An interview with Ofer Pelz and Preston Beebe for the album « Whim » [KOHL 029]

Whim » (Ofer Pelz & Preston Beebe

On the verge of composed and improvised music, Whim (Ofer Pelz – prepared piano and Preston Beebe – drums and percussion) creates percussive landscapes by modifying their instruments and apply extended techniques to develop a rich sound palette. The piano is prepared with found objects such as close pins, chains, and erasers at specific nodal points of the strings and is treated as a percussive instrument. Found objects, bowls, gongs, and cymbals are placed on the skins of the drums which are then explored to create complex timbres and textures. Whim is a virtuosic duo who blends their musical worlds an experiences as composers and improvisors.

KR: How did this project start ?

We met at a concert where Preston was playing with 4eyes (Preston Beebe and Ryan Packard – also featured in Kohlenstoff), and then decided to jam together. After playing together for the first time, we knew this would be a worthwhile project. We have similar backgrounds as performers in both classical and jazz, and are composers who studied with Philippe Leroux at different periods. Thanks to this, we communicate with a similar musical vocabulary and aesthetic. Of course, there are times when our preferences differ, resulting in a more fruitful collaboration.

KR: How do you work together to build your music ?

First, we improvise to brainstorm musical concepts and ideas. From there, we choose the best materials to work with. Some pieces are improvised around a specific mood, while others are built around a concrete musical idea. We record everything and use these recordings like a mirror to discover, reflect and ultimately further develop our musical materials and concepts for future pieces. Even if we didn’t like what was played in one piece, we may discover an interesting sound combination that can be used later.  In some situations we choose to communicate verbally or with a semi-written plan, but we mostly enjoy the spontaneous nature of performing in the moment and creating a musical dialog between us, which is very different, yet complementary to our ordinary jobs as composers.

For the CD itself, all the pieces are straightforward performances like in a live concert. The mixing process took a long time to complete, mainly to find the best pieces that fit together with the sound that we were looking for.

KR: Is your music essentially improvised ?

Yes, we improvise around concepts to build musical structures. As composers, we discovered that we both understand many things in a similar way by how we develop materials and express them musically. So in most cases, the communication and construction of our works are developed through playing and improvising. The music we create comes from either very abstract ideas, like metaphors, up to very concrete concepts related to time, energy, and density.

KR: Do you have an aesthetic statement ?

Our artistic worlds are fused into one. Some pieces sound more free jazzy, others more contemporary classical. Most are just a blend of everything because of our mixed cultures and musical backgrounds.

Our music sounds electroacoustic in nature by the way we use our instrument to create noise, timbre, and resonances. Although we sound electronic at times, we decided to keep this recording acoustic, not using any electronic effects.

KR: How do you each treat your instruments in respects to the ensemble?

We push the boundaries of our instruments by inventing new extended techniques to find interesting sounds and colors. By playing our instruments beyond the ‘traditional’ way, we are able to create complex textures and expand our range of musical expression.

We search for ways to meet in the middle by becoming one instrument, one sound. In most pieces, the piano is treated as a percussion instrument, so in a way, we are a percussion duo but with two very different instruments. We treat our instruments like an extension of the other one, where at times, it is kind of difficult to distinguish who is playing what.

KR: Do you feel like you want to keep this project going on, to push it further ?

We have already started to work on new projects together. Firstly, keeping the same configuration of two acoustic instruments and develop new materials. We want to explore this setup with electronics where we send our sound to the other and create feedback loops. One of our next projects is to deal more with graphic notation to see where it can lead us. We also have some ideas to create new instruments to extend our possibilities for creation.

Ofer on Kohlenstoff Records

Preston on Kohlenstoff

Preston’s web site

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