Dave Ruder – is Great

Released March 2009

download complete album (mp3) or listen to the two tracks below

Dave Ruder played guitar, clarinet, vocals, bass clarinet, SK-1 sampling keyboard, drum machine, broken guitar, cassette feedback system, and shuffling.

Some time capsule thoughts from early 2009
(my present self doesn’t entirely agree with my past self)

You can’t understand a thing until you’ve already done it. Also, I don’t like to be sure of anything/any of this, and I’m not sure that I am.

This record represents a gradual effort at documentation and selective composition-through-recording I’ve embarked on over the last four years (with a concerted push in the last few months). I tend to view recording as a necessary unpleasantness; I dislike doing multiple takes, doing post-production, setting up a temporary studio inside my home; this all seems to take one away from musical activity. Accordingly, this recording skimps on these niceties.

I also view this project as a way to document a certain irresponsibility. I consider my non-artistic life to be full of care and responsibility, and this is a positive thing. Sometimes I just want to let go. The arguably subversive act of making art by oneself affords like nothing else the venue to make no sense, to set moments free from one another, to physically follow one’s body where it will go – to be responsible to nothing. I have a trove of recordings more in this vein that are not included here, including the “Solo for Guitar” series (#10 is included on this disc). They might well not be interesting to anybody, myself included, but there is a great truth and catharsis involved in their creation.

A more palatable application of my irresponsibility to overall form and meaning may be found in tracks like “Werewolf in the Flowerbed”, “puppies and kitties”, and “Brutal Josannah”. These tracks rely heavily on structural repetition, which was conceived prior to the performance(s) being recorded, but any notion of development is either non-existent, not clear, or coincidental. This is not repetition that highlights a gradual process, it is a means of mediating on a single idea (phrase or texture) and presenting it with no or minimal editing – merely a display of where I wanted to go at that moment. Sometimes it makes me cringe a little, but that’s part of the experience.

Other moments on this album highlight accidental counterpoint. The irregular canon “Deadly Nightshade” asks the performer to fit phrases of 3s, 4s, 5s, and 8s into the same space, but not in relation to a tempo, only in relation to what’s happening in the other parts at that moment. The vocal elements of “Plotinus’s Beau” were performed without an ear for what was unfolding in the guitar textures (yup, those are guitars), but I think some striking coincidences arise. On the other hand, some of these pieces, like the first half of the Five Clarinet Shuffle, “Turnip Crane”, and “der Neue Walzer” are composed, with everything more or less where it’s expected to be.

My ultimate desire is to play with other musicians rather than be a soloist, however a musician should never be vulnerable to the point of not being able to play solo material. I would love to be presenting a group of collaborative composer/performers positing original ideas and feedback on each other’s ideas, but this is not my current reality. I consider it imperative as a composer/improviser to be self-sufficient, and the process of making this record has educated me in a variety of approaches to generate solo material. From this point, my aim is to redouble my efforts in playing live as a solo performer, with the following guidelines for translating this disc to a live set:

1.) avoid electricity as much as possible (hence no canned backgrounds or looping in the works)
2.) full, enveloping sounds and thin, delicate sounds are equally desirable
3.) make use of a variety of sound palettes without having to carry too much, which can mean more reliance on the voice or the guitar than I would ultimately prefer

The live set is definitely different from what’s been recorded, and while there may be greater clarity in the recordings, nothing can replicate the experience of witnessing a performance.

“Is Great” was chosen as the title because as a humble man, I need a moment every now and again to boast. Like the project of creating this website, I didn’t think I had the conventional skills or materials to make an album, but I had the notion that sometimes you just have to define your own terms. It may be a rough road, it’s not the road I would always chose, but heck, I am an individual, and bear witness (!), here is something that can stand in for me.

Dave, 3/21/09