John Tilbury/Eddie Prevost - discrete moments

Tilbury/Prevost
discrete moments

discrete.jpg

Matchless Recordings

I don’t know any details about either the studio session that took place on January 6th, 2004 between keyboardist John Tilbury and percussionist Eddie Prevost, or the process by which the resulting tapes became discrete moments. This makes it a bit difficult for me to know how to proceed. The recording is over 75 minutes long and consists of eight cuts of widely varying length. Most of the music is exquisitely beautiful—as beautiful, in my humble opinion, as anything else you are likely to hear this year. Unfortunately, somewhere around ten minutes of it isn’t much good at all. Now, if Tilbury and Prevost had put out an absolutely perfect 65-minute (or even 55-minute) disc—say just by excluding the meandering third track—people might be whispering things involving "recording of the decade" or "pinnacle of their careers." I have a sense, however (in spite of my above-admitted absence of actual information about this recording), of why this track was included in the final product. It has a very cool final minute that sounds as if it might have come from an early Cage piece for prepared piano. There was no way to retain that clunkily wonderful coda while scuttling the rest of the cut, so (perhaps at the last moment?) it was decided to keep the whole 11:18 piece intact and put out a very long album. I believe that this was a mistake, but, as is quite well known, it is now pretty easy to program CD players to skip this or that section of a recording—at least when the artists are kind enough to provide reference points on their discs. Let us therefore proceed as if there were no track entitled "S" and discuss only the absolutely terrific remaining discrete moments.

Tilbury plays organ as well as piano (and prepared piano) here, and it is interesting to note the great extent to which he tailors his playing to his instrument. Much of his work on piano utilizes a technique that is entirely appropriate for the great 1950s piano pieces by Feldman and Cage (more Cage here than I’m used to from him). But on organ Tilbury adopts the Palestine/Ligeti approach of holding chords or tones for a very long time and letting the strangely irregular internal pulses that result do the hypnotizing. He understands, that is, the difference between a ringing stringed percussion instrument and a keyboard simulacrum of a wind instrument. As one might expect, he’s great on both horns: he seems to have a perfect knack for landing on just those pitches, rhythms, and sounds that will produce the perfect effect. His remarkable touch is at work here, of course, but there’s a deep wisdom evident too. Prevost brings his arsenal of percussion, traps, tam-tam, stringed barrel and bows, and, as always, he knows how to get the most out of each one. The long cymbal hisses he creates to accompany some of Tilbury’s high-pitched drones would give Nakamura a run for his money. Unsurprisingly, Prevost's high degree of sensitivity and consummate skill is a pretty good combination when it comes to improvised music. Naturally, it also helps that these guys have been playing together since long before many of Bagatellen’s most avid readers were born. Some of their music is delicate and pointillistic with wide spaces between sounds, but there are also rich, thick webs and, as indicated, Cage/Klee/Rube Goldberg thunkity-thunk machines. The two men also provide a hefty helping of what seems to me missing from too many of the "non-I" recordings I hear: drama. (For those who don’t like drama, there’s sonic variety—which may or may not be acceptable these days: I don’t know.) For all its multiplicity, however, unlike Tilbury’s recent fiasco with Tippett and Riley, the vision is constant and coherent throughout. discrete moments is so so beautiful.

Walter Horn

Posted by walterhorn on May 11, 2004 4:12 PM
Comments

What with this an Michael's review, I'm waiting the arrival of my packet of Matchlesses with great interest.

Posted by: dan warburton at May 11, 2004 10:06 PM

From the little I've heard of the Parker/Prevost duo so far, I don't think I'm going to like it too much. Certainly not as much as this one, anyhow.

Posted by: walto at May 12, 2004 6:18 PM

I sure am looking forward to this disc, Tilbury is probably my favorite musician at this point. Prevost's percussion work compliments him so well, see the fantastic 'Such' for my favorite example. I am also very excited to hear Tilbury on organ, I really would have liked to have heard that recent Rowe/Tilbury performance with him playing organ. Anyone here have a review of that show, the few comments I have seen have been positive. Any word that it might be released somewhere?

Posted by: hatta at May 14, 2004 11:13 AM

I liked Tilbury’s recent fiasco with Tippett and Riley; although I will agree that it *was* all over the place.

Posted by: Captain Hate at May 14, 2004 4:11 PM

So did I. . .that sixth selection w/Tilbury's approach highlighted (of sorts) by each of the three works very well. Tippett knows exactly where to steer the boat in light of this admittedly off-putting instrumentation.

Posted by: Michael Schaumann at May 14, 2004 4:36 PM

Maybe I missed something. I wrote a pan of that disc for STN, but I don't think it ever showed up; maybe I'll post it here.

Posted by: walto at May 15, 2004 12:59 PM

Tangentially, Mr. Tilbury and Mr. Prevost both agreed to telephone interviews for our AMM Orgy (starts 5/25 at 10pm). Mr Rowe will be in Cambridge, so we'll have lots of words in the picture. Anyone have any juicy questions for these guys? Can someone fill me in on Tilbury's politics?

Posted by: Ryan at May 15, 2004 6:22 PM

Tangentially, Mr. Tilbury and Mr. Prevost both agreed to telephone interviews for our AMM Orgy (starts 5/25 at 10pm) and Mr Rowe will be in Cambridge, so we'll have lots of words in the picture. Can someone fill me in on Tilbury's politics?

Posted by: Ryan at May 15, 2004 6:23 PM

I repeat myself when under stress I repeat myself when understress I repeat

Posted by: Ryan at May 15, 2004 7:15 PM

The more I look at it, the more I like it. I do think it's good.

Posted by: dan warburton at May 15, 2004 10:59 PM

Mr. Tilbury's politics are pretty good. He's both aware and ethical, which is difficult.

Posted by: Julian Foster at May 16, 2004 6:09 AM

"Anyone have any juicy questions for these guys? Can someone fill me in on Tilbury's politics?"

Ask him about his interest in the work of George Steiner, and also ask him about his relation to the politics of Cardew. Many people accuse him of being an old-school sixties lefty, but he's quite a bit more complicated than that. You might want to ask him how his politics affect the emotion of his playing and where he thinks the left needs to go in these troubling times. Since he boycotted the US last year, you might also ask him about that and how perhaps a global cultural isolation of the US might aid in its political transformation. Some things to consider.

Posted by: Bill Ashline at May 16, 2004 6:35 AM

This is great. I've been curious about Steiner for a while. He gave the Nortons here when I was a freshman but was unaware of such things. Thank you Bill for the tip!

Posted by: Ryan at May 16, 2004 7:28 PM

Joe has already linked it, and I'm intending to run it for August's Paris Transatlantic, but I was wondering if any of you Baganauts had read Walter Horn's review of Eddie Prévost's book over at OFN? Scott's policy towards reader mail is like mine at PT - there's no possibility of an open-ended thread discussion - so I thought maybe some of youse would like to discuss it here instead. Not having the read the book myself yet, I am curious to learn exactly what EP has against Erstwhile's Hands Of Caravaggio project (though perhaps Jon is fed up discussing the whole matter - if so let it drop).
Anyway, I was rather disappointed with this album when I finally spent some time with it, but judging from the ecstatic reactions of Walt above and Brian Marley in the Wire, seems I'm in the minority once again.

Posted by: dan warburton at July 5, 2004 9:52 PM

I talked to Brian M. about his review (which I haven't seen yet, as the Wire seems incapable of getting subscription copies to the US in under three weeks), and it seemed as if he mostly liked it in comparison to the other two.

I haven't read all of Eddie's book yet, but here's the letter I wrote to him about the chapter he wrote on Caravaggio (the gist of which is that Alvin Curran in the audience and John Tilbury feel that the CD bears little or no relation to the live experience they had. Eddie took it from there, although he didn't attend the show, claiming the CD was some kind of "hoax", without talking to Keith, myself or Marcus Schmickler, who did the postproduction):

=========================================

I bought a copy of your new book today, and on the way home, I read your essay on The Hands of Caravaggio. there's a critical point missing, that neither you nor John nor Alvin mention, although maybe only John actually knew this. MIMEO concerts are generally in quad, as this one was, with the six musicians closest to each of the four speakers going into that speaker and the other six musicians largely inaudible from the opposite side of the room. so, the only place in the room that you can really get a truly balanced picture of all twelve musicians (assuming the people running the live sound are doing a good job, which in this case they weren't) is directly in the center of the room, where John and Cor Fuhler were. you chose to ignore Cor's notes (right next to the others on the web site), which begin:

"Being in the fortunate situation of having the best seat in the house, residing right in the middle of the circle made by MIMEO and the speakers ("the Orchestra") and with my head hanging right in the piano (the "soloist") next to the microphone, I caught much of what this cd eventually sounds like."

while I have nothing but respect for John's perceptions, let's keep in mind in this case that he was trying to play through a firestorm of electronics while Cor was simultaneously inside the end of his piano, interfering with his play. also, obviously, the perceptions of audience members sitting on the perimeter during a set like this are necessarily unbalanced. I circled the band during the set, sitting on each of the four sides for a stretch, and I can tell you that (of course) the music varied wildly as I moved.

you talk about "art as simulacrum", but as we all know, CDs are necessarily different from concerts, and in a case like this, where every seat in the audience experienced a slightly different concert, and those on opposite sides heard wildly different things, it seems absurd to me to make the kind of semi-accusatory statements you make, particularly without speaking to myself, Marcus, or even Keith (I'm pretty sure). why not ask us what was actually done in postproduction?

yes, it was a less-than-satisfying concert, and a very beautiful CD. we've all experienced the reverse numerous times also, and I don't hear accusations of "sabotage!" being made in those cases. given the situation as more thoroughly explained above, your essay strikes me as condescending and vaguely insulting (particularly since you weren't actually there yourself), and I'm not sure why you didn't ask a few simple questions of the parties most involved before printing it.

=========================================

I got a short response from Eddie, he's not interested in facts that disrupt his "theses", which was about what I expected, that's fine.

in a funny postscript, a couple of weeks after he and I had this exchange, I got the new Sakada 3 inch on Antiopic, Eddie/Mattin/Mark Wastell/Margarida Garcia/Rhodri Davies. this CD bears pretty much no relation to my recollection of the concert, for which I was sitting second row center and paying very close attention. I don't care about this at all, I just found it ironic given the prior conversation.

Posted by: Jon Abbey at July 5, 2004 10:30 PM

flipping through that Caravaggio essay again, I noticed this phrase from Curran, describing the way the musicians were set up:

"a perfect circle of some 20 players mostly armed with G3s"

ok, let's see, there were 13 musicians, arranged in a "perfect" square, with Cor and John on the inside (as shown on the back cover of the CD), 4 of whom were using laptops.

so after reading that, is it really surprising that some of Curran's other recollections are less than accurate also?

Posted by: Jon Abbey at July 6, 2004 6:13 AM

Criticising a live recording for not sounding like the concert itself is frankly potty, in my view. I've been to numerous concerts that blew my head off only to hear (good) recordings of them later and discover they weren't all that wonderful after all (case in point being Charlie Haden's LMO Live in 85(?), which was later broadcast on the BBC). And vice versa: Joëlle Léandre's quintet gig a few years back at the Sons d'Hiver Festival was, as I recall, horrible, but the album that came out on Leo is one of my favourites! So, what conclusions can be drawn? Haven't netted my copy of Eddie's book yet, so I can't quote his exact description of "Hands", but if it was something of the order of "falsification of history" or something, I suggest the same could be said of "The Crypt".
The circumstances of the "Caravaggio" concert and the difficulties encountered by all the musicians, are reasonably well-known by now, but the fact remains that the album is one of the strongest (imo) releases in Jon's catalogue. Thanks in no small part to Marcus, of course, but also to the musicians themselves.
Every recording is a falsification of history in some sense after all. Maybe we should all go back to the Stone Age and toot on thighbone trumpets. I'll bet there was a real spirit of communitarianism then.

Posted by: dan warburton at July 6, 2004 6:50 AM

why is it that some people pay so much importance to whether if a CD (recorded "live") sounds like the actual concert or not? i just don't see any point in that.

is the music on the CD interesting? that's the only question that should matter, in my opinion - unless the CD was produced with the explicit intention to reproduce a live event as accurately as possible. but i think that wasn't necessarily the most important thing while doing "hands of C.", was it?

anyway. i haven't read prevost's book yet, but after what i've heard so far, i don't think i'll read it at all.

