The Tyranny of Distancing

The Tyranny of Distancing

23 Aug 2020

For many years, I have been on an extensive exploration of improvised music with the double bassist Nick Tsiavos. At times, an intensely personal journey in large part due to our friendship, which has continued to transform and deepen in parallel with our creative musical forays into the unknown. Over this evolutionary period an intent has transpired that is in response to our ambition to actively search for a clearer understanding not only of the sonic, compositional and cultural relationship that exists between the accordion(ist) and double bass(ist) but equally to touch on, even just for a moment, a sense of elongation of concept and time. Time that gently unfurls as a musical sliver of an impulse the treatment of which requires a tightrope balancing act between control with flow, and communication with resolve.

More often than not we look further afield in an effort to chase a fleeting sense that there's something that exists just outside our grasp suspended in a dimension that rubs so closely against our own it hurts with a palpable sense of yearning. A yearning for musical purity. Of knowing. And of feeling. Like all mature artists, we understand this is a search for the impossible, unknowable, unfindable nameless thing.

It's not as painful as it sounds.

Central to this search is our musical relationship born in part, as alluded to earlier, by culture and what Nick and I have affectionally come to call Cultural Baggage. The Greek and the German/Irish in a creative relationship born of dislocation and yearning that, in our case, makes for a wonderful collaboration. We often muse over what we bring to the creative table and how we seem to be governed a sense of dislocation. Over the years, our music has been symbolised by necessity, the sea, boats, doors and maps.

Interestingly, I have observed that we come at this particular collaboration and form of expression from quite different angles. Nick seems to meet the music making process head on with an abundance of improvisatory and compositional practice prompts and ideas that form the basis of the fragmentary and larger scale concepts that underpin his recordings and performances. My approach is very different. I spend the majority of my practice time preparing technically and playing repertoire which comprises classical and contemporary classical compositions; some written for the accordion and others, not.

I do improvise wen I practice, but it tends to be in response to things that spring to mind when confronted with a musical, technical or instrumentally idiomatic problem. For example, an improvisation might help gain greater insight into the subtle relationship between the right manual and the left. This understanding becomes particularly relevant when, for example in performance, I want to create looped, pattern-based ideas that shimmer across the instrument and tease one's auditory sense of stereo placement. The video Tsiavos-Schulz 2 recorded with dancer Veronica Waite gives a sense of this stereo interplay between the left and right sides of the accordion. Like most instruments, the accordion is loaded with creative possibilities that far exceed normal, conventional expectations.

Recently, Nick and I were asked to present a online concert for the Melbourne based Make It Up Club (MIUC). I have included an excerpt here in the blog and you can access the entire work and concert here.

While I jumped at the opportunity to expand into new technological areas, I was, in particular, interested to see what Nick and I could create with the notion of interplay in performance so dramatically subverted. The only way this project could be enacted was to record and video one of us first and then record the 'response' at a later date. In line with our rehearsal and practice modus operandi, it was agreed that Nick would record a set of ideas that I would then edit and reorder to create a narrative over which I record a complementary, interactive part. Of course, as the one whose part was not already set in stone I initially perceived my role as one of responder, but as I edited, and listened, and absorbed, and thought, I quite naturally became an equal contributor in not only the gathering of materials but also in the instigation of the new creative process and therefore ultimately my 'in the moment' involvement.

The finished recording is both truly reflective of our duo while propelling us into the fringes of a new darkness. Something that challenges and rewards. One step closer to the nameless thing.

And finally, I attribute the name of this blog post and MIUC recording to Nick: The Tyranny of Distancing.

Thanks Nick!