An espresso with…
Elliott Sharp

Image Credits: Elliott Sharp © Andreas Sterzing SM.

January 15, 2019

The Solar Max

The monumental discography of Elliott Sharp is enriched by the eleventh chapter at the helm of the Carbon project. The New York multi-instrumentalist presents 5 of his compositions for as many sonic attacks.

> Ivano Rossato


How was the Transmigration at the Solar Max album born?
I was booked to perform in Rova Sax Quartet's realization of John Coltrane's Ascension at Saalfelden Jazz Festival and the festival offered me a set to premiere a new work. Since my old friends and collaborators (and Carbon players) Zeena Parkins and Bobby Previte would also be at the festival, I decided to compose a new piece that would encompass some of my current compositional ideas that would fit well under the umbrella of what the music of Carbon has represented. The concert was recorded and after, I overdubbed electronic parts in my studio and remixed the work to best present the ideal sound.
 
The atmospheres of the album are very intense, are they born from the performance or do they already exist in the compositional phase?
They start in the compositional phase with the core concepts and the sonic vocabulary and syntax that I've mapped out. The soundfiles that I prepared in advance for playback during performance enhance this intensity. Of course, both Zeena and Bobby are very powerful performers and I knew that they they would easily manifest the necessary energy. Bobby and I have worked together since 1974 and Zeena and I since 1982 so there's a long history of collaboration and friendship.
 
Is every musician free to shape his own sound during the recordings?
I make suggestions to them as to tuning and sounds and the rhythms are composed in advance but they are free to elaborate within the parameters. It's an improvisational approach without the music being improvised. I ascribe to the Duke Ellington concept of composing for the musicians. In this way, a strong element of trust is injected into the sonic flux and we are continuously feeding back with each other. Each musician has an unaccompanied solo during the piece and in this section, we are each free to do as we wish (again with the knowledge that the solo is in service to the overall narrative arc of the composition).
 
 
How do you think the sound of Carbon project is evolving, considering your rich discography?
Since Carbon is now an intermittent project, with each new manifestation it becomes both more concentrated as an expression of my current strategies, as well as a lexicon reflecting the sonic innovations introduced over the years of the band's trajectory.
 
What are your future projects/collaboration/artistic goals?
With the publication of my new book IrRational Music, I'm now able to undertake new directions in the expression of concepts and actions. The book is a mix of memoir, music theory, philosophy, and cultural discussion. A new book, as yet untitled, is in the works. Part of this new direction is giving lectures and readings, purely vocal! In terms of composition, I've been in research since 2015 on the life and philosophy of Baruch Spinoza, for me the philosopher who best bridged the chasm between the medieval and modern worlds. This will ultimately result in an opera titled Substance. For this work to be realized, forces have to be marshalled to create a commission to afford me the time to compose the music and libretto. As to the more immediate, I'm working on getting more performances for my opera Filiseti Mekidesi which was premiered at the Ruhr Triennale in September 2018 in Bochum. Filiseti Mekidesi features singers Kamilya Jubran and VoxNova Italia as well as the ensemble MusikFabrik, projection design by Janene Higgins, and libretto by Tracie Morris, Edwin Torres, and myself. The work does not tell a simple story but instead projects the universality of life's need for migration and sanctuary. I'm also composing instrumental pieces for guitar and rhythm section in a blues context for an album to be called Kick It Six after the Blind Willie McTell exclamation. Accordion master William Schimmel and I also recorded an improvisatory album titled Blues, Hues, & Views that will be released this spring on Cavoty Search Records from Portland, Oregon. Finally, the Cecil Taylor album From An Oblique Plane of Existence that drummer Don McKenzie and I made with him and featuring his poetry with instrumental accompaniment awaits the legal approval of his estate for release on 577 Records.
 

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