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There is a subtle aura of shadow and light surrounding the recording session for #entrainments, caused by the extenuating circumstances around the project. The plans for the tour and recording session had been set in early 2017, but the project was almost completely derailed that summer by the cognitive and neurological complications surrounding the discovery of a new brain tumor and my subsequent brain surgery operation in July 2017. After that surgery I developed a condition called Aphasia, which is common with people who’ve had a stroke. With therapy I was able to recover the ability to speak and write my name (though I still struggle with word recall deficit, a slight stutter, and difficulty concentrating).
To have been able to continue with my plans to travel by myself to Europe to record and tour with my old friends Angelika Niescier and Nathan Bontrager, together with one of my oldest musical influences, drummer Gerry Hemingway, just a few months after this difficult experience was a phenomenal recovery. Many plans for the recording session had to be adapted in order to proceed, and between my (benign) brain tumor ordeal and the global pandemic occasioned by COVID-19, it is a major triumph for this project to now find its realization in this form. I owe eternal gratitude to those who supported me during that period.
Moreover, this recording serves not only as an arrival point, but as a point of departure, because these works also serve as the first major statement on a new compositional system called #entrainments. Bringing influences from the AACM and the New York and European jazz and improvised music scenes together with concepts from conceptual art and literature worlds associated with Fluxus, Marcel Duchamp, Lorna Simpson, David Hammons, Charles Gaines, Anne Waldman, William Burroughs, and William Kentridge, the #entrainments series deals with musical form in ways that can be restructured in live performance.
Disparate components of the composed and improvised materials are now disassembled, becoming available for recall at various points in a live performance, revealing a continuous interplay between structure and intuition. There is a limited set of hand gestures and cues borrowed or adapted from some of the innovations of late-20th-century improvised music practices associated with Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris, John Zorn, Walter Thompson, and the focus on mindfulness presented by Pauline Oliveros’s Sonic Meditations and Deep Listening practices.
These cues enable real-time restructuring of the composed materials and improvisation strategies. Melodies may appear primarily as supportive material, while the “metadata” of creative expression may become the focal point. The titles of all works in this series are presented as hashtags, highlighting the indexical and interchangeable aspects of the system. By redirecting strategies around “big data,” the #entrainments series reclaims systems that were designed to control and subjugate. There is an urgency about this continuous interpenetration of structure, intuition, patience, and mindfulness: as a species, humans are in the process of adapting to the relatively new challenges and opportunities presented by the linguistics of our encoded anthropocene (the period of time during which human activities have impacted the environment enough to constitute a distinct geological change). Entrainment is about aligning one’s thinking and behavior within existing systems. The survival of the creative spirit and the survival of free will are in this way inextricably linked.
released April 23, 2023
Angelika Niescier - alto saxophone
Nathan Bontrager - cello
James Ilgenfritz - contrabass, compositions
Gerry Hemingway - drums
Recorded by Christian Heck at Loft Koeln
Mixed by James Ilgenfritz
Mastered by Elliott Sharp at Studio zOaR
Graphic Design by Dustin Krcatovich / Golden Feelings
Photography by James Ilgenfritz
© 2023 James Ilgenfritz / Mountain of Signs (ASCAP)
all rights reserved