Sam Hillner makes up one-third of the New York free-improvisation unit the Zs, but he also performs solo under the name Diamond Terrifier. His tenor saxophone is fitted with a microphone, which he runs through a delay pedal and some harmonizers to thicken up the sound. The acoustics of the room can shape the direction of a performance, which is as likely to result in a rich droning sound as a wild bit of free squawk.
The moniker Diamond Terrifier comes from the English translation of the Indo-Tibetan god Vajrabairahva. It "refers to something that is stronger than, or able to influence and sway, the strongest thing. Something that can destroy what is indestructible," Hillner explains via email. "I try to create circumstances compositionally and in performance where my creativity, focus, physical capacity and even basic interest in what I'm doing are pushed just a little beyond the threshold of what is actually a good idea. That can lead to really exciting outcomes."
A solo percussion performance can demand even more from an audience, but Chris Corsano is more than your average drummer. His regular duo with saxophonist Paul Flaherty and numerous other projects with everyone from Thurston Moore to Jandek have demonstrated his capacity for fast energy and creative technique. Left to his own devices, Corsano's fleet work on the drum kit is embellished with wood, metal, homemade reed and string instruments, contact microphones and a few electronics. "The big challenge is to keep it musical and not have it be just some technical display ... to have there be tension and movement and contrast," he says. "The other challenge for me is to try to improvise as much as possible to keep things from getting predictable."