Matt Borghi & Michael Teager – Fall 2013 Tour – Early Details

For starters, I’m really excited to announce that Michael Teager and myself will be coming to the U.S. east coast this Fall to perform selections from our release, Convocation. Details are still coming together, but we know that we’ll be doing a performance at a Gathering in Philadelphia (details haven’t been added to the site yet) as an opening act for Dave Luxton and Vic Hennegan followed by a performance Chuck Van Zyl’s excellent and long-running Star’s End program, as well we’ll be coming to do a Living Room Concert at the studios of the nationally-syndicated Echoes program. There will also be dates in Baltimore with Jason Sloan and another show or two, but we’re still in the planning stages there.

One of the things that’s really exciting for me is that Michael and myself will actually be playing music from the recording, created live and in real-time. While Convocation was almost completely improvised live to tape there were charts that I followed in setting up the compositions, so bringing the experience of Convocation to a live audience is something very new for me, as a composer of electronic music. Generally, you take this kind of thing for granted, as a musician in band, because if you’re not playing the songs what are you playing, but ambient and electronic music, for me, has always been very free, more like free jazz than organized composition where live performance is concerned.

Michael and I have played selections from Convocation in various forms, not always totally true to the recording in the year, plus since we went into the the studio to record it and it’s been an interesting trial run for this series of performances. I’m looking forward to Michael and myself practicing our sets, not to memorize note for note, but to set up the basic structure and create new sonic expressions and serendipitous moments as we go.

Convocation from Matt Borghi and Michael Teager

Convocation is the work of ambient composer Matt Borghi (www.mattborghi.com) and saxophonist, Michael Teager(www.michaelteager.com). Recorded as a series of improvisational structures in spring of 2012, this is the first recording that Borghi and Teager have done together after a half-decade of working together.

With Convocation, Borghi brings in spacious guitar textures to create a harmonic fabric for Teager to lay out his saxophone playing with subtlety and nuance. With a background in classical and jazz saxophone, Teager brings a wide palette of influences to the music. Listeners will hear aspects of Jan Garbarek, John Coltrane and Dave Liebman that’s juxtaposed over Borghi’s pastoral guitar sounds that have more of their timbral origins in the work of Claude Debussy or Ralph Vaughan-Williams than they do other contemporary ambient guitarists.

Convocation, as a whole, aims to create a deep and timbrally interesting listening experience while also bringing together an interesting musical pairing and improvisational process. Saxophone and ambient music have never sounded like this, and Borghi & Teager attribute this to their friendship, their approach to the work and their diverse musical interests.

Buy the hardcopy CD here now, or you can visit online retailers such as Amazon, iTunes, or eMusic to name just a few…

 

Praise for ‘Convocation’

A nice review was published in the April 2013 edition of textura. Full article here.
– “Guitarist Matt Borghi and saxophonist Michael Teager have fashioned a wonderful ambient-styled recording that distinguishes itself dramatically from others in the genre.”

The album received quite a positive review from Hypnagogue, a very comprehensive review site for ambient and electronic music. You can read the whole thing here.
– “I’m going to be very surprised if this doesn’t end up on a lot of ‘Best Of’ lists this year. You have to hear Convocation.”

Convocation was also included on Echoes‘s Top 25 list for March 2013.

Convocation made Star’s End’s Top 15 for April, 2013, plus Chuck van Zyl wrote up a nice review here.

Convocation received a nice review from Carlton Crutcher at Aural Innovations.

 

Review of The Phantom Light

There was an excellent review of The Phantom Light that showed up recently on the Make Your Own Taste blog. It’s not excellent because it talks positively of my work, which it does, in honest context, but because the writer, whom I don’t know and don’t even have a name for, has demonstrated that they get and understand the work that I put together. As I posted in my comments for the review: “…You get exactly what I was trying to do and in your words and reflection I feel that I achieved it. As an artist you can’t hope for any more than this…”

This recording is nearly seven years old, but it pleases me greatly to know that listeners are still finding this recording satisfying and enjoyable – Read the review here: http://makeyourowntaste.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/matt-borghi-the-phantom-light-2006-murky-sadness-on-the-great-lakes/

Ambient Soundbath Podcast

I can’t believe that it’s been nearly two months since I last posted here, but that’s certainly not because there hasn’t been anything going on. Teag and PK have begun playing shows again and we’ve also started work on our first full-length recording, and then there’s the Ambient Soundbath podcast.

