In Conversation with David S. Ware:Improvisation, Meditation and the Crystalline Idea Interview by William Sacks (November 1998)
Over the past 25 years, David Spencer Ware has proven himself a pioneering voice in American music. Drawing inspiration from the wellspring of late 1960's jazz expressionism and cultivating what is perhaps the current scene's most vital and intricate voice of free improvisation on the tenor saxophone, he has also garnered a reputation as a respected bandleader in an age when the value of the tradition and ideas he has dedicated himself to have faced poisonously dismissive resistance among club owners, recording company executives and members of the press. Ware's work has drawn a steadily expanding audience of fellow musicians and longtime fans of expressionist exploration over the course of a dozen releases in ten years (for five different labels) under his own name, including his most recent release entitled Go See The World (Sony). An exploration of his back catalogue reveals a musical mind whose preoccupations run toward intense lyricism in the service of metaphysical ideas about perception which insist on the broadest possibilities for their expansion.
Ware first came to prominence in the mid-1970's as a member of the Cecil Taylor Unit, a group whose existence is best documented on the brilliant 1976 concert recording Dark To Themselves; Taylor, regarded in knowledgeable jazz circles as one of the most challenging and undervalued compositional talents in the history of the music, is also known as a demanding leader whose visions of musical order helped to shape Ware's thinking about the necessities of pursuing compositional depth as the primary means of improvisation. Following his tenure with Taylor, Ware joined drummer Andrew Cyrille's Maono in 1978, and would remain within Cyrille's circle of players for the next decade. His work with Cyrille, captured on the albums Metamusician's Stomp from '78 and Special People from 1980, are evidence of an endurant voice which can essay power in a startling variety of traditional syncopations exercised in decidedly non-traditional contexts.
Ware's work as a leader has centered around a lasting quartet, including bassist William Parker and pianist Matthew Shipp, each of whom has been a prodigious contributor to the growing "free" tradition in his own right. Both players have returned to participate in each of Ware's projects out of sympathy for his ambitions and respect for his tremendous discipline, and their collective synergy has only grown more intense as their musical relationship as matured.
The following interview addresses in depth the historical background of David S. Ware's development from his earliest days as a music student; his reflections on some of his most lasting work, both as sideman and leader; and an explication of his beliefs about the nature and value of improvisational music. It is hoped that his candor and depth will be taken by the reader as a reflection of the sustained quality of his musical achievements.
PSF: You were born in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1949 and continue to live in that area today. Can you reflect on what the place means to you, and on some of your formative musical experiences?
Ware: Well, I was actually raised in Scotch Plains, and I've been here most of my adult life- the better part of 50 years now. I suppose I came back after periods in Boston and New York because this is where my family had been for several generations- most of my immediate family relocated to Georgia a few years ago, so my wife and I are really the only ones still here. Being in a place like this gives you a chance to breathe which you don't have, living in the middle of a large city.
As far as coming of age, musically speaking, I began playing around age 9, and eventually played in the various groups at my high school- the dance band, the marching band, the New Jersey All-State band. I took most of my lessons on tenor, studying classical music with a man named Joseph Grasso, but I was also switching off between alto and baritone; it was really a matter of what each group at the school needed. In fact, when I started high school they were needing an E Flat Clarinet, and I was willing to switch over if it meant I'd be able to play- it ended up that some chairs were moved around, and I stayed with the saxes.
PSF: What first attracted you to your instrument?
Ware: Well, as far as why I chose to focus on tenor, that was a decision I made when I moved to Boston to attend Berkelee (College of Music in Boston). To tell you the truth, the first thing I wanted to play was the drums- I've always felt that rhythm was my primary motivation, the first thing which I seek to represent musically, and I guess it felt that way very early on. But you see, my dad was a big, big music fan- he had hundreds of records, and though he wasn't a musician himself, he loved the great horn players especially. Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, you know. So when I went to him and said, "I want to play the drums," well, he really steered me toward the tenor instead, and I think that as a result of that I got a better primary musical education than I would have if I'd become a drummer, just because of the attitudes toward drummers in the schools at the time. I mean, the classical basis wasn't there, and it wasn't like modern jazz was even being considered.
