Henry Dagg and Evan Parker’s new album THEN THROUGH NOW is released by False Walls on November 25, 2022. The album captures Henry and Evan’s improvised performance as part of the Free Range series in Canterbury, Kent, on December 2, 2021. For that performance, Evan played soprano saxophone, and Henry developed a new electronic instrument called the Stage Cage, to both process Evan’s live sound as well as generate its own sounds. A conversation between Henry, Evan and performance artist Karen Christopher is included in a 20 page booklet which accompanies the release. Here is an extract from the conversation:
Karen: It’s clear that both instruments – the saxophone and the Stage Cage – have their own affordances, or things that they allow you to do, and ways that you have to interact with them in order to make it happen. I was aware of how the manner of producing the sound was also constantly becoming the sound: Evan’s finger movements, the way that the pads sound on the saxophone keys, and Evan’s breath sounds, and then also all the things you’ve built into this Stage Cage apparatus, are part of the sound making the sound.
Henry: Yes, that was part of my responsibility at any given moment, to decide whether I’d just let Evan do his thing, and augment it in some way by treatment, or add to it with something of my own, or to obliterate Evan with something of my own, or to try and come up with something where you couldn’t quite make out if it was Evan or me that was coming up with this weird combination of sounds. And of course, to that end, I did my best in places to try and emulate Evan’s technique on my very modest range of key controls.
Evan: The whole thing functions in a way like a sampler, but pre-computing sampling. And with the variable speed organised for the tape recorders, and the moveable heads between the two, it’s a very different way of being sampled and played back into the mix. Because there are two aspects to speed, the speed of articulation and the speed of presentation, and Henry’s thing was completely hard to predict.
Karen: Yes, it’s growing like an organism, instead of just absolute replication.
Evan: I gave up any hope of being in control of that aspect of things.
Karen: So how does that work for you?
Evan: Well, it’s great. Maybe an analogy would be with surfing, not that I’ve been a surfer, but it’s like these giant waves which sometimes are longer and bigger, and you’re waiting for a wave to come in, and launching yourself on a particular wave. Some of what I was hearing from Henry gave that impression of very powerful natural forces, which I couldn’t ignore, I had to go with it –and now would be a good time to do less, or now would be a good time to do more. Which all makes it sound a little bit simplistic, but there are basic decisions like that to be made in the course of trying to play for nearly an hour.
Karen Christopher is a performance maker, performer and teacher; her company, Haranczak/ Navarre Performance Projects, is devoted to collaborative processes and has been making a series of duets over the past decade.