavee.com/bd.html for a list). The "Thank You" page in the album liner notes lists many individuals who have shaped my development.

AS: My influences include musicians such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, Anton Webern, Steve Coleman, the Banda people of the Central African Republic, Autechre, Meshuggah, and Joni Mitchell, (to name a few). In addition, I am influenced by filmakers such as Andrei Tarkovsky, John Cassavetes, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

T: Is Fieldwork open to live or recording collaborations with other musicians?

I think we are open to it. It would probably be difficult for someone who hasn't been present for our collective development process to navigate our musical structures. Nonetheless, there are possibilities, particularly in the realm of sound/timbre; we had spoken once with a colleague about using live electronics to process our sounds, and also in terms of recording, we have discussed working with contemporary producers who think in those terms, using a broader sonic palette and clever recording/mixing techniques. I've also thought about working with text, and with dancers. A friend of mine suggested that we propose working with a certain famous theater director known for his visual richness and attention to detail. I think it would make perfect sense to place our music in dialogue with other creative endeavors that are process-oriented. The field of possibilities is enormous. 

T: What's the next step in Fieldwork's career after those magnificient reviews of your first record, "Your Life Flashes"?

EHK: I think the next step is do keep developing our music and letting it grow and change while at the same time keeping our core indentity intact. This includes live performance, of course, because performing live develops the work in a completely different way than rehearsal. We are exploring new material and will record when the time is right.

VI: There is still much work to do to get the music heard; despite your kind words, we're still very underground. 

T: Are there any possibilities of concerts (hopefully including Europe) presenting this record?

EHK: We are actively pursuing live performance opportunities in the US and Europe.

VI: Yes, touring this band is a high priority for us. We should have some confirmed dates shortly. Also, we all
have our own separate activities, as leaders and sidemen, so we do appear in Europe under various guises. But Fieldwork intends to have a long and productive life, so you'll hear from us soon. Meanwhile, watch our website: http://fieldworkmusic.info/


  1. Web page of Fieldwork: http://fieldworkmusic.info
  2. Pi Recordings Web-page: http://www.pirecordings.com 
  3. Review of "Your Life Flashes" in Tomajazz

(c) José Francisco Tapiz. 2003