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Dave Knott
Natura naturans

in 1997, Dave proposed an 'installation' in the then store and performance space incarnation of Anomalous Records. his proposal was to mount various discarded strings (not just from guitars, but other instruments) onto scrap board, and then mount those onto the wall above the entry staircase. the strings themselves were often permanently prepared, and with the wall itself (or the banister in the case one) acting as a resonator, they produced a surprising diversity of sounds, much beyond their simple appearance. many people trying them or hearing them played were surprised to hear tones like gongs and cymbals, along with others that sounded more like plunked instruments, albeit with a different bent. as they were in an unusual
location that people didn't often use, the stringboards were free to stay up for longer than most things, and over the six months or so that they were up, Dave altered and added to them (sometimes using things like rocks from the parking lot, sticks, door knobs, etc.). plucked, strung and bowed by random visitors, they were used to full effect during Jeph Jerman's weekly improvisations with Aaron Wintersong, which Dave was soon a regular member of. being as they had become a part of the environment for so long (Dave even installed one in the bathroom in the end), we decided it would be wise to document them before Anomalous left the space, especially as Dave had decided to auction them off at the last show. so, Dave and I spent an afternoon close mic'ing (no contact mics here, these needed to sing through the air around them) each stringboard in succession. the playing varied much between very gentle playing letting the notes decay to cacophony of
strings assaulted, though did seem to lean overall more towards the calmer side of things. through Dave remained aware of his surrounding, the environment for so many past performances, and actually played along with many ambient elements such as noises coming from the dry cleaner below and the sounds of the street outside, which you can hear on this disc if you listen very closely or turn it up very loud. the resulting 90 minutes we recorded lay for a while, but was in the end painstakingly listened and re-listened to by Dave and edited down to this CD. in the listening back, Dave made many mental notes and associations with all the sounds, which we preserved by marking several tracks with many index points (a feature very few CDs seem to use) and giving each of those a title. the package is completed by liner notes from Jeph Jerman and Dave, photos of the stringboards, and a beautiful full color painting made for the project by Russell W. Gordon.

from Dave's liner notes:
At a woodshop I was renting I had been messing with attaching strings to collected throwaway(found) pieces of plywood. I had a collection of used strings of many types: guitar, bass guitar, cello, violin, dulcimer, harp, piano, along with some types of raw wire including brass and nylon monofilament. I had heard Ellen Fullman's Long String Instrument and wanted to experiment with making strings in long lengths. I enjoyed using two strings to make a longer combined length and found the results to be shimmering. My woodshop mate Peter Bonnell and I were bathed in this new sound unleashed - gongs or distant cymbals. Some kind of defiance of visual representation - a piece of used plywood with some strings across it. What an anomaly!


Even before the sessions, Eric Lanzillotta had asked me about making an installation with the boards, but I was no artist. Installation. Just the word would still a creative in the floodlight of expectation. This doe eyed doer needed a push. We agreed that I could put the boards up as I made them and this made the whole project seem possible. I began by installing a couple of the stringboards directly onto the wall making the entire wall a secondary resonator. While the wall changed shape weekly, flaunting a broken window frame with broken window and strings or some other momentarily invented musical object each week along with a perpetual recomposition of stringboards, the final installation consisted mostly of ~10 stringboards ranging in size from 1 to 8 feet in length with an additional two
stringboards in the bathroom for potty play.

The stringboards were great fun for both myself and for others who came to the Anomalous space. Their somewhat dirty (rustic) appearance and illusory sound compels even the mildly curious to give it a pluck. I can't stress how meaningful the whole experience was for me - during and after. Getting a glimpse of a music making not founded on "what we can make of this" was nothing short of enduring inspiration for not just those people, that place, that time, but all; it refreshed my appreciation for playing/living/loving. American philosopher Suzanne Langer talks about an exclamatory music, a music that comes from within and is essentially different than "discursive" music - our tradition of music. Whatever the name, this constellation of musical experience sent me to Willamette University to study music therapy and gave me practical ideas for projects working with homeless and at-risk youth in both Seattle, WA and Salem, OR (Sonic Tools).

