FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 1989-2004

OWN 90003

Markus Müller


This Is Neither Art, Nor A Pipe, Nor Music 1)

Erhard Hirt is one of the infamous so-called 'second generation' of the European improvisers scene. And since Alexander von Schlippenbach has just written that "Free Jazz means using the knowledge gained from tradition as well as personal new achievements" 2) one is inclined to regard Erhard Hirt as part of the second generation of European Free Jazz as well. The title of the first piece on Gute und Schlechte Zeiten (Good Times and Bad Times) recalls Ein Husten für Karl Valentin (A Cough for Karl Valentin) thus referring to Pakistani Pomade, an LP of the Schlippenbach Trio. Paying respects to the Old School?

At any rate, Erhard Hirt plays in a very intrinsic way with his knowledge of the tradition and relates his own achievements to this knowledge. Firstly he has tried in most remarkable ways to establish a 'discourse of guitars'. Since 1987 Hirt has been organizing the Guitar Projects in Münster, which have subsequently gained international recognition. Hirt used these several-daylong events to present both the traditional - i.e. such musicians as Derek Bailey, Stephan Wittwer, Eugene Chadbourne, Davey Williams or Joe Sachse - alongside "new achievements by new musicians". (although it is hard to know exactly where to draw the line) such as Valery Dudkin, Frank Rühl and Jean-Marc Montera.

In this way Hirt, more than any other musician works in a kind of 'Bauhütte for guitars' 3), and more than any other musician Hirt uses this 'Bauhütte', as if working in a laboratory, to research into and discover what guitars sound like when he lets them find their own specific sound. Hirt works on a definition of the possibilities offered by the guitar, in accordance with the Methode Duchamp proclaimed by Marcel Broodthaers. Maybe now you have some idea of just how many-sided this CD is.

To put it abstractly, this means that it does not matter whether we are dealing with a urinal signed by R. Mutt (Marcel Duchamp 1917) or an object trouvè, any object can be elevated to the position of a work of art. Since Duchamp the artist has become the author of a definition. Basically this means that Hirt investigates in the best artistic-scientific-manner what a Drone or Mit Klammern (With Brackets) or Mit Motoren (With Motors) or what Percussion or MZ (played with a spring tape-measure) sounds like. He does so with a thoroughness which enables us to hear what it sounds like when, as he himself expressed it, one "'finishes playing something which one usually cannot finish playing". However, Hirt never succumbs to 'do-it-yourself-impressionism' - his collection of material develops analogous to a series of acoustic experiments with varying parameters. This does not mean that Gute und Schlechte Zeiten or the pieces mentioned above sound like a collection of charts resulting from the analysis of a ten-year series of experiments. But this is how many years have passed since the first solo LP Zwischen den Pausen (Between the breaks) appeared.

After all, the 'Bauhütten' were used to build cathedrals of light and not Rödelheim or Marzahn (which are euphemistically called 'satellite cities'). Even though the title of this CD may sound rather dry, the music is beautiful. But beauty is a criterion of only relative usefulness. And whereas Duchamp confused beauty with the retinal, Hirt works with the criteria of selection on the temptation of surface acoustic beauty. This means that whereas one can hear that Hans Reichel is committed to the 'Attitude: Blues' and the 'Attitude: Melody', when listening to Hirt we can hear that he is also comitted to the 'Attitude: Webern' (by this I mean that one only plays what is necessary). The main problem with the 'Attitude: Webern' or with selection (for example the selection of instrument or the 9volt engines that Hirt uses in his work) is that since Duchamp the artist is obliged to "selecting something which has no taste ... something tasteless" 4), and that this 'de-aesthetisation' can lead to a minimalisation whose final form John Cage defined years ago with 4'33". Hirt shows us that one can define music even by choosing something tasteful. He sets noise (Mit Motoren) in contrast to silence (Zwischen den Pausen), in contrast to harmony (Axes). Hirt's work with the extended deployment of noise always seems as if it has always sounded like this. In my opinion it thus places itself beyond the bounds of any set musicological category. This is the only way to explain how someone can just use a guitar synthesizer alone on one piece (Synthesizer), and yet no cliché can be heard. Indeed one only thinks about clichés when writing about this music. Maybe now you have some idea of how individual this music is. Erhard Hirt does not sound like other guitarists. That is the secret. Like birds. Like the tram on the road above you. Like life itself. Not like music. Like life.

1) Please think of: Margritte, Duchamp, Broodthaers.
2) Alexander von Schlippenbach: Liner Notes on The Morlocks and other pieces, FMP CD 61.
3) 'Bauhütte': Workshop/lodge for the medeaval cathedral builders.
4) Marcel Duchamp on the criteria for selection of a ready-made, in: Serge Stauffer: Marcel Duchamp. Interviews und Statements, Stuttgart 1992, p 105.

Translator: unknown

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