“It’s difficult to think what contemporary music would sound like without his influence. …there’s no doubt that Jon Hassell has had an effect on contemporary music as important as Miles Davis or Jimi Hendrix or James Brown or the Velvet Underground.” —The Wire
Interview with Jon Hassell from BBC Radio
BBC: Now, Jon Hassell: you may not know the name but you probably know the sound. A very distinctive trumpet sound, muted and swirling around in electronics and you can hear him playing on albums by people like David Sylvian, 808 State, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno and Talking Heads, an impressive list if ever there was one, or you can catch him on any of his ten solo albums where he plays an original mix of styles he calls Fourth World. Well, he was over recently from the States and we got him to take us through his eventful career and explain what exactly is Fourth World.
John Hassell: Well it began as a term some fifteen years ago to describe my interest in ethnic music combined with my interest in electronics technology. I studied with Stockhausen and with an Indian musician and an incredible classical vocalist Pandit Pran Nath and I began doing things like, he would sing a phrase and I would play the phrase on the trumpet, given that raga is a form that depends on curves, it’s shape making. It’s like making a beautiful shape and that resulted in a sound that was very vocal. But I was also deeply touched by Miles Davis and jazz. So I wanted to show that there was a music in which improvisation played a part but it wasn’t jazz, which in fact reflected the state of music in the rest of the world. It’s the only music in the Occident in which there is no improvisation in classical music. I wanted to take these three elements of Indian music, the background the tamboura, the foreground of the solo, and the tabla. I used those as a model but I didn’t want to have an association with Indian music. So I would create an electronic background, which might be made up of a sample of pygmy voices mixed in with a sample of Yma Sumac, a little bit of Hollywood orchestration behind her, something from the fifties, plus a bit of gamelan music from Java. Then my playing the Raga, Darbari. I’m leading up to a record called Aka-Darbari-Java / Magic Realism. This was an attempt to take the spirit of various places and then create a world that doesn’t exist.
WHAT THE REVIEWERS ARE SAYING:
“Almost all of the musicians I meet at the moment seem to regard Jon Hassell as one of the God-like geniuses of contemporary music.” —David Toop, The Wire
“Work of quite extraordinary beauty . . . This pan-cultural music swirls and rises like smoke . . . Hassell blends his experiences in such a way that the components—African drumming, Indian microtonality, Balinese tranquility—make a new palette while forfeiting none of the individual colors.” —London Times
VIDEO CLIPS OF JON HASSELL
John Hassell and Maarifa Street live in Belgrade, Serbia
TICKETS to the Minneapolis show at Walker
Thursday, February 12, 2009 @ 8pm McGuire Theater