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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

The other day, the very well-traveled guitarist, Bob Brozman, took me through a track on his new album, "Lumiere." One by one, he identified the instruments in the Bob Brozman orchestra.

(Soundbite of a baritone guitar playing)

Mr. BOB BROZMAN (Musician): That is a National baritone guitar, something I've designed with the National company that have a longer neck and lower tuning.

And several percussion instruments being played on plain cajon. And then the instrument that just entered is a 14-string gandharvi. It's a slide guitar from India, developed by Debashish Bhattacharya, a collaborator of mine.

And then, what comes in next is an old Martin ukulele, just a plain, old ukulele played with the fingers.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BROZMAN: And there actually is no bass being played other than the baritone guitar and the cajon.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BROZMAN: And then they're all playing together. We're about to swing in to a six-eighth rhythm. This is a bit of a West African sound we're hearing now. And then we're going to swing into an East-African, Madagascar rhythm here.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Of course, the musician who is playing all of these instruments is you.

Mr. BROZMAN: That's correct. I begin just with a simple improvisation on one instrument. And then, I just start painting, in very thin color, layers. I kind of live in an abstract world almost like a blind man when it comes to music. I just live in this invisible world that's somewhere between feeling, and muscle movement, and sound.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Well, the result of all this is what you call the Bob Brozman orchestra. Because by the time we've mixed all of these tracks - your original improvisation and then the other lines inspired by it - you're a whole ensemble here.

Mr. BROZMAN: Well, what's interesting about that process is first that the composing happens while I'm actually recording. So it really is an improvisation of each part. But in addition, it's kind of an emotional reaction to what I'm hearing. And since I know my own breathing and my own muscle feeling, I can make crescendos, and I can speed up and slow down at will, and really sound like a group of guys reacting emotionally to each other.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: One thing I wanted to ask you about after hearing your CD is when you observe in the lighter notes, almost in passing, that the opening arpeggio of the first piece is played on a traditional 10-string harp from Finland…

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: …you just picked this thing up and you're able to play it right away? Or did you have to find a Finnish kantele master to teach you this? Or how long does it take you to embrace a new instrument?

Mr. BROZMAN: Well, this is what keeps me young. I'm 53 years old. And I think I'm more of a punk than I've ever been in my life really because I keep finding new instruments. I can tell you quite honestly that the first time I played that Finnish kantele for more than a couple of minutes was to record that tango on this record. I learned how to tune it from the guy who made it. And that's the only instruction I had. And basically, I decided to build that entire tango around that instrument. So what you hear, the sort of the curtain opening of the whole record, is really a brand-new instrument. And by that same reasoning, I brought an instrument today that I just received a few days ago. And it's a Madagascar instrument, a five-string kabosy guitar. And what's unusual about it is it's missing some frets.

SIEGLE: What does it sound like the…

Mr. BROZMAN: It's missing about 14 notes. That's a very interesting - it's almost as if they had a shortage of fret wire in Madagascar.

(Soundbite of kabosy playing)

Mr. BROZMAN: So the open strings are…

(Soundbite of kabosy playing)

Mr. BROZMAN: So basically, I put my fingers down, I listen.

(Soundbite of kabosy playing)

Mr. BROZMAN: And quite often, I hear two or three notes or a combination of notes that is the start of a composition. And so the kantele was the same thing. That whole tango was inspired by that instrument.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: One of the interesting ideas here in what you're doing is that music isn't something pure and indigenous. It reflects the creativity of people embracing the instruments that strangers from faraway bring, turning somebody else's guitar into a wonderful, different kind of instrument, and then mixing it together and making new kinds of music. The process is hardly one of the -of finding an essence. It's a matter of finding a great mix.

Mr. BROZMAN: You've exactly hit the nail on the head. And, you know, one of the fascinating things is that musicians possess curiosity. And so the rule of observing a culture without disturbing it, it kind of gets suspended when you're dealing with musicians. And when somebody says, hey, what's that in your hand? Can I try it? You're not going to say no. And the hybrid vigor that happens from the blending of music, for me, that's really world music, is when there exists indigenous music. But when you get the cross-fertilization of various instruments coming and going without instruction sometimes, you get the fascinating results.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Well, Bob Brozman, thank you very much for talking with us about your CD "Lumiere."

Mr. BROZMAN: An absolute pleasure. Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: And you can discover more music by Bob Brozman by visiting npr.org/music.

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