Posted by: tomas at July 6, 2004 7:08 AM

I just wanted to note that Walt has an interesting, thorough review of Prévost's new book over at OFN.

Posted by: al at July 6, 2004 7:08 AM

"Every recording is a falsification of history in some sense after all."

not if you see a record as something "abstract". i like to see CD's that way. i don't mind knowing when or where or how something was recorded, but if the music on the CD doesn't work "abstracted" from its "history" i don't think i'll listen to it more than once.

i guess this is the point where olewnick should join the discussion.

Posted by: tomas at July 6, 2004 7:17 AM

CDs and concerts are simply different things. as I explained in my letter to Eddie, in this case the CD is actually more accurate a representation of the concert as performed than being in the room during the show was.

anyway, the whole thing seems so obvious and self-evident to me, it's not even especially interesting to discuss.

Posted by: Jon Abbey at July 6, 2004 7:26 AM

"anyway, the whole thing seems so obvious and self-evident to me, it's not even especially interesting to discuss."

agreed. although it is a bit weird that it might be not so obvious to people of the experience of E.P.

"I just wanted to note that Walt has an interesting, thorough review of Prévost's new book over at OFN."

interesting indeed. thanks for pointing this out al - and thanks, walt, for writing it.

Posted by: tomas at July 6, 2004 7:48 AM

I haven't read the book yet either, so I'm only guessing, but I'd bet Eddie relates it somehow to both what he considers "honesty" and to, through post-production, some kind of denial of whatever communitarian feeling occurred during the performance in question. I imagine that, while he understands the difference between a live performance and a reproduction of same, he draws a line somewhere, on the other side of which he considers the reproduction to be no longer accurate enough to pass muster in the honesty department. I doubt he takes the view that they're *extremely* separate creatures. He may also feel that the communitarian spirit was diluted by, say, Schmickler sitting in a mixing room somewhere "reconstructing" a historic event, isolated from the other musicians, acting in an overly "individualistic" manner, etc.

Needless to say, I (and most here, perhaps) would disagree with these sentiments or, more accurately, think they're largely beside the point. Plus, obviously, I could have his views entirely wrong, though it seems to me to fit in with his prior writings.

Posted by: Brian at July 6, 2004 7:54 AM

no, you've pretty much got it, although again the facts are that MIMEO always sets up subcommittees for specific projects, otherwise nothing would get done. the subcommittee for the Caravaggio recording was Keith/Marcus/Thomas/Cor/Gert-Jan, the first three of whom were in Cologne, along with myself, to oversee the mastering process, it wasn't just Marcus making decisions by himself.

it's really funny to me to write an essay about the difference between a concert and a recording when the author wasn't even at the concert himself, not to mention not asking anyone about what postproduction work was done on the record, but there you go.

on another note, something I may have never mentioned publicly before, but the CD of AMM-Fine is definitely different from the original live CD-R I got from Keith. it sounds like Eddie/Matchless did some noise reduction on it (he claims that nothing was done), but in doing so, really killed a lot of the ambience that made the recording so great. I listened to the original a lot, then when the Matchless CD came, I was pretty disappointed and sad. you couldn't tell unless you did head-to-head, but there's a definite difference (I think I did this for Brian one time, he can vouch for it), and it's huge in this case.

hey, maybe I'll write a book about it... :)

Posted by: Jon Abbey at July 6, 2004 8:13 AM

I've read the linked OFN review, but have not read Minute Particulars yet, and I also have no deep knowledge of the "Caravaggio" cd/concert or its surrounding controversy. I also haven't heard the Sakada 3" yet. There's my qualifications, so . . .

In some defence to Eddie Prevost, I doubt he had much input on the Antiopic 3" release. I imagine it was on other group member/members' initiative that it was released. I'm speculating, but I believe it's a reasonable assumption. Besides, while the disc doesn't sound like it sounded from 2nd row, perhaps it more resembles the sound from on stage, alongside the other performers (the old 'head in the piano' trick)?

Nice points Brian about 'honesty'. Strangely I have similar feelings about theatre and theatrical performances; the old concept of people pretending in front of you feels likes 'lies'. Anyway ...

I don't know the language used by Prevost in his opinion on "Caravaggio", but I have to wonder whether it justifies a display of (originally) private correspondence with him. Is that really necessary? I'm not sure it's right for a published criticism, however rightly/wrongly grounded, to be responded to in such a personal manner, on a public forum. Is it not enough to explain one's view of Prevost's critique, then explain one's opinion of that view, and leave out the venom?

This issue of public statement/private exchange/public forum/personal matters etc. has occurred before and often distresses me. I don't mind anonymous posting because of it; it keeps you out of certain troubles. (but I'll stress I've never posted anon!) Perhaps parliamentary procedure should be employed, where everyone is referred to as 'My Honourable Friend'!


Michael

Posted by: Michael Rodgers at July 6, 2004 9:31 AM

I don't think the discussion so far has got to grips with Prevost's concerns regarding 'The Hands of Caravaggio'. For the benefit of those who have not had a chance to read 'Minute Particulars', I thought I would provide a summary of what I think is the essence of Prevost's contentions on this point.

It seems to me that Prevost's critique arises from his view of the social and sonic relations both within the performing ensemble and between the ensemble and the audience. According to Prevost, sections of the ensemble set about harrying and assailing a surrounded Tilbury (perhaps as a representative of the musical ancient regime) by obliterating his sound by means of high volume electronics and interfering with the physical operations of his piano. In doing so, the ensemble also inflicted on the audience sounds of a volume sufficiently high to cause physical pain (both John Tilbury's wife and Alvin Curran left the auditorium, the latter when he estimated that the noise level had reached 120 decibels).

For Prevost, the way the ensemble acted towards Tilbury and the audience raises ethical questions regarding power and domination. In addition, he is concerned that the emollient CD release, which he views as having some documentary function in relation to the concert, has removed all sense of the conflict, struggle and attempted obliteration that Prevost says "seem to have been such a significant (and intentional?) part of the musical agenda and of the concert" and thereby has substantively misrepresented what in fact occurred. In the words of Curran: "Is this CD a hoax, where everything has been so cleaned up that there is no sign of pain, embarrassment, or blood?".

Posted by: Wayne Spencer at July 6, 2004 11:53 AM

It's funny, but from my memories of descriptions of the concert when it occurred and from what I recall Keith saying about it, it wasn't really intended as a pitched battle between piano and electronics but more like a modern piano concerto.

And while the term "interfere" might be appropriate for what Fuhler was doing inside the piano, it's not with the normal connotations of the word. Rowe well understood the sort of "ruts" Tilbury is prone to get into (as beautiful as those ruts may be) and had instructed, iirc, Fuhler, whenever he (Fuhler) sensed one of those progressions coming on, to damp those strings in use at the moment, forcing Tilbury to make decisions he would not otherwise have made.

Personally, I think this is a wonderful strategy, one I wish I could hear used on any number of musicians! One might well argue against the veiled autocratic nature of such a device and perhaps that's part of what Prevost does. I'm not sure, for instance, how much Tilbury knew of this approach before sitting down, for instance (maybe Jon can refresh me here). But maybe the results might not have been so wonderful had he known...Complicated.

Posted by: Brian at July 6, 2004 1:38 PM

I should stress that "interfere" is my summary, not Tilbury or Prevost's word. Regarding Fuhler's actions, Tilbury himself said:

"In this performance whole areas of the instrument, including traditional keyboard techniques, are rendered inaccessible to the 'soloist' by a creative hijacking of the inside of the instrument by a member of the 'orchestra' who, for example, randomly mutes pitches which the soloist has selected. A frustrating but challenging situation for the degraded soloist. Imagine, analagously, a violinist's bowing technique being physically disrupted, the guitarist's preaprations suddenly disappearing, the power supply cut off. It reminds me of the Scratch Orchestra's Houdini Rite where, bound hand and foot, we would then attempt to play our instruments"

Posted by: Wayne Spencer at July 6, 2004 1:50 PM

Yeah, that Tilbury comment is the thing that makes me wonder how aware he was of Rowe's overall strategy. Or perhaps he's merely being disingenuous. Or maybe he simply forgot. Had Fuhler's mutings been random, it would have led to (imho) a likely less beautiful result. Rowe did bits of the same thing in a musical sense during the Doris session, not letting Tilbury get too comfortable no matter how outwardly lovely his playing became, always nudging and badgering, always insisting on a bit of the sour with the sweet.

Posted by: Brian at July 6, 2004 2:16 PM

Michael:

"In some defence to Eddie Prevost, I doubt he had much input on the Antiopic 3" release. I imagine it was on other group member/members' initiative that it was released."

yes, I'm aware, much like Tilbury and the Caravaggio record. I found it ironic nonetheless.

"while the disc doesn't sound like it sounded from 2nd row, perhaps it more resembles the sound from on stage, alongside the other performers (the old 'head in the piano' trick)?"

again, much like the Caravaggio CD (see Cor Fuhler's online notes).

"I don't know the language used by Prevost in his opinion on "Caravaggio", but I have to wonder whether it justifies a display of (originally) private correspondence with him. Is that really necessary? I'm not sure it's right for a published criticism, however rightly/wrongly grounded, to be responded to in such a personal manner, on a public forum. Is it not enough to explain one's view of Prevost's critique, then explain one's opinion of that view, and leave out the venom? "

I didn't print his response to me (not that there was much to print), but my rebuttal to his printed essay about a project I produced (which, again, he didn't bother to contact me, Keith or Marcus about, a concert he himself didn't even attend) , simply attempting to set the record straight. it's certainly less "venomous" than his essay. what's the difference between that and my posting here about it, except I took a bit more time to write my letter to Eddie?

as for the rest of it, Wayne's posts quoting Eddie, I really don't feel like rehashing it again. I don't think there's much there worth addressing, to be honest. I will say that John knew exactly what was going to happen beforehand, though, nothing was sprung on him by surprise (except that the piano was a baby grand, not a grand, but that was sprung on all of us by the festival promoter). I also think that if this exact same project was done for Matchless, same concert, same CD, that John would likely have a very different opinion about it now.

but, to be honest, I don't really care. the CD is out there and it speaks for itself, very well, in my opinion.

Posted by: Jon Abbey at July 6, 2004 2:21 PM

I don't remember where Curran was sitting, but I do remember where Janice was sitting, by the speaker with Pita/Drumm/Kaffe Matthews. normally when MIMEO plays, they space out the louder musicians around the tables, but this time, because of the general chaos at the festival, the band wasn't well spaced.

I'd like to hear a suggestion on how to produce a "documentary" CD of a concert that was played in quad, with different combinations of musicians in different speakers. I suppose you could do it in surround sound, although it would be really expensive to mix and master, but if you're producing a normal stereo CD, then you mix all twelve musicians together into two channels. if someone was sitting on the opposite side of the room from Janice, they quite likely would have heard a fairly different show altogether, including volume levels. is this really such a hard concept to grasp?

"Yeah, that Tilbury comment is the thing that makes me wonder how aware he was of Rowe's overall strategy. Or perhaps he's merely being disingenuous. Or maybe he simply forgot. "

as Brian and I know, both having had quite a bit of contact with John over the years, the latter two of these are quite possible, not sure which one I'd bet on.

Posted by: Jon Abbey at July 6, 2004 2:36 PM

Struggles, pain, blood, bondage & domination and heroic emergence from the ashes, phoenix-like.. It's every inch the aesthetic of the great Romantic piano concerto..! and I thought that was what the whole bloody project was about. In my view we could do with MORE such projects, instead of the consensual all-in-the-same-boat-and-don't-you-dare-rock-it kind of improv that seems to be everywhere these days. Forgive me for quoting from my own liner notes to an album from last year: "In sport [..] you enjoy playing against an opponent, but in music it seems you only play with someone. It's not a question of being bloody minded, but playing against someone can also be great fun."

Posted by: dan warburton at July 6, 2004 9:34 PM

With Brian and Jon's comments in mind, it might be worth mentioning that Prevost does not isolate Fuhler's mutings for particular comment. He reproduces Tilbury's complete observations from the Erstwhile site and then tends to comment on the conditions Tilbury worked under as a whole. For Curran's part, he does not allude to Fuhler at all, being more concerned with how the sound-producing members of the ensemble (in his words) "overwhelmed, trampled on and finally murdered" Tilbury as pianist.

