Sunday, November 14, 2010

These last weeks

have been exhausting!

Since coming back from Switzerland with Ellaspeed (Tony Buck, Asi Foecker, Magda Mayas and Andy Moor) we had an excellent Splitter rehearsal, followed by a long but not entirely uncomfortable over night train to Wels. Arriving just in time for our first Thymoptholein rehearsal. First day was exhausting - not enough sleep to work on the music effectively - although we did our best, and the night of music was all too emotionally felt. I in fact got incredibly angry with one of the composers and at 2am, with a touch of bad luck, got heavy in a hall-way. In retrospect, a pretty funny moment, but in the morning i regretted it. Maybe calling his music a representative of the oppressive military might of the United States was too hard.

Anyway - Wels was inspiring and frustrating in equal measure, but the frustrations were only personal. When something isn't your cup of tea, it just isn't. When a program is so broad and the musicians so sociable, you're going to find yourself in a situation where you have to say what you think.

For great dance offs in the true Monkey/Gumby variety - big peace!

follow to three Ames Room gigs in Ljubjana, Vienna and Brno - new fingers! new pressures! we got somewhere again.

Tuesday at Blue Tomato, Wednesday at Porgy! Vienna HOY!

why the splitter

I don’t think there is anything more natural in the world that improvising. Taking what you have, what you’re given, what you build, what you perceive, what you know, what you don’t know – and putting it to action in the moment. Sometimes we work with the most complex of tools, sometimes the most basic.

It is no doubt a kind of social experiment to present such an activity en-mass. Sure, we are just making music, but on a much more fundamental level, we, as a society, are making a perceivable, conceivable object – a truth for all to see.

All musicians improvise, but only a small percentage of the worlds sound makers would call themselves ‘Improvising Musicians’ – musicians who, within the discipline of their practice prioritise the navigation of ‘the moment’, of pursuing inspiration as a working tool, and of rigorously implanting the element of surprise in their language. No small task, but also, the most natural of tasks.

In our ‘Western, Free-Market Democracy’ we take a great deal for granted – we accept that economic growth is paramount, we accept that violence against less esteemed word citizens is a natural, if unfortunate, outcome, we accept that you can’t really get by without email, and facebook, we accept that a two party system is democratic enough, we accept that we should wear suits to formal occasions and that popular music should be in 4/4, and of course, how sound should function is drilled into us from an early age.

So – the risk of re-interpreting how music exists into this all-around-accepted model of things, is that people won’t understand it, won’t know how to listen to it, and won’t be open to it.

What I’ve always hoped for in experiencing music played by a large amount of people, is that something will happen that shakes the foundations of experience – and that the cavern that is formed is big enough to drag everyone of us in, if only for that moment of awe. Genuinely being unified by a new and profound experience of beauty or fear that ripples through the musicians and their sound, and through their sound – the first tool of communication – that it reaches all of us.

In the orchestra we have 24 such unique motivations – some political, some purely aesthetic, some intellectual, some driven by simple curiosity. Somewhere within these elements is an empathy that links us all.

In 2003 Clare Cooper and I created The Splinter Orchestra in Sydney as a force to explore many of the issues associated with improvising – alone or with others, and also as a learning tool for an emerging community of musicians interested in out-jazz, contemporary composition, minimalism, reductionism and experimentalism. AKA Not-For Profit Music.

In returning to this investigation in Berlin, a very different picture emerges.

The 24 piece Splitter Orchester is a melting pot of dedicated, experienced, self-motivated and fiercely driven individuals – this is not a workshop, but a culmination – a crucible in which the dynamic, the brilliant, the humble, the open and curious cast themselves.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oh, strava

hitting the road for a few days followed by a few days followed by a few days. The Eastern Block Party.

do it

OH! AND STRIKE while the bow hair is hot

do it

Call for entries

if the world is going to go through a philosophical transformation in 2012, what might it be that makes it happen.
this blog is a call for entries.

the best idea changes the world:

A: ....