The Ambient Soundbath podcast is something that I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time and it was something that seemed really ambitious. However, after experimenting with the process I figured that I could probably make a go of it and started with a soft launch of www.ambientsoundbath.com in September. Each episode is approximately :30 minutes and features my original music – none of this music has been released anywhere else. I do think that I may start to include the work of other artists if they’re interested, so feel free to contact me if you are. Currently, I have about 10 solid hours of music or about 20 episodes wrapped up and the response has been quite good.

Because I’ve always approached ambient music as a sort of immersive sound bath experience, where I allow myself to be enveloped by the sound I wanted to put together something like an infinite playlist radio program or something, ala SomaFM’s Drone Zone or Sleepbot, but wasn’t ready to get into that. The Ambient Soundbath also intersected with my pursuit of alternative approaches to a record release model. After watching the immense growth and media acceptance of podcasting, that mode just seemed to make sense. So with that the Ambient Soundbath Podcast is full-steam ahead… Please forward me any comments or thoughts you have on the podcast.

Reflecting on David Toop’s Ocean of Sound

I don’t have any recollection of how I stumbled upon this. I was doing a series of non-event sonic wallpaper gigs as solo guitarist at local cafes and coffee shops around the Detroit-area and working crummy temp jobs during the day. There was no plan. There were no real goals except to not to have to get a full-time job not doing music. I was kind of in between colleges, but that infers I knew where I was going, but really had no idea where the next educational stop was to be. I had never heard of ambient music, and the closest I had gotten to exploring contemplative music was Pink Floyd and some of my own exploratory jams with my first band.

Around that time, I worked at a bank… I remember this only because it was very boring, and I had to be there all day. Because I only had about a half-hour of cumulative work throughout the day, they let me read on the job, so  I did a lot of reading. One of the books that I ended up reading was David Toop’s Ocean of Sound.

I was reminded of this book recently while doing some random perusing of my favorite Web sites and found a link to a PDF of David Toop’s Ocean of Sound… I didn’t think about it a lot, but I did quickly move to take a look at it, for old time’s sake. As I clicked on the PDF and started to look at a flood of memories came rushing in.

I remember the book as being odd, almost impressionistic. There were contemplative writings and impressions on John Cage, Terry Riley (this was where I discovered In C), and LaMonte Young, Brian Eno, and this was where I read about Satie’s Vexations and his ideas of Furniture Music.

I quickly realized that this book, that had consciously left me with the vaguest of impressions had actually left an indelible mark on all that followed my reading it. Ocean of Sound came to influence, rather subconsciously much of my work and my outlook on the sound, music and experiences that I strive for today.

I haven’t gone back and read it, except for a few brief passages, and parts of it are dated, as it preceded the 2000ish blow up of electronic music in the US, and was published near the peak of dance and rave culture in Europe, but, this book, that’s half treatise and half poetry on the experience of sound, is an overlooked classic.

I’ve dedicated a large swath of my life to thinking about music, sound and the experience of it. It’s curious to me now and worthy of investigation on my part, to  just how much of what I read in David Toop’s Ocean of Sound affected my worldview and my perspective on music. Anything and everything that I think about from the perspective of sound and music is touched on in this book.

Thinking of the experience of sound, I reflect on how sound, noise and acoustic ecology are not things that have caught on here in the United States… these things have caught on elsewhere, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, but not as much here; this is important, because central to what I’ve taken from Ocean of Sound, is that we’re living in an ocean of sound, and the more noise that is injected into our sonic lives the more we turn to our iPods or whatever to tune in to our own sonic environment and tune out the world’s. That’s just fine, but what’s lost is the ability to collectively tune-in to the soundworld around us, collectively, and focus on it, which is at the core of what David Toop writes about, being enveloped by sound and the experience of it.

Sound and music is not to just be heard, it’s to be experienced, whether in a performance hall, or standing under buzzing power lines or enjoying a busker doing a rendition of All Along the Watchtower on a city street; the idea of this came to me as I reflected after reading Ocean of Sound. I became more conscious of sound. I found a vocabulary and a context for things I had experienced and felt while listening to music, and also realized that I could make a music where this kind of music/sound experience wasn’t just serendipity, but was the focal point of the work.

All this is to say, reading Ocean of Sound changed me, and it changed the way I hear and listen. Discovering this book again reminds me of that, and it also reminds me that before I discovered this I was missing a large chunk of what was going on around me.

A damn fine live ambient music experience

A very pleasurable experience.

That’s the phrase that runs across my mind as I think about a performance that I just did with saxophonist and musician Michael Teager at the Wanderer’s Tea House in East Lansing.