Brian and Jon speculate as to whether Tilbury was aware in advance as to "Rowe's overall strategy". Whether or not Tilbury had advance notice of what was to ensue does seem to be relevant to Prevost. He thus writes:

"If, on the other hand, a subject has been inveigled into a situation by another party, then it borders upon cultural exploitation and possibly sadism. This I find repulsive and counter to any nurturing of a civil society".

Brian (and perhaps Dan?) also alludes to what he considers to be the aesthetically good results that ensued from the concert proceedings. This too is considered by Prevost. Taking just a couple of sentences from his thoughts, he says:

"The way things are done cannot be divorced, or made exempt, from any calculation of the subsequent value of things [...] And it is depressing to perceive that the relations between people - even in this Hands of Caravaggio project - may have been ultimately determined more by power domination than by any sense of cooperative creativity".

Posted by: Wayne Spencer at July 7, 2004 1:38 AM

Although, as I indicated in my review, I think it is in one sense wrong to claim that "the way things are done" cannot be "divorced or made exempt" from the subsequent aesthetic value, I don't want anyone to think it follows from that that nice ends can justify obnoxious means. As Huxley learned from Alexander, a lot of bad things can happen when ends are considered in total isolation from the means whereby. I hope I made this clear when using Nat's sneaker analogy.

Again, just because moral judgments are one thing aesthetic judgments are another, it shouldn't be inferred that beauty in a product can somehow entirely nullify cruelty in its production.

As to the actual evil quotient (if any) in the making of HOC, I have no opinion except to say that (1) I'm not really moved by concerns regarding passion-play-type symbolic horrors: they either tricked Tilbury (bad) or they didn't (OK); but (2) I don't like extremely loud music either: besides being unpleasant, it can be permanently harmful to people's ears and thus seems gratuitously thoughtless to musicians and fans alike.

Posted by: walto at July 7, 2004 4:54 AM

"Brian and Jon speculate as to whether Tilbury was aware in advance as to "Rowe's overall strategy". "

I don't "speculate" on anything. I was there. John was well aware of everything going on, he notoriously remembers what he wants to remember about events later. John's liner notes for this record bear little relation to what actually happened, which I told him at the time numerous times over the phone, before giving up and printing them anyway.

Eddie's spokesperson goes on to further quote Eddie:

"The way things are done cannot be divorced, or made exempt, from any calculation of the subsequent value of things [...] And it is depressing to perceive that the relations between people - even in this Hands of Caravaggio project - may have been ultimately determined more by power domination than by any sense of cooperative creativity".

let me answer this with another quote from Eddie's introduction:

"The main part of this book... is grounded mostly in debates upon the theme of communitarianism." "I hope that my writings will be perceived not as 'truths' but as intellectual (and to some extent) ideological positions."

Walt: I was in the room the whole time, and don't recall ever thinking it was even close to painfully loud. not even close.

Posted by: Jon Abbey at July 7, 2004 5:44 AM

I wonder if Eddie has (and enjoys listening to) Mattin's Gora? Not exactly Walk To The Paradise Garden, is it? But he does play and record with Mattin.
This whole discussion is going round in circles, it seems to me. I don't see much point in contributing further unless there's some direct input from Prevost & Tilbury themselves. But, as always, the musicians, as Noel Akchote points out, prefer to stick to the shadows. Except daft bats like me who enjoy sticking their head out of the window and getting it knocked off

Posted by: dan warburton at July 7, 2004 6:14 AM

Jon description of me as “Eddie's spokesperson” might lead some to think that I am in some way acting on behalf of Eddie Prevost. I am not. I have not communicated to Prevost in any away about this discussion. I am merely passing on summaries and quotations from Prevost’s book for the benefit of those Bagatellen readers who have not read it but would like to critically consider the arguments.

While I am writing, I should also like to take the opportunity to ask Jon three factual questions about the concert that would seem pertinent to the ethical issues that Prevost has raised:

1) As I’ve already mentioned, Curran suggests that (some of) the other members "overwhelmed, trampled on and finally murdered" Tilbury, musically speaking, and Prevost seems to be saying that there may have been an element of premeditation in this alleged sonic ‘assault’ (if we can use that work). As far as Jon is aware, was such a challenge to Tilbury pre-planned and was Tilbury aware that he would challenged in this way? What is the basis of Jon’s information on this point - did he, for example, participate or listen in to conversations with Tilbury on this point?

2) At what stage was Tilbury made aware that Fuhler would be working inside the piano? Once again, how does he know this?

3) How many audience members did he see leaving the room during the course of the performance, and is he aware of any other complaints about the noise level?

My thanks to Jon in advance for helping to clarify these points.

Posted by: Wayne Spencer at July 7, 2004 6:34 AM

honestly, the whole thing was three years ago, Keith would remember the specifics on the first two better than me, he was the one who mostly talked to John about the project all along. I'll try to answer anyway...

"was such a challenge to Tilbury pre-planned and was Tilbury aware that he would be challenged in this way? What is the basis of Jon’s information on this point - did he, for example, participate or listen in to conversations with Tilbury on this point?"

no one knew exactly what would happen beforehand, it was basically a loosely structured free improv piece, the runthrough rehearsal in the afternoon went much differently. John makes it seem as if he showed up at the venue five minutes before the show, and was aurally mugged by the rest of the performers, when in fact, he spent five or six hours there with the rest of us beforehand setting up. the much-quoted Noetinger exchange came well before the show, during this setup process.

"At what stage was Tilbury made aware that Fuhler would be working inside the piano? Once again, how does he know this?"

again, Cor set up inside the piano, and the instructions given the band before the performance were to either initially support what John was doing or what Cor was doing. it wasn't as if Cor jumped in there with no warning during the show.

"How many audience members did he see leaving the room during the course of the performance, and is he aware of any other complaints about the noise level?"

I honestly don't recall seeing anyone (including Curran and Janice, not that I'm doubting them) leave the room, or any complaints about the general volume level, in fact, the general reception for the concert from the crowd afterwards was that they loved it (not that this means much). but, to be honest, I was trying to focus on the performance and the recording, as this was our one chance to document this project (yes, document, that's right).

what's funny to me is that no one has ever asked me the question that seems to me to be crying out to be asked: what exactly did Marcus do in postproduction? the answer, even though I haven't been asked, is that I don't really know exactly, although he told me at the time when I asked him that he didn't really do that much, which was plenty of info for me, as again, I think the end result speaks for itself.

Posted by: Jon Abbey at July 7, 2004 7:04 AM

"Jon description of me as “Eddie's spokesperson”"

Even if you aren't don't sweat it. We sure know for whom aebly and our eai-ollie speak.

Posted by: Uli at July 7, 2004 7:07 AM

a further answer for question #2, from Keith's notes in the festival program which was printed before the festival, and which I know John saw, because I attended a question-and-answer discussion between Keith, John and the media a day or two beforehand:

"The first part of the performance features the 'inside piano' modified 'E' bow technique of Cor Fuhler, then he is joined by John Tilbury."

Posted by: Jon Abbey at July 7, 2004 7:08 AM

"We sure know for whom aebly and our eai-ollie speak."

I speak for myself, beeyatch.

Posted by: Jon Abbey at July 7, 2004 7:09 AM

"I've been to numerous concerts that blew my head off" (DW)

"Except daft bats like me who enjoy sticking their head out of the window and getting it knocked off" (DW)

Prevost vs Tilbury vs ... Are those Olympian rowes getting to you, too? Obsessing in those wee hours about "A View From The Window"? ;)

Posted by: chris flemmer at July 7, 2004 6:03 PM

Ya can always count on Chris to dredge up the killer quotes! Want to do some subbing for Paris Transatlantic, mate? You do well to mention A View From The Window - what's happened to the reviews of the new Erstwhiles, good Bag People? No takers? What about Brian (done em for AMG I imagine)? And what about The Wire? For my money AVFTW is the best Rowe outing since Weather Sky (dontcha love it when people write stoopid phrases like that) ys, The Headless Honcho

Posted by: dan warburton at July 7, 2004 9:39 PM

Good to have you back in the fray, Chris. Where ye been?

Dan, I’m hard at work on those new Ersts. Oh, wait, April 1st was like 3 months ago.

Posted by: derek at July 8, 2004 5:24 AM

The Erst reviews are up at AMG. For some reason (presumably Erstwhile's ironfisted dominance of all media), Ersts have been just about the only thing AMG has OK'd me to so in a while.

Posted by: Brian at July 8, 2004 5:59 AM

Yes, it is the rare day when I am able to go out in public (to the bank, shopping mall, etc.) and not be assaulted AGAIN by "La Voyelle Liquide."

Posted by: crawjo at July 9, 2004 9:53 PM

I've forwarded this discussion to Eddie, but he's reluctant to get involved in any internet forum, a position that long predates the book coming out, so not sure if he'll respond or not.

There's quite a lot I have to say about the book in general, but not a great deal about the HOC, or at least not right this minute. It seems have come down to who said what to who when, a discussion to which I don't think I can add very much.

However, I wanted to pick up on this point:

Dan: I wonder if Eddie has (and enjoys listening to) Mattin's Gora? Not exactly Walk To The Paradise Garden, is it? But he does play and record with Mattin.

There's quite a long essay by Mattin, which supports Radu Malfatti and criticises Eddie on the L'innomable website - http://www.linnomable.com/ written after the Wire interview - you remember, Pope, Jesus Christ - under essays, word format. It also contains a response to Eddie's comments about sampling in that interview or possibly elsewhere, which Mattin has obviously attributed to himself (probably a fair assessment since he's one of only a couple of people who use live processing I can think of that Eddie plays with, although from memory I'm sure the comments were very generalised). To use Mattin as an example of someone who has a musically uncritical relationship with Prévost despite disagreements is inaccurate.

Posted by: Nat at July 10, 2004 2:11 PM

An interesting essay, indeed, and I love the following passage:
"in the long silences that Radu performs you can hear people squickling, stomachs, siliba, sacricition"
I think I may have to swipe that as a title for a piece!

Posted by: dan warburton at July 11, 2004 12:38 AM

Tucked between shreds torn from Badiou, Deleuze, and Agamben, wouldn't that make a lot of Eddies look a little like teddies?

"But seriously": For those aspiring "to do some subbing for Paris Transatlantic" (see above), note that the quotation taken from Badiou's brilliant Ethics can be found on p. 23 (not 43) in the Verso translation.

A propos Badiou, an even more tempting place to pursue the issues Mr. Mattin raises might be his (Badiou's) "Deleuze: La clameur de l'Etre/The Clamor of Being" (see esp. ch. 4 "The Virtual"). Reading this might also do the trick and push you into finally kissing London (and its improv) goodbye, grabbing your excellent Whitenoise cd (w.m.o/r.) and taking up residence in Paris (or Vienna, if you're worried about not getting your proper dose of silence living within earshot of the local PT office.)

...to something completely different:

Nice to see a new cd by Dan "coming up" on the l'innomable label. In case they don't have a motto yet, how about this one (from Beckett's Unnamable, as quoted by Badiou, ibid., p. 70):
"you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."

well, gotta go.

Posted by: chris flemmer at July 11, 2004 3:25 PM

"note that the quotation taken from Badiou's brilliant Ethics can be found on p. 23 (not 43) in the Verso translation."
You mean footnote 6? It says "P.23" here. It's a tough job, proof reading, but somebody's got to do it. The job offer remains open, Chris:)

"if you're worried about not getting your proper dose of silence living within earshot of the local PT office."

I assure you this building is quite a pleasant place to live, until my downstairs neighbour starts playing Voodoo Chile for the 6589th time. THAT'S when I reach for my revolver (to quote a long-forgotten rock classic), or rather, the Merzbow.

"Nice to see a new cd by Dan "coming up" on the l'innomable label."
Well, you haven't heard it yet (haha!). No, Tom & I are very happy about that - I like the label very much & am delighted to be in such good company.

"you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."

I tell myself that every morning.


Posted by: dan warburton at July 11, 2004 10:01 PM

"note that the quotation taken from Badiou's brilliant Ethics can be found on p. 23 (not 43) in the Verso translation."
You mean footnote 6? It says "P.23" here."

Thank you, Dan, for pointing this out. Should read: "note that the quotation taken from Badiou's brilliant Ethics can be found on p. 43 (not 23) in the Verso translation."


