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


Hanno Rempel


"My use of computers in the programming of compositions led to the development of improvisation models. The result of my work was a programme in which the computer becomes the control panel for a synthesizer. In this way all musical parameters can be influenced. If a certain part of the programme is activated it plays the tonal sequences I specify. A random selector ensures constant variation. We can control the range and direction of variation by giving the computer new instructions. If, for example, the programme produces repetitions of sound, instructions can be given for each cycle as far as speed, tone colour, pitch etc. are concerned. The flexibility of the programme as a whole makes it possible to improvise even when playing with other improvising musicians. The signals they produce can be electronically manipulated by special effect equipment so that they blend with the sound of the synthesizer." (Georg Katzer).

The most important aspect when listening to music is that which the composer presents to the listener within the bonds of a real and direct listening process. He in turn assimilates the material receive from the music maker in a complex and at the same time emotional and rational process, which need not necessarily be a conscious one. Seeing how the technical elements stand in relation, one to another, seems, on the other hand, to be of secondary importance, although it could if required, be of interest. In other words: it is not necessary to know how music is made up - for the listener, the only important factor is whether or not he likes it. This has nothing to do with its quality, with its significance.

When speaking of the technical make-up, Katzer mentions two main aspects: a (melo-rhythmical) structural aspect, and a sound aspect. Both of these are made up of extremes which are brought together by conceptional reflections or measures to form a new quality.

Thus, spontaneously created elements (chance) and predetermined planned elements (defined tonal sequences) appear within the meIo-rhythmical sphere. The constant variation, mentioned by Katzer can be seen as a compromise. This permanent change, controlIed by random impulses, in what initialIy were established positions, keeps on creating new patterns and, at the same time, contains an element of constancy to the point where it becomes another defined tonal structure.

In the realms of sounds we have on the one hand autonomous, electronic sounds ( i. e. sounds which are not embarrassing attempts to imitate conventional, instrumental or vocal tonal patterns), and, on the other hand, natural instrumental sounds (compIemented by unconventional factors, such as sound effects etc.). Here the compromise lies in the electronic manipulations of these instrumental sounds - they are alienated within their original tonal character, and to some extent multiplied (by echo-effects). This compromise (we never use the term derogatively) does not mean a move towards conventional sound patterns but rather a third tonal dimension.

The flexibility of the programme referred to by Katzer, can thus be seen as just one aspect of a flexibly used technical set-up which forms the basis for a thoroughIy flexible concept. This concept produces a resuIt which may come across to the listener as flexible music - to return to the initially expressed views on listening to music.

Compared with electronic music, where only electronically produced sounds were stored on tape, Fuchs' and Katzer's style leans on tradition - in a creative sense rather than in a conventional, conservative one. They use traditional forms of making music (actually playing music instead of re-running musical playbacks, made possible by live electronic methods). Theirs is the traditional instrumental sound, albeit enriched with other noises.

This reverting to traditional forms does not constitute a step backwards - their eyes are firmly fixed on the road ahead. Thus new forms are created - a new kind of music which embraces the imaginative playing of, and playing with a machine - a new quality of sound is created by the electronic processing of instrumental sounds which stands out clearly from a purely electronic as well as from a purely instrumental one.

This kind of music/historical feedback has many historical precedents. The Viennese classics Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart und Ludwig van Beethoven were influenced in their later works by the polyphony of Johann Sebastian Bach and previous eras. Arnold Schönberg, in turn, was influenced by the polyphony of the Viennese classics. In each case something new was created - the historic tradition which influenced Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven led via Schönberg to Anton Webern. The Free Jazz of the early sixties was successful partly because it leant heavily on the Blues tradition. Europe's Improvised Music would be inconceivable without the tradition of the E-music of the twenties.

The secret of encouraging new developments by borrowing from tradition is really the creative transformation of musical and spiritual principles in general to the Here and Now. It does not consist (primarily) of varying or even copying stylistic patterns.

Fuchs and Katzer invented neither the live electronic structures and methods nor the alienations of natural instrumental sounds. They do, however, represent this kind of music at its best. Their music creates an overall meIlow and contemplative impression without ever bordering on hackneyed meditationalism. Nevertheless it is not lacking in dramatic elements and developments. The music unfolds strictly in keeping with the concept without having any noticeably audible constraints, and thus avoids developing a work character. The distribution of divergent sounds and rhythms, which are both balanced and non-symmetrical, creates differing grades of density and pitch.

Despite, or maybe because of, the relative highly inteIlectual preliminary work which has gone into this (semi- improvised) music, it gives an astonishingly sensous, yes indeed, physical impression. These two musicians' inteIlectual unity results in a performance which is both conform and contrary - their musical interaction creates an enthusiastic and at the same time relaxed impression. This superior use of instruments, methods and structures shows their maturity. Wolfgang Fuchs' and Georg Katzer's music is not an experiment, it is a result even if this result embodies an ever changing process; and above all it is of extraordinary beauty - beauty of a new dimension.

Translation: Margaret Neuendorf

zurück / back