We're on!
after a week of rehearsals (i speak before the fact but...)
we'll be premiering a night of new and immediate music from the pen/mind of 24 astounding humans. Not that the other billion or so aren't also full of the universes most complex organism and potentialities.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

coming up in vienna

enjoy Vienna peeps -
also happening with yours truly:

November 9, 2010: THE AMES ROOM at Blue Tomato
November 13: Franz Hautzinger / Yedda Chun / CT Trio
November 17: Songs of Innocence at Porgy and Bess with Phil Minton, Hannes Loeschel, Burkhard Stangle, Matthias Koch

Monday, October 4, 2010

ames room review -

Saturday, October 2, 2010

i am the holy ghost

You wouldn't know it from reading this blog, but I am an apostate of the church of free jazz. From around 1975 to not so many years ago, I amassed, attended to and proselytized around the fire music of Ayler, Brötzmann and other first generation improv pentecostals. I have an endless supply of the sorts of war stories that attend such evangelism- the alienation of affection that tears houses asunder when true believers spin Kalapurasha McIntyre's Humility In The Light of the Creator during dinners with in-laws; the room-clearing effect Cecil Taylor/Jimmy Lyons/Sonny Murray possessed in the 70s, despite affinities of blood and marriage; enthusiasms riven by tears and genuine entreaties by partners attending concerts ["can we just go, please?"].

Even as my more aggressive outreach to others cooled, becoming a fatuous and self-serving sense of superiority [witnessed aplenty by today's devotees of EAI and noise, of course], I carried the flame for free jazz through the ensuing decades of permutations, even as that area of music became moribund and, inevitably, codified and markedly unfree.

For nearly 10 years I steered clear of my own record collection, having exhausted the sides I accumulated in pilgrimages to record stores like Rick Ballard's Imports in Berkeley [where, in 1986, I drained my savings account upon discovering Ballard's bins held the complete FMP catalog in used and new editions]. I sold off 350-400 albums throughout the waning years of the 90s, retaining only what I regarded as the Tanakh at that time- the first edition ESPs [Ayler! Bob James!]. I occasionally revisited the Horos, Saturns and Incus treasures that had cost me so much affection and troubled so many friends and neighbors, but essentially fell away from the ecstatic glossolalia of free jazz until around 2005 or so.

What accounts for my prodigal return to the pews of the New [Old] Thing? Hard to say, as with every passing year what guides my attention in music is intuitive, attuned to pleasures and interests outside of the constraints of genre or the onus of aesthetic criterion like is it new? Is it, in some Platonic sense, authentically innovative? Having dived deep and surfaced for nearly seven years now in the different waters of EAI, I am content to listen to whatever improvisation reaches me through whatever sensorium. I have known the samadhi induced by drone, the pleasures of the ineffability induced by onkyo, and spent more hours than my readers might believe dwelling in the nerve-ending interstices of silence and near- silence found in microsound/ultraminmal music [Sugimoto, Malfatti, et al].

I intend this less as an apologia than as an amusing setting forth of the bona fides I bring to hearing The Ames Room's In, the 2008 recording of the roots and branches of Ayler's holy hell raised by saxophone-bass-drums.
Will Guthrie isn't close to exhaustion in his plumbing of free jazz for its inexhaustible joy, frenetic esprits de corps and unabashed high intensity/high volume working methods. Guthrie, along with saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet and bassist Clayton Thomas, create music in a great range of areas- the concrete of works like Guthrie's Spear and last year's fantastic, improbably concise Spike-s, the noise of Cinabri, his duo with Ferran Fages, and now the fire-breathing, pummeling trio of The Ames Room.

Trane was the Father, Pharoah was the Son, I am the Holy Ghost.
~ Albert Ayler

Like Ayler's music, with its roots in R & B and the church, this trio maintains an exultant, dancing quality throughout the records' two 20 minute live performances. Dubbed maximal minimalist terror jazz by Guthrie, approach without concern that the music is brutal or bruising. In fact, the trio sings, swings and gallops through their paces, with a cohesion and unity that suggests considerable playing time together. Guionnet is more virtuosic than Ayler, spewing endless, sinuous lines on the alto sax, often cantilevered lines on which Guthrie plays in and out of time, at times locking into tongue-and-groove sections of the trio dance. They are a little reminiscent of the Trevor Watts/Barry Guy/John Stevens trio of No Fear.