Posted by: chris flemmer at July 12, 2004 4:41 AM

Having been encouraged to emerge from the shadows I offer the following:

Firstly, those of you who have been persuaded of my disingenuousness and defective, or highly selective, memory may feel disinclined to proceed further; on the other hand, to those readers who hold a more charitable opinion of my character and state of health, and who, I hope, know me better, I say read on.

With reference to the day of the Hands of Caravaggio concert in Bologna, when I arrived at the venue I was surprised and disconcerted to discover that I did not have sole access to the grand piano, that I had to share it with another performer.

Nor did I know that for the performance Keith Rowe had instructed Cor Fuhler to monitor and censor my playing, my transgressions, 'forcing' me to return to the fold of aesthetic rectitude.

Incidentally, neither did I know that Keith had applied a similar, albeit more subtle, strategy during our Duos for Doris recordings when I would lapse into sweetness and comfort.

The liberal reader might consider these as acts of extraordinary presumption. However, when motives are not high-handed, are not borne of arrogance or of a personal agenda of self-justification, one can only be grateful for such solicitude from fellow musicians. And naturally, one assumes that such high critical standards are applied with the same rigour and consequence to their own musical utterances.
And yet, Cardew’s 'seventh virtue' continues to nag away at me: "The desire always to be right is an ignoble taskmaster, as is the desire for immortality".

I have performed with Keith for many years; we have derived great inspiration from each other and we have, of necessity, practiced forbearance – Cardew’s fourth 'virtue': "Improvising in a group you have to accept not only the frailties of your fellow musicians, but also your own."

Returning to the concert, I confess I had hoped for a more subtle interplay between piano and ensemble, a little more 'give and take', as it were. During the performance, from quite early on, the 'piece' appeared to metamorphose, as I recall, from a viable piece of music-making into a 'psycho-drama', into a theatre piece (as so graphically described by Alvin Curran). I had therefore become an actor playing the role of 'victim' and, uncomfortable though that role was, as 'actor' I accepted it. By contrast, Alvin Curran and my wife, who happen to be admirers of my piano-playing were, respectively, baffled and outraged by the fact that I was prevented, albeit in my own interest, from making the sounds that my creative instinct desired. I had been 'set up', a 'sacrificial victim' of betrayal (the theme of Caravaggio’s painting 'The Taking of Christ') No other musician suffered such a 'handicap'.

Unlike Alvin, Janice, and Eddie I have made no judgements of the ultimate merits of either performance or CD, although having recently listened to the CD again I would describe my own contribution (despite the well-intended interventions of Keith and Cor) as depressingly inconsequential.

Posted by John Tilbury

Posted by: John Tilbury at July 12, 2004 6:34 AM

hi, John!

"I did not have sole access to the grand piano"

it wasn't a grand piano, it was a baby grand.

everything else I'll leave to Keith to answer if he chooses to, I know you two discussed this all again a couple of weeks ago, and his recollections are decidedly different from yours.

Posted by: jon abbey at July 12, 2004 8:17 AM

Good to hear from you, John.

Firstly, I hope I wasn't perceived as being too dismissive with a couple of my comments--if so, I apologize. Not having been in attendance at the event and hearing one person say x and another y, I merely assume one or the other to be misremembering or reconstructing history to fit in with one's current perceptions. We all do it; it happens all the time. I hope no undue offense was taken.

Again, not having been there, I won't comment on the actualities that took place during the recording of HOC, but I wanted to clarify my comments on the 'Doris' session. I don't think Rowe had any specific strategies going in, unlike HOC. How he responded to John's playing was, I think, similar to what he does in any collaborative performance situation, only greatly enhanced by his strong familiarity with John. All players fall into patterns, Rowe included. But some, arguably, have more self-awareness of it or (and this may be a sticking point) have a more acute awareness of their collaborators doing so. It seems that what is being objected to here is Rowe's assumption on the "rightness" of his perception of this phenomenon and his subsequent attempts to "correct" it. Though I don't think "correct" is the proper term. When, for instance, John develops the extraordinarily beautiful melodic pattern in the final track on "Doris", first on stroked piano strings, then on the keyboard, it reaches (for this listener) the same sort of ecstatic level you hear in Messiaen's "Louange a l'Eternite de Jesus". While it would have been perfectly fine, even very comforting, for his creation to glow on its own, Rowe insists on throwing at least a few grains of sand into gears (in the form of harsh, though quiet, metallic scrapes), remaining steadfastly earthbound, reminding the listener (perhaps--this is all my interpretation) that, even in times of sadness when one needs great solace, there are no easy answers. Again, this is my read of the piece and was so while I heard it being performed live. Someone else may hear it as an egotistical intrusion on otherwise sublime music that was perfect in and of itself, a refusal to "step out" of the picture.

Generally, these extra-musical issues could obviously become a bone of contention between artists who don't quite (or at all) share his concerns. One might argue that if all musicians involved aren't working from the same conceptual playbook, that the musician with these meta-interests necessarily places himself in some "higher" position, relegating his companions to actors in his constructions. I could understand that this feeling occurs and can see its tendency to breed resentment.

However...however...whether it occurred in HOC or not, might not such unwelcome prodding, such (at least momentary) assumption of the reins serve as a goad to a situation that may otherwise stagnate? Yes, the holder of the reins is taking it upon himself to say, "I'm right about this" and, however one decides such things, it may turn out that he's not correct but, at worst, it's for a limited time, in a limited situation. If it's a bad idea, one can move on. Failures, as we AMMsters know, have their own rewards. Further, one can without too much difficulty imagine situations where matters might "work better" if the participants don't have full information, where they're surprised, even accosted by musical events. Presumably, musicians deeply averse to any such strategies, overt or hidden, learn not to deal with their deviser as they find the whole idea too offensive; I'd understand and respect such a decision even as I might rue the unborn creations that could have, with perhaps a little discomfort, been birthed. Others may find the challenges imposed to be invigorating and sensibility-expanding. That balance between rules (however vague) and freedom, that fractal line, is often (imho) where one finds the juiciest, most complicatedly beautiful "stuff". I don't know how I'd respond as a musician, but as a listener, I'm glad it's an area under investigation. (I realize, btw, that one may attempt to map this stance onto one where, say, I'm happy to wear these great sneakers manufactured by child labor. I don't think the analogy holds.)

It seems to me that, in this case, Eddie (and perhaps John) have come to feel that Keith exercises this option, at the least, too often and have wearied of it. This may be natural after almost a quarter century of playing together, but I've always felt that this sort of tension between three very different musical personalities was one of the primary components of AMM's deep beauty, the sour and sweet (the sour sometimes succumbing to the sweet, sometimes the reverse), the awkwardness, the awkwardness transcended. Part of this, within AMM, had to be Rowe's nagging and pushing but also his being put back into his place. If he's become recalcitrant about accomodating his partners or if they've become tired of arguing the point, so be it. Things move on.

I'll only add that, whatever the elements of its creation, whatever strategies were or weren't in play, "Duos for Doris" remains, when all is said and done, a creation of vast, deep beauty for which I give profound thanks to John.

Posted by: Brian at July 12, 2004 8:35 AM

I just got off the phone with Keith about other things. he's seen John's post, and has no interest in getting into a back and forth about this, he doesn't see the point. one thing he did say, though:

"Nor did I know that for the performance Keith Rowe had instructed Cor Fuhler to monitor and censor my playing, my transgressions, 'forcing' me to return to the fold of aesthetic rectitude."

this isn't true, Keith didn't give any instructions to Cor as to what to do during the performance.

personally, I don't agree with many of John's other recollections or statements about the show or CD, but I also don't really see the point in going back and forth about it.

Posted by: jon abbey at July 12, 2004 9:06 AM

Off from work today, I just went out on the deck to have some lunch and read. It began to rain steadily. A few houses down, someone was hammering into wood. I could hear silverware clattering on plates next door. My block was performing its version of "Doris".

Posted by: Brian at July 12, 2004 9:31 AM

differences and recollections aside, HOC is a fantastic recording, and I've always felt that the piano's beautiful sounds were the star of this "psycho-drama". What John feels about his performance and what anyone remembers of the circumstances are plenty interesting (and appreciated), but it's still a truly amazing recording, at least to this listener, and with Cardew's rules in mind.

It sounds like John has full appreciation of the context (The Taking of Christ) as he interprets it too, so let me say that while I'm interested to hear Keith's "side", I have no interest in phone calls that aim to clarify John's recollections. That's seems silly and petty. I would be far more interested to just read the musicians' take on the concert/recording and what it means to them, which I thank John for supplying.

Posted by: al at July 12, 2004 9:39 AM

"so let me say that while I'm interested to hear Keith's "side", I have no interest in phone calls that aim to clarify John's recollections. "

that wasn't what I posted. I posted a clarification of something that John read here in this thread and assumed to be true, in Brian's post on July 6, that Keith gave Cor specific instructions to interfere with John. Keith stated very simply this morning that this was not true, so I posted that to set the record straight.

Posted by: jon abbey at July 12, 2004 10:06 AM

Your post left a different impression, but I understand.

Posted by: al at July 12, 2004 10:18 AM

this is really interesting, despite you guys insisting in not wanting to go "back and forth". thanks to john for having joined the discussion. it's great to see that there are musicians willing to step "out of the shadow"...

Posted by: tomas at July 12, 2004 1:20 PM

Hello!

After taking a brief look at this debate i saw somebody mentioning Mattin's essay on L'innomable website. Originally this essay is on Mattin's own site:

www.mattin.org

What i like about it is ''work in progress'' attitude, that is not dismissive to morph a thought over time. I think the same thing is happening with ''Hands Of Caravaggio'' and i don't see any problem with it. Even my recolection/reflection of the event (yes i was there in Link) has change. And mine has to be even more complicated- a cd on Jon's label, attending the actual concerto and listening of my minidisc recording of it. Three documents from different angle, subtly modulated with memory (my own and digital) and soundvawes running from different sources changing everybody's perception. I enjoy them all ...

all best Z

Posted by: lukaz at July 13, 2004 10:52 AM

Quite a long way up the thread, Jon asks:

"what's funny to me is that no one has ever asked me the question that seems to me to be crying out to be asked: what exactly did Marcus do in postproduction? the answer, even though I haven't been asked, is that I don't really know exactly, although he told me at the time when I asked him that he didn't really do that much, which was plenty of info for me, as again, I think the end result speaks for itself."

I cannot believe that someone producing CDs can seriously ask such a question. Unless the HOC was recorded with binaural microphones (or any other stereo pair, right inside the piano (as Cor had apparently the perfect sound)) the whole idea that Marcus did nothing to the recording is absurd. I propose that Marcus actually defined the sound of the recording.

If you record with several close up microphones; additionally if you get the feeds from all sorts of other electronic equipment; the person on the desk is in total control of the sound (unless he sees himself as the one preserving the situation as it happens by monitoring and defining the sound in relation to what is happening on the occasion, i.e. he is sitting right in the perfect spot (that is apparently inside the piano!)).

The volume the players actually played in the live performance does therefore not necessarily determine the balance between instruments on the CD. (One really should not need to tell things like this to intelligent people and music lovers like those contributing to this list.)

The question is not what happened during post-production, but what decisions for CD production were taken before and during the performance and mixing session. I.e. where were microphones placed, and were the laptops recorded directly or via microphones in the room etc. ...

I am and was always surprised that every producer of improvised music I know, and that includes Eddie as well, is in favour of close sound for the CD, rather than a genuine attempt to resemble what happened during a performance or recording session. An alternative idea suggested is that one records such events with a stereo pair, recording the room, adding close feeds to help to outline some more details our ear can focus on in live situations but microphones cannot.

In the more common approach you end up hearing all small sounds contributing to a musical experience where the big sounds had ignored them during the actual event.

Therefore, in whatever way Eddie might be wrong about the actual event used for his discussion in his book, in whatever way Jon might be worried about CD sales and reputation of his label, in whatever way John felt during the performance and whatever he remembers about the occasion, and in whatever way Keith was looking for and provoking this particular situation; the issues involved (and raised in Eddie's book and John's responses) deserve a decent and sensible debate and cannot be resolved by seeing a CD as a musical entity detached from performance or recording session.

Producing an interesting sonic experience from slaughtering, raping, enslaving, and disgracing human beings - lavishing on the sounds of sliced meat, cries and despair - would not make a good piece of improvisation setting out to explore the sociability among musicians (which I believe is one of Eddie's prime concerns).