There was also this neighbor of ours, a friend of my father's who was into jazz, and his record collection was really up to date- I believe that I borrowed the first John Coltrane record I ever heard from him, and he definitely had most albums by Gene Ammons, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, people like that. The records I heard coming from his house definitely helped to shape me, shaped my ambitions as a musician. I mean, by the time I turned 12 years old I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do, you know? I really felt that music was a calling that I could answer, and those old records were a large influence on that choice.
PSF: When you think back on your day-to-day life at that time, what stands out? What was central New Jersey like for you?
Ware: Oh, man... I remember the GTO's... muscle cars were a big thing in that area at the time, and there was nothing else like the roaring of those engines out on the streets... I also remember that most of the streets were unpaved: the dust would kick up in the summertime and we'd be called off the streets sometimes because of it. I also remember the people at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Scotch Plains, where my family attended services... A small place, pretty modest really, but it was relaxed in a way, too. Sometimes we'd drive into Newark to attend services at Hopewell Baptist, a much bigger congregation with more of a city feel. It was exciting, coming from a small town kid's perspective.
PSF: So when did you first decide that you needed to leave Jersey for points north?
Ware: It wasn't so much a conscious choice to leave New Jersey or my family as it was a matter of pursuing further musical education- finding teachers who were interested in modern jazz and could approach harmony or modality from that perspective. So anyway, I guess I was about midway through high school when I found out about schools where you could do that kind of studying, and that motivated me. I had also been taking trips up to New York City to catch gigs on a somewhat regular basis, seeing Coltrane at the old Vanguard, Sonny Rollins at the Five Spot, catching people like Archie Shepp right at the moment when the new thing was beginning to open up. There was incredible energy coming from New York at the time, and I knew that I was interested in the flow of the new music, in finding other musicians who shared that interest. So in that sense I knew where things were happening and wanted to be part of it... then I applied to Berkelee and got a scholarship, so my first stop was going to be Boston, which eventually turned out to be a good place to have gotten a start.
PSF: What was the scene around the Berkelee School like in the late '60s? What were some of the positives and negatives from your time there?
Ware: Well, you know, the first step I took was to drop the alto and baritone and concentrate on tenor exclusively, a decision I've never really looked back on with any regret. Another thing was that I was 17 when I moved up there, and my listening had really focused on freer music in the previous couple of years- Coltrane was playing with his expanded group, and everyone was listening closely to that, and we were into Shepp and Ayler as well.
As far as the negative sides of being at Berkelee... well, I was 17, you see. One of the first things they told me was, "If you can't notate it, it's not music," which is actually a very good way to think about things if you're open to the possibilities of notation, but at the age of 17 it was just like... I saw it as limiting at the time, and there were some people teaching there who regarded the new thing as something other than music. So, there was some healthy resistance, which made me focus on mastering the basic material they wanted you to master in order to give what I wanted to do some legitimacy, and I did well in my classes. The other thing about the atmosphere there was that- I think because the nature of the scene was changing so fast- there was attention paid to ideas about musical tension which proved to be very important to me later on. Herb Pomeroy, in particular, taught musical structure in terms of harmonic tension, and that had a great influence. At the time, I'm not sure I was completely able to appreciate the concept, but I definitely grew into those ideas as I developed musically. So, you know, I ended up doing 3 semesters there, spread out over two years, and I made honors, but in some sense those lessons became clearer years after.
The positives were all the learning experiences a young musician could have, both with other students and with the musicians working around Boston at that time. I really met my first mentors then, older men- most of them 10 years older- who were able to give me practical guidance about being a musician, and who also made time for listening, allowing us to listen to with them to all of the amazing things which were being recorded at that moment. Also, many of the students on the scene were very receptive listeners and players- Don Pate, Michael Brecker, Cedric Lawson, Bill Pierce, Stan Frank and lots of others who either came out of Berkelee or, in some cases, chose to move over to the New England Conservatory where the curriculum was more open, these people were all part of that early period for me, they were a big part of what made Boston interesting.