from The Wire:
Now here's a find: Knott was first introduced to fellow improvisor Jeph Jerman as a 'guitarist', which wasn't entirely misleading, since his homemade instruments did at least occasionally use guitar strings. But these unpretentious slabs of wood have a frank physicality and grounding in space that the guitar lacks, and this record of Knott's solo improvisations offers a highly personal vision. Plucked, tapped, struck, bowed, rubbed, teased, it's easy to hear the unaffected thrill of invention and discovery as Knott pulls formless, unpretty pings and shimmers from the stringboards. Natura Naturans is a motley, playful encyclopedia of strung-out tension, ranging from jittery rhythm through to soft, washed out, glinting tones. At once ugly and beautiful, the music is always open, unpredictable and rather
marvellous.

from the Improvisor:


"A CD of one man improvising on his self-designed and built instruments.
Stringboards are essentially hunks of cast-off wood with tuning pegs and guitar strings attached. That description does not prepare one for what they sound like though. Distant bells, odd filings and ratchetings, electrical sounding buzzes, (these are acoustic instruments), giant out-of-tune dulcimers, prepared guitars, warped blues records...all these and more are conjured from these simple devices at the hands of Mr. Knott.

The improvisations range from short sound explorations to longer structurings and build-ups of sound-mass. There is often a rise and fall, or start and stop approach, using not playing as much as playing. The sounds of the space where the recordings took place, (the old anomalous records space in Seattle Washington), can also be heard occasionally. Oddly enough, traffic sounds seem to fit right in, and some banging from the shop next door works as well.

The titles of the pieces give clues to what may have been going through Dave's mind while he was making this recording, and index numbers will help you with what's what. (I believe this is the first time I've ever seen this feature on a CD). I listen to this disc often, and coming from me, that's high praise indeed. "

from Avant magazine (England):

Peter Uhr: Fire Symphony Firework Edition Records FER 1013 (2 CDs)

Dave Knott: Natura Naturans Anomalous NOT 1

All music is made for a purpose, even if the purpose is only naked self-aggrandisement or to gain a fast buck. Neither of these base motivations apply to Peter Uhr. Nor, in the traditional sense of composer, can Uhr be said to have 'made' the Fire Symphony. True, he set fire to a piano, and out of the twisted remains he cast a 'tone bowl' in which, during the third movement, a wooden ball is rotated, and from which, on 'Road Piece', a hieratic tolling approximates "the sound mass of the galaxies". On 'Ninth Bridge' he also directs musicians and non-musicians (distinctions that are all but meaningless in circumstances such as these) to improvise on a grand piano with "mallets and palms with an aim to create resonances in a presumed Satie atmosphere". Development within the pieces is almost non-existent, and sequencing and continuity are enigmatic. No matter. If music is fundamentally about time and how it is dealt with, the Fire Symphony is all music. Whether it's music you'll want to listen to on a regular basis is quite another matter. The longest movements, 'Ro/White Peace' and 'Sea Song', are either untouched or lightly edited field recordings. The former was made on a small island at night: stray radio waves, distant road noise, passing voices, the background hum and crackle of the universe. It lasts for 48 minutes. The latter is comprised of surf crashing onto a beach and slithering across shingle - or, rather, a crackly vinyl recording thereof. Uhr describes it rather fetchingly: "A remix of a former vinyl audiotrack from late hippie era with promised mental consequences for the listener." Trying to avoid mental consequences during the track's 31-minute span would defeat anyone who isn't certifiably brain dead or a Qi Gong master. Each track is, depending on the mood of the listener, fascinating and/or intensely irritating (boredom is swiftly bypassed). Some of the other movements - 'White Waltz' and 'Broa' - are considerably briefer, more structured, and involve at least a modicum of player technique on one or more standard instruments. But that doesn't necessarily make them musically more interesting. The conceptual nature and thingness of the Fire Symphony are its raison d'être. The CDs are housed in a slightly greasy, nubbly transparent wallet, complete with explanatory notes and an illustration of the tone bowl and its beater: an aesthetically pleasing package. The music is a bonus. Dave Knott builds stringboards (five of which are pictured on the jewel case insert) from cast-off pieces of wood and various strings and grades of wire. These he amplifies and doctors in a number of ways to produce unusual sonorities and tunings which guide his improvisations. He also plays daxophone, but that's about as near as he comes to its inventor, Hans Reichel. Knott's music is appropriately knottier, more unpredictable, and (this is not a criticism) far less superficially attractive than that of his German colleague. He's developed specific playing techniques to make his stringboards sing, but virtuosity on
these instruments isn't really an option. The pieces on Natura Naturans were recorded during an afternoon session at Anomalous. When street noise and sounds from neighboring apartments enter the performance space, Knott incorporates them into his improvisations. Following the recording session, the stringboards were auctioned. Avarice obviously isn't one of Knott's vices: six of his 12 instruments were sold for a grand total of $40. Drones and gonglike sounds predominate, but there are percussive sounds, scratchy sounds, slithery aeolian melodies, and enough noise and disruption to temper the leanings towards unconscionable beauty. Continuity is often pursued texturally, and melody is considerably downplayed. Knott's music is interesting, even (perhaps inadvertently) entertaining. Natura Naturans is a long CD of short moments: with the CD player set on random play, fascinating sequences of events unfold. Though Knott is not a guitarist per se, if you enjoy the string-work of Hans Reichel, Derek Bailey and Keith Rowe, he may be just your plate of plectrums. (Brian Marley)

