In search for vessels of influence beyond expected musical sources Wisconsin based guitarist Scott Fields has uncovered an intriguing fount of inspiration for his debut Delmark release in the dramatic work of modern American playwrights. Stripped down to power trio instrumentation, but often employing a diffuse long-winded approach Fields explores many of the same sound relationships he’s delved into on earlier recordings including bridges between improvisation and composition and specialized ways in which musicians may interact.
Mamet is something kindred spirit to Fields in terms of the types of moods, emotional dissonance and disconnection he explores in his theatre works and screenplays. His scripts are dialogue driven ventures where character traits and motives are revealed through intense and often verbose interactions. Fields adopts a similar focus centering his pieces on the intricate interplay between the instruments as a means of supplying narrative momentum. Mamet’s stage scoring also proves useful as a guiding directive in Fields aural interpretations, but the verbal components seem to serve as the primary musical determinants.
“Prairie Du Chien” revolves around a clip-clop Tom Waits-like rhythm bubbles to the top early on only to eventually disappear into prolix discursion. “American Buffalo” focuses on the constancy of its characters’ situations. Fields charts his musical interpretation in similar stasis following patterns of composition and guided improvisation that adhere closely to one another. The sonic manifestation is a morose kind of monotony that closely parallels the glum dissatisfaction of the play’s three protagonists.
“The Woods” is carved into several sections of distinct ambience and thrust. Opening with a lengthy and meandering atmospheric prologue designed to suggest an environment of Midwestern wilderness the piece gradually moves into more tempered sounds before a final stretch of vociferous violence signifying the emotional explosion between the play’s two characters and a funeral lapse into somber quiet. Guitar and bass work as the principal voices on “Oleanna” representing a teacher and student and the power polemic that exists and evolves between them. Each instrument alternates between aggressor and minion with Zerang’s drum colorations goading the exchange.
Listening to Fields aural abstractions of Mamet’s dialogue and action the connections he is shooting for frequently becomes less than apparent. While a comprehensive knowledge of the plays covered is not necessarily a perquisite for understanding familiarity with each is helpful in fleshing out the dynamics intended by each piece. Fields liner notes serve as an extremely useful accompaniment to the music. In them he gives numerous examples of his intentions and how they jibe with the allegorical aspects of Mamet’s works. But based solely from musical standpoint these meanings are sometimes difficult to discern.
Delmark on the web: http://www.delmark.com
Track Listing: Prairie Du Chien/ American Buffalo/ Edmond/ The Woods/ Oleanna.
Personnel: Scott Fields- guitar; Michael Formanek- bass; Michael Zerang- drums. Recorded: August 4, 2000, Madison, WI.