Playing more vs. less

For many of us there is a strong impulse when playing music to add, to build, to create narrative climax through volume or increasing the number of notes. Think shredding solos. Think more shredding solos. The narrative (musical) evolution invariably follows the thread... intro-rising action-climax-release-closure. 

For sure this impulse is culturally-relative and it expresses a particular quality of experience. That is an experience so many of us love and appreciate in music - the ecstatic freak out, the release of expression bordering on overload and utter collapse, the awe of watching Olympic-level musician chopsters burn through notes and rhythms. But what about other ways of creating tension & release? Other ways of building a musical narrative? Can we build by simply repeating something without changing it? Can we build by using effects or changing physical technique to change timbre/tone over time (contemporary pop music suggests: yes we can)?  It's an odd thought, but can we build by taking away?

I've been experimenting with drone compositions lately. In this case drone compositions involve no set tempo, one note and its octaves, maybe the 5th in there or not. For example, a drone in E using the note E with a B (it's 5th) showing up at some point. Sounds thrilling eh? It's challenging and fun to try to evolve the music without adding a flurry of beats or notes. Separately, I'm also thinking about this more circular quality of musical movement in terms of a groove sensibility I've long gravitated towards but often felt conflicted about - composing drum beats and grooves that don't "go anywhere," they just create a pocket and sit in it. When I do field recordings of nature sounds - birds and water and the like - I hear something closer to this quality of musicality happening most of the time. And it's very interesting.