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


Patrik Landolt


When asked about his occupation Hans Reichel answers cautiously: Inventor of guitars and improviser. He thus expresses extreme frankness and attempts to keep stylistic stereotypes at a minimum. Nothing can better describe the character of the two pieces on this recording and the musicians' attitude to their music, than this brief comment: Invention of guitars and improvisation. For the past 20 years Hans Reichel, who lives in Wuppertal, has been searching for new methods of expression and areas of sound. As far back as the early seventies he discovered peopIe of the same persuasion among the musicians of the Berlin Free Music Production-musicians working in the fieId of free improvisation, each, according to his instrument, developing and stretching his own personal limits in the composition of material and sound. As a parallel to the development in rock music, where the guitar takes on a dominating role, the pioneers of Free Music have altered the concept of how a guitar should sound. Such pioneers of guitar music as Jimi Hendrix and Sonny Sharrock, or in a more radical sense Derek Bailey, Keith Rowe, Hans Reichel, Fred Frith, and later on Henry Kaiser, Stephan Wittwer and EIliott Sharp, set new standards. They altered that which pop journalism calIs sound - or, as the journalist Bert Noglik wrote referring to Hans ReicheI: he enriched the existing concept of the guitar not only by adding new constructions and methods of playing, but also by the addition of new dimensions of sound. To this end Reichel buiIt the appropriate instruments himseIf - he invented a whole series of highly individual types of guitar. "Guitars which also enable him to do away with the separate functions of the hands." Reichel himself once described his instruments, or better said his playthings (in the literal sense), as follows: Mobile pick-ups, electrically shaved guitars, playable forwards-backwards, body-less, 23-stringed, 4-necked, fretless, fully fretted, playable behind the bridge collapsible etc. (now that goes too far) - appearances are deceptive anyway: I'm not a do-it-yourself enthusiast, I'm a musician. The end product of Reichel's musical ability is recorded not onIy in a whole series of solo-records, but also in his performances with ensembles and in several duo productions.

An affinity of souls links Hans Reichel with Fred Frith.

Like Reichel, Fred Frith has, since the early seventies, been working on expending the guitar's tonal possibilities. In the British rock scene Fred Frith created a new understanding of guitar music - fascinated by what John Cage wrote about the liberation of sound in Silence and influenced by the ways and means with which Frank Zappa used the newly developing studio technology. As early as 1974 he layed his guitars on a tabIe or on his knee because he, as he stresses, uses the guitar less and less as an instrument, and more as a source of sound. Frith said: Placing the guitar on the table enables me to prepare it in different ways. Just like Hans Reichel, Fred Frith is aware of the boundIess ways of tightening strings over wood and thus compIementing the sounds of the traditional guitar and violin with those of seIf-built string instruments. The way they transcend and play beyond stylistic bounds also unifies the two guitarists. Frith, the laughing outsider of the independent rock scene, loves free improvisation just as much as he loves rock music which has been influenced by the most diverse types of folk music.

The two guitarists have had repeated contacts with each other during the past 20 years. In 1973 Fred Frith invited the musician from Wuppertal to improvise in his recording project Guitar Solos II. The record, on which solos by Derek Bailey and G. F. Fitzgerald can also be heard, was released on Virgin Records, but is unfortunateIy no longer availabIe. In the early eighties Reichel and Frith played in matinees at the Moers Festival. The two musicians got to know one another better in 1987 when Hans Reichel spent six months in Tokyo. They gave their first duo concerts and decided to do a tour of the USA. This tour, which took place in the autumn of 1987 and visited 30 towns in 6 weeks, became, thanks to Fred Frith's popularity in the US pop-scene, a hitherto unknown success for Hans ReicheI: FulI concert halIs, enthusiastic audiences and rejoicing on the part of the music press. They met up again three years later this time in Europe, in the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, organized by Free Music Production. The duo improvisation Stop Complaining records a section of this concert.

Kazuhisa Uchihashi, from Osaka, Japan, a bit over 30, can be considered to be one of a younger generation of improvising musicians. He refers to his musical roots as Pop 'n' Roll. Since 1983 he has devoted himself intensively to free improvised music and experimenting with the technical possibilities the modern electric guitar offers, trying to include the different effects in the improvised process. Uchihashi made a name for himseIf in Japan in concerts with such jazz musicians as Barre Phillips, John Lindberg, Kazutoki Umezu, Keizo Inoue and Wädi Gysi and with his own rock-bands such as Rhythmania which even made it to New York in 1990. Hans Reichel got to know Kazuhisa Uchihashi at a session in Kyoto and became interested, as Reichel says, in his extraordinary musical and co-operative way of playing. A first duo-concert took place at the end of January 1991 in the small Big Apple club in Kobe, Japan. The performance was recorded on Reichel's DAT-walkman using a simple stereo-microphone. 35 minutes of the performance are released on this CD under the title Sundown. (The previous title "Shanghaied on Tor Road" was dropped later on). The sheer enjoyment of making music and communicative intensity characterize the recordings with Hans ReicheI. He said, on the subject of improvisation: I'm not so much interested in producing homogeneous music. like a game of ping-pong. Sometimes we even play against one another. But we do if with good intentions, not in a strained manner. Just for fun. We want to spar with each other. Playful free association and rapid reaction, vocal melodies, rock expIosions, sounds and fragments of material of varying origin are woven together eloquently to form new creations of fantasy.

A jazz-critic once called Reichel a classic of individualism which is only one aspect of this seIf-willed artist and visionary of sound. Uncompromising individualism and a tendency to absolute seIf-determination are prerequisites for his musical communicative competence and his ability to produce great works in the fieId of duo-music.

Translation: Margaret Neuendorf

zurück / back