Entries tagged with “Christopher Hobbs”.

There has been some question as to the AMM lineup at various points in their history.  It is a complicated issue considering that the group has been around for nearly fifty years now and has constantly changed its membership over the years.  Additionally there have been plenty of guests, members at large and collaborative performances to further complicate the issue. Over the course of my reviews of the various bootlegs floating around I have made various assumptions w/r/t to the line up on a particular recording, some of which have conflicted with the information circulating with the sources.  In general the information that comes with the sources is highly suspect – they simply use information that is highly generalized or from sources that are not particularly accurate (the AMM page on Wikipedia is fairly useless for instance).  My process is to always start with principle sources, amend it with secondary sources and then to finally rely on the evidence of my ears. Based on this process I have complied the following timeline of AMM’s membership, all of which is verified via the sources cited.

AMM Timeline


Early 1965
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare(1)


Mid 1965
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Lawrence Sheaff (1, 5)

1966 to mid-1967
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Lawrence Sheaff, Cornelius Cardew (1, 2)

Cardew officially joins in January(2; p. 254)

Mid-1967 to April 1968
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew (1, 2, 8)

Lawrence Sheaff leaves group a few months after recording AMMMusic (8, 5, 1; p185) probably April 20th 1967

April 1968 to 1969
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew, Christian Wolff, Christopher Hobbs (1, 2, 5)

Christopher Hobbs joins April 1968 (2; p. 304)
Christian Wollf’s Sabbatical Year(1; p.185, 2; p.304)
John Tilbury filling in for Cardew at times
(1; p.185)

1969 to May 1971
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew, Christopher Hobbs (1, 2, 5)

Hobbs leaves the group in May 1971(2, p.650)

May 1971 to March 1972
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew (1, 2; p.650)

March 26th 1972 – final AMM show(2; p. 651)

AMM: double duos

March 1972 to January 1973

The occasional double AMM:  Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare and Cornelius Cardew, Keith Rowe(1, 2; p. 651)


mid-1972 to 1975
Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare (1, 2, 3)


Summer 1976
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew(1; p.186, 2l p.816)

Unrecorded, no performances, practices only, which apparently didn’t work out.


1977 to 1979
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost (1, 2, 3)

(1979/80:  Supersession: Evan Parker/Keith Rowe/Barry Guy/Edwin Prévost)


late 1980 to 1986
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury  (1, 3)

1986 to 1994
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury, Rohan de Saram (1, 3)

1989(?) to 1992
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury, Rohan de Saram, Lou Gare(4)

1994 to mid-2004
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury

May 1st 2004:  Final AMM show


2005 to present
Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury


The sixties are of course the most contentious, being a long time ago and featuring the largest amount of changes. Cardew joining, Sheaff leaving in 1967, Hobbs and Wolff joining and then the fracture in the 70s. Tilbury’s Cardew bio goes a long way to providing specific dates for some events though others remain somewhat vague (no specific date for Sheaff leaving the group for instance just “April 1967, though his last concert with the group is mentioned, as being at the Commonwealth Institute which the Factsheet(5) lists only one in April on the 20th.

1968 to 1970
The information that I begin with for AMM from 1968 to their breakup in 1972 is primarily sourced from Prévost’s article AMM 1965/1994 — a brief and mostly chronological historical summary published in No Sound is Innocent(4) :

In 1968 American composer Christian Wolff joined the ensemble for the duration of his sabbatical year in Britain. Also during this time Christopher Hobbs, a percussionist and composition student of Cardew’s, at the Royal Academy of Music, regularly performed with AMM. John Tilbury occasionally participated when Cardew was not present.

From the early 1970s until the fracture of AMM in 1972 the ensemble remained the quartet: Cardew, Gare, Prévost and Rowe.” (4, p.185)

