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
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?
VI: 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
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?
VI: 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/
- Web page of Fieldwork:
- Pi Recordings
- Review of "Your
Life Flashes" in Tomajazz