Abuse of volume comes very close to such a situation. Speaking about 'volume' Eddie's question on the use of technology has its undeniable validity - as well as the listening versus non-listening approaches - as technologies enable the infinite sustainability of physically unendurable environments. The enjoyment of very loud sonic environments raises the question of how far the person involved has been desensitised to subtleties of social interaction in favour of more fascistic dominance and obedience, or, as an alternative, the sonic X-games, where the adrenaline level serves as a drug.

Could the question however be solved? Does 'Duos for Doris' live off John's adaptability to any situation or Keith's ingenious sense of sonic provocation? Undeniably it's both, although this happens in an environment sustainable and endurable of, and for, both players, although I have to say that the mix is very awkward and suggests an omnipresence and dominance of Keith's contribution (i.e. Keith is panned to right and left, while John is kept on the left hand side only).

P.S. Let me clarify one point: I do not blame Marcus (as engineer for HOC) for what he has done. Without this incredible mastery of his task, the result (the HOC CD) would possibly be unbearable, and therefore it would never have lead to such important issues to be raised.

Sebastian

Posted by: Sebastian Lexer at July 13, 2004 5:04 PM

Interesting post, but I was wondering how some of our noise fans (Nirav) might react to this:
"The enjoyment of very loud sonic environments raises the question of how far the person involved has been desensitised to subtleties of social interaction in favour of more fascistic dominance and obedience, or, as an alternative, the sonic X-games, where the adrenaline level serves as a drug"
For purely practical reasons (ie they'd throw me out in the street) I can't listen to my Merzbows, Luttenbachers and Kevin Drumms as often as I'd like, but I find them exceedingly enjoyable and rather resent the "fascistic" line

Posted by: dan warburton at July 13, 2004 10:56 PM

Dan Warburton:  "For purely practical reasons (ie they'd throw me out in the street) I can't listen to my Merzbows, Luttenbachers and Kevin Drumms as often as I'd like, but I find them exceedingly enjoyable and rather resent the 'fascistic' line"

It's interesting to note that of the noise artists Dan lists, two are known so as solo artists, and the third, the Luttenbachers, is a 'group' which I recall being recognized in a discussion on this site as essentially the work of one man, Weasel, who is the only consistent member.

I think the issue is not noise itself, but how it is employed in context of playing with other people. Sebastian references "social interaction," and the discussion of HOC is not really about the whole thing being too loud, but about certain players' volume levels in relation to that of others. I don't have problems with loud music itself. But I have definitely seen situations in which a musician abuses his/her ability to blast out the other musicians. 'Fascistic' sounds a strong word for me, but it's definitely insensitive. I'm not saying that no musician in a group context can ever be louder than any other. I think it's a problem when a musician 'blasts' out his collaborators with no real justification. And I don't really buy arguments of mimicking 'power structures' on stage, as I've heard from a couple people before, unless that was fully agreed amongst the performers involved.

I think the success of a performance and the success of a recording are separate things. We've talked about good concert/bad cd; bad concert/good cd; good concert/different but good cd, etc. One thing I think for sure is that the success of either depends heavily on the agreement of all participants. I'm speaking in broader terms than just HOC. In general, it's not enough for me if the public like the show/recording; I have a hard time appreciating a piece of music if I know one or more of the participants feels they were poorly treated in performance or poorly represented on disc. I wouldn't think a concert in which I participated was good if I was 'blasted out' unfairly, if I felt it was insensitive (note: I've been blasted out at times and enjoyed it). Nor would I want a record released if I felt it was a poor representation. Further, if I've given my approval for the release of an album, that would be end of discussion for me.

Chris Flemmer:  "an even more tempting place to pursue the issues Mr. Mattin raises might be his (Badiou's) "Deleuze: La clameur de l'Etre/The Clamor of Being" (see esp. ch. 4 "The Virtual"). Reading this might also do the trick and push you into finally kissing London (and its improv) goodbye, grabbing your excellent Whitenoise cd (w.m.o/r.) and taking up residence in Paris (or Vienna"

Mattin was still living in London when Whitenoise was recorded (in Vienna), and the Sakada cd just released on Antiopic was recorded in London, with several London musicians, including Eddie Prevost. Sure, he's moved on now, but after several years playing here, in which I can't think he would say he hasn't gained anything.
Don’t anyone write off London improv! There's plenty there beneath the surface!

Michael

Posted by: Michael Rodgers at July 14, 2004 4:46 AM

Interestingly enough, there are enough noise shows where the lineups are as fluid as free-improv ensembles. When I saw Slogun, Navicon Torture Technologies and Sickness play, the collaborative spirit was alive and well. On record Chris Goudreau is Sickness, John Balistreri is Slogun and Lee somethingorther. Live, Sickness was Goudreau solo, Navicon Torture technologies was all three, and Slogun was Goudreau + Balistreri.

And, I'd like to call bullshit at the quote that Dan mentions, it is ridiculous to attempt to infer the personality of a listener from the type of music listened to, the connection is specious at very best. Are there noise listeners that are "desensitized"? Sure, no doubt, but to say that there is a necessary connection between noise and desensitization is outrageous and insulting.

One thing I'm curious about: what does "social interaction" sound like? Is it high pitched? Low? Because I can't say I've ever *heard* social interaction. And, since cds are mostly the domain of heard things, outside of live concerts I don't come across it much at all. And so, speaking purely as a listener, I can't say it figures all too much into my appreciation of a piece of music.

Is there anyone else here that doesn't care a whit about "sociability among musicians"? It's probably something that's important to having an interesting result, but then again so does having an appropriate mic setup, having the musicians properly fed, making sure that the room is properly ventilated, etc. Any sort of moral valuation that is attached to these sorts of means doesn't transfer into the end result. And, as far as aesthetics is concerned with ends, the means don't figure into aesthetic judgements all that much. Walter Horn takes this up in his (uncommonly well thought and refreshing) review of Prevost's book, it's a very critically actute account, and mighty subtle to boot.

Posted by: Nirav at July 14, 2004 7:29 AM

Thanks Nirav and Tomas. I really appreciate your kind words.

Posted by: walto at July 14, 2004 8:38 AM

I don't think "social interaction" sounds like anything. The main point behind referring to a concept is the idea that musicians cooperate musically. I enjoy both "conversational" and "parallel" methods of playing, but even when two or more musicians are playing in parallel, (i.e. neither is particularly responding, but more involved in their own process) I would think it steps out of bounds for one player to simply dominate proceedings by playing 10 times louder than anyone else for no real reason.

Nirav: "Is there anyone else here that doesn't care a whit about "sociability among musicians"? It's probably something that's important to having an interesting result, but then again so does having an appropriate mic setup, having the musicians properly fed, making sure that the room is properly ventilated, etc. Any sort of moral valuation that is attached to these sorts of means doesn't transfer into the end result. "

I don't think we're talking about whether or not muscians can spend a weekend at the beach together. It's a question of whether performers respect each other in performance.
I'd agree that the end result is what counts . . . until you discover something about the people behind it. I've had the case where a musician I liked turned out to be an asshole when I encountered them in person. It was really hard to appreciate their music afterward. Maybe other people can continue appreciating music made by assholes (there's an album title!), but I can't. Whether the musician is a real asshole in person or not, this principle filters down to the experience of playing music with others. I wouldn't continue playing with someone who seems to disregard what I'm playing.

So you can hear from a friend how they experienced problems during a concert or recording and decide you won't support the problem-maker, as you trust your friend's perception. But perhaps you shouldn't publish your feelings about someone else's experience in a book . . .

Michael

Posted by: Michael Rodgers at July 14, 2004 9:08 AM

"Don’t anyone write off London improv!" (Michael Rodgers)

No worries! My comment about London was all tongue in cheek, prompted by Mattin's essay about (among other things) music making in the UK courtesy of a predominantly French-German-Italian bird's eye view (look at that bibliography). Peculiar?

Mattin's essay prompted me to take stock of my own allegiances: if 4 out of 10 of the philosophers I return to most often are French, and none are English speakers, and if 4 out of 10 of my favorite improvisers are Brits, and none are French, I should probably kiss my town goodbye, grab a copy of Badiou and buy a ticket to an improv concert in London. Seriously.


Posted by: chris flemmer at July 14, 2004 1:28 PM

FWIW, Mattin was half-considering moving to Paris a few months ago. I think I've managed to dissuade him :) For Chris (& anyone else), watch out for next month's PT where I'll be reviewing some new French stuff you might be interested in. Also -howzat for closure - will be running Walt's excellent Prevost review.
Out of curiosity, I played Hands Off Tilbury again yesterday, and it sounds wonderful. Don't know what on earth JT is complaining about.

Posted by: dan warburton at July 14, 2004 10:04 PM

dan
why not mattin living in paris!
is it that bad?
there are things to do in paris for sure!
alexandre

Posted by: bellenger at July 15, 2004 5:17 AM

If anybody's interested, Eddie's response to my review of his book is now up at OFN.

Posted by: walto at July 23, 2004 6:38 AM

Brian:

might not such unwelcome prodding, such (at least momentary) assumption of the reins serve as a goad to a situation that may otherwise stagnate? Yes, the holder of the reins is taking it upon himself to say, "I'm right about this" and, however one decides such things, it may turn out that he's not correct but, at worst, it's for a limited time, in a limited situation ... (I realize, btw, that one may attempt to map this stance onto one where, say, I'm happy to wear these great sneakers manufactured by child labor. I don't think the analogy holds.)

I think this is central to the issues being discussed but is being obscured at the moment.

I'd forgotten when reading the various correspondence about the Hands of Caravaggio that I had in fact seen MIMEO in performance, at the Oscar Niemeyer Pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery in London last year.

Jon:
"MIMEO concerts are generally in quad, as this one was, with the six musicians closest to each of the four speakers going into that speaker and the other six musicians largely inaudible from the opposite side of the room"

I don't know the specifics of the audio set up at the Serpentine, but the musicians were located in physically separated areas, and if the set-up was similar to Jon's description above, there would have been no way for them to hear each other. As it was, the separation was made much clearer by the presence of hundreds of people talking very loudly throughout the concert, so that there was little opportunity to see where different musicians were located, let alone hear any detail in what sounds were being produced and from where. For example, I found the group including Cor Fuhler and the piano only towards the end of a section in which they were the only sound source - they were on a different floor in the venue and almost inaudible in the main part of the building. Similarly, the clear space between musicians in the main performance area became thick with people, so this would have obstructed any visual and most auditory communication between those musicians.

My main feeling about the concert was that any intention as regards the audio set up must have been disrupted by the number and volume of the audience, which I doubt anyone expected. If the set-up, as Jon indicates, is designed to restrict some of the audio information from the performers, then perhaps this disruption was less severe than I thought, but still it would have been a far cry from the experience at the sound check.

It seemed that most people there had not gone to see MIMEO perform, they'd gone to see an event at the 'Oscar Niemeyer Pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery', as evidenced by the vast numbers of people outside on the grass next to the bar, far away from both the pavilion and the performance. The atmosphere was that of a party, and MIMEO, for me, were often reduced to the status of a function band - music to be talked, or shouted over, incidental to the activity of social, and visual-art-business, networking that seemed to be the main intention of a large number, if not the majority, of the attendees. Musically, when it was possible to hear what was going on (mainly when the volume of the musicians outstripped that of the audience, despite the latter's best efforts), there was some very interesting stuff going on, and often a lot of visceral impact. A very short, and IMO not gratuitous section of extreme loud volume led to quite strong physical sensation, but this was contextualised, and within context didn't suggest the kind of self-destructiveness that Sebastian alluded to above.

So my focus was less on any unequal or obstructed relationship created by the musicians themselves, as it was on the external obstruction created by the overall organisation of the performance. This can be seen as poor or insensitive organisation, or it can been seen as an integral result of the reality of the Pavilion and the Serpentine as an organisation.

A quick look at Serpentine's website indicates that the Pavilion was sponsored by Eurex. Eurex's name is as prominent as Niemeyers in the site's literature about the pavilion - in fact Niemeyer's name is in pale grey and Eurex in bright blue and green. Rudolf Ferscha, Chief Executive Officer of Eurex also gets more words than Niemayer in that literature, as does the Chief Executive of Arup Europe, the sponsor-engineers of the pavilion.

Eurex obviously value their association with the Pavilion- "Eurex stands for open, democratic access to financial markets. We connect people across borders and in this spirit we support this exciting project." Similarly the Serpentine itself holds Bloomberg as its major sponsor -

"I am a strong believer that companies should support cultural and educational projects whenever they do business."
Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder Bloomberg LP (and of Mayor of New York?) - from the corporate sponsorship section of the Serpentine's website.

