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David Dove talks with FPH as Nameless Sound celebrates 10 years

David Dove talks with FPH as Nameless Sound celebrates 10 years
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By Alex Wukman

For once Dave Dove isn’t smiling. The affable founder of Nameless Sound, who grabbed audiences’ attention over two decades ago as part of the seminal ska/funk band Sprawl, rests his hand on his chin and listens in rapt attention as legendary jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd’s latest project the Trombone Tribe breathes new life into Fats Waller’s often overlooked classic “Blue Turning Gray Over You.”

Rudd, reaching back to his days leading a Dixieland band at Yale, lets his trombone ooze sweaty Gulf Coast jazz mixed with fat-back bar blues all over the stage at Diverseworks. His familiarity with the music leads some of those unfamiliar with his career to think he just walked off a New Orleans Second Line, which is strange because he’s from New York.

“We’ve been in Houston a couple of days and we’re starting to get the vibe,” Rudd says. “It’s a very different place than where we come from…but it’s a special place.” Rudd’s drummer, Barry Altschul, kicks off the next song with a Max Roach/Buddy Rich breakbeat that shakes the skins of his pearl colored drum kit. Scattered applause comes from the audience of Houston’s improvised music afficinadoes as Altschul settles into the groove and Rudd and the rest of the band settle in. Almost immediately they start hinting at a melody that’s both familiar and strange, and strangely always just out of reach.

At the show’s intermission Dove chats with audience members about what’s it been like spending the last few days with Rudd and his band, he explains how they guest lectured at one of the many music workshops for inner city and underprivileged youth Nameless Sound puts on every week and how many of the band members had never been to Houston before.  Roswell Rudd’s performance at Diverseworks is the just the sort of thing Dove has been doing in one way or another since the mid 1990s after Sprawl’s rather spectacular implosion, which led to the lead singer kicking over the drummer’s kit while the guitarist punched holes in his amp with his instrument, he says he was “pretty lonely.”

“There weren’t a lot of people who were doing experimental music [then],” says Dove. He goes on to explain how before he had an organization, before he had ever taught a class, he was a musician with ideas about “how conservative music education was.” Over a veggie burger, Cesar salad and glass of white wine at Onion Creek Dove describes how, when he was learning to play, “young musicians were rarely encouraged to explore.” According to Dove one of the things that frustrated him about traditional music education was the idea that young people weren’t encouraged to improvise, compose or learn extended techniques.

Coming up in the DIY culture of the late 1980s and early 1990s gave Dove a perspective that young musicians don’t “have to wait to do [their] own music,” which may seem like common sense to anyone in the rock or hip-hop scenes, but is antithetical to much academic music education. Dove’s focus on teaching young people to use music to express their own feelings and ideas has often rankled some in the academic music establishment who mistake teaching improvisation for ignoring fundamentals. He’s quick to counter that assumption.

“What I tell people is that I don’t propose a replacement of traditional music education, I propose adding something that is missing,” said Dove. He goes on to say that he recognizes that not everyone is going to be interested in walking his path, but then again not everyone is going to be interested in a traditional path either.

“Someone may have the path of learning Chopin or Bach or the Jazz Standards while another person may have a path that uses a turntable or takes apart a piece of electronic equipment. It doesn’t make sense to give them [all] the same curriculum,” said Dove. However, that doesn’t mean that Dove and the rest of Nameless Sound don’t have a firm grounding in the basics of music instruction. He explains that the way he got space to hold the first class of what would go on to become Nameless Sound was by agreeing to teach basic music instruction.

“The seed [for Nameless Sound] was planted in 1997. I talked with Alice Valdez the director of MECA [about my ideas] and she said ‘If you help us out teaching kids scales we’ll give you space to do your thing,” said Dove. Within a few years of starting classes at MECA, Diverseworks invited Dove to curate a series of concerts which led to the further evolution of his theories about music education.

“I had the idea of getting Joe McPhee from New York and having him give a workshop to some kids I’d gathered,” said Dove. The first workshop was met with a positive response from everyone involved and it encouraged Dove to keep going.

“After a few years my mentor, Pauline Olivarez, said she really liked what we were doing and that we could start a branch of her non-profit in Houston. So in 2001 we became the Pauline Olivarez Foundation Houston,” says Dove. He goes to explain that the organization’s relationship with Olivarez “made raising money and getting support easier.” And that they continued to work with Olivarez’s group as they both evolved, the Pauline Olivarez Foundation morphing into the Deep Listening Institute and Dove’s group moving back onto their own.

One of the things that has helped make Dove and Nameless Sound the respected members of the music community that they are is who they work with. “We take our classes to homeless children and refugee children. Kids who need the confidence and the knowledge that you can break the rules, you can go your own way, you don’t have to follow the preconceived path.”

