Each disk of “Navigation” is devoted to a different realization, or a “Possibility Abstract,” of the same work; “X” and “XI” (the LPs) and “XII” and “XIII” (the CDs) all run about forty-five minutes, except for the fifty-four-minute “XII.” Each of these performances is a spontaneous combination of the six compositional nodes that comprise “Navigation,” with different arrangements and strikingly different improvisations.
Upon his return home to Paris after the 2014 Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN (and after touching down on four continents in just four weeks, a NYC show at Baby’s All Right included), Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))), Nazoranai and countless other projects, graciously took some time to discuss his three performances at this exceptional U.S. festival with Joshua Ford. Friday’s lineup at Big Ears had O’Malley performing a solo set, focused on the volume/tone/drone aspects of his body of work most commonly associated with Sunn O))). On Saturday the festival reached critical mass at one o’clock am with O’Malley, Oren Ambarchi and Keiji Haino performing a smoldering improvisational set as Nazoranai (who play the Wick in Brooklyn on May 21). A scant nine hours later, at noon on Sunday, O’Malley and Ambarchi switched gears and performed two written compositions by modern composers Alvin Lucier and Iancu Dumitrescu.
Ava Mendoza: I played music ever since I was a little kid. I played classical guitar and classical piano my whole life growing up. I started piano when I was 5 and guitar when I was 7. I got more serious about it just as I was becoming a troubled teenager. I went to Interlochen which is like Oberlin for high school. A boarding school in northern Michigan that is very art focused. I went there for classical guitar. They had a major like in college. I went to there for classical guitar for 3 years and got more serious and more immersed in it there. I was super into it, but at the same time I was listening to tons of punk rock and getting into experimental rock, and free jazz. So at some point I got an electric guitar and started playing with the two other people that I could find who were into improvising together. We just started experimenting. By the end of high school I realized that’s what I wanted, to be doing and I was listening almost exclusively free jazz records at that point. I got out of there and went to Cal Arts (California Institute of the Arts) for one year? Then I took a year off and went to the Mills College. I was more doing electronic music by the time I got to Mills.
“It’s funny, this word jazz,” says Ken Vandermark. “For me, I see jazz as this open methodology and not a stylistic thing. For me, Miles Davis’ electric period, that’s still jazz. It’s just the music’s gone in another direction. Because it needs to.” Vandermark, for his part, has been pushing jazz in exciting directions for decades. A fixture in Chicago’s avant-garde jazz scene since the early ’90s.
Two contemporary music festivals – one built largely around stars of the burgeoning downtown and Brooklyn scenes, and one examining unusual corners of the composition world – will keep New York concert stages animated in May and June. The starrier of them, the Tribeca New Music Festival, sets up shop at the Cell on May 14, with “Film to Stage,” a program overseen by Douglas J. Cuomo (who composed the theme music for “Sex and the City”), devoted mostly to works originally composed for film, by Carter Burwell, John Corigliano, Frank London, Rob Schwimmer, Bora Yoon, Huang Ruo and Mr. Cuomo himself. The Mise-en Music Festival, presented by the New York-based ensemble mis-en in a partnership with another New York group, the Momenta Quartet, and the Ensemble Paramirabo, from Canada, is part concert series, part master class and part contest.