Starting in 2007, the idea of this project began of inspiration from La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s legendary Dream House installation in TriBeCa, Manhattan. Extended exposure to the “continuous frequencies” of this “sound and light environment” revealed an entrancing and meticulously plotted assemblage of tones with profound psycho-acoustic impact, all centered on the principles of Just Intonation and its capabilities as “nature’s tuning system.” With this impression came the motivation to chart new ground for drums and percussion in exploring their potential to express pure tones and drones, while emphasizing similar methods; their qualities as pitched instruments became the primary focus while their role as rhythmic instruments is downplayed.
Inherent within the tonal character of drums and percussion is a complex series of pitches. Drums and Drones takes a magnifying glass to the tone of drums and percussion, suspends the ‘aural image’ in mid-air, frozen in time, and slowly dissects its constituent frequencies to reveal a kaleidoscopic world of previously veiled tones. With this, an infinite sonic landscape unfolds, uncovering an expansive array of colors and shapes, at once perceptibly static and ever-changing, derived from Just Intonation. Just Intonation is a tuning system which describes pitch relationships based on the overtone series of a single fundamental pitch; from within a single tone there exists an infinite number of subsidiary ‘overtones’ and JI is the map that charts these overtones, a naturally occurring acoustic phenomenon (it can be regarded as a structure akin to the ‘musical DNA’ of a single pitch.) Part of the aural appeal of JI, especially in connection with minimalist techniques, is that it is like candy for the ear-to-brain connection, as the psycho-acoustic effects are physical and instinctual mind/body responses to the specific intervalic relationships between the tones, which play an important role in the music here.
Many of the Drums and Drones pieces can be considered as etudes, as each one emphasizes a different aspect of the application of JI. Some pieces are drone-y and static, some are melodic and active, some feature precisely pitched feedback generated between the drum and speakers, some are ambient, and some take the form of slowly shifting ‘tone sculptures.’ As the primary compositional tool to help in realizing this music, Brian uses digital equalization to enhance the acoustic properties of the harmonics and overtones inherent within the drums and percussion.
In mood, much of this music is designed to bring on a ‘Drone State of Mind,’ and is suitable for a variety of contexts ranging from the home, to the concert hall, to a yoga studio, or a rock club, to name a few.