human Travis Laplante
Travis Laplante’s human is a deeply personal document recorded over a series of 7 intimate concerts at his former home in Vermont, human finds Laplante diving into the vulnerability, mystery, and magic of solo improvisation after years of focusing primarily on composition for his ensembles Battle Trance and Subtle Degrees.
Available now through our subscription-based Windmill Series, human will see a wide release on all digital platforms on November 1st. The limited edition CD is available for pre-order. Laplante will tour in support of the record with a string of West Coast dates in early November and a New York City release show on November 17th at Zürcher Gallery. More info can be found below.
In Laplante's own words:
In December 2018, my wife Sarah and I held a series of intimate concerts over the course of seven consecutive evenings at our former home on a mountain in southern Vermont. With only a few friends, family, and strangers bearing witness, these candlelit performances took place in a post-and-beam structure within which I have practiced, composed, and meditated for the past six years. This room became a sacred space for me—a space where I was safe to enter my imagination and the depths of my heart without fear or self-judgment. I found its acoustics remarkable, as if any note I produced could be made beautiful by the resonance of the room. Surrounding the place was a field flanked by maple trees, where I often played accompanied by the birds, the wind, and the trees. I also spent many hours listening to and even playing duets with the echo of my saxophone’s sound bouncing off other mountains many miles away. Playing outdoors was a source of unending inspiration, as well as an invaluable training in heightening all of my senses to become more responsive to my surroundings in a performance environment.
When I learned I would have to vacate this home, it felt important to create a document before moving on—as a goodbye and a gesture of gratitude to the space and the surrounding land. Perhaps releasing human, a living memory, is also a way for me to avoid a permanent farewell.
I have been performing preconceived compositions for solo saxophone for many years now. However, when I was asked to give a solo concert in Brooklyn in May 2018, I unintentionally forced myself into performing a fully improvised set of music because I simply didn’t have enough time to get any of my old compositions together. I decided to try throwing myself off a cliff with no net and see what happened. Expecting sensations of exposure and vulnerability to dominate my headspace, I instead experienced the joy of existing within unknown musical territory and the ecstatic freedom that solo improvisation has to offer.
With this significant barrier dismantled, I was excited to record some solo improvisations. The timing seemed serendipitous, given my desire to commemorate the home where my days were numbered. It was clear that the recording should take place there. I arranged for an audience to be present throughout the recording of human in deference to the mysterious internal fire that witnesses ignite within me; this fire never burns while I improvise by myself. Given the pressure of posterity, I disliked the thought of recording just one concert and decided that a run of seven nights would reduce the psychological weight of the recording being made. I also hoped that seven nights would create a feeling of a prolonged ceremony. However, the weeklong marathon exposed another set of personal limitations that I don’t believe would have surfaced had I performed only a single concert. Midway through the fourth concert—as documented in the track “breaking”—I broke down and began to weep uncontrollably. I perceived an artificial cover over my sound, as though everything I had ever played was fake. Though overcome with emotion and a sense of humiliation, I managed to continue playing, staying true to the promise I had made to myself that I would finish each of the concerts no matter what.
human consists of ten improvised pieces for solo tenor saxophone drawn from the seven nights of concerts that were both my parting musical experience in my former mountainside home and a new artistic beginning for me. Out of more than seven hours of improvised music, I chose these excerpts because I consider each of them individually potent. However, I hope that the experience of listening to human in its entirety and in sequence will transport the listener into my room with me for the equivalent of an evening’s concert. (Of course, daytime listening is also very welcome.)
This gauntlet of performances, captured in front of an audience and on record, changed something in me, rendering me less afraid of “failure.” Each of my subsequent solo concerts has been completely improvised. I look forward to journeying further into this essential medium as a way to develop both my musicianship and my ability to respond spontaneously to life.
1. hearing back through the mist
2. the Earth cries
5. the Love inside the wind
7. song for the invisible
8. fanfare for the queen
Travis Laplante: tenor saxophone
All tracks were improvised between December 1st - 7th, 2018 at 222 Putney Mountain Road, Putney, VT
Recording engineer: Dave Snyder
Mixing/Editing: Dave Snyder and Travis Laplante
Mastering: Silas Brown
Layout: Matt Mayer
Cover Art: Sarah H. Paulson / The Promise, 2019 (front); Immortal Mountains, 2018 (back)