AND NOW FOR SOMETHING WHOLLY ACOUSTIC –
It was a trio which came together in Tuva, Siberia, in the mid-1990s, and it was a coming together of the experiences we each had accumulated individually in a wide range of musics. But it was also heavily influenced by shamanism which had begun to open up in public in Tuva, after decades of suppression.
Tim and I had been interested in spirit in music for years, and being able to question, and indeed play with shamans accelerated our development in this area.
The trio went through several phases. Our first album, Bear Bones, represented what K-Space was doing on live gigs in Russia and in Europe. Tim and I were using loops and electronics onstage to flesh out the sound. Gendos was improvising largely within the Tuvan tradition.
Then, on the second album, Going Up, we mixed live sections and studio tracks often in different tempi paralleling the way shamans play in individual spaces when they are doing group rituals. We extended that idea in a revolutionary way with Infinity – a CD which has to be played on a computer so that it is instantly remixed and is completely different every time you play it.
Our last album as a trio, was Black Sky, an entire set recorded at a gig in Catania, Sicily. Here we were playing out some of these techniques live, sometimes playing separately at the same time, sometimes coming together on one groove.
We enjoyed each phase, extending recording and mixing techniques to achieve something new and fresh.
But throughout, audiences listening to K-Space either live, or on CD, never heard the music like we did. Because it was always miked up – to a PA or recording device.
Only we heard what it was like, playing in a room, somewhere, or outside round a fire. We did a lot of playing like that, just three or four feet from each other. And that way, we heard a lot which audiences miss out on.
Take the dungur, the shaman’s drum for example.
Here is an excerpt from a paper I did for the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
To know what it all sounds like, you have to be there.
If you sit behind a drum kit and play, it sounds a lot different from the way someone else will hear it even in the front row of an audience. Between six and nine feet out the sound changes. Some frequencies will carry more than others, depending on the acoustics also. The cymbal sounds will merge. The drum overtones will decay more quickly than the cymbals. Within a second, say, you could hear four or more drums being hit and maybe four or five cymbals.
Please take my word for it. It sounds great. Recordings do not do justice to the complexity of the sounds.
When you play a dungur, you’re nearer still. Maybe 12 inches. Or nearer. I know one shaman, Tepan, who plays with his ear about two or three inches from the drumhead.
The sound is spectacular at that distance.
There are other things happening too. Because of variations in tension in different parts of the head, and variations of the thickness of the skin, when you are up close, you hear microtonal differences very clearly.
These variations are heard when you play on different parts of the drumhead, but there are also differences generated by pressure and the way the head moves up and down.
These differences also generate subtones which the ear cannot hear, but which the body can feel.
Another interesting fact is that more than most instruments, the dungur is highly directional. A trumpet is strongly directional too, with the sound blasting out of the bell. But a dungur is simultaneously bi-directional. If you hear the sound as you face the drumhead as it’s being played, you’ll hear a more toppy sound from the skin, and the rattling of the orba will be clearer. From the other side of the dungur the sound is more boomy and hollow. The sound of the bells inside the shell will sound different, too.
This up-close completely acoustic sound which musicians enjoy in some circumstances is very special. By hearing all the subtleties of your companions’ playing, you have many more choices – you can emulate their overtones, or undertones or variances in rhythms. You can play with these extra sounds, or against them.
Now, Tim and I want to share this Fully Acoustic, Spiritual experience in special circumstances where the number in the audience will be restricted to about nine people who will be able to sit as close to the performers, as the performers are to each other.
We are looking for the right spaces to allow people to get close to the heart of the music. The space will probably be small, with an acoustic which is neither too bright nor too dry. Please get in touch if you have a suggestion about a sympathetic promoter.
For these performances I will not be playing a drum kit. Instead I will be using a shaman dungur drum, assorted metal percussion, and voice. Tim will mainly be playing clarinet.
Recently, many “listening venues” have sprung up where people can listen to records played on state of the art hi fi systems – instead of tiny speakers or earpieces stuck into a smartphone.
We are looking to go a stage further back to what comes out of the instrument – direct to the listener’s ears.
ANCIENT and MODERN
The new Ancient and Modern duo of Mark HEWINS and Ken HYDER have known each other since the 1970s when they met in London and played, and recorded together.
