Ryan Alfred “We Are Made Of Time”
together with The Hotel Congress
March 29, 2022
Time is the common variable of all art. It is what defines sound and pitch, and at faster rates, color and light. It is what separates composition from performance. It is paint drying on the canvas, the instant fracture of million-year-old marble, the browning in the baker’s oven, a tackle or a touchdown, an echo in the canyon, the stars you can see, and the ones you can’t.
Polymath artist Ryan Alfred’s “We Are Made Of Time” is a fully improvised exercise in spontaneous composition, a tightrope act of electronic, vocal, and acoustic elements recorded and processed live without a net of pre-recorded material. Onstage are a few synthesizers, an upright bass, a nylon string guitar, and a vocal mic, routed through an Ableton Live-based processing network optimized for improvisation.
A graduate of Berklee School Of Music’s Synthesis department, Ryan has been thinking about what it means to perform electronic music since the late 90s. “I would go see performances by electronic artists, and it was nearly always somewhere on the karaoke spectrum, meaning to some degree it was pre-recorded, with some elements left for musicians onstage to play or sing. Often, it was “hit play and look busy”, where it was clear that most if not all of what was heard was pre-recorded. It really got me thinking, what exactly do we mean when we say somebody was playing live ?”
After graduating college, Ryan split his time between performing music and learning about sound as a sound engineer. He has toured the world playing upright bass and singing harmony with Tucson luminaries Calexico, and the Tucson Weekly praised his band SweetGhosts (a collaboration with his partner Katherine Byrnes) as “Stunning…rarely predictable”. At 25, his compositions for the rock-n-roll tap show Revolution debuted at New York’s famed Joyce Theater, and more recently he collaborated with Ben Nisbet on an original electronic score for Art.if.act Dance Company’s “Impetus”. As a sound engineer, he has traveled with The Jayhawks, Nick Lowe, Fun., She Wants Revenge, Manchester Orchestra, and many others.
Maybe time and refinement are all that really distinguish composition from improvisation, but not all edits are improvements, and often the initial expression of an idea is the truest to its essence. We have essays and we have conversations; “We Are Made Of Time” brings Ryan Alfred’s full range of instruments into conversation, employing modern technology and timeless instruments to present a unique, fully present moment of creation.