Discover more from Flow State
Stuart Bogie (Interview)
Today we’re listening to Stuart Bogie, an American multi-instrumentalist and composer from Illinois. After studying music at Interlochen Art Academy and the University of Michigan, Bogie moved to New York. In the 2000s he recorded with artists like TV on the Radio and Beck, and joined the afrobeat band Antibalas.1 Fast forward to the pandemic, during which Bogie improvised clarinet on his Instagram daily for 150 days. In one performance, he played over archival ambient drone tracks from fellow Brooklynite James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem). Bogie went on to release the re-recorded tracks as an LP, Morningside, on which a tape delay doubles his clarinet melodies like a pale reflection in a window. We’re also playing a volume of his series “Clarinet Concert for You,” which also came out of those pandemic sessions. An interview with Bogie follows the streaming links.
The new album is two long-form pieces where you improvise clarinet over drone tracks recorded by James Murphy. What was the original inspiration to play over these drones?
James sent me the drones when I was doing daily broadcasts of a solo each day, during the lockdown in 2020. The original inspiration was to invite the Spirit into our lives. Music felt very crucial at that moment in time, and that crucial feeling has returned again. A good drone will create space, both textural and harmonic, and it invites a melody into it. This space is the original inspiration. I’ve found that when space is created, or framed, our imaginations engage.
What influences do you personally trace on this record?
Brian Eno’s ambient music, various folk musics from around the world, Indian classical music from Ali Akbar Khan and Hariprasad Chaurasia. I am not attempting to play this music – but I take it in and welcome its influence on my music. Also – The Jimmy Giurfre Clarinet. The first track, “So Low,” is so intimate and fuzzy.
As always, my clarinet teachers: Gary Onstad, Debra Chodacki, Ben Goldberg, and my current theory teacher William Allaudin Mathieu. They have all guided me and the music on this record. I can’t forget Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain – the phrasing on that record left a deep mark on my memory. In high school I also studied the “Osborne Rhapsody,” and that has always stayed with me.
Tell us about this delay effect on the record. It's so effective and beguiling.
James introduced the idea of playing through a chain of tape delays – one running into the other. It gave the melody a long echo that encouraged me to play more sparsely. When gestures are repeated they gain a traction in our minds and within the music. Delays offer us this in automated form. I love the delay, and have begun using a delay when I play this piece live.
During the pandemic, you kept up the live clarinet playing on Instagram for 150 days. What was the most memorable performance?
We had a (mostly) morning ritual we called “Clarinet Concert for You,” which ran for over 150 days in a row. My partner, Karyn, encouraged me to begin it, and every day she would be there to make a video in our apartment. We would meditate, then say a prayer, then begin the music. Karyn made signs for each drone composer that we collaborated with. There were so many memorable performances, but they are all threaded in with our experience of the early pandemic in New York City, so it’s honestly hard to recall. It was a daily practice, so it didn’t have the sorts of peaks and valleys that another performance series might have. Like, a tour will have certain cities and certain venues that standout. Our performances were most always in our bedroom. I will say that the first few performances were coming from a place of tremendous collective fear and anxiety. We heard sirens all day and night, and we hardly went outside. The concerts were pure musical medicine for us. I experienced a flood of emotion and a deep tenderness. I learned a lot about myself and found a new sense of gratitude for music.
What is your go-to music to work to – when answering emails, etc.?
I like to listen to Bach (Glenn Gould’s performances), Pablo Casals, the classics. I like to listen to Indian classical music – lately I’ve been listening to Panda Pran Nath, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Jean-Pierre Rampal. I like all the classic jazz from King Oliver to Artie Shaw to Pharoah Sanders. I love to listen to historic and international folk music from all over the globe.
If I need serious motivation it’s usually ‘90s hip hop, ‘70s funk. When I listen to modern music it’s usually more active, focused listening while on the subway or driving. (I miss my subway stop cause I’m listening to music all the time.) But I like to hear something familiar when I’m doing chores and working. And no matter what, I can always listen to Fela – ALWAYS. Fela Kuti records are always a good choice.
Name an underrated artist from the past 50 years.
There’s too many to name! But here are a few artists making instrumental music that I love and wish more people knew about:
Ryan Ferreira plays the guitar like no one I’ve ever heard in my life, and he has ears for days. He works on an extremely subtle level. I think your readers would love it.
Saxophonist and composer Cocheme’a is so underrated it makes me wanna get on a soap box. His music is on all the time in our home. He draws from a deep knowledge of soul and jazz combined with elements of Native American music. It’s very personal and powerful, and it pulls you into it, and feels fantastic to listen to it.
Doug Wieselman made a beautiful album of solo clarinet music that I love. We’ve worked together on a few things over the years including Dawn Richards and Spencer Zahn’s record Pigments. He is a beautiful thinker and artist.
What non-musical artist(s) inspire you these days?
The music on this record has found a connection to the photography of Gregory Crewdson. We have incorporated two images from his work Eveningside into our vinyl packaging. We titled both tracks after two photographs from Eveningside. The music is also the soundtrack for the documentary about his work, Eveningside, made by Harper Glantz. There is a wonderful connection there. Maybe part of it has to do with a sadness, and a feeling of loss. This music is not about progress. When you take in Crewdson’s work, you immediately enter it and get wrapped up in it, maybe even lost. Our music is similar – it’s not about the beginning or ending as much as the feeling of being in it.
Recently, I have been working with the conceptual artist Jill Magid. We just installed a 15-hour sound piece in Saint Peter's Church in Leuven, Belgium in cooperation with M Leuven Museum. Jill’s work is hard to describe in a few words, but her sense of investigation and her eye for parallels in our world is inspiring. She is fearless, and pursues Ideas (capital I) with her work. Check out her film The Proposal (2018).
The art of Matana Roberts deeply inspires me. Getting to work with them has been a highlight in my life. Their graphic scores, word-speak, and conduction (improvised conducting), come together to create an experience like no other.
What are you working on next?
I am traveling to perform solo clarinet with drones, including the music on Morningside, in the coming months, and recording more clarinet rhapsodies with composer/producer/(also underrated) genius Peter Murray, who created a series of cassette loops that we are working with.
I am working on an album with a new project called Wooden Hands which focuses on the tonal and percussive sounds of hands on wood. The group is flanked by two percussionists playing congas and other percussion, upright bass, amplified acoustic guitar, and I play clarinet and bass clarinet. Where Morningside is rhapsodic and in free time, Wooden Hands is made to get your head nodding.
I will making my way to the Big Ears festival in 2024 as a member of Joe Russo’s Selcouth Quartet, which plays instrumental semi-improvisational music inspired by ‘90s knitting factory era stuff, ECM, electric Miles, Sonny Sharrock, etc. This group is a barn burner, face melter, and our record is laced with beautiful little Easter eggs of tenderness. We made our record on the northern coast of Iceland last January, and you can hear it in the music.