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


Alexander von Schlippenbach


Initially at the workshops with the "BERLIN CONTEMPORARY JAZZ ORCHESTRA" - founded in 1988 with the artistic goal of "performing new works by contemporary jazz composers and making them ready for recording" - I usually worked with pieces by other musicians such as Misha Mengelberg, Kenny Wheeler, Carla Bley and Willem Breuker. My own work as a composer and arranger strongly benefited from the insight and experienced gained.

This time - presumptuously, but with the encouraging support of friends and colleagues - I used the 1993 workshop to concentrate exclusively on my own pieces. Having made that decision then it seemed natural to integrate my trio of more then twenty year standing with Evan Parker and Paul Lovens into the band, thus benefiting from the rich material and the strong foundation we have built up over the years. The long-standing duo with Aki and Ino forms the ideal contrast in this constellation. The wind section was made up of old comrades-in-arms such as Henry Lowther, Thomas Heberer, Walter Gauchel and Utz Zimmermann who have been around more or less since the beginning, and also a group of younger musician - most of them from Berlin - who joined us for the first time.

The six pieces selected for this production are from the period 1983-1993, and vary strongly in form, structure and content.

1) "Any piece, but A's piece" was composed as a birthday present for Aki in January 1993. The piece is based on a AA/B/A form with shortened periods (A = five bars / B = seven bars). The subsequent improvisations do not relate to this form, but rather use the theme as a catalyst and propellant for a remarkable duet by Paul Lovens and Jörg Huke. Elements from the theme develop into backgrounds and transitions in the course of the piece. After this the Aki, Ino and Thomas Heberer trio forms a strong contrast Following a saxophone improvisation over six held chords the piece concludes with part B - which begins in half tempo - succeeded by the final part A - a tempo.

2) "Contrareflection" is based on an arrangement of twelve-tone chords which I developed over the years for specific piano improvisations. The wind-section fragments of these chords create a counterpoint mesh as the background for Evan Parker's solo. These parts are strictly laid down and are conducted by Aki. Bass, piano and soprano saxophone improvise. This piece is based on an abstracted song form, in which the unaccompanied solo provides the "bridge".

3) "Rigaudon Nr. 2 aus der Wasserstoffmusik" (Rigaudon No. 2 from Hydrogen-Music) - is a composition of simple structures, whose written elements consist of graphic signs (see below), performed by the musicians in a specific arrangement to create a starting point. Interferences which develop during the further course of the piece are due to repetitions of individual segments, the aleatorical use of which creates ever changing new results. This enables the form's elements to continuously evolve and yet remain perfectly interwoven. From this root position a collective-improvised, motif variation develops. I first experimented with this method during the double-orchestra production by "Globe Unity" and the "London Jazz Composer's Orchestra" for the WDR (West German Radio) in Cologne in 1987. I introduced the method in my "Hydrogen-Music" which I composed for this event. "Rigaudon Nr. 2 aus der Wasserstoftmusik" has since become a piece in its own right. In this specific version it allows for free improvisation by the flute and percussion, as well as by the trio: saxophone, piano and percussion.

4) "Marcia di Saturno". This composition with the pace of a very slow funeral march came into being in 1983, and was then integrated a few years later to form the second passage in a larger piece for jazz and symphony orchestras, entitled "Colori di Olovano". The piece has been said to have a gloomy nature, and I have always found it difficult to finalize its form. This is why I would like to give special thanks to Ino for his excellent introduction, and to Walter Gauchel for his incomparable improvisation of this difficult theme.

5) "The Morlocks". This piece, composed specially for our summer 1993 workshop, is based on kinetic structures for a prepared-piano with four hands. My goal was to use the altered piano sounds to create ostinatos which, through pitch levels, shifts, tempo divisions as well as tempo multiplications, would project constant movement throughout the orchestra. My intention was that the wind section would start playing their material as conducted, and after numerals repetitions, continue with improvisation, or to be more exact variational drifts, which - ideally - would overlap one another and thus intensity the impression. Typically, conducting soon became superfluous, and in the event it seemed better to allow the sections to regulate their entries and position in the piece for themselves. I will never forget that "magical moment" when everything started to flow by itself, and we felt we had made a really new discovery).

This piece is dedicated to Steve Lacy, with whom I have collaborated often as player and composer. I have learned much from Steve's music particularly the systematic construction of clusters in his piano writing.

6) "Jackhammer" came into being before 1983. It has been revised numerous times and performed by various ensembles. In the present version I have attempted to incorporate the strong rhythmical impulse which evolves from the theme's motif into continual background riffs and interludes - a rough, bright jazz number. A kind of grand finale, ending with a splendid solo by Henry Lowther. "Jackhammer" was the last piece recorded in this session, and was "pure gold" on the first take.

P. S.: As a composer it is not my intention to present a particular programme or to represent a specific direction. It is far more my intention to give the highest possible level of attention to an individual musical idea or a compositional concept, and try to observe and trace its inmost laws of momentum to the utmost, and then use this to create larger forms. FREE JAZZ for me means using both the knowledge and understanding of tradition as well as one's personal intentions, and in this sense it remains the best term for my music.

Translation: Margaret Neuendorf

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