Gahlord Dewald, Bio

Contextual linkages for pinning down an artist

Gahlord Dewald :: 1/18/22 :: Mānoa, Hawai‘i

"We think because we have hands."

A statement of creative practice

Dan Carr introduced this quote to me on the first day of what would become a years long apprenticeship at Golgonooza Type Foundry & Letterpress, a typography and book arts studio he ran with his partner Julia Ferrari. While working with them, I was able to absorb the rhythms of their work, routines for completing tasks, and also talk with them directly about their practice. While the product of their work is inherently visual, much of the process is informed by sound—the rhythms and pitch of machines that make metal type will inform the machine operator of ways to manage the machine, the rhythm of work assembling a book will inform the binding quality. To absorb knowledge in an apprenticeship—spending time doing actual work, listening, questioning in ways directly related to the work—is increasingly rare; I was lucky to learn this way.

As a creative musician I often work with my hands: directly manipulating sound through instruments, voice and embodied sound, electronics, found objects—anything I can get my hands on. Using of form, texture, and ensemble communication gives me room and material to practice decision-making and pattern recognition. Critical and systems thinking is changed and improved as a byproduct of creative practice. In the same way that I was able to work with typography masters to enhance my musical practice, I continue to explore how music practices can be shared with people who may or may not identify as musicians.

Jennie Gottschalk's Experimental Music since 1970 defines experimental music based on five conceptual arcs. Three of them—change, research, and experience—are especially resonant to me. Gottschalk describes change as an operation that works on the perception and thinking of both the musician and the audience. Research involves process design, considering specific questions. Experience places creative music practices firmly in the world we inhabit.

My own creative practice plays along these three conceptual arcs. For example, incorporating modular electronics with my double bass has involved research in technique, technology, and effect. In addition, working with modular electronics has taught me new methods and vocabularies of audio manipulation, changing the way I experience sound.

Developing my practice has lead me to further questions. How does knowledge—especially the kinds which resist being pinned down with language or mathematics—pass between people? How do we create a direct experience of the world as it exists, together?

Working with master craftspeople has alerted me to the kinds of questions and problems that are being solved by creative practitioners—beyond “put this thing there” or “play this note at that time.” Awareness and sensitivity to this knowledge is a skill that I have been able to acquire, through experimentation.

And so I continue to make music, experimentally, to learn more about the world we share.

The dreaded lists.

It seems every musician in experimental or classical-offshoot genres has, somewhere in their bio, a paragraph that is a seemingly endless list. Maybe it’s a list(or worst of all: the gear sponsorships) of schools attended, or pieces performed, or places played, or teachers, or ensembles.

Here are mine.

Parting thoughts re: lists

Lists like those above don’t really give a full perspective of who I am or what I do as a music maker. For those who know the people and places on the lists there might some “aha” moments (oh that’s why he hates metronomes!) but mostly the lists reduce lived experience to some checklist things. But still, maybe useful checklists. Who knows. I’ll add more to these lists over time, let me know what kind of list you’d want to see.