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Where most people hear the roar of an ocean or the trickling of a brook, Doug Wieselman hears a song.
The renowned Bedford-Stuyvesant clarinetist said the 10 tracks on his new solo album, “From Water,” all came from attempts to transcribe the melodies he hears underneath the typical noises made by bodies of water. It is not the easiest pool of inspiration to draw from, he admitted.
“It’s very quiet,” Wieselman said. “You really have to be in a very receptive, quiet state of mind to hear it.”
But Wieselman has pulled it off. Not a single drop of water was spilled in making the album, yet the songs evoke the same relaxing feelings as listening to the sound of waves or a running river as background noise.
For most of the tracks on “From Water,” Wieselman layered different melodic phrases on top of each other, building dense mini-symphonies using only his clarinet. But for one song, “Tennessee Valley (Choir),” he instead applied the same idea to a group of vocalists, including the women of trip-hop-pop band Cibo Matto and Brooklyn-based composer Aaron Roche.
“That song is the closest approximation I’ve gotten to the phenomenon that I hear,” said Wieselman. “If you listen to it at a super, super, super low volume, you’ll get the full effect.”
“From Water” also serves as fine example of the versatility of this much sought-after musician. Wieselman is perhaps best known for his longtime membership in the Johnsons, vocalist Antony Hegarty’s backing band, but over the years has also collaborated with jazz icons Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot, the late Lou Reed and his wife Laurie Anderson, as well as indie acts like Jolie Holland and Martha Wainwright.
Being a man of many bands means Wieselman often has to make quick adjustments in both his playing style and his choice of instrument (he’s also pretty handy with an electric guitar). But Wieselman said he has never had trouble shifting gears swiftly from night to night. Much like finding the music in a river, you just have to use your ears — and go with the flow.
“It’s just listening,” he said. “Listening to what’s going on and tuning into that. Whatever it is in front of me, I just try to get into it as deeply as I can.”
Doug Wieselman performs at Barbes, [376 Ninth St. at 6th Avenue in Park Slope, (347) 422-0248, www.barbesbrooklyn.com]. Feb. 8 at 8 pm, $10.
©2014 Community Newspaper Group
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