"Companies that join the Corporate Benefactors Scheme can take advantage of the many distinctive entertaining opportunities at the Serpentine. The Gallery's highly skilled events staff can offer complete planning and organisational support for everything from the simplest to the most complex event."

"We regret that we cannot accept bookings for weddings, private events, charity events or exhibtions(sic)."

Therefore, the Serpentine, and in the summer, the Pavilion, becomes both art gallery/temporary performance space and corporate entertainment venue, with the company's contribution to the "public" exhibition or Pavilion permanently emblazoned on their website and accompanying literature. The sponsorship can not be seen as merely support; a reading of Chin Tao Wu's Privatising Culture: Corporate Art Intervention Since the
1980s, or indeed the Serpentine's own site, makes it very clear that corporate patronage offers both financial - tax-deductible, and corporate entertaining benefits, not to mention the unique marketing that a gallery provides over other forms of advertising. Private donations to the gallery can result in over GBP500 of tax expenditure from a GBP1000 donation for "high-rate tax payers", and around 28% for corporate donations. Both rich patrons and corporate sponsors therefore get a discount for their donations. And corporate sponsors gain access to facilities which by the Serpentine's own admission is closed to all other individuals or organisations.

Whereas the MIMEO concert may have been on the periphery of the main focus of the Pavilion, the Pavilion and Gallery itself could easily be seen as serving mainly as a conduit for corporate power, with Niemeyer an equally small player in the equation.

The mainly interpersonal processes operating at the Hands of Carravaggio concert may not be easily mappable onto my now seemingly ubiquitous analogy to sneakers, however, since Jon was present at the concert I attended (and, Alastair, Michael?), I'd be interested on views as to whether they feel the venue for that concert with it's myriad complex associations positively or adversely affected the performance. Quad set-ups, compositions and performance strategies aside.

Again, back to the sneaker analogy, here's a list of Serpentine's main sponsors:

Alphabet, Banque Bruxelles Lambert (Suisse) S.A., Barclays Bank PLC, Bloomberg, BMW Financial Services Group, Bovis Lend Lease, c-quential, an Arthur D. Little company, Clipfine Ltd, Coutts Contemporary Art Foundation, Corus, Credit Suisse First Boston, Digital Video Systems Ltd, Driade, Edra, Emanuel Ungaro, Eon Productions, European Investment Managers, Eyestorm, French Connection, GearBox (Sound and Vision) Ltd, Habitat, Henderson Investors, Hydro Aluminium, Insinger Townsley, Investec, ISC Computers plc, Japan Airlines, John Doyle Plc, Kajima, Knight Frank, Laing O'Rourke Plc, Mackie Designs UK, Marks & Spencer, MasterCard, Madonna, Montagu Evans, Omni Colour Presentations, Paul Smith, Renaissance Films, The Moving Picture Company, Netjets, Park View International London plc, Prudential Corporation, Ross Lovegrove, SAS International Ltd, Saint-Gobain Glass, Seele, Selfridges & Co, Shanghai Tang, Shiseido, Siteco, Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Sony Broadcast & Professional, T. Clarke Plc, Tag Heuer, UBS Private Banking, Vanity Fair, Vertu, Viaduct, William Hare Ltd, Wilson James, Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche.

No sneaker manufacturers, but some of the biggest multinational financial, automotive, and construction companies are involved, and the interests of those companies may well extend, even if remotely, to third world child labor, like it or not.

It could well be suggested (without first hand knowledge of much of this) that the structure and literature of MIMEO might make it more attractive to organisations like the Serpentine than, to use Walt's summary of Prévost's preferences "free, acoustic improv". The critical parts of Eddie's book as discussed above, may be seen as personal attacks on Rowe, but before this discussion I viewed them mainly as a complaint against the intrusion of visual-art aesthetics into free-improvisation, a process by no means attributed soley to Rowe.

However, since this discussion has centered around Rowe, let's look at MIMEO's literature, we see this statement on Cor Fuhler's page about the band.

"The idea of an "official" view for Mimeo is almost contradictory, in the sense that the performers have such varied backgrounds, as for history, I guess Mimeo reflects the doubt laden transition from the world of scarcity (analogue spectrum) to the one of plenty (digital). Within the orchestra this transition is represented by the "group primitive" and the "powerbook trio", a kind of "post techno Duchampianism", a music worked around choice and juxtaposition. Mimeo takes two features of C20 music into the C21, improvisation and electronics. It consults / runs / operates / through a kind of internet e-mail democracy. The question however remains : " Will the powerbook trio be able to contain the low tech. onslaught of the primitives and avoid the out-flanking manoeuvres by the dysfunctional garbage collectors, or will the romantics hold the day with their instruments rooted in history ".
Keith Rowe

It's quite clear that this language is not that far removed from the language accompanying exhibitions at the Gallery. The current exhibition by Gabriel Orozco is accompanied by these statements from Serpentine's website:

"...he is as interested in structures and systems as he is in experimentation and chance.."

"...Orozco's preoccupation with the relationships between mechanical and human forms, found and made objects, and nature and debris..."

Again, this exhibition is primarily sponsored by Bloomberg.

If the language accompanying MIMEO can be almost interchangeable with that accompanying Orozco (who's actual work I'm not familiar with), and if Orozco in turn can be so happily supported by Bloomberg - certainly "structures and systems" are now primarily associated with the language of markets more than anything else - then this poses far more important questions than specific interpersonal relationships or the who, what, when of specific performances. If an organisation like MIMEO, with it's very demanding preconditions for performance (at least sufficient space, notice and money to bring everyone together) finds that the corporate sponsored gallery becomes a viable alternative venue to the publicly sponsored festival (not to mention the personally sponsored musicians-organised gig), then there must be a chance that the discourse relating to the music, and perhaps the music itself, may become subservient to the overall interests of those organisations, much as visual art has become an uncritical accomplice to these advertisements posing as galleries; or in the case of mine, and Eddie's, own unwitting brush with Bloomberg, Corporate headquarters posing as galleries, I've gone on way to long to talk about that now, but in short, it was a situation in which the veneer of sponsorship was completely removed from the space, despite our ignorance to the contrary beforehand.

Posted by: Nat at July 24, 2004 8:45 PM

Quick PS.

If MIMEO eventually release a CD from the Serpentine concert (one which I'd hope would have the incessant chatter removed, no matter how innaccurate or untrustworthy that might make it), would the Serpentine's agreement with the sponsors of the pavilion necessitate a mention of Eurex the liner notes "Recorded at the Oscar Niemeyer Pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery, sponsor: Eurex" for instance? MIMEO could of course ignore this request were it to hypothetically be made, but this issue brings into focus what is, and is not, a true representation of events in the production of music and recordings of it.

Posted by: Nat at July 24, 2004 9:10 PM

oh, man, I thought we were done with this.

the two MIMEO concerts under discussion here are decidedly different, I'm pretty sure I was the only non-member of the group in attendance at both. the Serpentine one was more of an installation than a concert, they had to set up as best possible in the space provided, which was a Niemeyer pavilion that was being torn down the next day. you can see the space somewhat here, including nine of the ten musicians during the soundcheck, along with yours truly:

http://www.euronet.nl/users/fuhler/mimeo.htm

the Serpentine is out in the middle of the park, not an actual room, a lot of people there just wandered in and didn't pay the entrance fee. introducing this other show to the fray just raises even more extraneous issues to the original discussion. the Caravaggio show was an actual concert, and the entire performance is on the CD.

every European festival is paid for by somebody, a lot of the funding stems from governments. I don't see why that has to affect the resultant music, just as I don't believe that corporate funding necessarily has to affect the resultant music. someone has to pay for MIMEO to get together, almost no one has that kind of money (the Serpentine is one of only two shows they've played in the three-plus years since the Caravaggio recording, the other one was in Nickelsdorf and reportedly was even less successful than the Serpentine one). all money comes from somewhere; do you stop people as they're paying for Ongaku shows, and ask "excuse me, how did you earn that money exactly? I'm sorry, we're not allowing capitalist pawns into the room tonight."

Nat, I have a question for you. if the Serpentine called you tomorrow and said "we'd like to put on a show of 9! in our outdoor pavilion this summer, we'll offer each of you £500 (hypothetical number, as I don't know the financial arrangements of the MIMEO Serpentine show), you can do whatever you want for four hours." what would your answer be? now, imagine if 9! lived all over Europe, and were only able to get together every eighteen months or so, and the Parisian equivalent of the Serpentine made the offer. what would you say then?

back in the real world away from all these largely academic and pointless, petty quibbles, I've been hearing a lot lately about labels folding or coming close to folding and musicians being evicted. I assume this is likely because of the massive funds that the general sellout to capitalist forces have yielded. so absurd, fiddling while experimental music burns.

as long as I'm here, one of the many lurking musicians wanted me to correct myself in regards to the Caravaggio show: the piano was not a baby grand, it was a very bad small grand but not a baby one. so there you go.

Posted by: jon abbey at July 24, 2004 11:20 PM

I agree with Jon about this filthy lucre business. As I think I said before, the issue is handled very nicely in Shaw's "Major Barbara," where the question comes as to whether the Salvation Army should accept contributions from the liquor industry and arms manufacturers. What Shaw points out is that, while sensitive consiences may exult, no actual person is subtantially helped by turning such money down. There'd still be as many guns and as much hooch, but there'd be a few more homeless people dying.

Sure if, in Jon's hypothetical, the sponsors require you wear sandwich boards, or to stop every so often and thank the generous sponsors for their largesse, you should turn down the gig and haughtily stomp away. But the idea that, even if there are no strings attached, that sort of money is always too dirty to touch, seems naive and overly simplistic to me. Whose hands ARE clean enough?--surely not any government's; Not PIRG's, (they famously exploit college students); Not Oxfam's (they spends so much on high-paid "administration"); not The Red Cross's. Maybe Eddie's....but can we be absolutely sure?

Posted by: walto at July 25, 2004 3:58 AM

Jon,

I brought the Serpentine show into the discussion to try to bring it around to the more general points raised by Eddie's book, which after all, doesn't only talk about HOC, in fact the majority of the book isn't about HOC, despite this discussion's evidence to the contrary. I agree that there's little use going back and forth about what kind of piano was used for that recording, where the microphones were, etc. etc. that interests me little. So I thought bringing up a MIMEO show at which more contributors to the site had actually attended, and which I had first hand knowledge of, might allow for a less personalised and more useful conversation.

The real issues of how improvised music is funded have much more to do with "the real world" than theory. Whether you think it makes any difference to the music involved, you state yourself that MIMEO is unable to perform without significant funding, and that this usually comes from either corporations or government. Plenty of groups perform all the time without funding from either of those sources, or sometimes with, sometimes not. So if there's a qualitative difference between the conditions that those groups perform under at different times, or conditions they're unable to exist without, I don't think it's "largely academic and pointless, petty quibbles" to discuss whether that might, even in a small, barely noticeable way, affect the music made by those groups. If that money pays for decent amplification, regular feeding and an acoustically decent venue, might it impact it positively? Or is it only the negative impacts of sponsorship that must be struck from notions of what might affect aesthetics?

As to whether 9! would perform at the Serpentine: Despite misgivings about the way the music was presented, the possibility was discussed after the MIMEO concert between myself and Ross, perhaps others, and I at least thought the gig at the Serpentine was a success, overall, immediately afterwards. So if you'd asked me a year ago, I probably would have answered yes pretty much unreservedly. However, new information and experience changes opinions, so my answer now would probably be that I'd argue against it, but wouldn't veto/opt-out of any collective decision. 9! does gigs only slightly more frequently than MIMEO, but they cost much less, so this would certainly be an anomalous blip in the history of the group, not a precondition for performances or its existence. At least part of my reason for bringing in the Serpentine gig, was that I think groups like MIMEO, and any other large, pan-national, improvising ensemble operate on a scale which doesn't allow them to function without outside support. Smaller groups based in specific localities, though no more likely to generate a real income, can at least get together without massive capital outlays, so are less likely to become dependent on corporations and governments for their existence. And yes, although I think it's only sensible for musicians to try to get decent places to play for decent money, dependency on any organisation in order to play could easily lead to changes in the music's form and content over time, or its disappearance if that support is withdrawn. The subsidy for my own gigs comes from my own personal pocket, paid for out of day jobs (previously admin, now teaching/admin). That puts me in a dependent position on my non-musical or academic employers, but it allows me to avoid most aspects of music performance I'm not keen on, although it also precludes some I'd like to be doing more of. It may positively or negatively affect the music I make, but it's a conscious choice, and one I appear to share with quite a large number of other musicians. I'm not saying I could support myself playing only improvised music, I couldn't, but I could be pursuing a career as a conventional professional musician, and I'd much rather do other jobs for money instead.

