Experimental Electro-Acoustic Jazz, Ambient, Drone, Noise



Collin Sherman

String Planes



 Released May 10, 2024

Compact Disc and Digital Download


“Slipping Through the String Plane” is a two-part piece inspired by the work of Tony Conrad.  Conrad was a violinist and composer known for minimalist drone works typically using the tuning system known as “just intonation”.  Virtually all Western music uses the equal temperament tuning method, where the interval between octaves is divided equally into 12 parts, so that the interval between each note is equal, and which creates mathematically irrational ratios between notes.  Just intonation uses whole number ratios to establish the intervals between each note.  The resulting scales depart from equal temperament tuning and thus sound unusual to Western ears, with certain ratios creating intervals that fall on quarter tones, sixth tones, fifth tones, etc., depending on the interval. 


Although inspired by Conrad’s work, “Slipping Through the String Plane” deviates from his approach in at least two important ways. First, I do not use just intonation. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to perform using just intonation on woodwind instruments, which are built specifically to utilize equal temperament tuning.  Even the string instruments I use, which all have frets, are built around the concept of equal temperament.  Second, whereas Conrad’s works were largely focused on the drones he played on the violin, “Slipping Through the String Plane” features the alto saxophone soloing over the top of four layers of string drones. The addition of a soloing instrument substantially changes the focus of the pieces to the saxophone.  I attempt to approximate Conrad’s style by using odd, unexpected intervals on the bowed string instruments. 


On Part 1: I use four layers of bowed string parts - two of the 4-string box guitar with cello strings, and two of the electric cello, all playing different intervals.  The two box guitar parts also use slightly different tunings. I use a bit of distortion on the bowed cello, which provides some nice harmonics.  Then there is a metronomic thump of the plucked root note (F) on the cello.  I use the alto sax to solo over to top of this drone, and also add oboe for some long tones.  


On Part 2: I again use four bowed string parts.  The first noticeable difference is that the plucked root note of the cello is played in double time.  After the first couple minutes, I also allow myself to stray from the single-note refrain, and wander out to play some other short riffs and fills.  A ride cymbal is also added (no other percussion is used).  The combination of the double time cello plus the ride cymbal makes the piece feel livelier than the first part, and the sax solo (and eventually the oboe) are faster and more dynamic in response.  


“Desert Resurrection” closes the first half of the album, featuring only electric guitar and alto saxophone.  I recorded the guitar part first, using a twangy, treble-heavy tone along with generous vibrato and a little distortion.  The guitar part is freely improvised with no repeating structure, which provides a nice organic arc to the piece as a whole. I then added alto sax, improvising over what I had recorded with the guitar. 


“Pulsebow” uses harmonies played on the 4-string box guitar (with cello strings) achieved by banging the strings with the bow and letting the resulting tones ring out.  (A similar technique was commonly used by another New York minimalist composer, Arnold Dreyblatt, who used it on a double bass strung with piano wire.)  Four layers of this are used in the piece, where each layer features a bow strike on a different beat of the measure.  The four layers are then arranged in different parts of the stereo field.  I also use a shruti box for some additional harmonic layering, and overlap improvisations on the alto sax and Bb clarinet. 


“Crisis Walk” uses similar instrumentation to “Slipping Through the String Plane”, although to more frenetic effect.  I again use two layers of 4-string bowed box guitar, two layers of electric cello, alto saxophone and oboe.  I add some hand percussion (a hand drum and egg shaker) for extra energy, and some analog synth drones buried low in the mix. As the piece goes on, the saxophone becomes increasingly unhinged, and I use a lot of overblowing to wring out some added harmonics and high tones. 


“In Limine Fortunae” closes the album, and again uses the vibrato-laden electric guitar as an anchor.  Alto saxophone is still the primary solo instrument, but I also add harmony parts using Bb clarinet and bass clarinet. 


I hope that the relative symmetry of the album halves creates a coherent and enjoyable experience for the listener.  I also hope that the fusion of minimalism and jazz influences found on this album, while not a new concept in and of itself, aids the listener’s thoughts on the deconstruction of genre and on how to create and combine sounds outside hegemonically reinforced, market-driven stereotypes.


For more information, promo requests, or to set up an interview, please contact Collin Sherman.