Cat.# :: Composer(s)
21088
:: Yiorgis Sakellariou
21085
:: Tom Hamilton
21084
:: David First
21083
:: Tomomi Adachi / Jaap Blonk / Owen F. Smith / Duane Ingalls
21082
:: Marta Sainz &
If, Bwana
21081 :: Aliona Yurtsevich
21080
:: If, Bwana
21079
:: Ulrich Krieger
21078
:: Triple Point
21077
:: Robin Hayward
21076
:: Ron Nagorcka
21075
:: Secluded Bronte
21074
:: David Rosenboom
21073
:: Peter Batchelor
21072 :: Alvin Lucier
21071 :: Lou Cohen
21070 :: Brian Chase
21069 :: Jerry Hunt
21068 :: If, Bwana
21067 :: Jorge Antunes
21066 :: Enzo Minarelli
21065 :: Tensions At The Vanguard
21064 :: Frances White
21063 :: Noah Creshevsky
21062 :: If,Bwana/Trio Scordatura
21061 :: Nate Wooley
21060 :: Leo Kupper
21059 :: Pauline Oliveros/ Francisco López/Doug Van Nort/Jonas Braasch
21058 :: Philip Corner
21057 :: Alvin Lucier
21056 :: Dimitri Voudouris
21055 :: Birds + Machines
21054 :: Kiva
21053 :: César Bolaños
21052 :: Lionel Marchetti & Olivier Capparos
21051 :: Tom Hamilton/
Bruce Eisenbeil
21050 :: Source Records 1-6
21049 :: Noah Creshevsky/ If,Bwana
21048 :: Simon Wickham-Smith
21047 :: Kenneth Gaburo
21046 :: If, Bwana (Al Margolis)
21045 :: Annea Lockwood
21044 :: Felix Werder
21043 :: Dimitri Voudouris
21042 :: Nick Didkovsky
21041 :: Montreal Sound Matter
21040 :: Anla Courtis
21039 :: Crawling with Tarts
21038 :: If, Bwana (Al Margolis)
21037 :: Hans Otte
21036 :: DIY Canons
21035 :: Band/Myers
21034 :: Chris Brown
21033 :: Tom Johnson
21032 :: Roger Reynolds
21031 :: Trios - Collaboration
21030 :: Beth Anderson
21029 :: Hamilton, Silverton, Margolis
21028 :: Warren Burt
21027 :: Jorge Antunes
21026 :: David Dunn
21025 :: Roger Reynolds
21024 :: If, Bwana (Al Margolis)
21023 :: Pauline Oliveros
21022 :: David Rosenboom
21021 :: Ross Bolleter
21020 :: Kenneth Gaburo
21019 :: If, Bwana (Al Margolis)
21018 :: Leo Kupper
21017 :: Robert Rutman
21016 :: Matthew Ostrowski
21015 :: various
21014 :: Rune Linblad
21013 :: If, Bwana (Al Margolis)
21012 :: Pauline Oliveros
21011 :: Rune Linblad
21010 :: If, Bwana (Al Margolis)
21009 :: Leo Kupper
21008 :: various
21007 :: If, Bwana (Al Margolis)
21006 :: Trigger
21005 :: Big City Orchestra
IB :: If,Bwana
FPM :: Frog Peak Music
CUE :: C.U.E. Records
SOP :: Sound of Pig Cassettes
ANTS :: Ants (Italian Label)
ANIMUL :: Ned Rothenberg
HOMLER :: Anna Homler
OAKSMUS :: oaksmus (German Label)
GD STEREO :: Geoff Dugan
ANOMALOUS :: Anomalous Records
NONSEQUITUR :: Nonsequitur
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