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15 Questions to Jair-Rôhm Parker Wells

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you?
I'm wonderful. Happy new year!

Where are you?
I'm in Stockholm working on new productions in both my personal studio and at SAMI here. Andreas is somewhere in Ulm being enterprising.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Well, besides working to promote my latest Klanggold release "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (AMDG)" we have just finished mastering "3 Banditos" which is a trio improvisation that i did with Tobias Schmitt and Tomislav Bucalic in Frankfurt last year. This is slated for release on Klanggold in the near future. I'm also preparing for the March 8th live CD recording at Glenn Miller Cafe in Stockholm with my new electro-acoustic project "Meditations on Albert Ayler" with Luther Thomas and Tony Bianco.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?
My mother. After her probably equal parts Anthony Braxton, Anton Webern. Albert Ayler and Karl-Heinz Stockhausen. Not necessarily in that order.

Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
Being an African-American i identify what i do as being an extension of the result of the African diaspora. I was born in America in the mid-twentieth century as the American Civil Rights movement was starting to have a huge impact on life in the US. Its principals and ideas have since spread throughout the world. I see myself as a part of that movement.

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
The music scene has always been in a state of crisis. How else can you explain the emergence and overwhelming success of hoaxes like the Beatles and ABBA?

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
As in "new music"? Hmm... is there any such thing? I mean, there are people who would say that "Microsound" is the new music. Been done. A long time ago. And much better also. Elliott Mazer talks about the work that was being done in electronic music at CCRMA in the 1970s. That stuff was amazing! You can still listen to that. Most of the laptop stuff from four years ago is comical at best when heard today. I mean, Hans Ulrich Humpert was doing stuff in 1965 that is never going to sound dated. I've heard music in Nigeria that is based on stuff that the West hasn't gotten hip to yet. Is that music "new"? Hardly. Will it "become new" once it's discovered by the West? Not exactly. Time is an illusion. You have to reach back to go forward. All of the music is here. It always has been. Myancestors keep giving it to me because they're here also. You'll only grow as high as your roots are deep. That's why the music of Wollof hunters sounds like Motown and Motown sounds like space music. Hendrix said hewas playing the Blues. So did Charlie Parker. What does that tell you?

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Sound is composition. How strictly do you separate improvising and composing? I'm a so called "trained composer". I've also been accused of being a "Jazz musician". To me, composing is improvising very slowly.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?
A good personal live performance is one in which i communicate with the Spirit. When i overcome my ego and desire to get laid after the gig and respect what the ancestors are trying to tell us. Then the music happens.

What’s your approach to performing on stage?
My approach to performing on stage? Ok, i've been doing this for over thirty years now. Do i have an "approach" or am i "the approach"? I make sure that i have all of my instruments well maintained and in working order. I make sure that i have a sufficient sound-check. I meditate. I strive to be as clear as possible so that i can be available for the Spirit.

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border – and if so, where?
Varese said that any innovation in music is always called noise when first introduced. Chuck Berry, Little Richard - that stuff was considered dangerous when it came out. Schönberg? People used to riot during performances of his music. Sprechstimme , James Brown, rap, crooners - people said it wasn't singing. Uh, experimentation isn't just necessary in Art. Art is experimentation. It doesn't even make sense to discuss its validity. It's a moot point. Borders are for the xenophobic. Xenophobia has no place in Art.

Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
Frightening. Yes and no. "Serious" and "Popular" can be the result of two different types of process. At the same time, Stevie Wonder has always arrived at massively popular music by being very daring and "experimental" in his process. While there are "serious" composers who cannot keep an audience awake long enough to get their point (if they have one) across. I mean, in the end it's all entertainment anyway, isn't it?

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
The artist has a responsibility to the universe. Art is a big responsibility. Consider that many of the most influential composers in history were devoutly religious and dedicated their work to the service of the Lord. There comes a point in the evolution of the true "Artist" when they begin to understand that the ego is the enemy and that they have been blessed with a gift that can be a part of the healing of humanity. Not only that, the fact that a certain person exposes themselves through "Art" can be a sociopolitical act in itself. It is the nature of Art to elevate anything it touches from mundane to magical.

True or false: People need to be educated about music, before the ycan really appreciate it.
False. What is true is that musicians need to be educated about people before they can really make music.

Imagine a situation in which there’d be no such thing as copyright and everybody were free to use musical material as a basis for
their own compositions – would that be an improvement to the current situation?

Is this an old questionnaire? Isn't that the way things are now? I mean, hasn't it been that way since the late 70s when accountants and engineers took over the production of records and sampling became the de-facto method for creating a track?

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Freedom. I would make it a point to present acts that promote freedom.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
Sure. My new Klanggold release is a miniature of a work that i've been trying to get together for some years now. It is a large-scale multi-disciplinary work based on a very well known text. It's very ambitious. We'll see if i manage to stage it someday.

Exquisite Noise (2004) Glass Thought Communications
amdg (2006) Klanggold

Jair-Rôhm Parker Wells at MySpace

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