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Interview with Secret Orchestra

October 15, 2010

Secret Orchestra is Clif Jackson, Yuko Fujiyama, and David Gould.  The group enjoys a wide spectrum of musical space to play in and their varied backgrounds create a strong dynamic. The overall musical aesthetic is grounded in a sense of direction and an exploration of colors, textures, silence, and rhythmic and melodic structures.  On October 15 at Roulette, Secret Orchestra presents spontaneous compositions and original compositions by Clif Jackson and Yuko Fujiyama.

ROULETTE: Tell us as about the work you’ll be doing at Roulette.
SECRET ORCHESTRA (Clif): Dave and I had been playing together and met in the East 3rd St. Ensemble, which is a workshop he started with Sabir Mateen and a few others about 13 years ago. I came in sometime in 2005. Sometime in 2007 Dave and I were the rhythm section for one of Sabir Mateen’s big bands. Sabir had also added Yuko to the mix that night and we opened our set as a trio. After about 2 minutes of playing together it was clear, to me at least, that there was a connection between us. The rest of that show was really great! After that, we tried our own mid-size ensemble with a few of the other great players in town. It was good, but didn’t gel. So at that point, I felt like we should just be a trio because that’s how we originally connected.  Since then, we’ve been rehearsing regularly and working on a variety of original material. Our main area of interest seems to be space and silence.  There’s something about music that enables people to express a very gentle and sensitive side of humanity, which often gets lost in the modern world.  We like that space and feel it is our muse, directing us into different places. We really have a strong sense of this and whatever we play must  respect and stay true to this idea, otherwise we feel that our music can become unnatural.

ROULETTE: Are there working artists today with whose work you identify, or rather, who do you consider to be your peers?
SO:  (Dave) – Paul Bley Trio, Gerry Hemingway, AACM. (Yuko) – Marylin Crispel, Leo Smith. (Clif) – not in any order, William Parker, Stereolab, Nurse with Wound, J.G. Thirwell, Philip Glass, Zakir Hussain, Bill Laswell, Roy Campbell, Jr., AACM, Sun Ra, and many others.

ROULETTE: What are some defining characteristics of the musical scene you would fit yourself into? What elements of your scene differentiate it from what has come before, or what is happening now?
SO: (D) Some defining characteristics would be interaction, improvisation, attention to material. The line between increased desire for clarity and the opportunity to take liberties is an increasingly fine one. (Y) Defining characteristics: improvisation from composition and free improvisation. (C) I agree with Dave and Yuko and would add that there’s also an as yet unexpressed drive towards new ways of thinking about rhythmic and melodic structures that, while structured, can be played in an improvisational and yet, compositional manner.

ROULETTE: What was the last music you listened to?
SO: (D) Paul Bley and a Rembetika Sampler. (Y) Glen Gould. (C) The Smiths, Diga Rhythm Band

ROULETTE: What is music?
SO:  (Y) It’s a soul saver. (D) Music is a record of one’s responses to life. It’s a way of playing with aesthetics, extrapolating them into philosophies and then back into music. (C) Music is something that is natural for all human beings. So, for me, it is something sacred and provides a means for me to interact with people on a very human and intimate level. When both the performer(s) and audience is aware of this, beautiful things can happen and we can transcend the physical world.

ROULETTE: Do you consider yourself more a composer or a performer?
SO: (C) I think we’re all composing performers in our own ways. We enjoy
performing our compositions.

ROULETTE: Is there an event or experience that led you to start in experimental media?
SO: (Y) – Cecil Taylor. (D) John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Edgar Varese. (C) All of the above, however, there was no one single event, but a series of events over a long period of time that influenced me this way. From groups like Throbbing Gristle and Crass at age 10 to Dvorak, Sun Ra, indigenous music, Zoviet France and Nurse with Wound in my later teens, and then AACM, Messian, Berge, Zappa and on…

ROULETTE: Who do you see as instrumental in your development as an artist?
SO:  (D) Aside from film, books, etc… perhaps Sunny Murray, Rashied Ali, African and Balinese music. (Y) Beethoven, Bill Holiday, Goro Yamaguchi (shakuhachi). (C) I can’t really point to any one person because I’ve had a lifetime of artistic endeavor, a supportive family, mentoring by some of the worlds most incredible musicians and a very culturally rich ethnic background. I would say that time is most instrumental in my development. It’s almost like wine, or the lotus flower. For me, it’s only now, really, that I feel like I can start expressing my experience of life with all of it’s joyous inspirations and crushing disappointments.

ROULETTE: What is interesting to you about your own work?
SO: We generally really like each others compositions and find certain musical sensibilities about each other interesting. We mix up our roles a little. For example, Dave doesn’t always play time. He can play in ways that accompanies the rest of the group rather than drives them. We’re also not a traditional “piano trio”. Although Yuko plays the leads on a lot of pieces, in the end our aesthetic is geared more towards ensemble playing. The solos taken can sometimes be part of the structure or can be free-floating over the other parts. A piano trio format would be too limiting for us and would make it difficult for us to explore such delicate spaces. We are really interested in our sense of space and timing (placement), attack and volume, and spontaneous composition.

ROULETTE: Do you do other things aside from music?
SO:  (Y) Reading and painting. (C) Web programming, skateboarding, reading. (D) Art, reading, writing.

ROULETTE: Other thoughts?
SO: Thank you Roulette!

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