Archive for January, 2009

There’s been a bit of discussion on the available AMM bootlegs. So I thought I’d list all the ones that I have here and that I’ll be investigating in the future. This can also serve as an index to this series. If there are any that I’m missing that it is okay to share, please get in touch!

AMM Bootlegs

March 23rd 1966, London, England, UK

March 16th 1969, London, England, UK

January 20th, 1970, London, England, UK

February 3rd, 1970, London, England, UK

March 26th, 1972 Frankfurt Germany with the Gunter Hampel Group

April 23rd, 1979, BBC Studio, London, UK AMM III (Prévost/Rowe)

Unknown date, 1980, BBC Studio, London Supersession (Parker/Rowe/Guy/Prévost)

March 1st, 1987, London, England, UK (Prévost/Rowe/Tilbury/de Saram/Gare)

January, 1988BBC Maida Vale, England, UK (Prévost/Rowe/Tilbury/de Saram)

March 31st, 1990 Taktlos Festival, Zurich, Switzerland (Prévost/Rowe/Tilbury/Gare)

Unknown date, 1993, BBC Broadcast. England, UK (Prévost/Rowe/Tilbury/de Saram)

May 3rd 1994Context Studios, NYC NY USA

May 16th 1994 Ravensberger Spinnerei, Bielefeld, Germany (Rowe/Prévost/Tilbury/de Saram)

October 13th 1995, Nagoya City Art Museum, Nagoya Japan

April 25th 1996, Seattle WA, USA (often listed as May 25th)

July 20th 1996, Jazzgalerie Nickelsdorf, Austria

June 28th 1997, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

March 4th, 1998 Padova, Italy

October 14th, 2000 Boston, MA,USA

November 5th 2000 with the Stadler String Quartet

December 5th, 2000 with Abstract Monarchy Trio, Voicecrack+Günter Müller, Budapest Hungary

April 15th 2001, International House, Chicago IL, USA

December 15th, 2001, Fonotech Portugal

July 11th-14th, 2002 Festival Jazz  Luz, France

Summer 2002, CoMA Summer School, Yorkshire England, UK

November 23rd, 2003 Glasgow, Scotland, UK

May 1st, 2004 Conway Hall, London, England, UK

November 1st, 2005 AMM IV with David Jackman, LMC London UK

March 11th, 2008 Rome IT  AMM IV (Prévost/Tilbury)

Supplemental Material

AMM Membership Timeline – How I determine who is playing in a given bootleg.

 

There was enough great music in 2008, that I could probably go on for twelve more days.  But all these things are arbitrary in one way or another, and the “12 days” motif seemed amusing enough. Plus I slipped that extra one in there anyway :)  I almost had a couple of days with multiple entries, but I pared it down once I decided to write more; it was enough to do as it was.  As I was visiting relatives while I was doing most of this it was hard enough to devote the time and energy as it was.  The lack of my books and recordings was also annoying, though I managed to find enough information online for my purposes.

So a few other great things that I didn’t get to: first and foremost Frédéric Blondy / Thomas Lehn obdo (Another Timbre). This great piano/synth disc was on and off the list the whole time and was until nearly the end a second entry on one of the days. The second great prepared piano work on Another Timbre (after Endspace which made last years list) and before this years Blasen by Sebastian Lexer/Seymour Wright. I love the use of the piano in abstract music and Another Timbre is putting out some the best. Only John Tilbury (on the next Another Timbre release!) is bringing more interesting work to the ivories.  Toshimaru Nakamura Dance Music (Bottrop Boy) is Nakamura’s best solo outing since Side Guitar and probably my favorite solo of his to date. If you can reproduce the extreme low end on this one, watch out! Stéphane Rives Much Remains to be Heard (Al Maslak) is a genuine evolution of his style from his brilliant Fibre and is well worth exploring. My second favorite solo sax record this year.  Finally right on the cusp is David Lacey and Paul Vogel’s The British Isles (Homefront), a mixed release with several incredibly strong pieces but whose centerpiece falls flat to these ears.  David and Paul are outstanding musicians (not to mention great guys with whom I’ve had good times in both Dublin and NYC) and I while I think this album captures some of their greatest music to date I’m certain their best is yet to come.

