FEATURE: Binker Golding writes... (second Binker & Moses album just recorded)

Binker Golding. Photo credit: Sam Mardon

Saxophonist BINKER GOLDING and drummer Moses Boyd are a multi-award-winning saxophone-and-drums duo from London. Their first album, ‘Dem Ones’ on Gearbox Records, put them on the map, and they have just recorded an eagerly-anticipated second album, for release next year.

We asked Binker Golding to write about the experience of making that new recording. He has gone right back to basics, and de-constructed the acts of recording, of listening to recordings, and of writing about music. Here are some personal reflections:


“IS THIS HIS SHIT?”

(or “Playing with words [notes] and structure for no apparent reason”)

by Binker Golding – 17.08.16

The editor of LondonJazz News has asked this of me:

“...if you wanted to write about what the experience of recording the second album (‘Binker & Moses’) was like – while those thoughts are still fresh – I would be very privileged indeed to publish it.”

This was approximately three weeks ago. My thoughts on these recording sessions are almost as fresh now as they were then; but despite having the greatest interest and enthusiasm for undertaking the task in a very practical fashion (for example, “The music sounds like this”, “We asked him and her to be on the album”), I have decided not to take that approach and have done this instead.

I would prefer not to do what editors [record-labels] would usually expect someone to do in this position, tempting as it is. That has been done to death and I question just how much the reader [listener] benefits from this, and also how much interest they would really take in reading [listening to] such an article [album]. Not that I don’t have faith in editors’ [record labels’] judgement – I simply have more faith in mine. But I’ll attempt to fulfil the request by doing the opposite of what I presume the editor [record label] expects. However, there’s a great chance the editor [record label] and you, the reader [listener], will read [listen to] the article [album] and respond by raising an eyebrow and saying “IS THIS HIS SHIT?”

If you change the words ‘editors’ to ‘record labels’, ‘reader’ to ‘listener’, ‘reading’ to ‘listening’ and ‘article’ to ‘album’ in the above paragraph, it will explain the philosophy of the making of the album itself. Now that the ‘Binker & Moses’ philosophical outlook to creating albums has been dealt with, I’ll move on to attempting to tackle the heart of the request, which is dealing with the experience of making this recording.

“Sonate, que me veux-tu?”
“Sonata, what do you want of me?”
or
“Sonata, what do you ask of me?”
and sometimes
“Sonata, what do you mean to me?”

Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (1657-1757)
(winner of the pretentious European names award – French division)

This infamous statement of his most likely occurred in the 1740s. He was trying to draw our attention to what he saw as the lack of meaning in music without words.

(“Nobody’s known what the f*** James has been saying for years” – Eddie Murphy – ‘Raw’)

Europeans generally looked down their noses or didn’t take music without words seriously until about the middle of Beethoven’s lifetime – so around 1800ish. Most people I come across still find it slightly harder to process music without words than music with (one exception is dance music). Most would even prefer to have the most nonsensical words making up nonsense than none at all. To most people, verbal-nonsense-music makes more sense than music without words altogether. Wagner’s librettos, trap music and James Brown are all proof of this. So what is the experience of making a recording of music with no words when you’re aware that most people will find it harder to process? You can probably answer this yourself.

To some extent, most people are like Bart Simpson. As if music devoid of words wasn’t already difficult to follow, said music becomes even more difficult to follow if improvisation is at its core. Loosely speaking, it’s because improvisation lacks overt, blatant, repeating melodic statements or motifs and development contained in most music; improvisations seem to possess less of a recognisable continuity, frequently described as narrative. Often, commonly recognisable musical [literary] objects seem to come in an incorrect order and it can be disorientating to a listener [reader] unless one follows a recording/ performance [piece of writing] to its natural conclusion. Disorientation and confusion can be injected in very subtle ways to music [text]. For example, the letter ‘h’ is absent from my last nine lines of text. You didn't notice it during a first reading, but possibly noticed a disorientating effect due to an extremely subtle alteration in writing style. You noted ‘said music’ as a peculiar option. ‘Said letter’ is still absent, even now as you read. None of it ever contained ‘said letter’ at any point. Now you’re intrigued to look for mistakes.

(“Ahhh, cartoons. America’s only native art form. I don’t count jazz because it sucks” – Bart Simpson)

“All

Media

Are

Extensions

Of

Some

Human

Faculty –

Psychic

Or

Physical.

