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


G. Fritze Margull


A Dog is a Dog.

"Globe Unity Special" gave a one-off performance at the seventh Berlin "Workshop Freie Musik" where the emphasis lay on the trombone and large ensembles such as the Willem Breuker Kollektief, Vinko Globokar & Brass Group. This "small version" of the Globe Unity Orchestra was dictated by the strained budget - during the five-day workshop 34 musicians played in different combinations and groups.

At the performance on 31st March 1975 in the large exhibition-hall of the "Akademie der Künste" a form was pushed to the fore which, in my opinion, was to continue to have a decisive influence on the orchestra. The "traditional songs" (E. Jost)-phase (FMP 0160, S 4, S 6) had come to an end. The concert began, ironically enough, with Mengelberg's "Alexanders Marschbefehl" the opening theme of which is a humorous, stumbling march which caricaturises itself.

That which had begun in 1966 with a composition commissioned by RlAS Berlin ("Globe Unity") to Alexander Schlippenbach and resulted in the founding of the orchestra - one critic called it "male fun in the philharmonic hall" - had now reached a decisive stage of its development. The musicians realized that their musical potential lay in free improvisation, which should be restricted by as few structural set criteria as possible.

It is not just the high level of the musical-technical standard of each and every one of these musicians which makes this recording so exceptional, but also the flexibility of their interplay, the astounding solos, and the dynamic group sounds. The three composition-pieces by Misha Mengelberg, Steve Lacy and Evan Parker, commissioned by the FMP, differ very noticeably in the set criteria for the composition.

In Mengelberg's "Alexanders Marschbefehl" the theme is very precisely noted and acts to trigger off improvisation (especially with Parker and Schlippenbach). In Steve Lacy's "Rumbling" three individual pieces of differing structure are accompanied by roughly defined orchestral motifs. Evan Parker's double-piece "Into The Valley… Of Dogs, Dreams And Death" is a so-called "scheduled piece". The set criteria determine only the course the piece takes: i.e. which musician follows which, who plays with whom, or when the whole orchestra is called on etc. it is largely left to the musician himself to decide in which way and how long to make his own contribution. Schlippenbach's arrangement of "Evidence" shows how Monk can also sound. A later recording, this time by a big line-up of the GUO ("Pearls", November 1975, FMP 0380) once again clearly the stylistic range available from then on.

Looking back, GUO's development can be traced through their recordings, but a quarter of a century ago each concert was an event in itseIf. At that time "Globe Unity" was "in". The Dutch, British, and German free-jazz scene met under this name to experiment freely, as if in a musical laboratory. The orchestra's flexibIe structure alIowed for consteIlations which had hitherto been unthinkable, but which often produced overwheIming musical dialogues.

The GUO's performances placed many critics in a state of perpIexion for years. Some gave their audible impressions extraordinary titIes: "Repertory of horror", "intolerabIe cacophony", "a littIe for a few". The one who said "a tardy success" was shown to be right.

The GUO was active for twenty years and still has not been officially disbanded. Big tours of Asia and the USA and about 10 LP's are part of the orchestra's history. The recording of this concert (previously on FMP 0220 and 0270) now in the right order, offers at long last and adequate acoustic production. The audible impression experienced during a live performance, especially with the full orchestra sound, which had before not been captured on record, can now be heard clearly and distinctly just as the dog became "loud".

About this time Jost Gebers must have developed his "W. C. Fields-syndrome". The time when visitors to the workshop were allowed to do almost anything is - hopefully - a thing of the past. An outrageous number of instrument-case-carriers felt compelled to join in at all times, and the "home-made flute" was in its element. The number of small children who were dragged along refuted extinction. These children's early aural training did not however lead to a noticeable increase in the audience numbers of later years. The floor of the hall was both a picnic area and a dormitory. Chairs inside - or out again? ("You hear better standing up!") The workshop "about Easter-time" - an important event for many years. The 22nd this year in the middle of summer!

What will this lead to?

Translation: Margaret Neuendorf

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