The best aspects of fire music are heard here- music that is at once visceral, articulate and determined to move the body [think Marion Brown or the testifying of early Shepp, informed by the trio's respective experiences in elecro-acoustic settings]. Obviously if you have decided Ayler's lineage is exhausted, played out and dead-on-the-vine, you may have trouble attuning to the trio's self-evident joy, writing in the air with brazen, ecstatic tongues, another testament of the holy ghost. For this prodigal, returning to Ayler's well after many years and divergent roads, The Ames Room is the perfect chorus.

Photo: The Ames Room trio-L-R, Thomas/Guthrie/Guionnet

Monotype Records

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hammeriver Review - The Watchful Ear, how nice

The only Alice Coltrane album I own, and so therefore also the only one I have listened to, isJourney in Satchidananda, an album which for some peculiar reason I once got sent years back when I renewed my subscription to The Wire magazine. While my musical tastes have generally wandered off in other directions I do remember really enjoying the richness of that album, a kind of warmth and dense layering of sound that appealed to me a lot in my mid twenties. Its kind of fitting then that my head was turned towards tonight’s CD by an email recommending it to me by The Wire’s current editor- fitting in that the CD in question, the disc by the Australian/European Hammeriver septet is dedicated to the spirit and music of Alice Coltrane, and attempts to re-envisage the feel of her music through this new CD. It is actually a thoroughly beautiful album.

The disc is released on the Russian Mikroton label and features recordings made back in 2007 by the group of Clare Cooper, (harp) Chris Abrahams, (piano) Christof Kurzmann, (lloop) Tobias Delius, (clarinet and tenor sax) Clayton Thomas, (double bass) Werner Dafeldecker, (double bass) and Tony Buck (drums). The music is described in the liner notes as composed by the group, but while it feels like their has been some degree of mutual agreement on the general feel and shape of at least some of the five tracks, perhaps even some definite direction on one or two of them, I doubt that there was very much of anything written down, and the detail of the music at least is all improvised.

It is however, a thoroughly gorgeous album. The piece all tend to move slowly, often beginning with simple motifs such as simple piano patterns or swaying bass moans but they build into a beautifully detailed mass of carefully layered washes of sound, on the surface all rising together in harmony, if listened to carefully all made up of small elements pulling in different directions but still coming together as a whole. Generally speaking the basses underpin everything with a heaving warmth, which is offset by Kurzmann’s grainy, gritty laptop sound, with Buck spraying mostly cymbal splashes about between them. On top, the sax occasionally breaks out into tiny fragments of jazzy expression, and the harp and piano pick out a mixture of sparse ringing notes and little bits of melody. The impact of it all together, particularly in the midst of the swells of sound that the group push themselves into is truly inspiring, really richly detailed and demanding that you drop everything and listen deep down into the music’s strata. It all still sounds wonderfully controlled however, even with seven musicians playing together the album doesn’t ever feel like an overworked soup, there is a clarity and simplicity to the shape and structure of the music that was probably pre-determined but still sounds thoroughly organic.

If the album sets out to pull the emotional boldness of Coltrane’s music into a modern setting then I think it succeeds very well. The music here is no challenge to the listener, and makes no claims to originality, but it really is quite powerfully beautiful, thoroughly seductive and embracing, particularly when turned up loud, so allowing the listener to immerse themselves in it entirely. There are little tinges of jazz in there, tiny reminders of the music’s heritage, but in general the link to Coltrane’s music is mostly through the amorphous, glowing, overwhelming grandeur of the music, a no-holds-barred attempt at envisioning ecstasy through sound.

This is a really lovely album, one of the best recordings by a largely acoustic improv group this size I have heard. It is very easy listening, but it took no small amount of skill and musicianship to produce such a work. It also comes wrapped in a beautiful digipack adorned by screen prints by Cooper, who produced the album, and given that she shares her choice of instrument with Alice Coltrane was probably the instigator behind this release. Heartwarmingly uplifting music. I am so glad it was recommended to me and am more than happy to do so to you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

after a tour with AUS, a tour with the Ames Room and a 3 day trip to Korea...

Nate Wooley, a dear friend, and long time sweet heart (so to speak) is coming to Berlin for 3 days in October. The first time we met was in 2001 I think, we had a trio play in New York with Tatsuya Nakitani - we played Mopti for a long time and I struggled my way around the bass. He was very understanding.