If I really wanted to go into all of the great composed works I heard
this year (and have yet to hear) another column would be in order, it
really is ridiculous to mix them. Christian Wolff Early Piano Music brilliantly performed by Steffen Schleiermacher (hatART) probably should have been given one of the days, but Wolff’s music, which I absolutely love, is hard to write intelligently about. There is a lot going on under the hood and there is no quicker way to expose
one’s ignorance than a superficial examination of it. I definitely needed my library for this (especially the collection of essays by
Wolff, Cues, that goes into nearly all of his compositions and methods). I’m going to try to write this one up later in the year though.  The Arditti’s disc of John Cage and Jakob Ullmann String Quartets (HR-Musik) would certainly be on that list. While I preferred L’Effaçage the long layered tones of Radu Malfatti’s Düsseldorf Vielfaches (B-Boim Records) was also a record I enjoyed a lot this year and makes for a solid one-two punch from B-Boim. I’ve been listening to a lot more Lachenmann this year after seeing him live and while I’d have to hit the stacks to see which discs were from this year there certainly were one or two that I feel deserved some discussion. This doesn’t even begin to dip into the pre-20th century classical music, of which I’ve bought my fair share of releases this year.

Of course there were the things I didn’t hear that I’ve meant to, the case for everyone for every year. Of things I know I missed there were a couple of new Morton Feldman recordings I must check out (Viola In my Life on ECM, Turfan Fragments and reissue of For Philip Guston on Dog W / A Bone), two new Matchless Recordings (“AMM”+ John Butcher and Eddie Prévost & Seymour Wright) and a solo John Butcher (Resonant Spaces on Confront). It’s possible this could be the year of three (or more!) great sax releases. A slew of intriguing looking releases on Cathnor were released right at the tail end of December that I’m looking forward to checking out. Lastly (from the top of my head list that is) that new hard to get Eliane Radigue disc is one I can’t wait to finally audition.

In closing I don’t think that any backward glance over 2008 would be complete without mentioning John Tilbury’s massive and long awaited magnum opus: Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished (Copula).  While I’m still in the midst of reading it (heavy into Maoism now) there is no doubt in my mind that this is an amazing and thorough work. Tilbury was right there and part of this, which gives him incredible perspective. He doesn’t flinch from pointing out his biases and peccadilloes and clearly delineates when he is editorializing. Assembling twenty-five years of research, interviews, Cardew’s journals, notes and music into this weighty tome was clearly a labor of love done with great skill and taste.  Essential reading for anyone interested in composed or improvised music in the twentieth century.

The Twelve Days of Interesting 2008 Recordings Index:

Day 1
Ami Yoshida/Minoru Sato Composition for voice performer (1997 and 2007)
Day 2John Cage Two2
Day 3Annette Krebs Berlin Electronics
Day 4Toshimaru Nakamura/English One Day
Day 5:  Masahiko Okura/Taku Sugimoto/Taku Unami Chamber Music Concerts Vol. 1
Day 6Annette Krebs/Toshimaru Nakamura SIYU
Day 7Radu Malfatti  L’Effaçage
Day 8Seymour Wright Seymour Wright of Derby
Day 9:   Ryu Hankil/Hong Chulki/Choi Joonyong 5 Modules V
Day 10Choi Joonyong/Hong Chulki/Sachiko M/Otomo Yoshihide Sweet Cuts, Distant Curves
Day 11Mitsuhiro Yoshimura/Masahiko Okura Trio
Day 12Keith Rowe/Taku Unami ErstLive 006 & Keith Rowe ErstLive 007


Keith Rowe/Taku Unami ErstLive 006 (Erstwhile Records)

Almost my final musical acquisitions for the year were two live concerts from Erstwhile Records AMPLIFY 2008: Light festival held in Tokyo, Japan. I was in attendance of these shows and have previously documented these sets to the best of my ability(2,3).  These two sets, along with Sachiko M and Keith Rowe’s duo were my favorite of the festival (followed right after by Mitsuhiro’s Yoshimura’s solo and Keith Rowe’s duo with Toshimaru Nakamura) and it truly is a rare pleasure to be able to revisit these sets so quickly. It is interesting to see how my memory (and notes) compare when being able to hear something more then once.  Of course set and setting are an inescapable elements of a concert review, much more so then listening to a recording where these elements even out over repeated exposure.  A recording should never really change one’s impression about a live event, it is a different experience after all. But (assuming the recording was well done) it can add a lot to one’s understanding of the music and compliment ones experience.