Probably my most important mentor, though, was a man named Joe Hanna who now goes by the name Abdul Hannan- he played sax, flute and clarinet when I first met him, and he had a very significant influence on my life. He was the person who introduced me to meditation and yoga in the early '70s, in 1973 in fact, and he had ideas about music's potential which appealed to me and shaped who I wanted to become.
Also, it was during this time in Boston, in the spring of 1968, that I put together my first group, a 5-piece performing original music which was my first real opportunity to explore some of the ideas I'd been learning about. We were called The Third World; we had electric piano, congas, violin and two saxophones. We made a tape- the first time I'd ever been recorded, really- in the living room of one guy's house, and this material was influenced by both the free players and some of the things we'd been hearing from African and Latin sources. Well, we sent that tape off to some magazine, which itself was owned by a record company if I remember correctly, I don't recall which one, but anyway we didn't hear from them for a time and then when we did get in touch with them, they told us that they hadn't listened to it because they didn't have the type of tape recorder we'd used. Can you imagine that? And then, I don't know, maybe a year later Gato Barbieri comes out with a record entitled "The Third World" which is very much in the same vein as what we'd been doing. I'm mentioning this because it was the first hard lesson about the nature of the recording business I learned, and that was while I was in Boston.
PSF: When did you decide that your time in Boston had come to an end? Was it primarily a musical decision?
Ware: Well, I was in and out of Boston, really. I got sick in '68 and stayed out of school for a semester, actually longer- I went back to New Jersey to get well, took a summer job, and then returned to Berkelee in September of 1969. I remained on there for one more semester, but I'd gone through some personal changes, and just felt like I couldn't get much more out of it. But I remained on in Boston, found a job there and settled into taking gigs where I could. I also began traveling to New York to play later in '69, playing a place called Madison's in particular, taking things in and trying to build a rapport within that community. I'd first met Cecil Taylor there in the summer of '67, got to know Sauhim Sluggs who hung out around the Washington Square area a few years after tha. As time went on, a move began to make more sense for many of us, just because there were more opportunities to have our music heard. In '71, I'd met Marc Edwards, Gene Aston and Chris Amberger (who went on to play with Art Blakey) for the first time, and we were all getting into collective improvisation in some depth, trying to take some steps toward getting things together, working together on a regular basis.
But in truth, what made the move possible was the rent-control. I moved to New York permanently in '73, at a time when the loft scene was beginning to really grow. This was a good time for jazz musicians, you know, because the rents were so cheap... We had a place at 501 Canal Street, the whole place actually, a storefront and four levels, and if I remember correctly the total rent was $550 a month. I shared an apartment with another musician and we paid a total of $125 for that share and a share of the collective space downstairs. We'd moved a piano in, we had a set of drums in there as well, and on one floor we'd set up a transient apartment for musicians who might be coming through and needed a place for a while. I remember this time as being very positive, the music was being played in some places where you might not have otherwise thought to look for it. I mean, we were holding down a Tuesday night gig at Sam Rivers's place, "Studio RivBea," we were playing at this place Andrew Cyrille had at the time, but I also remember that we did a series of afternoon spots at this pillow store on St. Mark's... they had a space in the back of store which they'd cleared for us, and we'd play a set for whoever happened to be coming by and wanted to stop in. It was places like that- unlikely places for music, but evidence of the kind of acceptance which the music was receiving.
PSF: What was your playing situation at that time?
Ware: Well, the situation at 501 Canal was somewhat flexible- there were many opportunities to play in new situations there, and we all took advantage of that. But as far as the group I led at the time, and this goes back to my time in Boston, it was originally a trio of tenor, bass and drums. Then, after I met Raphé Malik in '73, he eventually joined on trumpet. It was a good time, because I was able to work on my own musical ideas in greater depth than ever before, and was growing on my instrument as well. And it was important to me to have that regular contact with other players outside my own group- the loft scene allowed that to happen.
