Entries tagged with “Lou Gare”.

The Nameless Uncarved Block

March 2010 I acquired a bootleg of an AMM performance from March 31st, 1990, from the Taktlos Festival in Zurich Switzerland.   AMM at this show was Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare and John Tilbury which of course is the same lineup on the Matchless release The Nameless Uncarved Block.  Looking at the linked page for this album we see that it was “Recorded at concerts given in Zurich and Basel organised by the Taklos[sic] Festival, Switzerland, April 1990.” A cursory listen to the two recordings reveal that the Matchless release contains the entirety of this bootleg (the Zurich show) plus additional material presumably from the Basel show. The purpose of this series is to examine the unreleased AMM material and while this exists as a bootleg it is beyond the pervue of this project. It is worth considering boots of released material where there are significant variance in sound or editing or those with additional material. For instance the final AMM show (May 1st, 2004) which I had a bootleg of prior to its official release is about five minutes longer then the official release and it is worth considering the complete performance.  So there isn’t too much to say about this one, beyond go pick up the album! While I’m not really a fan of Gare’s work on this one, it does have my favorite title of any AMM release. Anyway a brief analysis of the recording quality and comparing the two releases follows.

A recording of the performance seemingly offers the possibility of “documentary” recovery, allowing a consciously analytical response to the sounds and the developing structure. Even as it refigures the past, however, the recording indicates its remoteness. -Ed Baxter(2)

The bootleg begins with odd stuttered chords from the piano, over which Gare, in quite a tonal mode, layers lower register lines, which become increasingly melodic.   Tilbury’s piano then shifts to a jazzier mode and as Prévost begins to tap out a fragmented tattoo on the toms it almost sounds like a jazzy ballad. Only after some time does Rowe come in offering a counterpoint, that shears away from what was previously quite uninteresting. Gare mostly sticks in this more tonal vein, though more fragmented at times as the rest of AMM explore their own language. It weaves between these extremes, neither really giving ground. And yet its not quite as interesting as that contrast makes it sound, it is not as if Rowe tuned in a free jazz sax solo on the radio and let it run in opposition. Gare is too reactive to the group in that sort of call and response style of jazz and not the laminal nature of AMMMusicThe Nameless Uncarved Block on the other hand begins with a skittery laminal sound of tinkled ivories,  bowed metal and real subtle un-sax like squeaks from Gare. The first track, Sedimentary, is not contained within this bootleg and most likely is from the Basel shows. The second track, Igneous, seems to begin at around 6’15” minutes into the bootleg, cutting away that ballad-like section. The mix is quite different as well, the drums a lot more buried in the official release and this low, almost bass-like, playing from Rowe a little more present. In fact the mix and the audio quality is so different that it is worth hearing this bootleg as a demonstration of how different this can be. A good example is around 8’30” in the boot 3’15” in Igneous there is a louder more “freak-out” type section that clearly from the boot is a lot more intense than in the recording, whether that was done in post or just a different microphone placement or what have you is hard to say.  Igneous runs for 37 minutes  and then there is a final track, Metamorphic, which is 7’21” long. This is track is contained in the final track on the Zurich bootleg from approximately 3′ in until the end. Interestingly on the boot there seems to be about 15″ cut from the end but then there is applause. All told the bootleg has maybe 8-9 minutes that aren’t part of The Nameless Uncarved Block.  The differences in the recording are the most interesting to me, it sounds as if the boot is an audience recording, though a very nice one, with audience conversation clearly audible during several quiet sections (and possibly why that little bit was edited out at the end). But clearly the person recording this was closer to Gare as he is a lot more up front in the mix and interestingly this recording seems to capture a slight different aspect of Rowe’s playing — less of the subtitles but more of the rumble if that makes any sense.

This recording is interesting in that it makes explicit how different a recording can be based on how it is done, where it is done, not to mention editing and any other post processing work. Even at a live show ones position in the audience makes a huge difference. Of course this aspect is only of limited interest and won’t bring me back to it after this initial period of listening. Personally though if I was interested in hearing this concert I’d stick to the official release, it has better balance between the members. This being the complete performance certainly gives it a documentary interest,  but personally I’m not much of a fan of Gare’s more tonal playing with AMM and The Nameless Uncarved Block never gets much play to begin with.

1) The Nameless Uncarved Block, Matchless Recordings, 1990
2) Liner notes from The Nameless Uncarved Block, Ed Baxter,  1990

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)

“Sometimes the waiting before you enter, or contribute a sound, is because you’re seriously having to think about how and whether and why, what you should contribute at any given moment. You’re listening all the time to everything, and it’s a question of how can I enhance or contradict this, or change this, all those kinds of questions, which with us have to be instantly resolved or partially resolved – often they’re not. On a bad night there might be an accumulation of problems which might en up unresolved at the end.”
– John Tilbury(1)

When last we checked in with AMM bootlegs they were reconvening as a musical unit and seemingly working out just what that would be. The next bootleg that I have been able to find was from seven years on and thus a lot of development was missed.  In 1980 John Tilbury was added to the group as a member primarily playing piano.  Then in 1986 Rohan de Saram, a classical ‘cello player, was added to the group. Throughout the late ’80s Lou Gare flirted with the group and apparently rejoined the group to form a quintet again: “…for to date we have still not recorded the current quintet line-up of de Saram, Gare, Prévost, Rowe and Tilbury”(2).  They never would record that lineup though there are one disc each featuring de Saram and Gare along with the core trio. However this bootleg appears to be that quintet and thus serves as a document of that short lived lineup.