The wheel,

...is an extension of the foot.

The book,

...is an extension of the eye...

Clothing,

An extension of the skin...

Electric circuitry,

An extension of the central nervous system.

Media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perceptions. The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act – the way we perceive the world.

When

These

Ratios

Change,

Men change.”

“The medium is the massage” {sic}

by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore

Music these days is mostly communicated through recorded mediums (as opposed to live performance, public or domestic). Therefore, musicians are forced to alter their art in order to fit the medium. This process alters the way artists working in the medium of music think. They end up making music for a device rather than for the endless mat of silence provided by the concert hall and attentive listeners. What is the experience of recording onto a restrictive piece of media? You can probably answer this yourself.

BG: “So I’ve explained to you this “novelty”, as you put it, of recording. What are your first impressions of it?”

LvB: “I usually have a strong opinion on everything, and I do on this; I’m not in favour of it.”

BG: “Why?”

LvB: “What? Speak up.”

BG: “WHY!”

LvB: “There is one simple reason for my disdain – the restrictions imposed on the music by the recording itself. With a score, a piece can be as long as one wishes. With these recordings onto.... what was the material you said it was made out of?”

BG: “Vinyl.”

LvB: “Yes, vinyl. You have a tremendous time limit. The whole thing is over in around 45 minutes, which is too restrictive. So you see, this invention of recording [writing] is, in many ways, a step backwards. It’s neither realistic nor honest. A score and live performance is far less restrictive.”

BG: “Please expand upon this.”

LvB: “It seems to me that, around ninety or so years after my death, there have been a number of developments in the preservation of sound. But none of them seem to be true, or honest. For example, the first recording devices were very limited in capability, in regards to both how long they could record for and the sound quality with which they played back. Both of these qualities, which were negative in the case of this device, distorted the way the listener perceived the music. Then came recording media, which could contain more recorded sound at a better quality. But these, too, had their drawbacks – time restriction and ‘sides’. The side of a vinyl or cassette alters the way the listener perceives the music as it imposes its own type of binary form on the recording. The artist has to either ignore it or work with it. So it either influences the artist or the listener in a way that wouldn’t initially have been intended. Then comes the CD, which is my personal favourite, as only the time restriction is present. Then the download, or digital, which in theory is the greatest, as it has no time restriction or ‘sides’. But what has happened to the people of the age? They ‘skip’ tracks, as you call it, because they are so used to interacting with the world around them, thus changing it. They skip to the bottom of articles, halfway through, to look at the ‘comments’ box. They chop and change the way the art was conceived by the composer [writer], thus destroying the whole experience. The live performance [spoken word] is the only true medium for music [communication]. The others all lack purity in one way or another and alter the way listeners’ [readers’] minds function over time. In the case of digital, the possibility of the listener [reader] interacting with the recording [article] changes the listener's [reader's] approach to listening [reading] and the work is altered.

A recording is a type of media and, therefore, recordings are some kind of extension of a human faculty. It’s an extension of the ear. The ear and memory work together to remember and store sounds in the brain. A recording is an extension of this process, as it stores the sounds precisely and doesn’t forget them.

What is your experience of me making an extension to you, the listener’s [reader’s] ear [eye] and memory [mind]? You can probably answer this yourself. This is why there is a ‘comments’ section below practically everything in the current age. By writing in it, you will change how others perceive this article and, thus, change the article. When one makes a recording, for better or worse you change the way the listener perceives sound to a minute degree. This is the experience. Or, is this the experience? Or, IS THIS HIS SHIT?

o - o - o - o

In the period since the release of their debut LP, Dem Ones, Binker Golding’s duo with Moses Boyd has received a MOBO Award, two JazzFM Awards and a Parliamentary Jazz Award.

Binker and Moses are support for The Bad Plus for four November dates:

Monday 7 November – Colston Hall, Bristol
Tuesday 8 November – Sage Gateshead
Saturday 12 November – Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds
Sunday 13 November – Scala, London


LINK: Binker Golding's website

3 comments:

  1. Great piece Binker, you and Moses have made a wonderful record and we're all very excited about it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great recording [article] - I hope that this comment doesn't alter the experience too much though, it was enjoyable enough as it was.
    The Whale

    ReplyDelete
  3. excellent piece – fresh and itchy.

    very good to see the mcluhan quotation. i do mean see as well as read.

    and the crossings out.

    ReplyDelete