Back to Bloomberg:

A few months ago, we organised what was to be a series of weekly gigs at a tiny East End pub. The plan was for me and Eddie to play weekly, inviting a different duo every month. Due to licensing laws, there was no way to charge for the gig, so we'd be playing each week for no fee, with maybe a couple of beers thrown in. The pub had a stage within the bar area itself, and this would have made it the only regular event in London not taking place in hired space separate from the main bar, so we figured playing for free to a generalised walk-in audience might be interesting, and with no obvious space to hire weekly, we decided to do it. We were thrown out after two weeks, but that's incidental to the discussion.

The first gig we played, a guy (late 20s, shabby looking) came up and asked Eddie if we'd play at a closing show at the gallery he curated, Bloomberg in Finsbury square, no budget for musicians due to the short notice, but if we were interested etc. etc. None of us knew the gallery or that area very well, but the gig was four days later on a Saturday afternoon, and we were all free, so we ended up doing it and inviting the rest of 9! and a couple of other people (at least three of them read this site, so they may jump in) to the gig; we were expecting to be huddled in the corner of a tiny private gallery.

When we arrived on the Saturday, we found out we were going to be playing at the Bloomberg Space - essentially the six or more storey high atrium of Bloomberg's London headquarters, which they've turned into an art gallery. A venue that may have a square or cubic footage bigger than every improvised music venue in London, including Conway Hall, or not far off. They had been holding an "Art School" there for three weeks - art and high school students brought in to work with professional artists. Since there was very little product from the three weeks - not a conventional exhibition - the curator decided to have a closing instead of an opening, and although he'd no familiarity with improvised music, asked us to play since he thought it'd fit well with the processual nature of the work that had been the focus of the exhibition, such as it was.

There were similar numbers to the MIMEO gig - maybe 2-300 or so, with a similar atmosphere, although this was March inside, not July outside, and there was more security (a couple of us almost couldn't get in). We ended up doing about a 40 minute set. I'd never heard of Bloomberg (apart from the mayor of NYC), and although a couple of 9! had maybe heard the name, we weren't familiar with the company - after all, financial news agencies don't advertise on TV, they sponsor art galleries right?

During the course of the event, we managed to get some idea what Bloomberg actually was, and the curator, who none of us knew, was quick to add that not only was the atrium of their London headquarters an Art Gallery, but they also sponsored Art internationally, including the Serpentine etc. There was no talk of us walking out or anything like that, but there was definitely an uneasiness mixed with genuine surprise at the venue, which was pretty interesting - multiple levels, walkways, balconies, lots of glass etc. Not to mention that we were essentially providing background music to the overall event (chatting again), a position that improvised music rarely finds itself in, and not necessarily a comfortable one.

Bloomberg's operations are still a bit of a mystery to me, their main focus seems to be providing screens to trading companies that keep track of stock prices. Obviously that's much less tangible an operation than Exxon or Philip Morris, but both of those companies also sponsor art, and I don't think I'd spend much time in any place sponsored by them in a professional capacity.

Had we known we'd be performing for free at what was essentially a big party at the headquarters of a massive multinational financial services company, I'm sure we would have said no. Had we been offered five grand, we might possibly have said yes with reservations; that wasn't the case however, and I don't know the individual positions of everyone in the group to corporate funding. I'd guess any informed discussion would've ended up with a unanimous "no" though.

As to the Serpentine, in that case it's a gallery sponsored by all these companies, not the companies themselves posing as a gallery. The question is to what extent is the gallery dependent on these companies for its existence? Does this dependency have any effect on programming? In the case of sponsorship by Absolut and Becks (Oxford's MOMA and the ICA respectively), I think it does from what I've seen. In the case of Bloomberg, it's certainly more subtle, less intrusive, and perhaps doesn't impact at all on the decisions of curators or artists. Music is at best a peripheral bottom-feeding activity in all this - I'm sure the overall budget for the Niemeyer pavilion would have funded several dozen, maybe several hundred MIMEO concerts.

As to ticket buying members of the public, in almost all cases they're alienated from the product of their production - money in the hands of individuals value can represent labour in any capacity, that's what money is. In that sense if Blair or Michael Bloomberg turned up with a fiver to see a gig, they'd be welcome to come in (whether they'd stay in for very long is another matter).

If, however, someone buying a ticket to an ongaku concert asked for their name to be printed on all of our publicity, and displayed prominently on our website, I'd tell them to fuck off. (fans of Harry Enfield can complete the mental picture)

Companies do not simply buy tickets to exhibitions at art galleries, they buy a whole range of corporate services including various forms of marketing, corporate entertainment, employee benefits, etc. etc. Does sponsorship buy them a say in the content of work exhibited in those galleries? Possibly not, unless the gallery is really their headquarters in which case the power is certainly there whether used or not, but it's advertising in the same way that they could buy a TV ad, except generally much more cost-effective and targeted.

Very little of this has to do with theory, it's about the basic reality within which artists and musicians operates on a day to day basis, and should be discussed at that level.

Posted by: Nat at July 25, 2004 5:48 AM

Walt, if you can show me an example of corporate sponsorship that has absolutely no strings attached...

The only one would be money offered without any request of announcement, apart from perhaps "anonymous benefactor", or "anonymous private benefactor" (although Frances Stonor Saunders would probably attribute that to CIA money: that's a book worth reading, arguably the CIA used it's strings much less than most corporations, and a reading of Wu's and Saunders' books together indicates that corporate sponsorship picked up at about the same time as the Congress for Cultural Freedom collapsed - large sums of money from the Rockefeller, Whitney and Guggenheim foundations was redirected CIA cash, and the Guggenheim and Whitney Museums have been at the forefront of soliciting corporate sponsorship since the '80s, again, arguably, to fill that gap).

Sure there are thinner and thicker and longer and shorter and tighter and looser strings, but the quickest glance at the Serpentine's website indicates a fair few strings, and a lot of active solicitation by the gallery itself. Do I think musicians and artists should refuse money offered to them if they think they'll be able to work unhindered by it? No, of course not. Most of my music education was funded by government or by various foundations, with no strings that I can remember. In fact, I didn't have any choice but to be educated by the government of the UK, and it's illegal for me not to fund state education now. Should I be going to jail for tax-evasion to avoid supporting a system of education I fundamentally disagree with? Maybe so, but then I wouldn't be able to do much else. Neither do I rule out applying for Arts Council grants, but I'm not sitting here filling out forms either.

The point is not to prohibit people from seeking funding, it's to try to get some kind of critical approach to that funding/sponsorship entering into the discourse about this music, rather than have it accepted uncritically as eternally necessary, or entirely neutral, or completely disinterested, which it isn't.

Posted by: Nat at July 25, 2004 6:13 AM

"The point is not to prohibit people from seeking funding, it's to try to get some kind of critical approach to that funding/sponsorship entering into the discourse about this music, rather than have it accepted uncritically as eternally necessary, or entirely neutral, or completely disinterested, which it isn't."

I personally don't think this needs to be discussed publicly, I think that it's a individual decision that each person involved in the music is quite capable of making for themselves each time that they need to.

Posted by: jon abbey at July 25, 2004 7:40 AM

>"The point is not to prohibit people from seeking funding, it's to try to get some kind of critical approach to that funding/sponsorship entering into the discourse about this music, rather than have it accepted uncritically as eternally necessary, or entirely neutral, or completely disinterested, which it isn't."

I personally don't think this needs to be discussed publicly, I think that it's a individual decision that each person involved in the music is quite capable of making for themselves each time that they need to.
>

I, for one, am glad that there is a critical discussion of this issue here. I'm glad that these considerations are being dragged out into the grainy light of day and not undertaken out of sight, where I would not be allowed to factor them into my opinion regarding the musicians in question.

Posted by: Red Tucker at July 25, 2004 10:33 PM

"Sure there are thinner and thicker and longer and shorter and tighter and looser strings, but the quickest glance at the Serpentine's website indicates a fair few strings, and a lot of active solicitation by the gallery itself. Do I think musicians and artists should refuse money offered to them if they think they'll be able to work unhindered by it? No, of course not. Most of my music education was funded by government or by various foundations, with no strings that I can remember. In fact, I didn't have any choice but to be educated by the government of the UK, and it's illegal for me not to fund state education now. Should I be going to jail for tax-evasion to avoid supporting a system of education I fundamentally disagree with? Maybe so, but then I wouldn't be able to do much else. Neither do I rule out applying for Arts Council grants, but I'm not sitting here filling out forms either."

The point is not to prohibit people from seeking funding, it's to try to get some kind of critical approach to that funding/sponsorship entering into the discourse about this music, rather than have it accepted uncritically as eternally necessary, or entirely neutral, or completely disinterested, which it isn't."

You're right, and I don't disagree with a word of that, Nat. It's all in the details, the shadings. My point was only that if we're too pure and odor-free, we can't do much at all--including post on any internet sites. Subsidies from bad guys are pretty much everywhere.

Posted by: walto at July 26, 2004 4:26 AM

>My point was only that if we're too pure and odor-free, we can't do much at all--including post on any internet sites.
>

And that would be bad WHY?
;)

Posted by: Red at July 26, 2004 4:36 AM

Interesting discussion, but I doubt you're going to get many of the musicians who are supposedly lurking in the shadows to go into much detail about their fees, somehow. I tend to agree with Walter and Jon on this one, for what it's worth. There also seems to be a tacit understanding that anybody concerned with this music, either as a performer, label manager or fan, is automatically on the left of the political spectrum, if not actually a card carrying Leninist. Dangerous assumption.

Posted by: dan warburton at July 26, 2004 6:28 AM

"And that would be bad WHY?"

because without snarky comments from people posting under pseudonyms, my day just isn't complete. :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

Posted by: jon abbey at July 26, 2004 7:33 AM

Dan, about the last thing I'd call myself is a Leninist, and I'd dispute left without serious qualifiers. What's missing from statements like that is a distinction between left/right economics and more/less social authoritarianism. I'd bet that most people involved in improvised music would place themselves at the lower end of the authoritarian spectrum, even if they identified as right-of-centre economically.

Arguing that free-improvisation is consistent with communitarian/social-libertarian/anythingelse-ian principles isn't the same as thinking that everyone who plays/listens/whatever elses it holds those views. However, if you accept that political/social/aesthetic consistency but don't hold those views, there's a potential contradiction, again, assuming you accept that relationship in the first place. That potential contradiction is not unusual, people hold contradictory positions all the time.

If you don't accept that relationship, it may of course be completely consistent with, for instance, a view that all cultural production is a legitimate vehicle for monetary exchange, and that monetary exchange has no impact on cultural production. In which case you can safely write off the political views of the people involved in that production as eccentric, and tolerate them on the basis that they pose no immediate or even long-term threat to either the existent society, or any other alternative society your own views might envision. The first part I'd obviously disagree with, the second is probably entirely accurate.

I should also point out, that playing in corporate-funded spaces, rather than being a case of accepting or not accepting dirty money, which as Walt points out has a very Sally Army ring to it - look at their space in central London, which Martin Davidson's said (paraphrasing) he doesn't think they'll hire out to a bunch of noisy atheists for FOTC, shoe, other foot, etc. - could also be couched in terms of those private companies illegitimately encroaching into what should be entirely public space (and was, sort of, until recently). Rather than artists and musicians staying out of those places, they should be clamouring to get in whilst simultaneously trying to expose the contradictions (not that anyone here seems to agree that there are any) between the art in those spaces and the actual priorities of those companies which in some sense now own those spaces (or, as with Bloomberg, do so in a very real sense).

Posted by: Nat at July 26, 2004 8:31 AM

By the way, I agree with Jon that statements in support of bringing discussions into the public, in public internet forums, would carry a lot more weight if they were accompanied by the real names of the people posting them, snarky or not. Pseudonyms should be reserved only for statements likely to result in kneecapping or hysterical laughter.

Posted by: Nathaniel Catchpole at July 26, 2004 8:44 AM

or sacking due to posting at work.