AMM – London 1 March 1987

Begins with cello and horn honking from Rohan de Saram and (most likely) Lou Gare. Individual piano notes are struck and allowed to dye out. Into this sparse territory comes a grinding roar that I can only assume is from Rowe’s electronics, bowed guitar perhaps distorted beyond recognition. Some heavy percussion begins. Really noisy for this period of AMM. This backs down a bit in volume, a few sax runs come in and some drum kit work. This kind of turns into a Free Jazz freakout after a bit, even relentless noise from Rowe can’t obscure wailing tenor and a serious drum explosion. Tilbury is either buried in the mix or laying out. I’ve never been much of a fan of Gare’s playing with AMM after the ’60s group and this is pretty clear example of why. He isn’t playing  AMMMusic he’s playing free improv. The piano becomes more obvious with pounded chords and glissandos, as does a skittering sound from de Saram, that was there all along under the strang und durm.  Gare at last gives it a rest for a bit and it is just mechanical sounds from Rowe, the scittery bowing of de Saram and clanks from Prévost. A nice segment reminds you that its still AMM. A lot less dense even with a decent amount of activity feels like a reaction to the blowout a moment ago.

Gare comes back in as Rohan drastically cuts back his wash of bowing. Short tones from the sax, Eddie picks up this metallic pounding and Rohan again does his scratchy bowing but much higher and quieter. The tones increase, the density rises, Prévost now working the cymbals.  A low bowed drone from de Saram as Gare works the upper register and almost everyone else drops out. A spattering of notes from Tibury and the occasional single drum beat from Prévost. Rowe seems to have retreated from all this activity. It winds down a bit until its just Gare wailing to himself. A discordant chord from Tilbury and a strained wailing sound, perhaps a bowed cymbal or rubbed drum head to contrast with Gare’s “solo”.  At last Gare backs off and this enters much more spacious territory. A twangy wiry sound, percussive rattles and a low grinding hum come in and out along with a bit of audience coughing. A nice good bit of this, subdued crashes, a bell the sound of a pipe rolling on a cement floor, a crushing low bowed scrape on the cello (must be a contact mic on that cello), and other minute sounds. A great section in what’s so far been a not very AMM sounding set.

A low bowing comes in, continuous and providing a base in witch clanks of percussion, and short single tones from the sax rise above. They continue on in this erratic messed drone for a while, eventually this oscillating high pitched feed back comes in and persists along with this non rhythmic bowing and rubbed percussion. There are a couple of tones from a bell and it cuts off.

“Obviously AMM in the late eighties is not breaking new ground, and we content ourselves (as do some of our contemporaries) with the fact that much that we innovated has been incorporated into the common domain.” – AMMMusic Liner Notes(3)

This quote from Prévost is interesting in that I think most people would not disagree if he had specified “AMM in the late nineties“. However in context to the ’60s AMM it is mostly true. In the 60s they were exploring territory that had heretofore been uncharted. The break in the ’70s more or less signaled an end to those explorations. When the reformed the group in the ’80s I think there was a different goal entirely.  The parameters of AMMMusic had been set in the 60s and the later groups were applying them in a variety of contexts. They were still questioning but it was no longer the nature of music itself instead they were interested in contexts and absorption. Can we bring in a non improvising classical musician, can the music absorb tonal saxaphonics, how far can it be pared down, or distorted and still be AMMMusic.


1)  Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
2) The Crypt liner notes by Eddie Prévost,1992 (Matchless Recordings)
3) AMMMusic liner notes by Eddie Prévost,1988 (ReR MegaCorp/Matchless)
4) Meta Machine Music, Rob Young, The Wire #132 (February 1995)
5) Keith Rowe interview by Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic
6) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995

“Certainly what I do on the guitar is there without me playing it.”
– Keith Rowe(3)

This is the last of the early boots that have been leaked to the nets. This set occurred about two weeks after the previous one and is most likely the lineup of Cardew, Gare, Prévost and Rowe and possibly Hobbs (*see note below). While that set had that chamber feel to it with multiple bowed string instruments, this one differs in many ways yet feels informed by it. It has a very electronic, controlled noise feel in the beginning with the percussion sounding mechanical and various statics, pure tones and electronically amplified scrapes, buzzes and the like. It then enters a very spacious period, where drumming (very traditional jazz style), isolated piano clusters and a murmur of bowed instruments come in and out. Quite a bit of radio or tape or both in this one especially toward the end. Overall there is that uneasiness and tension from the previous set, but the variety of sounds used is a lot wider.

