Davey and LaDonna
met in 1973. Introduced by Anne LeBaron,
they piled into her beat up gold Cutlas station wagon, and off they went to a local
(How Surreal is that?) Before the evening was over,
they found themselves revolving
high over the countryside on
the top of a Farris wheel, a sure auspicious sign that something
up. Intuitively, they could see it, feel it, the
beginning of something significant. LaDonna was involved in experimental music,
electronics and composition, while Davey had
been investigating free playing, having newly discovered
the European improvisation
movement through Incus and FMP recordings
found at the local head shop. In a followup
meeting to 'improvise' together, their long-term relationship was born.
developed into an innate and mutual psychology of
playing music, utilizing stream
of consciousness and automatism. Their aim was to
create music in which the performer
and composer were one, producing a music inspired the
the moment as an act of
composing and expressing at once. Their music
differentiated itself from the then common jazz-influenced jamming,
evolving from an
eclectic palette, a classical as well as blues & soul background, from influences like
Pierre Henry, Stockhousen and Derek Bailey to phenomena like train engines, found sound,
howling wolves and noise.
they dove into an avid exploration
of art of free-improvisation with an emphasis on music that was as shaped and crafted as
composed music. Digging for a near-psychic method of spontaneous composition,
their first concert was held at the Ferguson Center on the University of
Alabama campus on April 7, 1974. LaDonna on piano, her then primary
instrument, experimenting on the viola, the instrument
which would develop into her
forte; while Davey played both the Gibson Les Paul guitar and bass clarinet. This was
clearly the beginning for the developmental period, and
carreer which was to
In 1976, they
released their first L.P., a
collective of five musicans, who were
improvising regularly, who called themselves "Transcendprovisation".
They were Adrian Dye, an organist; Theodore Bowen, bassist, and Timothy Reed (alias. Fred
Lane) who performed on woodwinds and brass, but at the time favored heavily the alto
flute. "Transcendprovisation" later
expanded personel to include James Hearon on violin & electronics, as well as Anne LeBaron on
harp. Both have gone on to make names for themselves in the academic & composition
worlds. Adrian Dye now lives in Thailand, the "Land of
The TRANS DUO moved
to Birmingham in
1978, and developed long term collaborations with cellist,
Carroll (now in San Francisco) and saxophonist, Wally Shoup (now in Seattle).
With collaborators, they went on to develop the art of improvisation in
collaboration with dancers, Mary Horn, Sycamore, Susan
Hefner, and Juanita Suarez among others who have
been part of the long improvisational dance history in Birmingham.
More LP releases followed through their own recording company, TransMuseq.
They promoted the art of free improvisation in Alabama, bringing
the world's renowned
improvisers to the state of Alabama. Some of the earliest
Concerts featured: Derek
Bailey, Evan Parker, Andrea Centazzo, Eugene Chadborne and John
Zorn, Tristan Honsinger, Paul Lovens & Barry Guy, Maarten Altena, Peter Cusack, Steve
Beresford, Gunter Christmann and Torsten Muller,
Toshinori Kondo, Alexander von Schlippenback, Phil Minton,
Joe McPhee, Oliver Lake, Borbotemagus, Jack Wright,
John Oswald, Tom Guralnick, Raymond Boni, Tony Wren & Marge McDaid, Phil
Minton & Roger Turner, Tim Hodgekinson, Paul Lytton and many, many others.
Through the Improvisation Series at BCDC in the 1980's,
there was a consistent stream, educating the local Alabama culture in small, but potent
Concerts of the greatest
improvisers of the time.
TRANS DUO began to
get invitations to tour, in North America and abroad.
First to San Francisco and
New York, then to England and Italy. Then to Belgium, Germany,
France and Canada. The list goes on
Providence, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Grand
Rapids, etc. It seemed that many curious organizers were interested in booking this
"novelty act" from L A (Lower Alabama). They
invited to New Music America in 1981, to the Canadian "Ear It Live
Festival," to tour Europe, and played the prestigious Moers Festival in
1980, Berlin's UND, and traveled across Europe, the USA and Canada.
In 1980, they were
founders in organizing the Improvisors Network (IN)
based in New York City
for the purpose of "networking musicians with other musicians
to fascilitate a network of
produced around the country.
Organizers on the IN Board included:
Leslie Dalaba (Pres), Chris Cochran, Cinnie Cole, Davey
Williams, LaDonna Smith, and Jack Wright.
Davey Williams became the founding editor of the
IN newsletter which appeared in Autumn of 1980. From this
4 panel newsletter of the Improvisor's Network, the improvisor,
the international journal of free improvisation was born.
From a 4 page newsletter,
it expanding through stages of
to an internet
presencel in the 1990's.
The 30 year anniversary of the improvisor was celebrated in 2010 with a
month long festival hosted in five American cities: Birmingham,
Chattanooga, New York, Seattle, and Athens, Ga .
has provided a forum for philosophy, theory, and
information exchange for 35 years.
TRANS Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith
(photo by Alice Faye Love)
As free improvisation has direct commonalities with the
practices of "automatism" in Surrealism,
Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith
were involved in artistic practices and methods espoused by the
international surrealist community in the
1980's. An offshoot of the larger Raudelunas
Pataphysical Revue, the Glass
Veal Group, became a concentrated surrealist
entity in Birmingham, (Iron Tortoise)
Alabama. They met
daily/weekly to practice automatic writing, painting, and drawing.
They performed Surrealist poetry readings, and
performed Surrealist theater events. In their travels, they
would seek to find and meet many of the original and currently active
Surrealists. Some of
the painters and writers they met in Europe were Jose Pierre, Eduard Jaguer, A.K. El Janaby, and E.F. Grannell. They also sought out meetings with the Chicago
surrealists Franklin and Penelope Rosemont, Hal Rammel, Joel Williams,
J. Karl Bogartte, Robert
Green & Debra Taub, among others. Correspondence with many others and
over time, some Surrealists practitioners
visited Alabama, including
Swedish Johannes Bergmark, Australia's
Tim White and Wisconsin's Hal Rammel
and Gina Litherland. Through
these alliances, a number of poetic and theoretical publications came to be. Their imagery, poetry and articles appear in surrealist literary
publications such as Glass Veal I and II, Beef Sphinx, The Divining Tongue, the "Radio Plays", The Hourglass, The Dirt Furnace, Free Spirits,
Exposcao Internacional Surrealismo & Pintura Fantastica, Dungannon, and Arsenal.