PSF: So how long did that situation last before you joined Cecil Taylor's group?
Ware: A little over a year, maybe a year and a half. Cecil had been teaching up in Madison, Wisconsin, and at one point asked me to relocate there, but that just wasn't for me. I had this situation in New York which I was very reluctant to move away from. But in '73 he received a Guggenheim fellowship, and that changed his situation so that he could consider more than just the occasional gig in New York- he could take a band out for longer tours, so he hired me and Raphé. We went all over with him, went to Europe with him several times- the audiences there treated Cecil's music with great respect.
PSF: Could you reflect on your experiences playing with Taylor and Andrew Cyrille's group? What did you learn from each of those situations, and how did you adapt to each leader's material?
Ware: Well, with Cecil Taylor, you know, we were working with long compositions, as long as any I'd ever played, really. You'd go to one of our shows, and that's what you'd hear, one piece of music. We never played more than that, and usually each musician only got to take one long solo in the course of a piece. Now, as far as adapting: when I joined Cecil's group, I was really playing from a more emotional angle, I was playing for the moment and going where I felt those emotions were, even if that meant abandoning the motif... which he did not appreciate. Cecil had intricate ideas written out for the flow of his music, he had the dynamics carefully thought through, and he wanted me to take more time to build my solos- to work the development of my solos through the motifs and think about the development, to focus on the development of the piece.
PSF: How did he go about telling you?
Ware: He didn't, not directly. Beaver Harris, who was drumming with us at the time, he was the messenger. He approached me early on, and because he was the voice I heard it from, he was the one I turned to on stage, to play off of and mediate where I was trying to take the band.
PSF: What was your relationship with [long-time Taylor altoist] Jimmy Lyons like?
Ware: Respectful, very respectful. I never really got to know him personally, but because he'd been with Cecil for so long, I knew that he had a say on the reed men hired into the band, so I knew he was supportive of my playing. Now, Jimmy and Raphé Malik were friends- they hung out all the time. Myself, I mostly hung out with Marc Edwards once he joined the group.
PSF: What about your on-stage, musical relations with Lyons in particular and the group in general?
Ware: I had something to prove at the time I started- I wanted my credentials as an improviser. You know, we had these long solo spaces to work with, and it was our job to take the band where we wanted it to go within that space, because that was the one opportunity you really had to bring a full expression to the audience. With the horns, for example- Cecil would go for 30, 40 minutes on his own solo, and what's going on in the background? Silence. So when it came time to step forward, there was an entrance you had to make, and learning how to make it was what I concentrated on for some time; it had to make sense as an outgrowth of whatever piece we were playing. That's what I learned from being on stage with that group: developing that sense, and then also making sure that I was always an instigator, there to boost the energy, to keep it at a consistent level for the tone of the piece.
Now, as far as my involvement with Andrew Cyrille, that was a different dynamic, closer to my own I guess. His material was settled in the blues, and you know that when Andrew wasn't working with Cecil Taylor himself he never used a piano, so we were in more a horn-oriented environment. It was Nick De Geronomo on bass, two horns and Andrew Cyrille, and the dynamic of that group was centered on building a blues sound in decibels, and doing it with different rhythmic accents within each piece. That gig really allowed me to get in touch with a whole other side of my personality, to focus on fundamentals. It was freer and bluesier than what I was playing with Cecil Taylor, and it was also more traditional in that the pieces were shorter and the motifs were more clearly derived from earlier jazz.
PSF: How was your own approach to composition effected by your tenure with those two groups? What did you learn about writing from each of those leaders?
Ware: From Cecil Taylor, I learned this: when you write music, pay attention to its details, deal with it from inside. Deal with the form, develop it so that it becomes a unique idea in itself, and then when you're playing it, take your cue from the form. Getting to the inner details of a piece was something I remember working on all the time, every time we played in fact.
