The Sanctuary Project –
A Conversation with Percussionist Ross Karre
of red fish blue fish
posted 13 December 2008
David Curry (DRC): You (red fish blue fish) have performed Sanctuary
in extraordinary architectural venues -- the National Gallery of Art East
Building atrium and the courtyard of the Salk Institute. How was your
engagement with the music and each other different in the IPeR
Ross Karre (RK): The IPeR context was different for many physical and
conceptual reasons. Physically, the space was small, acoustically dry,
and quite dark. This changed the tone of the performance in a subtle
way. To me, it seemed to "heat up" the performance, making some of
the passages faster, tighter, and more incisive.
Conceptually, the IPeR recording session was performed in the style of
a recording session, focusing on details and fidelity. The audience was
not physically present nor imagined in this scenario and this alters the
playing style, too. It allows for a personal communication between
performers that is not a presentation to an audience or arranged for
their viewing. It is purely to document a definitive version of the piece.
DRC: In the IPeR recording session, did the advantages of
concentrating on sorter segments, and redoing anything that was not
optimal, outweigh the longer span and special context of a public
performance? What is lost, what gained for you as performers, as
RK: Nothing is lost from shorter segments. Everything is gained. We
took great care to consider the global picture and issues of continuity.
Intense bursts of focused energy are much easier to control over the
course of an entire day of recording than a series of full takes.
DRC: How do you prepare for a recording experience in which you will
be seen as well as heard, especially a recording session which will
presumably have a long life and continue to represent you and your
capacities into the future?
RK: We prepared the instruments so that they would speak and sound
best according to the microphone array. We then played (visually and
audibly) exactly as we normally would. To increase authenticity, no
effort was made to change the way we look or sound for the cameras.
DRC: What concerns did you have when preparing for the IPeR session
and the level of documentation it represented? Did the logistical issues
distract you from focusing on the making of the music itself?
RK: At very few moments, the exhausting logistics made it difficult to
focus but, at moments like this, the take would be redone to
accommodate the focus lapse. Luckily, the pressure of the expectation
of polished results in very few available takes inspired everyone to play
at their absolute maximum output.
DRC: Roger Reynolds has observed that the sense of "occasion" can
powerfully influence the nature of attentiveness that a group of skilled
individuals bring to working collaboratively. Do you have reflections on
this observation when thinking about the IPeR experience?
RK: As mentioned, the pressure intensifies when there is too much to
do in too little time. This brings out the best of red fish blues fish's
abilities (often at the expense of our "sanity"). It's always worth it for red
fish blue fish to push itself to the limits of ability and exhaustion. I
believe the results we achieve by doing this are quite special and very
The sense of occasion was important because it was very similar to the
other documents we have produced for Mode*. We know the type of
results that we are capable of for those documents. They require
absolutely every ounce of energy and focus.
DRC: Ross, thanks very much for these perspectives...best wishes on
the IPeR recording and editing work to come!
# # # #
* Mode Records is a New York City-based label
http://www.moderecords.com/ which has released other red fish blue
About Ross Karre
Ross Karre began playing percussion in elementary school in his
hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan. Early on, he dedicated himself to
experimental performing arts. Ross graduated from the Interlochen
Arts Academy, working with Amy Barber, the Oberlin Conservatory,
working with Michael Rosen, and UCSD where he studied with Steven
During these years, Ross had the opportunity to work with such
important figures in contemporary music as Pierre Boulez, Harrison
Birtwistle, Meredith Monk, Philippe Manoury, the Ensemble
Intercontemprain, David Robertson, Peter Eotvos, and the Percussion
Group Cincinnati. He is a founding member of the ongoing multimedia
collaboration called the Synchronism Project and of the twelve-member
Lucerne Festival Percussion Group. He is the recipient of a Jacob K.
Javits Fellowship, which allows him to study and perform with Steven
Schick and the red fish blue fish percussion group in San Diego,
California, where he currently resides.
The Sanctuary Project
by Roger Reynolds