The Dialogues: Gareth Davis

by 5:4

For the next couple of weeks, i’m going to spend some time revisiting some of the most interesting new works heard at HCMF 2014. As a prelude to that, i’m very pleased to announce a new occasional series on 5:4 called The Dialogues, featuring myself in conversation with assorted musical luminaries. This first episode is with the clarinettist Gareth Davis, who was in Huddersfield giving the world première of the contrabass clarinet version of Elliott Sharp’s audio-visual work Sylva Sylvarum. Our dialogue begins with an in-depth exploration of that piece in conjunction with its sibling work Foliage, which Davis performed at last year’s Bristol New Music festival. We also discuss at length Davis’ career, including his musical origins, the choice and implications—both aesthetic and practical—of bass and contrabass clarinet as his instruments of choice, the role and nature of virtuosity, improvisation vs. notated music, as well as the multitude of diverse collaborations he has been part of over the years, focusing on those with Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek), Frances-Marie Uitti, Steven R. Smith and Martin Stig Andersen. Works by other composers are surveyed along the way, including examples by Johannes Schöllhorn and Peter Ablinger.

i’ve peppered our dialogue with an assortment of extracts from the pieces being discussed; a full list is below with their timings as well as links to buy the music. Along with that pepper, there’s also some salt, for which i must apologise: one of us (undoubtedly me) failed to switch off our mobile phone, so there are some not-very-loud-but-noticeable bursts of data noise at a few points during the recording.

Gareth Davis is a fascinating musician, his approach to performing—particularly with such unwieldy instruments—is unlike anyone else i’ve come across, and i’m immensely grateful to him for spending so much time with me to discuss his work. His website, with substantial information about him and his activities (plus a not insignificant page about coffee) is, and Discogs has a pretty complete summation of his recorded output. Some of his more recent albums have featured on the 5:4 Best of the Year lists—Memory Space in 2014, Gramercy and Terra Incognita in 2012—and to anyone unfamiliar with his output i really cannot recommend it highly enough (links to buy are included below). It is always surprisingly strange and deeply beautiful.

Here’s the list of excerpts, followed by the download link; alternatively, you can also stream the episode via MixCloud.

  • 00:00:05 Daniel Biro, Gareth Davis – a still, thin sound – Part II: Elijah (from a still, thin sound)
  • 00:12:58 Elliott Sharp – Foliage
  • 00:22:37 Elliott Sharp – Foliage
  • 00:33:16 Elliott Sharp – Foliage
  • 00:42:36 Gareth Davis & Machinefabriek – My Funny Valentine (from Jazz Standards Vol. 1)
  • 00:50:51 Johannes Schöllhorn – rota (from Clouds and Sky)
  • 01:02:56 Johannes Schöllhorn – a self-same-song (as above)
  • 01:11:37 Gareth Davis – Figueroa (from Nahuatl)
  • 01:16:59 Gareth Davis & Frances-Marie Uitti – Stained (from Gramercy)
  • 01:23:13 Gareth Davis & Steven R. Smith – Westering (from Westering)
  • 01:28:37 Martin Stig Andersen – Essential Tree Work (free download)
  • 01:33:16 Martin Stig Andersen – Rabbit at the Airport II (free download)
  • 01:42:37 Gareth Davis & Machinefabriek – Grower Part 2 (from Grower)
  • 01:53:18 Peter Ablinger – Parker Notch (from Parker Notch)
  • 02:02:56 Gareth Davis & Machinefabriek – Oh, Doctor Jesus (from Jazz Standards Vol. 1)

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Alan Munro

Great idea Simon. Really looking forward to this series. I wonder if Stabat Mater will be re visited!?

[…] 35-minute work combining electronic sound with bass clarinet, played by Gareth Davis. In my lengthy Dialogue with Davis, we discuss his collaborations with Andersen, and in the course of that discussion (which starts […]

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