Upon the conclusion of the festival it was the duo with Keith Rowe and Taku Unami that was my favorite. It was sonically rewarding, fraught with tension and unexpected delights and it was fascinating to watch. Listening to it again there is a lot there: Unami’s odd juxtapositions, Keith rising to the challenges and tossing out some of his own, the tentativeness of a first meeting combined with the surety of individuals very secure in their own processes. I wrote at the conclusion of my review of the concert:

This set was unexpected, slippery in that its structure and elements are hard to hold in ones mind and absolutely brilliant. This was the most interesting bit of music I’ve witnessed in a long time, a collision of two of the most interesting musicians around pushing each other outside of any sort of routines and boundaries. The set is so difficult to recall in detail as it was filled with constant left turns, change ups and dense amounts of detail.(3)

Being able to listen to this one again certainly confirms this. As I detailed in my report on the duo there were so many little events and unexpected elements that one just couldn’t retain it all. A review of a live set shouldn’t try to be a moment by moment detailing of it anyway, but should try to capture the essential nature of it, which in this case is it’s uncatchability.

“Music is a vagrant; it has no fixed abode. It’s a menace to society. It needs cleaning up. The impossibility of abolishing music. It’s omnipresence. It’s uncatchability. Perhaps after all we have to step down and let music pursue its own course.” – Cornelius Cardew(1, p.142)


There is in my mind few musicians who let music pursue it’s own course like these two. They are dramatically different yet they share many qualities.  A disruptive nature is one.  I think of the times that Keith would throw up some totally incompatible radio grab and force AMM to work with it, incorporate it. Compare that with Unami’s use of software to randomly pick samples from a sound effects cd to make up the elements of a piece. The orientation is different I think, Unami, though far less forthcoming in his motivations, seems much more intersted in subverting recieved notions of music and disrupting expectations. Rowe on the other hand is questioning his own notions of music and what it is for: “I  [On Harsh] wanted to make something that was not very liked, something that was not obviously a well-rounded performance, something which wasn’t aesthetic, something which wasn’t that satisfying…”(4).  The goals, the process and the tools are all different as are the approach and maybe even the degree of seriousness but there is I think a shared core.

In rehearsal Feldman would help his performers by describing the sounds as ‘sourceless’; he wanted them to take on that precious quality of transience, of uncatchabilty (Cardew’s word), to be free but not arbitrary, elusive but compelling — a perception which evokes and old Taoist dictum: ‘The greatest music has the most tenuous notes.’(1, p.141)

This quote I feel captures this performance very well. The uncatchability that I mentioned previously, the transient nature, the unexpected but not arbitrary.  This duo pushes all of the boundaries, it is right on the edge, the arbitrariness constantly threatening but it stays together, no matter how tenuous.  I’m reminded of Cardew’s view on structure: “arbitrariness is characteristic of the ‘feeling of structure’.”(1, p.96). Cardew celebrated ‘nowness’ and felt that the ‘feeling of structure’ dissipated that. This is the music of the now if there ever was any.



Keith Rowe
ErstLive 007 (Erstwhile Records)

In contrast to his duo with Unami the structure of Keith’s solo set was easier to grasp, after all it was a single mind following a loosely pre-planned route and my memory of it seemed pretty accurate.  In my conclusion to my review of the live set I wrote:

An amazingly powerful piece, once again somehow transcending the previous amazing solo sets I’ve witnessed from Mr. Rowe.  While his collab with Unami was probably my favorite piece of music from the weekend this I think one could argue was the most powerful, the most important and well executed.  He is working with ideas here that I think are of a greater depth then most people in the field and this piece in particular was very carefully thought out in its intentions. (2)

Having had a chance to listen to these many times I’d say that my impression of this piece remains.  I also think that it translates a bit better to disc and as a recording is the stronger piece. While the duo was the music of disruption, of tenuousness flirting with the arbitrary this is music in all of its power to work through ideas. Rowe set out with this set to explore some specific ideas and he was I think quite successful in this. Issues of beauty in music, of differences in cultures (he was the only western musician in this festival), of the place of electronic music in the western tradition and even more pragmatic notions such has having to playing four sets in three days were all a part of the construction of this piece.

