The Insider: Great Architect
How To Play Cultural Games, by Brent Bagwell
For our inaugural The Insider, reedsman Brent Bagwell gives us the inside dope on the studio alchemy of his Charlotte free-noise sextet Great Architect…
We recorded this record in one day. One afternoon, really. Fresh from a tour — the first after expanding to a sextet — we set up in the familiar confines of “the lab” and our main man Bo White (Kinnikinnik Records) captured the proceedings in his inimitable way. I recall we convinced him to wear a beautiful floral sash for part of the session.
The recipe goes like this: Play every song twice. Not twice in a row, but once down the list like a set. Take a break. Play every song one more time. Wait a few weeks. Listen to the mixes and choose the preferred takes. Order them. Press to vinyl. Serves 300.
Sometimes, people mistake this approach for slapdash. Slipshod. It’s not. We just prefer ripping off a string of three-pointers every night to carefully constructing a video sequence of us shooting three-pointers. It’s easier. It’s harder. Let the camera roll, we’re ballin’ tonight, anyway…
This approach has lots of appeal. Drawn from the jazz perspective, the players endeavor to embody the music on every outing. So, yes, the recording is a snapshot of how it sounded that day, but it’s also a culmination of what we thought about these tunes over the months that lead up to that day. It’s a good representation of how Great Architect would sound if we set up in your living room. Or the lobby of the skyscraper in which you work.
We operate with a fairly high degree of freedom. The curious thing about this, however, is that we improvise much less than most folks might imagine. The freedom is in what we might suggest in the early stages of compositions. Or do when we start playing new material. What we intend. We’re scoring our own storyboard. It’s musical and it’s representational and it’s never arbitrary. Every song is about something.
Each member has contributed songs and every other member has altered each one for the better. Every tune has a back-story, movement, a plan. I was astonished to find that the two takes of each song for this record were always — always! — within a few seconds of one another in duration. It seems we have a collective notion about when we’ve almost overplayed our welcome. An unspoken understanding, measured more accurately by the flow of time and shared experience than by tempo and bar line.
So, this record…
The Trickster took the bait and the trap is unsprung. One way to balance the equation of Cultural Games is to think of it like this: an invitation, a faux-fanfare, a long climb; an unexplored organic compound; a first ride home; a wall of roiling calm; an action scene, rich in suspense; an impossible challenge; a deus ex machina for the bullpen; a heartfelt, awkward dance; a lost world; the rattle of the Electra 10-E, the unanswered radio calls, the flat sea.
But why fence in the listener? He or she is the crucial Seventh Party in all this. The one who needs to listen and think in order for it to work out for us all. Make it something new.