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Questionnaire: Lucio Capece (2007)

1. Have you got any formal musical training, and what do you draw from it now?

Yes. I studied classical guitar for several years and the soprano saxophone and bass clarinet with several teachers. With the guitar I finished my studies in a public Conservatory in Argentina after 10 years. I also studied harmony and jazz improvisation . At some point I began to play saxophone, and finally I stopped playing the guitar as a main instrument. With the instruments that I play now (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone) I studied for several years the jazz approach to them and the basic classical technique, first in Argentina and later in France and USA. I just use the basic techniques that I learned, to produce sound of a good quality, and a few other things like circular breathing. Beyond this basic elements I do not use at all what I learned. The approach that I’ve had to the instruments since several years now, is self-taught I would say. I can say anyway that the relationship that you establish with an instrument after playing it for some time gives an unconscious approach that I find important.

2. What kind of equipment/instrument do you use, and what is you relationship towards it? What do you think lies behind your choice of the equipment/instrument?

I play the bass clarinet, the one until b-flat, and a curved soprano saxophone. I consider the instruments as objects that I’m discovering all the time, playing them as if I was the first sax player on earth. I prepare them with objects like ping pong balls, pieces of plastic bottles, stuff, water, I use coffee cans, a small violin bow and other objects in my playing. An special, simple technique that I’m using at the moment is allowing me to use the saxophone producing layers of simple ideas, a kind of a basic polyphonic soundscape. I’m very excited about it at the moment.
I play also an electronic set based on a mixer in feedback connected to a soprano saxophone, amplified with an inside microphone, also in feedback. The combination of both produces a loud and raw texture of noises and pitched sounds that I can work fingering the sax and modifying the parameters in the mixing console.

3. What is it that attracts you towards musical experimentation?

This approach is based somehow on an idea that became more clear as I was working the instrument through the years. Instead of considering the instrument as a tool to express myself I think it’s a way to understand the frame of the picture where we exist: Space and Time. Preparing them with objects establishes an approach with the objects that are around me everyday, they become a part of my instrumental set. Part of my space becomes with them a part of my instrumental set. These objects take the instrument out of its history as the instrument, and help me to create sounds inspired by the sound landscape where I live (mostly mechanical and electronic sounds). Time is what I work on in a live performance. I think that beyond our actions we are existing in a piece of eternity. I try not to pay attention to the actions and the stories that our actions build but to this piece of eternity. This changes the way I build the music. It’s not based on creating a story with a plot but on a perception of time. It is my wish to experiment in the performance a moment of contemplation of the characteristics of time, and not a pleasant moment based on the exposition of a good story. This is a personal research. I can enjoy people creating good stories and I do not consider my research better or more interesting, it is just what fascinates me. On the other hand I focus on working with detailed sounds and developing our capacity of perception and listening.

4. Why are you involved in improvisation, and how do you perceive it?

Honestly I got more involved in improvisation when I began to play noises. It began to not have sense to write them or to ask the musicians I was playing with, to try to find ways to write them. When you play noises the possibilities of rediscovering them and to take them to unexpected places in a live performance, is really strong. Playing with other people and in different spaces makes the instruments react in different ways. I think that more than trying to play my sounds correctly in each place I try to understand how they sound in each space and how they are modified by these spaces and by the presence of other musicians, and sounds. This experience is just fantastic.

5. How do you perceive the relation between planning and spontaneity in improvisation?

I have to say that very often I start with an idea, kind of a form of how I imagine that the things can be or how I wish them to be, according to how I’m feeling in the space and with the musicians I’m playing with. This form is always modified in the live performance and I have to play differently, and this is the best thing about it. Basically I think that there is always a paradigm. It is not true that we create from nothing. I think a lot about this and how not to play in an automatic, established way. To think about this form helps me a lot to concentrate and I enjoy loosening it at some point of the playing.

6. Do you “practise” for an improvisation, and what are your general thoughts on the idea of “practising” for improvisation?
When you improvise, do you use sounds that you’ve already “tried out”, and how much room is there for actual sound experimentation?

I practice my instruments. I have a basic technical routine that I try to play everyday and after doing it I just try to work with the sounds and discover new possibilities. I do not practice improvising, mainly I do not do it alone. I play with other improvisers in ad hoc meetings and occasional meetings with musicians I play with in stable projects, but not so much. Just a few times. I prefer to surprise myself not working too much together. I think that it is good to play with sounds that you have already tried out, and worked on. Gives you a deeper idea of how they work, and to work on them when you practice gives you some intuition on how to modify them, how to try them as a living element. Then it will be different when you play live. I think that what you work on when you work on these sounds is your capacity to work on them live. I think that what you work on when you work on these sounds is your capacity to work on them live. We do not only work with sound in a live performance, there are many other elements (form, development of language, interaction of ideas, density, etc), and I do not think that these elements become less alive if you have worked your sounds before, but the contrary. If the sounds are rich and interesting, and are played in an alive way but not as a catalogue, the sounds stimulate yourself and the musicians that play with you, and create enjoyable music.

7. How do you evaluate an improvisation? What is it, according to you, that makes one improvisation better than another?

Like with any other music, I try not to have an aesthetic approach when I listen to someone. I have my taste, but the most important is how intense, deep and true is what is happening when someone plays. Even if it’s banal music or if its badly played. Improvisation is my choice and the choice of several musicians that I like to hear. But I do not consider improvised music better than any other one. This depends on the choices of the musician who is doing the music, and how deep in these choices this musician is involved.
I enjoy listening to musicians that take risks when they perform, musicians that play music that is alive, taking the gig to a place where you feel that something is not working in the already known way but it’s interesting. In improvised music itself, sometimes I get disappointed in some concerts by the end of which people say “it worked”. Very often the improv audience says this about sets that were typical improv sets. I’m not interested in improvisation as a language, and I do not consider a good gig the one that fits into the predictable language that improvisation has in some way become. I appreciate it when musicians give up an already built up and successful language going for something else. I enjoy listening to people “cooking” ideas, rediscovering and redefining the practice of music.

8. When you are recording for a release, does the awareness of being recorded influence your playing, and in what way?

It affects me in some way. Like when you play in a different place, or in different conditions. As much as that, no more than that.