Doek Composes – Don’t Look by John Dikeman

Posted on 1 December 2020 in Audio, Media

Doek composes for solo improvisers, a new and ongoing series on Doek RAW featuring original artwork by Lena Czerniawska.

Doek composes for solo improvisers, a new and ongoing series on Doek RAW featuring original artwork by Lena Czerniawska.

“please sight read this piece.
Do not look at the following pages.
Print on double sided paper.
Ideally, you probably want to start playing
before turning this page.

This is the text on the cover page of the piece Don’t Look and it contains the only important instruction: don’t look at the material before you start recording it. When I wrote this piece I wanted to find a natural way to force different interpretations from each musician with a main focus on improvisation. After all, these are world class improvisers who can surely invent something better than I can compose…

I wrote a piece, based on three simple motifs, however I wrote them in deliberately obtuse ways. Sometimes the notation is upside down or backwards, with staff lines disappearing out of nowhere. There are also footnotes written in random areas of the page which may or may not help the performer have an idea of what to play. None of this really matters though. I was most interested in hearing the process of each musician improvising while dealing with stimulus that didn’t necessarily make any sense.

There are many composers who have written music which is so difficult it’s impossible to play correctly, forcing the musicians to make choices about what aspects of the music they will focus on. However, usually they have time to study the piece to strategize and try to figure out what the composer intended. I wanted to hear this process in real time. In some of these recordings it’s clear to me what aspects of the piece were taken literally or not. In others, it is more vague what the performers thought was important on the page. All of which is equally valid, of course, and I’m very happy with these wonderful interpretations.”
John Dikeman

Doek Composes
One of the main pillars of Doek is how improvising musicians deal with composed musical elements. When the world was struck by the corona virus and all of us were asked to isolate ourselves as much as possible, we thought: what can we do to perpetuate our music and still share it with our audience and each other? We came up with the simple idea that each Doek member, who feels so inclined, composes a piece for solo improvisers. Each Doek member, who feels so inclined, records each composition in his or her own way, which results in a broad palette of interpretations of the exact same composed material, but played in completely unique ways by each player. It’s an open invitation to compose and record. It gives an image of who we are individually as composers, improvisers and interpreters. Completely in line with Doek’s vision. Next to that, these compositions could easily be included in Doek’s Amsterdam Real Book project, which is a vast and open ended collection of compositions written by Amsterdam composers in Amsterdam for Amsterdam improvisers.