Willits+Sakamoto: Ocean Fire
Bob Burnett: This morning I delved into Other Music's digital page to discover a new collaborative effort that I was interested to hear. Ocean Fire is a duet improvisation between "digital age"guitarist/custom-built software player Christopher Willits and composer/synthesist/pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto. The duet works from the perspective of creating a soundtrack for the ocean and does so with immense washes of sound that ebb and flow in a manner like the tides. There are natural connections here to Sakamoto's duet works with "the other" digital age guitarist Christian Fennesz, however this collaborative works in a non-defined sound sculpture mode more than a formal chordal compositional approach. I'm finding great attraction to Christopher Willits' contributions on this album--in fact it led me to explore a few of his solo offerings, most notably the excellent solo abstraction Folding, and the Tea as well as the much more linear Surf Boundaries. Willits comes with an impressive resume--notably a Mills College Master's degree where he studied under the tutelage of c60 stalwarts Pauline Oliveros and Fred Frith. Before Mills he was active in a wider range of creative outlets including video art, sound art/installation, painting and music.
I'm finding great excitement in the listening experiences offered by the current generation where the guitar and keyboard are being redefined as genre-breaking instruments crossing multiple platforms of exploration and legacy. It's engaging to see how the generations of sound designers continue to evolve--that which was first noticed in 1948 with John Cage using alligator clips and other hardware store devices on the strings of a piano for Sonata and Interludes to Fred Frith's early '70s work which expanded textural and rhythmic qualities possible for guitar to this generation's developing new approaches works to open the doors to further possibility. Ocean Fire is a great addition in the legacy of improvisation and sound expansion.