The second installment of Remote Hearing is out! I have to say, on a personal note, that in my two decades of music making, this is some of the most poignant music I have had the opportunity to be a part of. You won't find any Sturm und Drang here - just a lazy, delicious day at the end of spring, perfectly captured in the ears of ten beautiful people. I simply love it and will be listening to it for the rest of my life. This is remarkable considering how little effort it took to organize, compared to so much work that is staged within the maw of the Entertainment Industrial Complex. My role as an organizer was almost incidental to the final product - everything that's profound about this music is a direct reflection of the life experiences (including, but extending far beyond musical training) of the people involved. You can hear the past, present, and the future of American music coming together at each moment.
The Remote Hearing project espouses two basic tendencies, an egalitarian one and a populist one: anyone can participate meaningfully, and any number of people can join. Like a vast body of folk and popular musics, it is egalitarian - even if virtuosi are in evidence in folk musics, they generally don't need to be surrounded by other virtuosi to do what they do most effectively. By way of contrast, in classical music you can hear the sound of a master within a framework that vouchsafes their mastery. Remote Hearing moves in the other direction - some of the musicians on this recording are without a doubt epic virtuosi, and yet there is no hope of mastery, since there is no way for the musician to understand his or her total context at the moment he or she is in it. And because of that, there is no hope of pretending to be anybody other than who you really are - exactly like life.
In that sense, this recording brings an operational criterion of jazz, in which the impossibility of total mastery reveals the subjective truth of each musician, to the spectrum of folk music. This criterion produces a radical shift: this folk music is no longer a story about people - it isn't a ballad - it's a photographic portrait of the people themselves: ten real people in the middle of their own incomplete stories.
Remote Hearing is also populist in that everybody gets a voice - it works whether 3 people are participating, or 30 people, or 300, or 3,000, or 30,000, or 300,000 people. Among other things, we will move towards installments that approach these higher orders of magnitude. This populism works because the auditory isolation of each person makes it possible to isolate any facet of the composite performance after the fact. So we never have to worry about the music becoming an opaque sound mass obscuring individual contributions. In fact, it will be fascinating to see what happens as the ensemble surpasses certain scales of magnitude. The individual voices will perhaps be lost, but contribute to a larger composite sound mass that I believe will be anything but static - I believe it will have its own dynamics that we haven't even begun to experience, understand, or appreciate. Be that as it may, those individual voices, each having its own audio track by design, are always retrievable in pristine detail. Moreover, all of the tracks are recombinant, so that we can extract the collective intelligence of any cross-section of musicians. What can we learn musically from the collective intelligence of women, or of percussionists, or of elders?
I think this installment, featuring ten people, may be close to the threshold of individual transparency within a single composite mix. This stew, where everybody brings the sound of just what they are, and adds it without having to change a thing, is tradition in the making.