Diving Bell :: Diving Bell (Haze Netlabel)

What we’re talking about here is quite high brow sonic exploration using algorithmic computer processes and some live input and processing manipulation.

[Release page] The Diving Bell project is a two man operation based in Cincinnati comprising a saxophone, a laptop and various electronics (whatever they may be). It is a collaboration between Jerod Sommerfeldt (laptop) and David McDonnell (saxophone, electronics), and is a brave voyage into the world of ‘avant guard’ composition and performance, juxtaposing a familiar instrument with less familiar musical tools in a non-conventional setting. What we’re talking about here is quite high brow sonic exploration using algorithmic computer processes and some live input and processing manipulation. If you understand all of the previous two sentences, then you’re probably going to be interested in this release, if not, well, it probably means you’re a normal well balanced human being.

It’s hard to know what to do with this music. How should one consume it? Each track is a small epic, clocking in at an average of about twelve minutes each, and they take some listening to! I couldn’t actually manage the whole thing in one sitting. I had to take several breaks to get through it all. It’s a conundrum that faces the experimental composer; while the work may be considered pioneering, breaking new boundaries, exploring uncharted territories etc., can it actually be listened to and enjoyed? And I mean beyond the initial technical appreciation for the processes and ideas put into play. I must admit that the tracks could have been half their length, and that would have been plenty. There is not much in the way of structure or development of ideas present. It’s more along the lines of showcasing a specific real time audio processing construct with each track, and wigging out for twelve minutes or so whilst tweaking parameters and triggering aspects of the system. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against this, and have dabbled many a time with similar ideas. In fact, we all need and benefit from the people out there on the fringes trying new things. The trouble with this sort of computer algorithm based composition is that it can all stay a bit too far within the realms of academia, appreciated on a purely technical level. I can’t help feeling that there needs to be some elements that are more associated with a familiar sense of the current human framework of what we think of as music in order for it to be accessible beyond the beard stroking world. Put more simply, this music is very difficult to listen to, and you certainly won’t be tapping your foot to it. There is a danger that some contemporary music can get too self referential to the point where it becomes isolated. Music is at its best when it is cross pollinated—musicians taking ideas from the people and music they come across as they travel through life.

Having said all that though, it is important that people are committed to breaking free from established idioms and expectations. How else will music really move forward without people ready to go right to the front and edge it out a little? I have complete respect for this project and their willingness not to pamper to the limits and expectations that cocoon much of today’s music. An entire universe away from the mainstay of non-thinking background pop which the populace are force fed until they puke sequined S&M cat-suits.

Diving Bell is available on Haze Netlabel. [Release page | Download]

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