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


Alex Varty


In and out of the tonal lands, cutting through the varigated tell strata of musical history, roaming at large across the musical terrains of all continents, Tom Cora and Hans Reichel cut their own paths, sometimes riding side by side down synchronistic byways of melody, sometimes cutting out, individually, to scour the badlands of noise and willful obscurity, always keeping an ear out for surprise, and, sometimes, beauty.

The people who won't- or can't hear this music will do what they have always done whenever they have been challenged by invention: sweep it under the mat, call it noise, call it junk, deny that it is music or that it even exists. But at a time when TV and radio, the movies, video games, poets, and even novelists are giving us a vision of reality as an ever changing continuum served up in micro-flash portions, must we still stick with music that comes in three, four, five minutes modules of fixed rhythms and set keys?

Cora and Reichel say, emphatically, no, by saying yes to all of the possibilities that four hands, four feet, extended techniques, electronics and access to a global culture open up. The attuned car can hear the whole world in their sonic rambling: Mandarin processional music slips into a delta blues into a twelve-tone run into the growl of electrical circuits gone hay wire into the pastoral tranquillity of frogs singing' round a willow-lined pond, none of these things spelled" out so much as effectively alluded to.

Animal? Vegetable? Mineral? It's hard to tell, as hands meet bows and fingerboards, which in turn meet steel strings and wires, all of their molecules dissolving in the alembic of sound only to appear, transformed, in the shape of whatever the active ear wishes to imagine.

If mutation is an integral part of evolution then Cora and Reichel are mutagenic agents working to further the evolution of sound. Changing the shape of his instrument, Reichel has produced a series of sculptural guitars whose possibilities add now dimensions of underwater and aetherial sonorities to the basic vocabulary: with Frith and Frisell, he is one of a handful of contemporary guitarists who have been able to add to the revolutionary contributions made by Bailey and Hendrix in the sixties. Cora' s cello is, likewise, not a scared object meant only to be approached by the properly reverential, dressed in formal attire, but, quite literally, a sounding board for all sorts of unusual concepts. His use of cello-resonated devices allows him to amplify any number of small sounds that, alone, might seem insignificant, but that become laden with meaning and import when expanded and passed through this vessel of tradition. And Reichel's dachsophone, a deceptively simple yet fiendishly ingenious set of small sculptures, lends itself to even more outlandish transfigurations, as bits of bowed and otherwise manipulated wood give out with the voices of an operatic diva, a wailing clarinet, a flock of waterfowl.

Listening to these recordings, it is possible to imagine all sorts of things, but the easiest thing to imagine is a1so the only one that is untrue. One's ears are not being deceived: all of these sounds exist in, and have been produced in, real time. Only the most basic electronic assistants have been used: there are no high-priced samplers, no forty-eight-track sleights of hand here. Using the simplest of ingredients, sound, time, and imagination, Tom Cora and Hans Reichel have produced a world unlike any other, and! Now it is your turn of wander freely in it.

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