As a teenager in Chicago Scott Fields played guitar, sang, and wrote songs for rock and blues bands. Early on, however, he became interested in New Music and avant-garde jazz, largely by exposure to musicians who were active in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music, which was centered in the south-side neighborhood in which Fields was born and raised. At the age of 17 Fields formed the trio Life Rhythms, in which he played guitar, tenor and soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet, and sundry percussion. Two years later the group disbanded. For the next few years Fields freelanced but did not play in any fixed ensembles. Then he stopped performing entirely and moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he took classes in composition and music theory at the University of Wisconsin and studied classical guitar with George Lindquist and Javier Calderon and jazz guitar with Carl Michel and Roger Brotherhood.
Years later Fields resumed working as a musician full time. Since then, as leader of his own ensembles and as a sideman, Fields has toured throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. He has also released 30 CDs as a leader. In 2004 Fields relocated to Cologne, Germany. Fields focuses on two aspects of music composition and performance. One focus has been creating structures that blur the dichotomy between notated and improvised music. The other has been developing new total and rhythmic organizations for notated and improvised music. His most frequent settings as a composer and performer include the Scott Fields Feartet (a string quartet in which electric guitar replaces one of the violins), an acoustic guitar duo with Elliott Sharp, a classical guitar and theorbo duo with Stephan Rath, a duo with saxophonist Matthias Schubert, the Scott Fields Freetet, (a free-jazz trio), and the Scott Fields Ensemble (which presents instrumental versions of Samuel Beckett plays). When logistics allow Fields presents his modular compositions with the ad hoc Scott Fields Large Ensemble.
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Do you mean my music or other people’s? Let’s start with mine. I try to work through new ideas in a way that is in some way beautiful and interesting.
Advice to some young man
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It would be more accurate to say we tolerate each other. We’ve been married for decades and by now have fought over everything worth fighting about as well as a lot of stuff that didn’t matter in the end. Now we exist in a perpetual, tenuous truce.
“Proud” is pushing it. I’m able to tolerate a few of my recordings, but if I mention them the others will get mad at me for playing favorites. That said, “Fugu” holds a special place in my heart. It was recorded a couple of years after I’d taken many years off from performing. Before Fugu I’d recorded a couple of cassettes and a CD, but with Fugu I felt as though I was getting somewhere.
Sexual Perversity in Chicago
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There is a chance that I have never intentionally completely copied a solo. It always felt wrong. One of my jazz guitar teachers may have convinced me to try, but I’m sure that any attempt I made was half-assed. But I did internalize solos accidently and some fragments keep popping up, mostly B.B. King’s.
Meaning the combination of study, mental training and physical training? The more technique an artist has, the more likely it is that he or she will be able to execute an idea. I understand some faux outsider artists purposely fight against acquiring technique but I don’t get the thinking.
Please pack your knives and go
We’re on good terms. There was a short period when my live sextet included two painters. And I’ve been commissioned several times to write dance music, once by a children’s dance troupe.
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The digitization of music has the advantage of making it portable and available to almost anyone. It has made recording music much less expensive as well.
Different sounds go different places. I do the best to find a sound I like for each moment. It’s easier in Cologne, where I have my own equipment and where I’m familiar with the studios and engineers.
What we talk
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When I want a certain sound for a certain place, I try to figure out how to get it out of a guitar. Or sometimes it works the other way. I’ll find a sound and then think about how it might be used. For 15 years I’ve used a set of about 10 violin bows that I modified with various types of beads, strings, picks, and so on.
Shuffle through the restaurateur gauntlet
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You mean artist with whom I haven’t worked before, right? When I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, in the states, Roscoe Mitchell lived there as well. For some time we got together at his place to play classical guitar-and-flute duets. We did that about once a week when we were both in town. But I never had a chance to write for him or to play his music. Either or both would be wonderful.
Time travel? Then Jimi Hendrix.
The Tragedy of Spade Cooley
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Upcoming in-progress sorts of things? I’m scheduling a recording for my String Feartet of the compete Haydn Sun Quartets, which I was commissioned to “reimagine” last year. There’s hardly any Haydn left in my versions. Shortly after that the Feartet will record my setting of a Sam Shepard play, which I have just started to compose. When those are in the can I will finish work on a suite of music for quarter-tone tuned steel-string acoustic guitar. Tomorrow I will go to the studio to mix a CD of Jeffrey Lependorf’s compositions on which he plays shakuhachi and I play classical guitar. Our first duo CD just came out on Ayler. In mid-2014 I hope to record my free jazz group, the Scott Fields Freetet. And I need to finish my final collection of Beckett music.
This is the photo and caption that Beckett requested for the cover of the first edition of Murphy. Sadly, it never happened.
2013 — Ostryepolya (DVD) Elliott Sharp and Scott Fields — PanRec/NotTwo Records
2013 — everything is in the instructions Scott Fields and Jeffrey Lependorf — Ayler Records
2013 — Kintsugi Scott Fields String Feartet — Between the Lines
2011 — Frail Lumber Scott Fields Ensemble — NotTwo Records
2011 — Moersbow/OZZO Multiple Joyce Orchestra — Clean Feed Records
2011 — Minaret Minuets Scott Fields and Matthias Schubert — Clean Feed Records CF213
2010 — what we talk Scott Fields and Stephan Rath — NEOS Music NEOS41005
2010 — Afiadacampos Elliott Sharp and Scott Fields — NEOS Music NEOS41004
2009 — Samuel Scott Fields Ensemble — New Word Records NWR80695
2008 — Music for the radio program This American Life Scott Fields Ensemble — NEOS Music NEOS40806
2008 — Drawings Scott Fields — Creative Sources CS130
2008 — Scharfefelder Elliott Sharp and Scott Fields — Clean Feed Records CFG003
2008 — Bitter Love Songs Scott Fields Freetet — Clean Feed Records CF102
2007 — We Were The Phliks Scott Fields Ensemble
2006 — Beckett Scott Fields Ensemble — Clean Feed Records CF069
2004 — Song Songs Song Jeff Parker and Scott Fields — Delmark Records DE558
2004 — christangelfox Scott Fields Ensemble — 482 Music 482-1029
2002 — From the Diary of Dog Drexel Scott Fields Ensemble — Rossbin RS008
2002 — 15=15 Plunderplunderfonics Scott Fields Ensemble — Theode THO010101
2001 — Mamet Scott Fields Ensemble — Delmark Records DE527
2001 — 96 Gestures Scott Fields Ensemble — New World CRI CD2001 — triple CD
2001 — this that Scott Fields Ensemble — Accretions CDALP024
2000 — Hornets Collage Fields-Houle-Roebke — Nuscope CD1005
1999 — dénouement Scott Fields Ensemble — Clean Feed Records CF088 — reissued 2007
1997 — Stephen Dembski’s Sonotropism Scott Fields Ensemble — Music and Arts CD1007
1997 — Five Frozen Eggs Scott Fields Ensemble — Music and Arts CD987
1996 — Disaster at Sea, an Opera Seria Scott Fields Ensemble — Music and Arts CD961
1996 — 48 Motives Scott Fields Ensemble — Cadence Jazz Records CJR1064
1995 — Fugu Scott Fields Ensemble — Clean Feed Records CF171 — reissued 2010
1993 — Running with Scissors Scott Fields Quintet — Geode GEO9301
1991 — Etiloation Silt Loam Ensemble — Geode Records GEO9101 — cassette
1990 — Silt Loam Ensemble Silt Loam Ensemble — MMC Records MMC9100 — cassette