Strings and Serpents: ‘Let go and let it just cover you’

Colorado Springs Gazette / October 27, 2014

David Sckolnik

Andy Milne is a highly regarded jazz pianist and composer. But that’s not a description that really suits the 45-year-old Canadian-American.

“Maybe 10 years ago I started to recognize that not all ideas fit into nice little boxes or fit into the box that you want to spend your energy on,” he explained. “I just had to give myself license and confidence to say ‘well, do that thing’ or ‘follow that impulse’ and see where it leads you. That’s kind of the spirit behind why I’m not a dutiful jazz pianist trio or quartet artist even though I love that sort of setting.”

Numerous experimental musical forums have followed in his wake, including his band Dapp Theory and Crystal Magnets, a duo he formed with French pianist Benoît Delbecq. On Tuesday night, Colorado College will host his latest incarnation – Strings and Serpents.

“The birth of this particular project was me sitting and hearing (the Japanese duo) TsuguKaji-Koto and having a very profound, clear vision of wanting to collaborate with them along with Benoît, and adding animation was within the second breath of that image,” Milne said. “I didn’t know necessarily what that collaboration was going to feel like.”

It “feels” like the creation of the universe. Fascinated by the potential soundscapes that could be created by combining pianos and the koto, an ancient Asian stringed instrument, a collaboration was formed by Milne, Frenchman Delbec and TsuguKaji-Koto (Ai Kajigano and Tsugumi Yamamoto). The animated images of Japanese animator Saki Murotani add the visual component for this multimedia portrayal of the “Rainbow Serpent” creation myth.

“It’s the sonic and visual interpretation of the creation myth with a very acute sensitivity to shades in sound and color,” said Milne. “It’s fusing the sensibilities of East and West, contemporary and folk and improvised music and kind of wrapping it up in uncharted territory. There’s this element of risk, but there’s also a greater arc to it. … connecting to various points that happen in an animated story.”

Milne revels in the chance to blend music and spirit with his Japanese partners. “They’re playing 25- and 17-string kotos – that’s not even the norm, which is 13 strings,” said Milne “They’re already off the chart as far as approaching music and their openness to ideas.

“The way this whole piece begins is kind of the awakening of a sort of life force. There’s a visualization that happens either because we’re looking at the screen that’s giving something direct or because you put that into how the sounds combine. This would be the same way whether I was playing with four, five musicians who were coming exclusively out of a jazz tradition.”

There’s really no way to prepare one’s self for what will transpire.

Milne’s advice: “Let go and let it just cover you. Let it filter through you.”

view this article at