After lunch, a spontaneous trio of Bill, Ken Filiano and Warren Smith emerged. No directions, just pure music created in the moment between three sympathetic individuals. The first piece was a long arc, slow-moving and beautiful. Suddenly, Bill leapt into aggressive movement: bursts of pure sound driven by force through the horn, visceral and vocal. Ken laid a rhythmic bed and Warren moved across the vibraphone, marimba and cymbals. The music made us all want to dance. Michel [Côté] was in tears when Bill finished. Pure joy!
Next, Bill developed new music for the full ensemble through dictation, employing a deceptively simple grouping of three pitches (“call this an exercise”) that, when employed independently by the brass, created either subtly phased unison lines or clusters of pitches—what I would call cloud sound. On top of this, Bill built layers of sound with the rest of the ensemble and then weaved through the entirety with his singular trumpet voice.
During a break, in conversation with Graham [Haynes], he talked about one of the primary and persistent difficulties that flowed from this instrumentation: finding one’s place in a cluster of brass players who all, though possessing distinct voices, have consistently dark sounds. Both Graham and Rob [Mazurek] have employed electronics today, but even that method does not solve the problem completely.
We ended the evening in a sound environment that was unlike any I have ever heard or participated in before. Again, no instructions were issued, not even a signal to start. Bill began slowly, softly intoning pitches. I added a drone, a single pitch in the pedal register, and stayed in that position without variation. What unfolded was almost dreamlike in quality, and had the feeling of suspension, with motion so slow as to be almost imperceptible, shimmering like light on water. For a long moment after we finished, no one spoke or moved.
[The full text of this article by Stephen Haynes is available in Burning Ambulance #1, which is available now.]