1969 is a question: was Christian Wolff’s “sabbatical year” – was it a school year, so Autumn 1968 to Summer 1969? Or was it literally 1968?  Additionally by saying that Hobbs played “during this time” does Prévost mean exclusively during Wolff’s time? Considering that Hobbs is part of the group for The Crypt sessions (12th June, 1968) but not Wolff I’d say this is the case.  This is further backed up by the fact that Hobbs was part of the group ion December 1969 when they played in Denmark as released as part of the Laminal box set. Thus I think that that sentence is too compress, it seems that Hobbs was a part of AMM from 1968/1969 presumably starting around the time that Wolff did. Alas there are no AMM recordings floating around with Christian Wolff , leaving this as one of the most egregious missing eras in the historical record. In the various bootlegs floating around It seems to be generally assumed that Hobbs is still part of group in 1970 and there has been some question as to why I don’t always follow this assumption. Again it is the above quote that by “early 1970 the ensemble remained the quartet”.  Clearly Hobbs left at this point but what exactly qualifies as the “early 70s”? Of the two bootlegs that I have in question from this period (Jan. and Feb. 1970) it sounds like there are two percussionists in the January recording and only one on the February recording. Thus I make the cutoff here.

In the 70s the originally group came to an end but several interesting events occurred. First off due to prior commitments the group had a tour and a festival in the Netherlands. With irreconcilable differences between the Rowe/Cardew and Gare/Prévost camps they played as the double duos. Gare/Prévost presumably playing as they would in AMM II but the Cardew/Rowe duo is completely unheard at this point. The record indicates that they were more in the traditionally abstract AMM realm (as opposed to Gare/Prévost’s more ‘free jazz’ sound) and would often play over tapes of the Peking Opera and other such revolutionary sound musics). AMM II would be the other major event of the mid 70s, this was the continuing duo of Gare and Prévost, who constantly got billed as AMM so they rolled with it. At the end of the 70s when the duo of Rowe and Prévost formed they used AMM III a the moniker indicated that the Gare/Prévost duo was AMM II, which I’ve used throughout.

The most strange and interesting things though occurred in 1976 when Rowe made an attempt to get the quartet back together again. There was a concert on April 1st of that year that Rowe refers to as a “hidden” AMM concert that included himself, Cardew and Prévost plus flautist John Wesley-Barker and double-bassist Marcio Mattos(2; p. 816). This event has been heretofore unknown only revealed in Tilbury’s massive Cardew biography.  The other event, more well known, was a series of practices in June of 1976 of the quarter of Gare, Cardew, Prévost and Rowe(2; p.816).  These apparently didn’t work out and Tilbury cites Gare as feeling that Cardew didn’t have the level of commitment necessary and abandoned the attempt.

This is basically the question of Rohan de Saram. He was definitely considered part of the group, but he clearly was the one with the most demanding schedule (being a member of the Arditti String Quartet at this time) and thus there are cases of the trio AMM as well as a quartet with Lou Gare.  There also are various lineups with the clarinettist Ian Mitchell (quartet and quintet with de Saram) but I tend to think of those as more guest spots as I would the occasional shows with Evan Parker.

1989 to 1992
The early 90s quintet AMM was something I only stumbled upon during the course of this review process. I have a bootleg from 1987 from this quintet and in the course of my research I found this line in the updated CD liner notes accompanying the CD release of The Crypt:

“And the band goes on: for to date we have still not recorded the current quintet line-up of de Saram, Gare, Prévost, Rowe and Tilbury.” – Edwin Prévost, Februrary 1992(5)

This version never would be recorded and it seemed that Gare left again soon after. De Saram would soon follow though there would be the occasional gig through at least 1994.

After Rowe left AMM in 2005, Tilbury and Prévost made the controversial decision to continue on as AMM as a duo. I refer to this as AMM IV as per Rowe’s definition that AMM should be at least trio with himself and Prévost at the core.  It is interesting to note that AMM IV now often plays with other musicians but they are always listed as “AMM+” indicating that these are all guest spots. These guests have included Sachiko M, Christian Wolff and John Butcher among others (see the comments for more info).


1) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
2) John Tilbury, Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished, Copula, 2008
3) Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
4) Edwin Prévost, The Crypt Liner notes, 1992 (Matchless)
5) AMM FactsheetThe Crypt Liner Notes (not online), Matchless Recordings 1992
6) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
7) Meta Machine Music, Rob Young, The Wire Issue #132 (February 1995)
8) Edwin Prévost, AMMMusic Liner Notes (originally published in RER Quarterly vol.2 no.2, Nov. 1988)