With Cyrille, the style was very rhythmic, and I developed ways of playing with the rhythm and being caught in it. That group really moved together, rhythmically speaking, and we needed to be sensitive to changes in the rhythmic dynamic, to let that guide what we played. And learning to be caught by the rhythm, that's something which I've tried to apply to my own writing as well. I realized while I was with Cyrille that I really am motivated by rhythm, and Andrew himself is a great motivator- he catches everything, he's right there in every moment as a drummer, and he plays with you, you know? Shifting his timing with you as you go. Being part of that was a great experience.
PSF: It's interesting to hear you say that, because the drum seat is the only slot which has changed, three times now, in your own quartet over the past decade. Could you reflect on what each of your drummers has brought to the group, on how they were motivators for your own work as a leader?
Ware: When I started the group, Marc Edwards was our drummer, and he played with raw power. I always knew that he built tension with forté, that there would be great forward motion in his approach. With Whit Dickey, he looked for an overall concept within each piece, and then applied that concept- the variations in his playing from one performance to another are more subtle in that sense. Susie Ibarra, who's with us now, she has a tremendous arsenal of techniques at her disposal, and is still developing them- she applies some of them to what I call the efficient form, and others to the extended form, and as she grows musically those extended techniques become more involved, more sophisticated and more powerful as well.
PSF: Tell me about how your relationships with the other two members of your group developed, and what they bring to the current group.
Ware: William Parker I met for the first time in the mid '70s, while I was still living at 501 Canal Street- met him at a '74 Cecil Taylor show, in fact, so he's known me through a lot of my own development. In terms of what he brings to the group as bassist, William has a tremendous walking pulse- a lightning, fleeting touch which fundamentally shapes the extensions of the forms we play. You know, the traditional role for the jazz bassist is to provide the backbone of the form, to give the music some rhythmic anchor; William Parker will start in the extension, and work his way through the core motifs of a piece. When a bassist does this, it opens a whole other universe of sound, a whole new sense of the possibilities of extension on the rhythmic side of things. This is possible because we don't really play vamps- the bass is dealt with primarily as a voice rather than as a rhythmic border or guide, and when you're dealing with a player who can use the bow the way William does, well, you're in whole other strata both in terms of your rhythmic space and your possibilities with harmony. He has really given me the ability to compose in new ways, bringing extensions we've developed in one piece into focus as part of the form of some other piece- given me that added bass voice to hear a deeper harmony when I write.
Our pianist, Matthew Shipp, I first met in '89, and we just had this common understanding of the musical language which fit very naturally. It was just a shared approach to the energy of a piece and its possibilities, a very basic thing but also of the greatest importance to how the group sounds today. I think that this is because we'd come up listening to many of the same things- we shared an interest in the Coltrane sound, for example, which made our understandings of one another's outlook very clear.
PSF: How would you describe the development of your relationship to Coltrane's music over the course of your career? When you think about his legacy now, and how you may be reflecting it in your own work, what stands out for you?
Ware: Well, for me Coltrane was always about searching, he was always searching for new levels of expression and making total, thorough explorations at each stage in his thinking. And within each stage was a period of adaptation which is very important to keep in mind- it wasn't as if he had a fixed voice which he just applied to whatever new compositional idea he had. He made adjustments to the way he played at every stage. These are the things I try to do with whatever material I'm playing at the time, and whatever I'm thinking about as compositional possibilities as well.
I first discovered Coltrane's music in the late '50's- I was definitely still in grade school, coming to the end of it- and I think the first thing of his I heard was Giant Steps. You know, I mentioned that neighbor of ours, the friend of my father's- well, at one point I borrowed a whole stack of records from him, and that one was the record that grabbed me, the one I can still remember listening to at the time and thinking, "there it is." My sense of what modality was, modality in a broad sense- it began then. So I immediately dug back into the records he'd cut for Prestige as well, and began following the Impulse releases as they came out; I remember hearing his take of "Out Of This World" and being intrigued by the possibility that there were forms of music which hadn't even been discovered yet. This was right on the verge of the new thing, right around the time that he and Don Cherry did their Newport gig. For me, it was a time of complete immersion, and I still feel that it was the most important listening I did in my life, the listening I'm still immersed in.
