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


Markus Müller


seeker of truth
follow no path
all paths lead where
truth is here
e.e. cummings

When The Sun Is Out You Don't See Stars, right? The ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss found out that in the early days of civilisation sailors were able to discern planets during daylight hours. Today this is absolutely inconceivable, not only for us, but also for professional astronomists. This example goes to show, however, that certain perceptive faculties we used to have, have been lost in the course of evolution. Lüdi-Kowald-Morris-Namtchylak's music is - as is the above poem by e.e. cummings - about what is there and about discovering what is there, or to come to the point, about reactivating our hidden perceptive faculties (in the widest sense).

There are, of course, many different ways in which we can explore our own personal here and now. The scientific method of iconology belongs to the field of artistic representation. By using what he called critical iconology Aby Warburg (Hamburg, I866-1929) developed a means of examining pictures (which were being looked at to see whether they had their origins in Classical Antiquity) in such a way as to reveal the authentic position and meaning of the pictures concerned, which had over the years been painted over and falsified. In 1896 for example he went on a journey to Oraibi in Arizona to examine the relationship between the dramatic and the fine arts by studying the Pueblo Indians' Snake Dance. He later (in 1923) wrote about his visit to Oraibi: "l didn't yet realise that this journey to America would give me such a clear incite into the organic connection between the art and religion of these primitive tribes as to enable me to see primitive man's identity or indestructibility - which remain the same throughout all ages - so distinctly as to be able to rediscover them, not only in the culture of the early Florentine renaissance, but also later in the German reformation." Warburg asked himself: How do Iinguistic or artistic expressions develop, which feelings or criteria, conscious or unconscious, govern the way in which they are stored in the archives of the mind, and are there certain laws which control their precipitation and re-emergence? He examined this question also in a collection, in the Bilderatlas (Atlas of Paintings).

The question which Warburg asked himself in connection with linguistic and artistic expression, is the same one which the listener to When The Sun Is Out You Don't See Stars asks himself in connection with musical expression. This listener hears an Atlas of Sound. He hears a saxophonist from Switzerland, a bass-player from Wuppertal, a cornetist from North America, and a female singer from Tuwa. This in itself is a small Critics' sensation, and this sensation inevitably goes with the concept of World Music. If however you believe that World Music is often nothing but the extension of imperialism by cultural dictatorial means (e. g. Anglo-American beat accompanied by tablas and a shakuhachi) then When The Sun Is Out You Don't See Stars is World Music of a completely different kind. The listener hears four musicians who have, of course, had different experiences in life and who have (and this is by no means a matter of course) developed different musical styles because of this. Each one of these styles could be described in general terms: Werner Lüdi's style - the tradition of European Free Improvisation. Butch Morris, who in a fast-moving age takes the time to reflect Ellington. Peter Kowald, explorer in the field of bass music. And Sainkho Namtchylak, a female singer, known only to a few insiders, whose very grandparents were nomads in Mongolia. The essential thing is that each of these superficially touched on styles can be heard on the CD as an authentic expression of self-confidence. One might think that when musicians of such varied background and experience come together, this can only result in chaos or a tiring routine-performance, or in World Music in the negative sense mentioned above. In reality the result has nothing to do with any of this. It is more, because it is less. The listener hears how breathing creates the most natural music of all - music with a meaning beyond all geographical bounds. He hears what happens when four musicians do their own thing and this thing gives an equal presentation of all four musicians. He hears the beauty of foreign lands and the foreignness of the familiar. He hears, for example (and now, dear reader/listener I appeal to your mental faculties) the extension of the concept of saxophone, Tibetan bass, the history of Blues as played by John Lee Hooker, Rex Stewart and Miles Davis, and the expansive landscape of rolling green hills and luscious meadows in which an urga can be seen in the distance. And he hears that which can be detected. And he hears That which can be detected between these sounds: Silence. . . he hears himself. And that is the real sensation.

At that moment in which I heard myself I remembered a conversation with Kowald about the artist Cy Twombly, and an article which Roland Barthes wrote about Twombly. He wrote: "Twombly furnishes his rectangle (his canvas) on the lines of the rarified principle, i. e. breaking all bounds. This term is fundamental in Japanese aesthetics, which know no angular categories of time and place, but use the subtlety of the interval (in Japanese: Ma). The Japanese Ma is in effect the Latin rarum, and this is what Twombly's art (and the skill of the music here described) is. Basically Twombly's canvases are large Mediterranean rooms, warm and flooded with light, breaking all bounds . . . Twombly's paintings create - an effect. Here the word must be understood in the very technical sense which it had in the French literary schools at the turn of the century. The effect is an overall impression - a highly sensual and usually visual (in this. case acoustic) impression. That is banal. However, what is curious about this effect is that its entirety cannot be broken down. One cannot reduce it to a number of limitable details . . . So the effect is no rhetorical trick. It is a real category of awareness which can be defined by the following paradox: Inseparable unit of impression (of communication) and complexity of origins, of the elements.

This is the paradox which you, dear reader/listener experience. No matter how much you exert your mental faculties, no matter how much you follow through the complexity of origin and the smallest fragment of sound, you still experience the inseparable unit of impression. And this impression touches on such primitive instincts in your mind that the supposedly free improvisation heard, has to be questioned. Music which draws on such an obviously intercultural and borderless atlas of sound is not really free. It affects something which is probably not just an element in the musicians' minds, but also in yours and in the minds of many other listeners. This element is at the same time the new and the coming dimension of Improvised Music. Diedrichsen writes that the difference between classical music and light music is that classical music requires "an audience with a trained ear", and pop-music "does not", and deduces that, because nowadays those acquainted with this type of music also listen to pop-music, there could be a type of music which is both. When The Sun Is Out You Don't See Stars is not only both - this is music of a third kind. This music has a sound which we can all discern. This music is in all of us, and with its help we can reactivate something within overselves. This sounds easy, but it is extremely complex.

Translation: Margaret Neuendorf

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