Dove puts down his burger for a moment, wipes his hands and says “there’s something no one’s ever written about us. You can go out and see experimental or improvised music three or four nights a week. Some of the people we’ve taught have gone on to become my peers, like Lucas Gorham, Jason Jackson, Sandy Ewen or Jawaad Taylor in New York. You can see the experimental elements in Jawaad’s hip-hop music or in something like Grandfather Child, they’re still there.”

Nameless Sound hosts the Instant Composers’ Pool Orchestra Friday, April 8, at the Eldorado Ballroom, 2310 Elgin Street. For more information and tickets call (713) 928-5653 or logon to www.namelesssound.org.

  • juan garcia

    I can just thank Dave Dove for all the work that he´s done for the Houston community and for Houston´s outsiders. I started studying with him the sumer of 2000, I was a high school student at Milby by then and now I hold both a bachelor and a Master in Music from UH and ASU respectively.

    I currently work at the Orquesta Sinfonica de Yucatan, a full time professional orchestra in Yucatan Mexico (http://www.sinfonicadeyucatan.com.mx/) as a contrabass player, and run an arts organization that works directly with Mayan speaking children in the Yucatan.

    I owe Dave Dove most of my extracurricular education. Outside the universities and conservatories, people like Dave provide a space for creativity and the further development of creative thinking and to associate to what we hear and what/where we are.

    I applaud Dove´s dedication and success and hold Dave as a person of great value not only for Houston, but for every place where he goes to invite and to initiate people into a more creative way of being.

  • Randy Twaddle

    Mr.Rameshwar,

    I agree with you that it’s unfortunate you feel the necessity to start your own collective to “combat” what Dave is teaching the masses (though I’m not sure it’s quite accurate to say Nameless Sound has reached the masses). As Dave made clear in Mr. Wukman’s fine piece, Nameless Sound is not interested in overthrowing traditional music education but rather supplementing it with another form – which has been developed thoughtfully in the classroom over 10+ years, and continues to be developed.

    As for the your inability to understand the name, meaning and context for Nameless Sound, that would seem to be an inadequacy on your part rather than the organization’s.

    I imagine Dave Dove has been a person of value his entire life; at least I’ve found him to be so the 4 or 5 years I’ve know him. And if he’s treated “reverantly,” it’s because he’s reached out and given his time and evergy and compassion and encouragement to people who are typically ignored and discouraged.

    And finally the answer to your last question is yes.

  • don white

    I harbor considerable doubt that a CD containing any music by any of the amazing musicians associated with or presented by dave and/or nameless sound over the past decade could be purchased at any wal-mart.

    keep up the great work, dave. nameless sound is a rare treasure is this city.

  • David Dove

    Thanks everyone for the kind words. Thanks Alex for the positive attention and article. Greatly appreciated.

    Shawn Rameshwar – Your comment really makes me smile and laugh! I would love to hear more about your collective project to unlearn what Nameless Sound offers. I’m serious! Please share.

  • http://www.remialvarez.com Remi Alvarez

    Mr. David Dove is not only an incredible creative artist, but also a great FRIEND.
    Thanks Dave for your friendship, keep doing it¡¡¡

  • Michelle Yom

    Dave is also a fabulous trombonist. It’s great when artists do work in the community, like teaching young people to be creative. As a public school teacher, I can tell you that creativity in the arts is not always number one priority!

  • Ryan Supak

    Shawn: Dave is valued so much because he has been tirelessly working with underprivileged children for over 10 years, and promoting music that 98% of people think is worthless, and doing it all with a smile on his face.

    Correction for author: it’s “Pauline Oliveros”, not Olivarez — unless she’s changed it for some reason.

    rs

  • Sharon Jackson

    I am proud to know Dave Dove and have witnessed the miracles created inside a child’s heart as they strive to make the sounds of expression through music when they may not even use their own voice to communicate; the sum of professional dedication and a talent to share kindness, joy and the art of expression with others. Keep up the good work as I do know your work in our community is very much appreciated.

  • http://plutoniumrecords.net Mark Weaver

    Pauline Oliveros

  • GeorgeH

    Just to add a correction: Pauline Oliveros, NOT Oliverez.

  • RamonLP4

    Honestly,Shawn,if you have to ask any of these questions in the manner in which you ask them you are either trolling, joking, or simply clueless as to what is happening in your own city. I’m gonna guess it’s #2.

  • Shawn Rameshwar

    I applaud Mr. dove for doing something he believes in and taking it to the masses. I unfortunately feel the necessity to start my own collective to combat and unlearn what dove is teaching the masses.

    who needs something as tinfoil and vaccuous as nameless sound? i want to hear something with a name, with a meaning, with a context, and with its own opinion. if i wanted nameless sound im sure i could purchase some at wal-mart.

    since when is david Dove a person of value? why is he treated so reverantly? has he earned it? Sprawl…gimme a break. black holes implode too, where is the reverance for black holes?