PSF: So where has your listening lead you recently?
Ware: To be honest with you, I don't really listen to much recorded music anymore. I mean, really, I feel that I did my listening back in the '60s, that it was enough to last me the rest of my life. I mean, I was there, I heard it! Well, you know, I listened to the jazz show on WKCR last week, but that's because I was there in the studio- I go up and play there once or twice a year, and I get a decent sense of what else is happening in the process. But, you know, I've got at least 200 LPs here in my home, and people send me CDs fairly regularly, but it just seems as if I don't have the time to be constantly listening to recordings- I have to walk the dog, I do my yoga exercises and I meditate each day, and that takes time. It's time I feel I must take, because there is silence during those times and that silence makes what I do possible.
And I have to say that it frustrates me to listen to jazz radio because I feel like it represents a vacuum, a kind of very limited thinking which doesn't even include someone like Ornette Coleman. I saw so many people play when I was younger who changed my whole way of thinking about music, who opened up so many possibilities, and I want to live in a way which keeps those possibilities in the forefront. You know, I've been told that what I'm doing is too much for a place like the Village Vanguard! Now the Vanguard, that was a place I went to hear John Coltrane at a time when he was really going through changes, a place where Archie Shepp used to play all the time... but I'm too much for it? So, I've come to realize that those experiences back in the '60s... they were special times.
PSF: What do you try to give back to that '60s tradition, to build on what it offered you then and what it represents to you now?
Ware: Well, first and foremost is dedication to the tenor- virtuosity on the tenor is something I've aspired to keep up over time, to continue playing at the same level of intensity which first attracted my attention. That legacy is very important to what I'm trying to do with music.
Where writing is concerned, it's primarily a matter of projection- this is something I talk about in some of the liner notes to my records as well- and among the various things that projection involves is a consideration of how music has been freeing for me over time, how moments of expression have been a powerful force in my life and in the lives of other musicians I've known. And that can be thought of as a kind of tradition, though it's a very personal thing.
PSF: You've recorded four standards on four different titles in your career as a leader, including the version of "The Way We Were" which appears on the new disc. What is it about those few traditional numbers that appeals to you? What do you look for in a standard, and where do you try to take it?
Ware: As far as what I try to do with a standard, it's part of the same work that goes on with all the material- it's a search for an original modality, a way of thinking about the structure of harmony which asks whether there isn't some new side to sound, some new relationship between tones which working from a specific musical form can reveal. Think about what Coltrane did with "My Favorite Things"- no one had ever played that song in quite that way, and that's because he played it in a new modality. We are always on a method quest, a search for free flow method and that's what I try to do with all my music, not just the standards.
As for why I pick some older tunes, well, there's a level on which they just appeal to me as melodies, and on another level they're suggestive of intervals or motifs which seem to me to flow well within that tune, from which I can build something even more freely flowing- something the tune has always suggested without ever having been made explicit, and which comes forth once its motif has been freed of the original structure.
PSF: What are some sources which have inspired you to discover a new modality in the past?
Ware: Sometimes it's something as simple as a voice, sometimes it's the interplay of the musicians I'm with. In any situation, it requires mastery of whatever has been done with the interval or motif in the past, a sense that the complete past relation is right there, and once it's there it can be properly expanded. Take someone like Sonny Rollins: he was always able to take a piece of material and make it his own, because he made it his business to know what the past possibilities of the tune were, and then found a way to somehow expand on those possibilities through complete mastery. It's what true improvisation is about. Dealing with a melody on that level takes time- it takes time to know how to discard the bar lines and move through the forms in a new rhythm, and then again to use those rhythms you're playing in to bring out new tonalities of the individual notes.
PSF: Tell me about the strengths of your current quartet, specifically about how they interact in this searching after modalities.