AMM in 1968


A couple of years back a collection of AMM boots appeared online that came with no documentation but were clearly from the same source. The 60’s AMM was the most exploratory and really revolutionary version of the group and while they kept up their uncompromising approach to music making, during this period there was no limitations. You could argue that eventually they created their own set of limitations, while AMMMusic may once have been defined by what it was not, in later years AMMMusic was clearly its own sound. The fundamental nature of what AMM is and more importantly isn’t was only really obliquely discussed outside of the group. The fact that they did reject many conventions of music is known, but there is no list of what was “in” or “out”. The musical documentation gives us the clues toward this and in the 60’s material you can hear things being removed and added between the recordings. So in these posts I’m analyzing the AMM recordings from this perspective: how do they fit into what we know, and what else can we learn from them. This post examines a recording from 1969 the only other AMM bootleg that I have from the 60’s. At this point Lawrence Scheaff would have left the group leaving the quartet of Rowe, Prévost, Cardew and Gare with the addition of Christopher Hobbs and possibly also Christian Wolff.

AMM – London 16 March 1969


The tape begins with the group already in the midst of a  maelstrom of percussion at that reminds me of the tribal organized chaos of the mass percussion sections of Cardew’s The Great Learning. From this peak it slowly backs down and sounds of flutes, metal percussion and a wandering hum perhaps from Rowe’s guitar become audible. This eventually works its way all the way to silence with the minutes before being small percussive sounds and various rattles, scrapes and buzzes.With the space now opened up a variety of sounds twinkle out of the darkness. One amusing bit is what sounds like recorder (or flute I suppose) playing a bit of an advertisement jingle. Another sound is a very electronic tone, almost sine wave like most likely from feedback. Bell like percussion, a distant grinding sound that reveals itself to be sax and bits and pieces of traditional drums and percussion. This all increases in frequency becoming a swirling stew of sounds that are still isolated and not overly dense.

The density begins to increase with snare rolls, long low tons on the sax and a sustained wind like electronic wail that’d either be Rowe or amplified cello. Again this fades away this time down to near silence with the quietest bowed cello and rare taps on a drum. The cello picks it up, with a kind of melodic sawing that is then complemented by a sustained electronic tone. This part hums along with a barely controlled malice that explodes in short burst of dry loud bowing, drum bashes and electronic squiggles. Eventually this loud moaning sound is brought in and out, never sustained too long but wholly dominating when it does. Again things mellow out, this set really is a roller coaster of density this time with hollow percussive sounds, either a mallets on cymbal or faint electronics and what sounds like whistling in the far background.

Back into spacious territory around the half way point some really interesting sounds are placed into near silence. Some very low sax moans that hover right on the edge of sax feedback. Later squeaks from the sax as drum rolls come and go while Rowe’s guitar evokes a metal object being dragged across a cement floor. Quite a bit of this half of the show is in this territory of isolated sounds, small swells and perceptible gaps. There is a pointillistic nature to this section, different from the “insect music” of some EFI as the sounds themselves can be of long durations. It is much more an element of restraint, not feeling a need to play. Putting a sound out there without consequence of what ever else may be going on. The last few minutes of this show feature some much more dramatic sounds, but still fairly isolated so not leading toward any sort of wall of sound. Some frantic electronic wails, muscular drumming and assaultive percussion in the main. These elements layer on top of each other at the very end and just as it becomes mass of serious density the tape ends.

“In 1965, AMM began a radically different kind of Music-making. The prevalent notions of musical theory, practice, hierarchy and structure (thematic reference, jumping-off points — for example the ‘head’ arrangements from which improvisation lifted off — and even the relatively informal criteria of the then ‘free jazz’ movement) were replaced by the creation of, and engagement with, a soundworld in which there was not even a formal beginning and ending.”
– Edwin Prévost (2, p.9)


Structurally this piece differs from the earlier piece. That one really had these clearly defined segments where they would work at one dynamic level for some time. In this one it is much more roller coaster like as I think my attempt to describe its changes above indicates.  This in fact is a constant in the other early bootlegs that I have. I think that it is reasonable to imagine that a tendency toward an obvious structure was noted and was added to the list of things that should be discarded. This is an aspect that you would see especially in the later AMM, often described as “timeless”, “floating” and “nearly static”. It is in these early pieces that you can hear them developing and discarding things as they work from what they know and from what they are hearing in others to a total disconnection to that.


1) Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
2) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
3) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
4) Keith Rowe interview by Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic