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The Improvisational Drumming of Chris Corsano


Chris Corsano - COURTESY
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  • Chris Corsano

Behind the kit, drummer Chris Corsano wails with the power and dynamic range of a thunderstorm—close booms, elongated cracks and pattering rhythms are all under his command. In his varied career, the Massachusetts native has performed with Björk, Sun City Girls, Thurston Moore, free jazz saxophonist Paul Flaherty and, perhaps most rewardingly, in solo improvisational sets. In expectation of his solo date in SA, we spoke to Corsano about improvisation, his styles of collaboration and the use of non-musical objects (like kitchen tools and scrap metal) in his drum kit.

When you're improvising with other musicians, how is it different than a solo performance?

Playing with somebody, it can be very conversational. You get input from them and respond to it. With a solo performance, that input isn't there but you still have other inputs like the acoustics of the room or what the audience is like. What happened just a second before, you're making little decision after little decision when you're improvising. The difference is where the stimuli come from.

Is that decision-making process a conscious one or have you internalized it in performance?

It's not all conscious, 'cause you can't think as fast as you can play. There's some dialogue between that too, trying to get everything to work together.

On solo albums like 2012's Cut, do you go into the studio that day with specific intentions, or is it more of a recorded improvisation?

It's a little bit in-between. Cut I recorded myself at home and I had objects that made a certain range of sound and I wanted to record them. I'd play a little bit, then maybe that thing would be the right one but maybe I would also do something new and try to switch it around. It wasn't like I had specific pieces planned, just specific setups to see what I could do with them.

What do non-traditional music objects bring to the kit and how does it change your sound?

Especially playing solo it's the sound of surprise. The unexpected. Hopefully it rearranges your brain enough to make some new music that hasn't been made before. Introducing objects is a way to get around the people who think they know what a drum set does. You're trying to change the expectations of what drums can do.

When you're looking for objects to complement the drum kit, what do you look for?

Certain resonances. Certain timbres. I like a lot of noise music. There's a lot of stuff that drums do really well. There's a certain amount of time when you hit a drum and the sound decays. Unless you do a drum roll, each hit is about a few milliseconds then you have a decay. I'm looking for stuff that goes counter to that, that I can use with the drums that are fast things and things with longer pitches.

Chris Corsano feat. Cactus Truck, Marcus Rubio, Dane Rousay and Eric Sandoval, $10, 9pm Sat, Dec 6, The Compound, 1145 S St. Mary's.

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