Ware: Well, our forté is really the extension of the form. We succeed in situations where the platform of the melody is haunted, where it is inhabited very fully and we each find its spaces around that presence. You know, there has to be resistance to overcome in the pursuit of free flow, and when the spaces in a motif are not obvious, when the existing modality seems very complex, that's a kind of resistance which we know ways of exploring and finding our way through by listening to one another as we're thinking about the form. That's something else I learned from Cecil Taylor, by the way.
As far as what the group is capable of, I guess the answer is that we're investigators of form, that we come to each performance with a sense of what we might do with our material which our previous performances haven't fully realized. See, we're really still learning to play the material from Go See The World, in the sense that learning is investigation and that the only way to fully learn what the possibilities of any piece are for our group is to go through that process. And the more opportunities we have to play shows, the more thorough that process is allowed to become.
PSF: Your current recording and touring situation with Sony/Columbia is a new one for you. How did it come about, and how is your relationship with the company now?
Ware: Well, we were offered a contract on Sony by Branford Marsalis. He'd heard us play in Europe in the summer of 1995, and approached me after the show to express admiration for what we were doing. I didn't hear from him again for a while, but then he got back in contact with me last summer to tell me that he'd been made creative director of the jazz division at Sony, and wanted to record my group in our own setting, performing the music of our choosing. It was encouraging of course, and we were given total creative freedom in the studio, no compromises, and the promise of better distribution that we'd ever had before. I signed a 7-option deal with them, and so far the relations are very good.
PSF: In the past, some of your records like Cryptology (1994) and Tao (1996) have had conceptual frames which give the records an overt thematic continuity. What inspires these thematic developments?
Ware: Usually, it's certain compositions whose form draws my attention for a period of time, and in that time I try to isolate the musical concepts within the form and relate them to portions of whatever idea or observation inspired them. With a record like Cryptology, it was a matter of meditating on pace, on the pace at which ideas grow and the sense of their lasting effects at different stages of growing. It was also a record about channeling- a meditation on Coltrane's example of using music as a vehicle for transcendence. He believed that our essence was transcendence, a universe of transcendence which is parallel to the infinite relationships within music and is reflected by them. The goal, throughout the course of any sustained idea or theme, is to understand how the relationship to essence changes as we recognize that we are dealing with our lives in a different sense, that there are many different senses in which we can approach self-understanding, and the expression of those various understandings gives music its possibility. If we explore the ways in which our five senses can change, how their functions can be extended, then the whole function of thinking changes as the exploration takes place. The meaning of thinking, in particular thinking through music and how it can effect the senses... that meaning changes for us.
PSF: How have you come to recognize those moments of transcendence in music?
Ware: It's a matter of simple crystallizing, of a crystallized moment whose presence or structure we're aware of because it has given us some new idea about our own perception of sound, of that kind of motion. In some sense it's the result of recognizing an emptiness in a piece of musical writing, of recognizing what we thought of as an emptiness, and then we occupy it. I'll add that I've never really approached this as an intellectual pursuit; it's a matter of intuition, of trusting in the intuition as an extension of the senses and letting it guide the process that allows a musician to decide how a musical form should be approached and explored.
PSF: What is that decision process like for you?
Ware: It's the result of meditation, which is something I do every day. The inspiration to explore music comes from my meditation. Actually, it all comes from silence- silence is full of potential, and is the first space I try to reach. You might think about it in the same way you think about splitting the atom, about the components of the atom- all of the power which a musician wants to explore is inside the atom, and is the result of the relationships between its parts. Exploring those relationships means getting into spiritual examination, and finding modalities of expression in that.
That spirituality is what makes value, what makes a moment of expression valuable to anyone who is open to hearing it. The challenge is always finding new ways of thinking about the spiritual situation or condition, of realizing that when we talk about extensions of form we are talking about rethinking that situation, and being prepared to face the fact of the universe as a breathing intelligence. We become aware of the rhythms of that breathing in our expression, and in understanding that we, ourselves, are expressions of it, too.
See some of David's favorite music
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