As I’ve talked about in the last few months on here my focus has been doing more of a singer/songwriter thing in the form of Teag and PK, which is the duo that Michael Teager and myself have put together. However, after a particularly exhausting performance in February and a few in January, I decided that singing, and sort of, exposing myself emotionally in that way while people either looked on in disinterest, or in the case of cafe/restaurant gigs, just tried to talk over the music — was creating an emotional exhaustion in me that I could imagine only the most desperate of narcissist would want to pursue, I think of Jane Krakowski’s Jenna Maroney character on the popular TV show, 30Rock, and more than a few singer/songwriters I’ve known and watched with disdain. No thanks, not me…  I have to say I was also moved by attending a Charles Lloyd performance that was just like two straight hours of mind-blowing jazz and sonic immersion, where at one point I turned and looked around and everyone was fixated – LISTENING!

Now, let me stop there, all that I’ve ever wanted was for people to listen, as many of my friends and colleagues have heard me say, “I just want to get to ears, for people to listen”… in the age of the iPod this is no simple task, and our particular epoch has played a role, too, as we’ve all learned to block out sounds and noises and music to focus on other things.

So with this gig booked at the excellent and cozy Wanderer’s Tea House, I was unsure how to proceed. I turned inward, and for the six weeks between our last gig and this one, I dug into my roots, the contemplative ambient music and I worked up various tones and textures that I had not pursued before…. things that I could do in a “live” setting without a laptop and a lot of pre-recorded sounds.

As we showed up to the gig and got set up, Michael leaned over and asked me “what are we thinking for tonight?” Over the previous few days I had teased him with the idea that I might be feeling the need for an ambient direction. An expert improviser, musician and collaborator, Michael has more than learned that sometimes even I don’t know what the plan is… We had rehearsed and played upwards of thirty songs, but on this night, I just wasn’t feeling it. I looked at him, with concern, but also unable to meet his gaze because I was feeling insecure and I said, “I’m thinking improvisation and some ambient kind of stuff…” vague as shit; as he processed that I went back to busying myself with set up.

The Tea House was full, finals week at Michigan State University, right off the campus…laptops and notebooks abound. Having not done an ambient music performance in a setting like this, well, ever… I was concerned…  the owners of Wanderer’s Tea House are friends of mine… was I going to clear out their business on a peak business night with my ambient noises… concerned, I thought: probably, but I had to be true to myself…

I struck the first note…

As the sound opened up and rushed into the room, I just looked at the ground… not wanting to make eye contact with anyone. The sound of chatting and kettles brewing was replaced by wave after wave of calming, evocative and contemplative sound.

After thirty minutes of my own immersion, I looked up, to find smiles, congratulatory nods and overall looks of satisfaction. The few empty tables that there were had become occupied. Nobody had left, everybody was engaged and listening.

Surely, this is a fluke… I thought to myself, but as we moved into the first hour and then the second hour, the room filled more, people became engaged and were listening, or so it seemed.

They can’t really be listening, can they?

As we rounded off the second hour and the last notes subsided into the quiet of the evening and the closing of the Tea House, I was confounded.

People had stuck around, seemingly enjoyed themselves, and we played, what I would consider a far less accessible and mainstream music performance than the songs I’d been singing for the last 10 months…

Before I could unplug my first cable, my suspicions about the performance were confirmed. First one person, then another and then another, came up to Michael and myself and praised us and the music. As I type these lines, I’m as confounded by this pleasant response as I was in the minutes following the gig. I still don’t know quite what to think… and I’m hoping for an, as of yet not forthcoming bit of insight, through the process of writing it out…

Before we wrapped up that night and before anybody stopped by to complement our work, I felt proud and musically satisfied, more so than I have in the last 20 gigs that had preceded this one. It felt right. I was true to myself. So having folks come up and tell us they enjoyed it and they thought it was great and for us to continue to get praise for the performance was just something that I had to tell people about.

When I booked my first ambient gig in 1999, it was called experimental, noise, ambient, space music, space rock, art music, electronic, electro-acoustic, gothic, even… I didn’t give a shit what they called it as long as I could get a gig bringing this music to receptive ears. Years later that’s still all I want and it’s a rarer and rarer occasion, but I kind of feel like if we can do this here in East Lansing, Michigan on the Michigan State University campus, a nice place to live, but far from the cultural epicenters I’ve traveled to to get to open ears and open minds for this music, then maybe, just maybe… the time for this music has come, a music that (as Jack the non Music Journalist aptly refers to it) emphasises the creation and maintenance of a powerful surrounding mood above all other artistic goals… I don’t know… stay tuned….

