Improvised Music at Homewood Studios — The Musicians

Stefan Kac

How did you find your way to making this kind of music?  i.e. not only who were your influences, but what other aspects of thinking about the role of art in your life came into play?

I was first introduced to the concept of improvisation when I began to develop an interest in jazz. I've never stopped playing jazz, but it has also led me down a number of other interesting paths, this being one of them. Of course, in the 1960's, jazz musicians developed their own "free jazz" idiom, but I actually began playing improvised music with very little knowledge of this (or any other) improvised music tradition, which means that so far, my most important influences have been the other musicians I have worked with.

What is it you feel distinguishes improvised music from other forms of music?

Obviously, for the creators, the process is different, but as a listener, I've never felt that I needed to approach this music all that differently from anything else. I once read a statement that most improvised music can’t compete with the very best notated music for quality. Talk about stacking the deck! Comparing only the very best of one with the cumulative content of the other is a skewed way of thinking about it. The improvised music I play deals with melody, harmony, rhythm, form, and so on; it's just that there are different possibilities available, and that once a choice is made, there's no opportunity for revision.  It's a high-risk, high-reward proposition, and one where the possibilities are not necessarily better or worse, just different.

Is there a particular BIG question you are investigating with your music?

Colloquially, we tend to refer to "understanding" a given piece of music, but is that really the right way to put it? I think that term is a remnant of past eras where a common practice prevailed to such a great extent that there was not only a correct way to make music, but consequently a correct way to listen to it also. Rather than educating diverse perspectives into conformity, I think we ought to embrace them all and allow the music to speak for itself "as music" to each individual listener, even if that means (as it does for me and my ilk) that the audience is often small.  By calling it "understanding," a hierarchy is created by which one can supposedly objectively identify those who "get it" and those who don't. That, to me, is not how music should work; the alternative is a bit nihilistic ("let the chips fall where they may"), but also more honest.

How do you want audience members to listen when you perform?

Be detail-oriented listeners, but don't try to find anything in the music that is not there.

My personal website is http://www.stefankac.com. I also have a blog (where one can find even more  philosophical rambling) located at http://fickleears.blogspot.com.