Brooklyn-based percussionist and sound artist Adam Holmes is embarking on his first album as both the composer and performer, pivoting towards writing music as well as playing it. Embodying both of these roles has been liberating for him – it’s given him the ability to make music on his own terms.
The result is Compartments: a 4-track record that will probe the sonic landscapes made possible by tiny, portable percussion instruments – from gongs to woodblocks and even flower pots. Out October 11, on Brooklyn-based, abstract sound-focused label slashsound records, Compartments is centered on the idea that music can be built from very little, easy to make, and can change from performance to performance.
I’m honored and excited to be giving the exclusive premiere of the video for the lead track on the album, “Platforms,” here on The Road to Sound. You can watch the video and read more about the piece below.
“Platforms” is what Holmes describes as a “rhythmic drone.” The piece is simple: one sixteenth note in perpetuation for approximately 8 minutes, performed on three small, portable gongs that are laid horizontally like a platform. Holmes moves between the different gongs when he feels it’s right. That’s the rhythmic backbone, but what creates the reverberant drone is music software program MAX/MSP.
For Holmes, working with MAX/MSP was an opportunity to dive into learning new technology. He pored through textbooks, and along with friend and collaborator Max Ardito, created a software system to work in conjunction with the gongs. Every 10 seconds, the system records the gongs, and then proceeds to cross fade the different sections together. What you hear on “Platforms” is this electronic process happening in real time. The goal is to “create a drone through rhythm;” the outcome is a mesmerizing pulse.
The software program can go on endlessly, and so can the repeating sixteenth note. But they don’t: Holmes chooses to end them at approximately 8 minutes. The idea of chance, particularly in giving the performer leeway to make musical decisions, is another running current of the album.
Of “Platforms,” Holmes says, “If someone asked me if the piece could be played on woodblocks, instead of gongs, even that’d be ok. It could be interesting.” The music he’s making on Compartments isn’t about virtuosity, nor is it about stagnation or convention. It’s about making music with what you have, when you can, and embracing the idea that a work can be different every time it’s played.
Compartments is out October 11 on slashsound records and can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp. You can celebrate the album’s release on October 12 with a live performance from Adam Holmes at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom in Brooklyn – more information can be found here.