I found it [playing with Taku Sugimoto] very easy. It goes back to AMM, I think, and an understanding of economy. Reflection, philosophy. It isn’t necessarily a question of what you do. As Michelangelo would say, “Drawing is making a line around your thoughts.” Your thoughts have to be very clear. My thoughts are very clear; Taku’s thoughts are very clear.(4)

This clarity of thought permeates this piece, which flows with an internal logic, but still retains that uncatchability that has been a hallmark of Rowe’s career. While everything may be questioned, explored worked through, there is a surety at hand, an understanding that it can be done through music if one’s thoughts are clear.  This piece has a depth to it that is rare in improvised music.  Sound orientated music is by it’s nature working with certain ideas and each musician brings to it their own notions as well.  But there is, I think, a bare few who are trying to work through ideas in the music itself. There is a strong undercurrent of music being solely for musics sake in this time and a genuine unwillingness to even try to connect it to the greater world. How many other musicians try to work with “difficult knowledge”:

We live in a world where we know there are lots of difficulties. Lots of things we know to be difficult: child abuse, for example. How do we deal with that as artists? Do we ignore it, or do we try to work in some way towards that?(4)

The most enduring music deals with ideas, it engages with the world.  There is a beauty and an attraction to all sounds and I would not disparage sound orientated musics in any way.  But it is in this realm that novelty is especially prized: there are always new sounds and new juxtapositions of sounds to be had and in this context newness is a feature. The music that lasts is one where novelty is a component that (if present at all) will wear over repeated listens but it is not what keeps bringing you back. No it is that from which the music springs that makes it rich, and constantly rewarding.  The hard questions, the deepest feelings, the big problems, these are things that have no easy answers. Filtering these through music doesn’t give us pat answers, it gives us nourishment, inspiration and contemplation. This is why they last.

“The musician’s pursuit is to recognize the musical composition of the world”  – Cornelius Cardew(1, p.490)

References
1) John Tilbury, Cornelius Cardew A Life Unfinished (Copula 2008)
2) Robert j Kirkpatrick, Amplify 2008: day 1
3) Robert j Kirkpatrick, Amplify 2008: day 2
4) Keith Rowe, interviewed by Dan Warburton


Mitsuhiro Yoshimura/Masahiko Okura
Trio (Presqu’île)

I use a microphone and a pair of headphones for my performance. Although headphones are often thought of as devices for “˜listening’ to music, for me, they are instruments for “˜performing’. In my performances, headphones are not used as objects that exclude outside sounds and cut off the spatial dimensions of the performance site, but rather, objects that work with the space itself. (2)

While it is a mistake to think that Yoshimura’s headphone feedback is a static element in collaboration the onus is definitely upon his partners. Previous recorded outings from Yoshimura have included a solo (and so on) and a duo with Sugimoto (not BGM and so on) and released simultaneously with this disc a trio with Sugimoto and Toshiya Tsunoda (Santa).  In these collaborations we find Sugimoto at his most elusive, barely registering with simple electronic sounds on not BGM and so on and merely rustling papers on Santa. Tsunoda likewise does not rock the boat with his ‘buzzer and brass sticks’ though their presences is felt and underscores the twittering tones from Yoshimura. Along with these recorded documents I have also had the opportunity to witness Yoshimura live twice at this years Amplify festival; once solo that was a more dramatic and aggressive affair then and so on, the other in a duo with Katsura Yamauchi. The duo with Yamauchi underscores my contention that Yoshimura’s partners bear the primary burden in making for a successful collaboration.