Posted by: Nat at July 26, 2004 8:45 AM

About Mimeo:
They will be in residence and playing at Musique Action/Vandoeuvre in may 2005.
Thanks to public funds (provided with french taxes).

Posted by: Jacques Oger at July 26, 2004 9:38 AM

THAT's why my tax bill for this September is more than I expected.. I'm paying for ear plugs for Cor Fuhler!
Would be nice to see someone like Musique Action's Dominique Repecaud take part in this discussion, wouldn't it?
And totally agree with Nat & Jon about the PUSSIES who daren't put their name to their comments. Fuck pseudonymns you bunch of WIMPS. Stand up & be counted like a MAN (or WOMAN)

Posted by: dan warburton at July 26, 2004 9:41 PM

"THAT's why my tax bill for this September is more than I expected.. I'm paying for ear plugs for Cor Fuhler!"
Ask him some promo CDs, if you want to get reimboursed.

"Would be nice to see someone like Musique Action's Dominique Repecaud take part in this discussion, wouldn't it?"

Oh, I guess he doesn't like to do that.
But I know his opinion. He fights a lot to get the more funds he can from government.
He considers that it is normal that "creative musicians/artists" from different genres/areas (improv, experimental..) should be helped as well as other genres such as opera/official jazz...

Posted by: Jacques Oger at July 26, 2004 11:48 PM

it seems sometimes that this 'funds' goes to make the same people play year after year. its not a complaint from me at all, just a remark. of course i guess it's some musicians 'big' names which makes people come to festivals, and i guess there is lot of counter example about my remark but its just a feeling we have when discusing with other musicians here in Paris...

also, Alexandre is my real name! no pseudo.


Posted by: Alexandre at July 27, 2004 7:42 AM

"Nat & Jon about the PUSSIES who daren't put their name to their comments. Fuck pseudonymns you bunch of WIMPS. Stand up & be counted like a MAN (or WOMAN)"

and, not directed at you, but what about reviewers who don't answer questions directed at them, hmmm?
--jg

Posted by: jeff gburek at July 28, 2004 7:58 AM

FWIW, I was at the Serpentine MIMEO concert and if Nat hadn't told me in his entry above I'd never have known that Bloomberg or any other corporate sponsor had anything to do with it or the gallery itself. I didn't see any banners, literature or anything to this effect and I normally notice stuff like that.

As an aside, I always thought Bloomberg was a pretty well known corporate name, and I don't work in the financial area. When you download Internet Explorer a link to their website is pre-loaded in the "media" section of the favourites menu. Can't get much more mainstream than that...

Nat, you know I work for the government. Does this mean that if I were to ask you to play at a gig I was promoting, funded (at least in part) out of my government wages, you'd have a moral issue to consider before you gave me your answer?

Posted by: Alastair at July 28, 2004 11:22 AM

Alastair, I've worked for the government as well. A few jobs with the NHS, and slightly more indirectly for an agency at a borough council for two weeks, which was an even bigger waste of tax than my NHS job, and a job I quit partly for that reason (300 quid to find a lost stationery catalogue anyone?), more recently I've been working in the state school system. The government may do a lot of things I don't like, but they also hold a monopoly on the provision of lots of essential services, so I don't necessarily see working for them as a bad thing. As much as I'd like to see those services operated completely differently, that currently isn't the case, and isn't likely to be for a long time.

So on that level, no, not at all.

Also, regardless of anyone's job, the money they spend on whatever they spend it on has no relation to their job, that's the nature of currency-based exchange and the division of labour. So any individual putting money into things I don't really have a problem with at all.

Were the entire range of live music gigs in London funded mainly by the personal income of civil servants, I'd think that was a pretty unhealthy situation, especially with the government's present attitude to them - sack them or move them out of London. (By the way I hope this isn't directly affecting you, it's designed as an example of the instability of single-source funding, not a jibe.) My mate Olivier who organises loads of gigs in London is a maritime engineer, does that have any bearing on his promoting? no; if he was the curator of his company's live music sponsorship scheme it might though (not that in that position his attitudes would be any different, but those of his company might). I think there's an important distinction to be made.

The point at which personal sponsorship becomes a bit dodgy, is when it's indistinguishable from corporate sponsorship - stuff like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has as much to do with Microsoft as if it was called the Microsoft Foundation. Again, if that money goes somewhere useful it's preferable to it going into personal theme parks, or buying entire countries, although in that particular case, it could just be an adjunct to either of those activities. However, depending on tax rates, the government (and by extension the public) can end up paying significant percentages towards these foundations in tax-expenditure, with all the publicity going to the foundation, and by association, the company.

What I'm mainly objecting to is corporate sponsorship - requiring plenty of advertising and other services in return, in addition to tax breaks - and to a lesser extent state funding, although I have to admit my attitude to state funding is softening a bit after this discussion. In both cases it's more to do with reliance on these forms of funding than blanket refusal of them. I think examining the issues relating to various sources of funding is worth doing, regardless of whether people are receiving it or not, or whether it's beneficial, detrimental etc. etc.

Yes, Bloomberg's funding seems much more discreet than that of many companies sponsoring museums. I also didn't notice Eurex were sponsoring the pavilion when I went to the gig (it's made very obvious on the website though, which has existed for about 10 times as long as the pavilion itself). Wellcome for example, are a bit less subtle, with their Living and Dying exhibition in the Wellcome Trust Gallery next to the Great Hall of British Museum. This is the most immediately seen display in the Museum, and it's unashamedly corporate promotion.

There's also the fairly well known fact that a big part of State/Lottery Arts funding in the UK goes towards make-work for construction companies, or at least that was the case up until recently - new buildings that get closed down soon afterwards or end up getting used for purely commercial music, multi-million pound renovations etc. etc. If I was arguing against accepting funding in any form, that would ignore the fact that it actually takes place, and a tiny bit of my tax or toothpaste expenses goes towards it. I'm not advocating some kind of primitivist withdrawl from society, I'm just trying think it's worth discussing these issues, especially when the counter argument is that there's no social content or ramifications to improvised music whatsoever.

Posted by: Nat at July 28, 2004 9:36 PM

Thanks for the clarification Nat.

It's (thankfully) not my task to get rid of jobs in my Department, but we're by no means the worst hit. We have to lose about 1,100 out of what will be 25,000 when the merger between The Court Service (Crown and County Courts) and the Magistrates Courts Service happens in April next year, but we don't have to lose them for a couple of years and natural wastage should sort that out.

I hate the expression "natural wastage" - we are talking about people here. But in this case people will probably decide to go and do something else rather than be forced out. The two cultures merging are quite different. Or so we think.

Posted by: Alastair at August 1, 2004 1:15 PM

I never heard the term "natural wastage" before. We refer to that as "attrition" here, I think.

Posted by: walto at August 1, 2004 7:54 PM

Nice looking pairs of boots?

Footnotes:

2. "As an example, we'll choose ...a pair of peasant shoes." Martin Heidegger (aka Doc Mart'n), "The Origin of the Work of Art" (1935/6), in Poetry, Language, Thought. (These shoes are all country, or are they? Meyer Shapiro thinks they're city. See "The Still Life as a Personal Object", in The Reach of Mind (1968).

3. On how to borrow a shoe, see Jacques Derrida, "Restitutions of the truth in pointing [pointure]" in The Truth in Painting.

4. On bootlegging, hear "Shake Your Booty" ("Reboot").

5. For example: "The moral sense in mortals is the duty
We have to pay on mortal sense of beauty."
Nabokov, Lolita.

7. On "muddled, platitudinous, and wrongheaded............gibberish", see Walter Horn:

http://www.paristransatlantic.com/magazine/monthly2004/08aug_text.html#2

on sneakers (and other kinds of music):

"Consider a pair of sneakers. (I thank saxophonist and occasional Prévost collaborator Nat Catchpole for this example, though he likely won't agree with the use I make of it.) We may wonder of these items: Will they hold up? Are they comfortable? Are they cheap? Were children exploited in their production? etc. Each of these questions may be quite important to us, but each is also clearly distinguishable from all the others. And each needs to be approached and resolved separately if our answers are not to devolve into gibberish. If, at the end of the day, Prévost concludes that the determination should be made that sneakers are "good" if and only if they get at least a B- on all, say, fifteen criteria, I will have no quarrel with the basic operative theory, though I may, of course, disagree with his conclusions. What must not be forgotten, however, is that we can also focus on just one of these fifteen criteria (e.g., "Are they nice looking?") and consider it alone, in isolation from all the others. It doesn't matter either that the sneakers were produced by such and such culture or that I was. Though both of those claims are certainly true, neither one prevents me from pondering this aesthetic question in isolation from all the other considerations, and, what's more, I very often do."

on music (and other sneakers):

"That is, I, with all my history, linguistic limitations, background, education, conceptual scheme, economic precursors, etc., have a concept of what I call "beauty" (which has been molded, of course, by all that history), and I am capable of ascribing it or withholding it to this or that piece of music (with all its own various and sundry history). No doubt, the fact that I decide to ascribe or withhold this characteristic in a particular instance is, in large part, a function of my background, education, the prevailing economic system, etc. That may be undeniable, but it is also irrelevant to the point at issue here. What is important is that I can make this attribution in isolation from any consideration of (not "history involving") economics, politics or the like. In fact, to think about economics or politics or consumer culture is to think about things that are fundamentally different from "aesthetic" issues. And each branch of discourse has its own language, its own appropriate style of argumentation/support. We could call each a different "evaluative category."

8. "Everything is what it is and not another thing" (credited to Butler via Moore by Horn)

Heidegger's "example" shoes, btw, aren't simply shoes, they are and they aren't. What we get from him is a "pictorial representation", one of several paintings by van Gogh depicting footwear.

John Searle wants to know: What's the logical status of these hand-me-downs? (If you see any dirt under the soles I bet they're Martin's own Old Brown Shoe (matching rather nicely his brown shirt from 1935/6 I imagine). But you know shady Martin: now the shoe's on the other foot. No Orpheus coming to take him away, haha).

6. On the versatility of (musical) examples and/of sneakers, hear "Beg And Kick", "Kick De Bucket", "Kick Ass", or simply get a kick out of (just looking at) them.


1. On shoe fetishism, hear "Step On Me, Baby". Or Nancy Sinatra, or Sigmund or Puss-in-Boots.

9. From straight-laced beauty to "dirty sound", see Alain Badiou, Infinite Thought (2003), p 111.

10. Who's footing the bill? Here?

Posted by: r roarty at August 5, 2004 9:22 AM

I notice that MIMEO has indeed released a CD of the Serpentine concert. Anyone heard it, seen it?

Posted by: Nathaniel Catchpole at October 22, 2004 10:49 AM

Really? What label, Nat? Title?

Posted by: Dan Warburton at October 22, 2004 12:00 PM

I think it's being released by the Serpentine from the statement below, that's all I know about it. I didn't know about this gig (most things get put on londonimprov by now giving me a reasonable grasp, even if I still forget when things I want to see are actually happening, but this one slipped through completely).

http://www.serpentinegallery.org/educ.html

CD Launch and Education Private View

Thursday 7 October
6.30 – 8.30pm

An opportunity to see the Glenn Brown exhibition and to celebrate the launch
of the Serpentine's Mimeo CD, with a live performance by members of Mimeo at the Gallery.

The Serpentine commissioned the internationally renowned electronic musicians, MIMEO (Movement in Music Electronic Orchestra), to perform an improvised, site-specific work in the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2003, designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Directed by Kaffe Matthews, the piece was recorded live and broadcast on Radio 3's Mixing It. This CD is a remixed version of the event.

MIMEO, which was formed in 1997 from Europe's leading electronic music specialists, is an ensemble of twelve musicians, who use instruments ranging from a grand piano, transistor radios, televisions, laptop computers and synthesizers.

Posted by: Nathaniel Catchpole at October 22, 2004 12:25 PM

it's actually a triple CD, which is about all I know about it also. they contacted both me and Mark Wastell to stock them, but I don't think they've sent mine yet, maybe sound 323 has them.

Posted by: jon abbey at October 22, 2004 1:21 PM

"This CD is a remixed version of the event."

That worries me. If it's a mixed version of the event, then fine, cut out all the shouting and networking - doubt a straight to stereo recording of that would have worked considering how it went. Remixed suggests some fashionable geezer putting beats under it.

Posted by: Nathaniel Catchpole at October 23, 2004 7:45 AM


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