But since then they have had different, but often parallel musical paths. Mark was a part of the Canterbury scene, working with musicians like Richard and Dave Sinclair, Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, Pip Pyle, and John Greaves, while Ken developed and recorded several albums with his pioneering Scottish-Jazz fusion band, Talisker, as well as playing in bands with performers like Keith Tippett and Harry Beckett.
Later, Mark went on to work with a very wide range of musicians and bands, including Trevor Watts, Elton Dean, Bob Geldof, Lou Reed, Django Bates, John Martyn, Gong and Andrew Cyrille, while Ken began playing and recording cutting edge music with different musicians from many different ethnic backgrounds, like South American and South African players, to Tibetan Buddhist monks and Siberian shamans – particularly with K-Space.
Then recently Mark and Ken realised they had each been involved in the same fascination with ancient sites – particularly stone circles. In Siberia, where Ken had been apprenticed in a 40,000 year old shamanic tradition, he found himself doing rituals with his teachers in sites where shamans had been working for thousands of years. Wherever he was touring – often with fellow-player Tim Hodgkinson – he would look out for ancient sites like stone circles, standing stones, kurgans and dolmens, in countries like France, Italy and Sweden.
Mark had been pursuing the same kind of interest in standing stones, and the ancient civilisations which used them, particularly in the UK and Spain. Now he is planning to check out Eastern Europe treasures soon.
Then, as he was preparing to go up to the Isle of Lewis in west Scotland to work on a BBC programme on Gaelic Psalm Singing, Ken realised that Mark had already been there to play. He asked Mark about the stone circle at Callanish, fearing it may be too crowded with tourists and Mark suggested a smaller site in the area which was likely to be empty of people.
And it was.
When Ken came back, Mark suggested they meet up to play and record together – for the first time in decades. The first piece represented their individual experiences of the ancient stones of Callanish.
Check a selection of videos by Ancient and Modern.
More info on Mark’s career
Also watch out for – TALISKER, The VLADIMIR MILLER/KEN HYDER DUO, GHOST TIME, LA DOLCE VISA, RAZ3, the TIM HODGKINSON/KEN HYDER DUO, and ANGEL ONTALVA & THE SHAMFONK RHYTHM SECTION.
I’m always interested in developing something innovative, and with new people – like guitarist Piero La Rocca who I played with for the first time after the Scrusci Festival in Sicily in the summer of 2012.
La Dolce Visa – a Sicilian/Scottish/US trio with Piero La Rocca and Scipio – is a celebration in music of the good things in life. You can check the thinking behind the band here and enjoy some videos.
And here is a review of our tracks.
And new limited edition CD Passport to Paradise Attenuation Circuit records.
The duo with pianist Vladimir Miller (pictured below) has been going for a while. We have done three albums – one with the late altoist Vladimir Rezitsky from Arkhangelsk – and you can hear a track from the newest, COLD WARM on Eastov Records.
TALISKER has recently been updated and revived with Maggie Nicols and Raymond MacDonald (pictured below). We’re still playing centuries-old material – like Robert Burns songs, in an edgy and revitalised way. Check the jukebox. Or a track on the Wire magazine’s site.
“This is one of the all-time great albums of folk-jazz to come out of Britain – or anywhere – in the last 30 years.”
Fanfare, New York
“Their radical deconstructions of Scottish songs and tunes give an unorthodox and challenging twist to familiar material.”
Kenny Mathieson, The List, Scotland
There’s a CD out with z’ev (left) and Andy Knight – Ghost Time. It’s like nothing I’ve done before. z’ev had an idea and Andy and I let him run with it, telling us how he wanted it. I don’t want to spell it out, but it’s what my fonkateer friend Scipio calls a “konsep.” There are excerpts on the Hinterzimmer label. Alas, z’ev died on December 16, 2017.
Above, Scipio demonstrates a “konsep”
Angel Ontalvo has put out a mini-cd of tracks with the Shamfonk Rhythm Section ie myself and Scipio which you can check.
And Raz3 – a mainly acoustic trio with Lu Edmonds who plays with John Lydon’s PIL, and Tim Hodgkinson. We have an album out and click here to have a listen.