Duowin2.jpg (13112 bytes)
Trans Duo: LaDonna Smith and Davey Williams (reflection in storefront) 
New Music America,  NYC
                               (photo by Alice Faye Love)

  Davey Williams
  LaDonna Smith
  Trans History
  the improvisor
  TransMuseq Catalog


TransMuseq History

Davey and LaDonna met in 1973, when Anne LeBaron introduced them by inviting them to a local county fair. Before the evening was over, they found themselves revolving on a farris wheel, a sure auspicious sign that something was up. LaDonna was involved in experimental electronic music and composition, while Davey had been interested in his newly discovered Euro-jazz-improv scene, having discovered the Incus and FMP recordings in the local head shop. They arranged a meeting to 'improvise', and their long-term musical relationship was born. Their subsequent meetings and sessions developed into an innate and mutual psychology playing music together, utilizing a stream of consciousness form of automatism. Their aim was to make a music in which the performer and composer were one, producing a music inspired by the very moment in an act of composing and expressing at once. Interested in spontaneous composition, their music differentiated itself from the then common jazz-influenced jam session, 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.

In 1974, they began regular rehearsals and avid exploration into the art of free improvisation with an emphasis on making music that was just as shaped and crafted as composed music. Digging for a near-psychic method of spontaneous composition in collective music, their first concert was held at the Ferguson Center on the University of Alabama campus on April 7, 1974. They performed a duo concert. LaDonna on piano, her then primary instrument, and 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 long experimental and developmental period, which was to follow.

The first L.P. release represented a collective of five musicans, who were improvising regularly together with Williams and Smith, was called "Transcendprovisation".  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. From time to time in live performance, "Transcendprovisation" expanded personel to include James Hearon on violin & electronics, as well as Anne LeBaron on harp, both of who have gone on to make names for themselves in the academic & composition worlds. Last word was Ted was still in Iowa, and Adrian parties in some village in South America on a regular basis. Reed is now famous for his whirly-gigs!

D & L moved from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham in 1984. There the Trans Duo, as Davey & LaDonna became known, developed long term collaborations also with cellist, Doug Carroll (now in San Francisco) and saxophonist, Wally Shoup (now in Seattle). Together with these collaborators, they went on to develop the art of improvisation in collaboration with dancers, Susan Hefner, Mary Horn, Sycamore, and Juanita Suarez among others who have been part of the long improvisational dance history in Birmingham. They continued to release new material through their own recording company, TransMuseq. As well, they avidly promoted the art of free improvisation in Alabama, bringing some of the great improvisors to concert the state of Alabama. Some of the earliest concerts featured many well known names in the field: Andrea Centazzo, Evan Parker, Eugene Chadborne and John Zorn, Derek Baily, Paul Lovens & Barry Guy, Maarten Altena, Peter Cusack, Steve Beresford, Gunter Christmann and Torsten Muller, Alexander von Schlippenback, Phil Minton, Joe McPhee, Oliver Lake, John Oswald, Raymond Boni, Tony Wren & Marge McDaid, Phil Minton & Roger Turner, Tim Hodgekinson, Peter Brotzmann, Malcolm Goldstein, Roger Kleier and Annie Gosfield and many, many others. They were consistently educating the local Alabama culture in small, but potent concerts with the greatest improvisers of the time.

This in turn lead them on their own adventures and travels. First to San Francisco and New York, then to England and Italy. Then to Belgium, Germany,Switzerland, Jugoslavia, 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).

Most frequently performing as TransDuo, they have played almost every major improvisation and new music festival in America, Canada, and Europe. They are also both active soloists in their own style, as well as forming individual collaborations with other improvisers around the globe, and in additional musical projects such as Pataphysical Revue, Fred Lane & the Debonairs, The L. S. D. Trio, Curlew, and Dice.

In 1980, the Improvisors Network (IN) was organized in New York City by Leslie Dalaba for the purpose of networking musicians with other musicians organizing the obscure gigs that were being produced around the country. She envisioned creating the IN Library, a newsletter, radio station lists, and many other ideas. She pulled together a board of improvisors from around the country which included Chris Cochran, Cinnie Cole, Davey Williams, LaDonna Smith, Jack Wright and others. She invited Davey to become editor of the IN newsletter which appeared in Autumn of 1980. From this newsletter journal of the Improvisor's Network, and the improvisor was born. Beginning as a 4 page photocopied newsletter, expanding to 20 pages in the next edition, and going through stages of "magazine", "journal", and now internet journal, the improvisor has provided a format for philosophy, theory, and information exchange for well over 25 years. In the year 2007, it will celebrate its
year history.

Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith have collaboratively managed and edited the improvisor, the international journal of free improvisation I-XI, long since the disappearance of IN. With submissions, reviews of new works, and reports from the readership, it has a life of its own. In its latest permutation, it appears on the web, thanks to the foresight and hard work of webmaster, Glenn Engstrand.

Other music publications which include articles by or about Davey Williams and/or LaDonna Smith include Heresies #10; "Women in Music," (score & article) and Perspectives of New Music, interviews in Muckrucker, WIRE, CADENCE, CODA Magazine, GUITAR PLAYER, Living Music, and miscellaneous newspapers.

              Duo4.jpg (39884 bytes)
               TRANS        Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith
(photo by Alice Faye Love)

Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith were most active in the international surrealist group activities in the 1980's. They were part the Glass Veal Group, a surrealist group in Birmingham, which they call 'Iron Tortoise', Alabama. The group met regularly to practice automatic writing, painting, and drawing. They held poetry readings, and other surrealist theater events. In their travels, they would seek to find and meet many of the original and currently active surrealists. Some of the major painters and writers that they were able to meet 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 Rammell, Joel Williams, Bogartte, Robert Green & Debra Taub, among others. They were in correspondence with many others and over time, some surrealist practitioners have come to Alabama. These include Johannes Bergmark from Sweden, Tim White from Australia, Hal Rammell 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.


The following is a partial discography of their work together.

(CD-rom) Millineum Mind Capsule -Glenn Engstrand

(CD) Eye of the Storm, TransMutating, Dix Improvisations, Aerial #2, Rastascan Yearbook #3, A Confederacy of Dances, USA Tour (with Andrea Centazzo), Travellers (cass), and BirminghamImprov96 Festival Recording (CD).

(LP) Trans, Folk Music, Jewels, Velocities, Alchemical Rowdies, Direct Waves, White Earth Streak, Locales for Ecstacy, Ham Days, Raudelunas Pataphysical Revue, Armed Forces Day, Fred Lane & the Debonairs, From the One that Cut You, Car Radio Jerome (Fred Lane)

Ham Days(Christmann & Muller), The English Channel (Eugene Chadbourne), School (John Zorn), USA Tour (Andrea Centazzo),
They Are, We Are (Misha Feigin), Both Kinds of Music (Misha Feigin)

(EP) Song of Aeropteryx, Hal Rammel.

for a more complete list see Trans Discography.


                 Davey Williams        LaDonna Smith      Trans History    the improvisor        TransMuseq Catalog