Name: Michael Francis Duch
Nationality: Norwegian
Occupation: Double bassists, composer, improviser, educator
Current release: Michael Francis Duch's mind is moving (IV) is out via SOFA. It features a series of compositions by Michael Pisaro-Liu.

[Read our Michael Pisaro interview]

SOFA · Michael F. Duch / Michael Pisaro: mind is moving (iv) excerpt

When did you first start getting interested in musical improvisation?  

I started playing guitar and eventually electric bass in my early teens, and the drummer I played with introduced me to jazz. His father played the double bass, so this was something that I also really wanted to do: I simple fell in love with the sound of the bass.

I guess my main interest in jazz was because of improvisation, and has been since.

Which artists, approaches, albums or performances involving prominent use of improvisation captured your imagination in the beginning?

In the beginning I guess it was any jazz album I could get my hands on, but the album that really opened up my eyes, or perhaps ears, was John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

I met drummer Paal Nilssen-Love who suggested I listen to Pharoah Sanders, and in my late teens the Impulse! records from the sixties and seventies was more or less all I listened to.

Focusing on improvisation can be an incisive transition. Aside from musical considerations, there can also be personal motivations for looking for alternatives. Was this the case for you, and if so, in which way?

I guess I’m quite boring in that way, that I seldom improvise when it comes to domestic life, but I’m very concerned with being present in what I do, and I believe nowness or being present very much can be connected to improvisation.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to improvisation? Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage?

Well, doing research on free improvisation and experimental music the last two decades has led to placing myself within that tradition when exploring and researching it. But I try to challenge myself every now and then so I don’t repeat myself to much ...

I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of the key figures within free improvisation and experimental music, and I suppose it has influenced my interests as such.

What was your own learning curve / creative development like when it comes to improvisation - what were challenges and breakthroughs?

Studying jazz was very important; learning to listen and respond creatively and collectively within an ensemble. Later, working with John Tilbury has been very important for me.

[Read our John Tilbury interview]

Tell me about your instrument and/or tools, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results and your own performance?  

My double bass is a 1898 Hawkes Panormo, and I travel with a (heavily modified) Czech-Ease which works fine.

I don’t really work with preparations or electronics that much, so it has always been important for me to be able to create sounds through extended techniques instead, and having a good quality instrument that helps me to achieve that.

Can you talk about a work, event or performance in your career that's particularly dear to you? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

Discovering Cornelius Cardew’s music and having had the opportunity to work with John Tilbury and others who knew him has been important.

The trio recording with Rhodri Davies and John Tilbury performing Cardew’s music is one of my favorite recordings that I’ve been involved in ...

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your collaborations? Do you feel as though you are able to express yourself more fully in solo mode or, conversely, through the interaction with other musicians? Are you “gaining” or “sacrificing” something in a collaboration?

It depends how you look at it, I suppose. My solo album Tomba Emmanuelle on SOFA was very much an interaction with the performance space, so much that the space itself acts as an additional performer.

I tend to think of these situations like that, that I’m never really in a solo mode, as such. I do like to perform with others, though. With the ensemble Lemur I’ve learnt so much by playing together since we first started in 2006.

Derek Bailey defined improvising as the search for material which is endlessly transformable. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his perspective, what kind of materials have turned to be particularly transformable and stimulating for you?

I agree with Bailey on that, and I guess some of the things I do is using repetition as a musical element of transition where one eventually discovers the micro-nuances within the music.

When you're improvising, does it actually feel like you're inventing something on the spot – or are you inventively re-arranging patterns from preparations, practice or previous performances?

I’m more interested in being present in the moment rather than inventing something ‘new’. Creativity for me is working what I have in different ways.

To you, are there rules in improvisation? If so, what kind of rules are these?

I guess we all have different rules when playing and improvising. Trying my best to listen to others and hopefully creating the best possible musical situations for the ones I’m playing with.

In a live situation, decisions between creatives often work without words. How does this process work – and how does it change your performance compared to a solo performance?

Both improvising and artistic research involves tacit knowledge, as does teaching improvisation.

Many of my most significant musical discoveries have been through performance rather than reading about it or discussing it with others.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? In which way is it different between your solo work and collaborations?

Again ‘nowness’ and being present in what I do is the most important state of mind when performing.

How do you see the relationship between sound, space and performance and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?

This is something that I’m really interested in, working with the space and the people present, responding to the acoustics and the audience.