chris mapp - bass player, composer, improviser

photo by Sam Slater
Gonioblast with Brass & Stillefelt
Friday 9th March 2018
The Lab at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
8pm, £12 Tickets

I’ve been lucky enough to been given the opportunity to write some new music for two newish ensembles. Although they have a lot of things in common, both ensembles are sonically quite different. Both ensembles are made up of some fantastic improvisers, which means that there’s actually no need to write any music for them at all. However, I wanted to explore the possibilities and challenges of writing music for groups of improvisers. To add shape and precomposed material to the improvisation without inhibiting any of the musicians involved.

The second but equally important part of the project is to create a performance experience. I have chosen to present both sets of new music as two halves of the same concert. I have been working on the material concurrently so it makes sense to present it like that also. In developing the audio and visual aspects of the performance I have been working with two fantastic artists to create what is hopefully an immersive experience as much as a concert performance. Annie Mahtani will spatialise Gonimoblast’s performance through the fantastic new 10.2 system in the Conservatoire Lab space. Leon Trimble (Chromatouch) will be improvising visuals through live coding. This project could not have happened without the support of Arts Council England and Jazzlines.

Gonimoblast with Brass

Leafcutter John - electronics
Chris Mapp - bass & electronics
Dan Nicholls - keys & synths
Mark Sanders - drums & percussion

Mike Adlington - trumpet
Aaron Diaz - trumpet
Richard Foote - trombone
Kieran McLeod - trombone
Sam Wooster - trumpet

Annie Mahtani - spatialisation
Leon Trimble (Chromatouch) - visuals

Gonimoblast has been existence since 2013, combining improvisation and electronics and working with some fantastic guest musicians along the way. Apart from one failed attempt to use a graphic score, the music made by this band has been totally freely improvised. Recordings have been either edited studio improvisations or full performances (like last year’s critically acclaimed Live album with Maja S.K. Ratkje and Arve Henriksen).

I really wanted to write some music for this band to give us, and myself, a new challenge. I was unsure how to attempt this as I didn’t want to spoil the feeling of improvising together by presenting everyone with a load of paper. As we often work with a guest musician I decided to write some music for a guest musician to play. This rapidly became five guest musicians acting as one ensemble voice, an ensemble within the ensemble.

My idea is that the brass ensemble will, as much as possible, behave as a single improvised voice. I have described this, badly, in rehearsals as each musician being like a finger on a keyboard player’s hand. I have written them material to explore, and in rehearsals we have worked together to create ways for the ensemble to have freedom over what they play and when they play it, whilst remaining together as a sonic unit. The rest of Gonimoblast have not rehearsed with us. The first time they will hear the material will be in the performance so as to try and maintain the spontaneity of improvised performance. (A massive thanks goes to Andrew Woodhead who has been our rehearsal pianist/electronicist)

Annie Mahtani originally commissioned Gonimoblast for their debut performance at SOUNDkitchen after I mentioned that I was thinking of putting something together. Since then we have worked together in the BEASTdome and reinterpreting material from the band’s Live album as a quintet and as a duo on BBC Radio 3.

I first met Leon when he was doing the visuals for the Jigsawmusic night in Birmingham. Since then he has gone on to do all sorts of amazing things, pushing the boundaries of audio/visual performance using live coding, projection mapping and an immersive dome. You can check out more about his projects here:


Thomas Seminar Ford - guitar & electronics
Chris Mapp - bass & electronics
Percy Pursglove - trumpet

This will be the first performance of my new band Stillefelt. The name comes from the Norwegian words for quiet (stille) and field (felt). This might explain where some of the influence for the sound and concept of this band came from. These words also crop up in a number of other languages within Europe and have similar meanings. It definitely feels like a good time to try and stay connected to those countries in whatever small way possible.

The music for this band was written to act as a basis for improvisation. We have several musical ideas which can behave as starting points, connectors, end points, springboards or can be completely ignored. The hope is that the compositions suggest directions and sonic worlds for us to explore together as a trio whilst ensuring no two performances will be the same.

We recorded an album together last year which uses some of the material for this performance. It can be found at