After ten years, everything should be a little more refined - an all plus situation.

Nathanja and Heinrich have been very nice to let us return after twice opening up for us.


October 9, 2010
variously combining:

Nate Wooley, trumpet
Anthea Caddy, cello
Michael Thieke, clarinets
Hannes Lingens, snare
Clare Cooper, guzheng
Chris Abrahams, Yamaha Dx7

October 10, 2010

Thieke / Thomas / Caddy / Wooley

and GERM STUDIES with Clare and Chris
(for a long time now, my favourite band in the universe) reveals much.


I'll update the survival method through the various countries, situations and time zones between then and now.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hammeriver tonight

Elizabethkirche - Mitte,
improvising in the spirit

21:00uhr at the echtzeitmusiktag

Tobias Delius, saxophone and clarinet
Werner Dafeldecker, double bass
Christof Kurzmann, lloopp
Will Guthrie, drums
Clayton Thomas, double bass
Clare Cooper, harp and leadership

- kind of a cross movement between drone-swing and textural stasis.
but nicer.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Learnings from Teachings

One of the lectures I was doing in Singapore was on the role that race relations played in the formation of American music. I was coming from the point of view of someone who grew up listening to hip hop and soul, then jazz, then swing, R&B, modern jazz, free jazz... onwards.

I made the analysis that in the end, the driving force of American music has been survival. Primarily as the first co-created environments between black and white Americans were in the Church, and the church was a means for Slaves to prove their humanity - by becoming christians. And by such, be accepted as 'men'. By combining the western christian song, belief system and environment with the still remembered song / sound / dynamic of African traditions, the first American gospels were sung.

My personal point at the end of all of this was, that, as a white Australian, I'm looking for a music and honesty in creativity that isn't reflective of a distant, un-related tradition - which is why I look towards total improvisation as an answer.

A student at the end of the lecture said to me 'so - you are saying is when you find your true personal truth, you can shoot the true arrow of love'

Go Anson.

Monday, September 13, 2010

the land of a thousand chances

So, it's the second week of September. On the 1st I got on an evening flight to Singapore. 14 hours of no TV, no vegetarian meal, but some leg-room, fun. I tried to read Aldus Huxley's "Island", and managed it until too many people fell asleep in my presence and the reading lamp proved too invasive. I'm a people person in the end, and i could hardly keep my eyes open - but my brain refused to follow my retina into darkness.
I was in Singapore as Artist in Residence at Lasalle College of the Arts - which was an official channel for my dear colleague and 'head of school' Tim O'Dwyer to get me into the country to record a new trio record. After a week of 16 hours a day as performance coach, history teacher, race relations ambassador and all-round teen-mind-blower, we got a great record made - so, that was exciting. Big props to Maggot Brain for his haircut and Jeremiah for substance.

Home for a night with Paul Lovens and Ignaz Schick for the inaugural 'Echtzeitmusiktage' hosted by the saxophonist of the same name. I was too tired to know how it went on the inside, but on the outside we had a great night.

In passing - I'm not much of a write about myself person, and really, the idea of promoting concerts, or in fact, the very idea that anybody might want to read what I'm up to is a bit out - but for the sake of feeling that there is some sense of the rather odd planet I'm living on, then why not get to work....kind of a book for me at least, to look back on and say - oh - i remember that train trip - the snow storm in Brno that looked like the fuzz of an un-tuned TV station. (for example.

I'm concerned that the year is perceivable in closed fist of a three month calendar. :

Hammeriver in Berlin, Trio Aus in Salzburg, Nickelsdorf and Utrecht, The Ames Room in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds and London, Contrabass in Korea, Nate Woolley and Friends in Berlin, Treffen in Belgium, Astronomical Unit, Gebhards Bass X 3 and Kellers Killers in Sibiu, Strike in Densites and Ostrava, Ella Speed in Swizerland, Thymolpholein in Wels, Ames Room in Ljubiana, Vienna and Brno, Splitter Orchster at Radialsystem, Corkestra in Holland, Ames Room in Tours, Paris and Ghent, KBKB in Vienna and Graz...and that's the end of the year with three days rest.

Surely there is a way to use a blog productively. But I've never been Lindsay Lohan basher...?