AMM – London 3 February 1970

This one begins tentatively, with a rattling metallic percussion, static and this intermittent high whistling sound. The occasional beat of a drum accentuates this rather mechanical noise. A bit into this a warbling bowing sound can be heard now and again pretty buried below the other sounds. A piano note or two. Then it drops dead. A bell rings out and then some squeaky bowing comes in and rises in volume.This doesn’t last and the playing becoming bursts of sound in space. Quiet piano chords, short snare rolls, guitar hum comes in and goes. Some faint radio at one points rises almost inaudibly in a fairly quiet place, so not much volume. Eddie then seriously picks up the snare rolls, not so much playing loudly as continuously and to this the piano responds accordingly. Again they break off and it becomes more pointalistic; electronics swelling via volume pedals, percussion effects, choppy bowing. More aggressive piano chords.

Things become very spacious, the piano plays short melodic figures, a persistent electronic hum, squeaks as of rubbed drumheads, the radio or tape coming in and then fading away, a cymbal crash.  Things meander for a bit before picking up again, once again led by the drums, this time a furious assault on a tom or bongo. Some kind of Cecil Taylor-ish figures on the piano, fingernails on chalk bowing and muffled radio. Again the dense part doesn’t last and fades to a persistent low volume wail, like an ebow’d string, quite piano notes, bowed metal, the occasional voice from the radio. After a bit of this a real beat driven thing come on the radio, to which the piano responds with a ragtime fragment of the Ode to Joy, and everyone else does this holding pattern of sounds – quite rattly percussion, low bowing and so on. The radio doesn’t last long but this uneasy, persistence does. Some louder percussion is brought in and the bowing becomes more aggressive. Things really quiet down from here, a background of humming, quiet percussion very steady state. Radio again briefly appears, with a snippet of the Beatles as does bowing of a sliding nature. Very electronic sounding in this bit almost like an ambient fadeout -if it was done on a factory floor with some of the machines winding down. In the last minute again the drums go crazy, almost in a full on drum solo. Clearly a full kit was present at this session. The piano tries to fight through this, with low end chord crashes, and there is a persistent electronic buzz and then the tape ends.

“This improvisation is inherently about problem-solving; it’s inherently dialogical.”
– Edwin Prévost (3)

The feeling to me of this one is that of a desire to not develop anything too far where too far is defined by the individual player. For some things this may be only a fragment of sound for others it may take a minute or five but nothing overstays its welcome. Now you might argue that this is what makes improvised music good in general, but as a deliberate strategy it creates something markedly different then just sensitive playing. Not to mention that this is quite different from later AMM with its layers of continuous sound. This constraint (if it really is one beyond my speculation of course) curtails droning, overuse of the same sound world, reliance on established gestures and so on. When allowed those things can all be great and used well and thus argued to not overstay their welcome. But in this piece it feels like a deliberate strategy and it gives a markedly different feel to it. At times it can kind of hint at insect music with a variety of short sounds coming and going, but as other sounds can last a few minutes or longer this is never a dominate mode. Especially as the individual players may not be synchronized in how long the develop what they are playing, so you get a nice overlapping of short quick events, with longer more developed ones.  Overall an interesting effect that gives this a brooding feel but with a prickly surface.

There has been some question as to the AMM lineup at this time in various places including in the published sources. My primary source has been Prévost’s article AMM 1965/1994 — a brief and mostly chronological historical summary published in No Sound is Innocent(4, p. 185-186) namely this quote:

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

However the AMM Factsheet in the Crypt Liner notes(8) states that Hobbs is still part of the group as of October 1970. Now while the Crypt Factsheet is quite possibly fraught with errors one would that this basic fact would be correct.  Finally the most recent and specific confirmation comes from John Tilbury’s recent biography of Cardew where he states that Hobbs “had already left the group in May 1971”(7, p.650). This I think has to be the case as the degree of scholarship is so high in this book and Tilbury was of course present and friends with all the principles. I’ll rely on his legwork with having asked all of the surving members of AMM w/r/t this issue.

All that being said I still don’t think that Hobbs was present at this concert. There is  plenty of documented cases of additions or subtractions from the group on a show by show basis, and clearly at some points people couldn’t make the gigs.  So my basic operating procedure has been to follow the lineup as the sources indicate, but to also follow the evidence of my ears.  The previously reviewed recording from January, does sound like there are five disparate sound sources and the most likely case would be that it is Hobbs. In this recording it sounds like four members and certainly there is little aural evidence for dual percussionists.  Barring confirmation from principles or contemporary sources this is I think the best that can be done.


1) Cornelius Cardew, Towards an Ethic of Improvisation Cornelius Cardew(1936-1981): A Reader, Copula 2006
2) Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
3) Meta Machine Music, Rob Young, The Wire Issue #132 (February 1995)
4) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
5) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
6) Keith Rowe interview by Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic
7) John Tilbury, Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished, Copula, 2008
8) AMM Factsheet, The Crypt Liner Notes (not online), Matchless Recordings 1992