Sabbaticus Rex


Karen Stackpole: Gongs
Cornelius Boots: Shakuhachi and Taimu Shakuhachi
Mark Deutsch: Bazantar

Sabbaticus Rex is an ensemble rooted in the supremacy of sound over music, the triumph of tone over time and thought. This process uses haunting and beautiful acoustic instruments and methods: overtone gongs, shakuhachi (bamboo Zen flutes), Taimu (bass) shakuhachi, and throat-singing. The group is completely acoustic; no electronics or amplification. This is sound, but not music. It is primordial easy-listening for dinosaurs: slowly shifting elemental improvisations from fat flutes and huge gongs, completely acoustic.

Through spontaneous, sustained sound structuring, these sources combine to form a resonant, expansive and raw environment. Creating music with a majority emphasis on slow-evolving sound and texture, and allowing some aspect of wu wei (action-less action or spontaneous naturalness) to guide the entire process is both behind and at the core of this ensemble: removing or at least side-stepping the egoic-self for most of the creative decisions.

Mostly, we hope the listener enjoys the sounds of the fat flutes and the big gongs talking to each other, all this other stuff is just our mindset and musical perspective.

Walking the razor’s edge between the mystical and the scientific, Sabbaticus Rex is dedicated to the creation and performance of ambient, avant-orchestral works utilizing modern, ancient, and invented instruments in non-standard tunings that maximize their harmonic interaction and create layers of overtone resonance. Exploiting the acoustics within different performance spaces is an intrinsic aspect of this acoustic ensemble. There is no narrative, socio-political, or otherwise extra-musical plot or agenda involved with this music. That being said, it takes form and context from some elements that can be written about such as breath, overtone/harmonic resonance, imagination, and simplicity within chaos.

The instruments themselves are treated with reverence and are given as much if not more command over the path that the music takes. Inasmuch as metal particles or stalks of bamboo “want” to become instruments, at the point at which we discover them, the gongs and shakuhachi themselves are approached in a highly collaborative manner, i.e. letting sounds emerge from them, guiding rather than forcing, generally unifying with the instrument as much as possible. This requires a complex skill set that intertwines the rational, problem-solving and skill-acquiring mind with the realm of uncertainty, chaos, and intuition. There is an animistic, primordial perspective at play here; the idea of letting the instruments play what they want to play: guiding sounds from sound sources, building directly upon the intentions of the instrument maker, builder or designer, thus creating a kind of intentional feedback loop of a creative process combining imagination and utility.

Switchboard Music Festival, SF 2010

Ivy Room, Albany, CA December 2011