Slo.Bor Media celebrates ten years

slobor media logo

I have a record label. It’s called Slobor Media, and I started it with my friend and collaborator, Jason Sloan, in 2001. This is the tenth anniversary of the label. I’ve come to take Slobor Media for granted. It’s always there, and it’s always been an outlet for my music, a place where compromised art isn’t welcome, a place where the artist can be themselves.

We’ve never lost money on a release, though admittedly we’ve come close. This was especially true when we were doing hardcopy releases. We don’t do that much anymore, unless we take them out for live shows. Mostly our music is available for digital download. We also have a variety of collectable, handmade editions that we did in the early days. Those are mostly gone now, and we’re always pleased when we see one of them on eBay fetching hundreds of dollars.

We didn’t have much of a business plan for Slobor when we started. We don’t have much of a business plan now. We make music and release it. We’ve found cheaper and cheaper ways to do these releases. We do our own design, our own graphics, our own packaging, our own Web development, our own mastering, our own engineering and our own promotion… Pretty much everything we do, we do ourselves. This the model that we took from labels like Dischord Records in Washington D.C., and bands like Fugazi, as well as labels like Chicago’s Touch and Go (by way of East Lansing, MI), or Ani Difranco’s Righteous Babe Records. Punk rock taught us how to be DIY.

When we started the label it was out of necessity. We couldn’t get labels to take an interest in our work and our vision, so we joined forces. Both Jason and I have worked with many labels since then and even some before, but the right emphasis wasn’t put on the music or the art of making and presenting music, so we saw no real option: We had to do it ourselves.

We have a rich following, which always surprises me, not because I don’t think the work is good enough; I know it is, because we put our all into it. It’s surprising because our music is obscure, non-mainstream (or even close) listening music that rewards attentive listening. As global culture requires more and more instant gratification, our music couldn’t be further from that realm. It’s slow, and slowly evolving, like a fine wine, in that patience is rewarded.

The world is changing. Music business is changing. Expectations for  the distribution, sale and experience of music is changing. We don’t know where it’s going and we don’t know how we’ll be getting our music to ears tomorrow, or in another ten years, but we will be. Our vision is as clear now as it was then: Create, distribute and promote music, artists and works of art that move us and might otherwise be neglected.

Thinking of Sound: Birdsong

Remembering spring.

Listening to a robin singing high up in a tree, as I was walking into work, signaled that spring is beginning; a time for new life and rebirth. I was struck by the volume and purity of tone with which the robin sang. The birdsong had more depth and timbral color than any voice or wind instrument I’ve known. Birdsong and other sounds of nature is a constant reminder to me that the music of nature is some of the most well-orchestrated and perfect music there is. There’s a purity and arbitrary feeling that comes with this music, as if the tension and release is just right, perfectly configured for the listener to become engaged or to ignore. Here’s a link to the Cornell Lab of Orinthology for those interested in hearing the birdsong of the robin; though, admittedly, what I heard was much richer and sweeter.

Playing music as a celebration of life

Playing music is a celebration of life. The rhythm, the chords, the vamps, the jams, doing it by yourself, doing it with others. That’s one thing I love about improvised music, you can come together with someone, a total stranger, and have a great musical conversation. In many ways, it’s like falling in love. You find someone who helps you be the best you that you can be and because of that you ascend to some higher realm of consciousness. In fact, improvised music is the complete analogy for life, because when that presence is no longer there you miss it, and you look for it, grieve for it… sometimes you find it in another right away, some times it takes a while, but you’re out there, trying and communing with others in the name of music, celebrating life, celebrating what it means to be alive through music.

Thinking of Sound: Composing in waves

One of the things that I enjoy about composing soundscapes or ambient music is the way that the music, while lacking a beat, still has a rhythm. Most often that rhythm comes together from the patterns in which the sound ebbs and flows. It’s kind of like listening to waves break on a shore or the sound of a boat rocking on the water. It’s not a beat, in a strict musical sense, but it’s definitely a rhythm that is born into the music. I think of listening to Claude Debussy’s La Mer, or The Sea, which truly brings this rhythmic ebb and flow to life.

This rhythm has a tendency to come into phase with the heart beat; the body and mind become one with the sound. In order to foster more of this listening experience in my own work, I’ve found it important to give the sound the space needed to allow for the music to breathe and become fully experiential from a complete physical perspective, rather than only an aural one. This can be tough for the composer, because they really must get out of their own way and let the composition move in its own direction.