Bassist and Composer Carl Testa Plays Elastic | Bleader

Bassist and Composer Carl Testa Plays Elastic



Carl Testa
  • Carl Testa
Bassist, composer, and former Chicagoan Carl Testa, a member of Anthony Braxton's Septet and 12 + 1tet, has been in town for the past week playing some low-key gigs, and he closes out his visit with a performance tonight at Elastic. Testa, now based in New Haven, Connecticut, will play some pieces for solo bass and improvise with trombonist Nick Broste and bass clarinetist Jeff Kimmel. The main part of his set, however, will be a new piece (so far untitled) for three instrumentalists/vocalists and electronics, also featuring Broste and Kimmel. Opening the show is a trio led by violinist Jonathan Chen, another former Chicagoan, with bassist Tatsu Aoki and cellist Jamie Kempkers.

Testa sent me this description of the new piece:

The idea for the piece came from me imagining recording about four seconds of sound and then generating all this music from that sound. I started to experiment with granular synthesis on the computer and started to work on an interface that would allow multiple musicians the ability to record their own sounds in real time and effect the sound of the music.

So what I have done is write three sections of music on the computer that use the live sounds of the instrumentalists as the basis of the sounds for the electronic part. So the idea is that the structure of the piece is set but the actual sound of the piece is created live in performance via live sampling.

The other idea for this piece was for it to be "portable." So I can travel with the piece solo and play it with pickup musicians in each city. A lot of my music is very timbrally specific (written for clarinets and percussion). But this piece opens up the timbral space to be able to feature any musician in the space while still retaining my compositional character. That is the goal of this piece.

Testa studied under Braxton at Wesleyan, and you can hear that influence in the music on his wonderful self-released CD Uncertainty (which also reflects his admitted interest in clarinets and percussion). Most of the pieces are built from very simple melodic phrases, and they get their juice from the way multiple players elucidate those shards over rangy drumming. Below you can hear a track from the album called "Push," which Testa says comes closest to representing what he'll be playing at Elastic.

You can find lots of other music by Testa at his Web site, including a recent album of electronic music called Signals by his project Kalle.