“Although this CD is the live recording of a duo concert of Masahiko Okura and myself, I feel that these recorded performances are like two solo sets. However, at the same time, the coincidence factors intruded on these performances deeply and surely influenced in some way so that we can also say this is a trio performance CD.” (1)

In his set with Yamauchi, the most recent (at that point) in a string of performances of this duo, Yoshimura was at his most consistent. In the solo performance the day before he had utilized two sources of feedback and had worked these pure tones against each other in multiple fashions. This led to a variety of dynamic levels, to clashing sounds and the burbling chaos at the interstices of beating tone and related sonic phenomenon.  However for the duo he worked with a single sound source and the sonic variety was limited to the thin warble that came from minute variance in his squeezing of the headphones. Yamauchi though did not seem so much to work with this sonic environment so much as try to play through it like some unwanted but unavoidable outside sound. Having seen him perform solo twice that week, his duo performance was roughly in the same territory with only a short moment at the end of the set where their activities seemed to reinforce each other and become more then two guys playing in the same room.

Having enjoyed the solo recordings and performances from Yoshimura as well as the duo with Sugimoto I realized that this was a challenging partner to improvise with.  It is very simple to either nearly completely disappear ala Sugimoto or to treat his unflinching wall of sound as something to play over ala Yamauchi.  But the question remained, how to play with him as an equal, bringing something to his sound that will compliment it, work with it and bring out music that rises above the individual performances.  Trio, a duo with Masahiko Okura, on the newly formed Presqu’île label, I think provides an answer to that question and points the way for any number of successful collaborations with Yoshimura.

Masahiko Okura has been active in the Tokyo experimental music scene for quite some time(3).  He began in the mid nineties performing techno and noise music and by the late nineties he was playing with Taku Sugimoto and was right at the beginning of the Onkyo movement. While not as prolific as many others in that scene he has appeared at many of the major festivals, was party to many of the ad hoc events, is on many key albums and is one of the regulars in the post onkyo composition movement. He has been unflinching in his performances and his range is pretty incredible, working in the most spare, austere styles to the post-jazz of Otomo Yoshihides New Jazz Orchestra.  As evidenced by his contributions to the Chamber Music Vol.1 set he is doing some of the more interesting work in the current composition scene.

The third time I saw was not a solo performance but a duo with Masahiko Okura on alto sax. What Okura said to me after the concert was very interesting “” “Playing solo saxophone is not the same as playing alongside an electronic device that makes modulations.” Although it was a duo performance, Yoshimura just sat beside Okura without manipulating his sounding instruments at all. (2)

What makes this duo work is that that Okura actually treats Yoshimura’s modulated tones as an equal partner. Not something to surmount, or ignore but as something to respond to, to incorporate and to find his way deep inside.  His sounds range from piercing metallic tones, to hollow breathier sounds, to mechanical rattles and even straight up tonality.  He varies the dynamics, but generally stays in the range of Yoshimura’s feedback. This I think is a big part of his success, it isn’t a matter of simply staying below the dominant level; that never makes for a true collaboration.  When improvising, you can be quiet, or loud or at parity with your partners as the music demands. And Okura here is definitely following the music and responding to where Yoshimura takes it. For Yoshimura isn’t setting up a situation and walking away, there are several factors in how intense and modulated his feedback is that he manipulates all the time.  He can let loose these rising tears that approach out of control feedback before he backs them off, he can vary the tone into several distinct pitches, he can create these beautiful twittering effects and of course combine all of these techniques in a myriad of ways. This simple body of sounds is enough to create structure and Yoshimura’s is molasses slow and continuously evolving.

I think that it is hearing Yoshimura evolve his sound and refine his technique and seeing how his collaborators find a way to work with him that is so fascinating about his music.  Like the best experimental music there will be many failures; some avenues will be dead-ends, yielding interesting initial results but not being a source for continually interesting music.  While I have enjoyed quite a bit the Sugimoto collaborations, this approach could already be played out. I think that Okura’s approach, that is working with Yoshimura as a fellow musician and paying attention to how he is playing is going to yield the best results.  His technique and style is far removed from other players of continuous sound; it seems far more insurmountable and yet more fragile at the same time.  He is far less static than it initially appears and he works with a long structure that can be hard to adapt to. Most importantly, these pairings truly don’t allow for “simultaneous solos”- it just doesn’t work at all. Thus the demands on the performer are pretty high and one is heavily penalized by coasting.  It will be continually rewarding to the listener to hear each collaboration and hear who is able to work in these constraints.

References
1) Mitsuhiro Yoshimura Trio liner notes
2) Mitsuhiro Yoshimura, Yoshio Otani, Taku Sugimoto and so on liner notes
3) Masahiko Okura page at IMJ