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


Bert Noglik


In order to save Manfred Schulze’s music from being forgotten five wind players came together with the idea of immersing themselves in his music. In this particular case interpretation does not mean matching a set pattern. It includes a premise, which Manfred Schulze requests of his musicians: that of individuality. At the same time, he was always concerned with the unity of an ensemble, with a certain kind of energy: that tension between the individual sound, the individual style, expression on the one hand, and the collective, more than just the individual, end result. Interpretation in this case also means setting free creative energy and its subservient relationship to a work of Art, which depends on composition without being confined by it. Written material, in the ‘conventional’ sense, forms the basis of Schulze’s compositions; also included are playing directives, incentives, concepts. Improvisation becomes a continuation of composition using different means. It’s not for nothing that Manfred Schulze has often spoken of ‘Improvisation models’.

Five wind players pay homage to a master, who appears present in this music, but due to severe illness cannot play anymore himself. During the detailed research process, close scrutiny was made of Manfred Schulze's early compositions. Through intensive phases of rehearsal they gained their particular sound profile, complexity, depth. Sounds, rung from pale paper. Full blooded music of a ‘sound creator’, who has always seen himself as an integral part of his work, who has never accepted the division between thinking and playing. To keep this kind of music alive without the personal integration of it’s creator requires a closeness to his attitude of playing, to his convictions, to his intentions. Only through this kind of affinity can one develop, what in other places is called "Werktreue": Authenticity. Manfred Hering has had a musical partnership with Manfred Schulze which has lasted for several decades. He has played together with Manfred Schulze in his Wind quintet throughout the eighties together with younger musicians, Johannes Bauer and Heiner Reinhardt. Paul Schwingenschlögls own path has logically led to his joining the re-formed line-up. And Gert Anklam, 35 younger than Manfred Schulze, with the experience of his generation carries on with what the old master of the new sounds encouraged him to do. This results in a rare blending of the different generations: in the instrumental sound and in the inter-meshing together of the individual voices into an ensemble. The recording was made a few weeks after Manfred Schulze’s 60. Birthday, 17 August 1994, the same day on which the group also performed a concert. Heiner Reinhardt described their intention: "By carrying on with the Wind quintet we want to honour the music of a man, and not allow it to fall into oblivion. We want the enjoyment for ourselves and the audience to play it and to listen to it."

On the recording one can sense the pleasure and the pain. This music has been born of both. To label Manfred Schulze as an uncompromising, awkward for his own sake, thinker or -player would not accurately represent his nature, because he could never have dreamt of just adjusting, weakening or bridging over something. He was consistent in his music, without caring about fashions or the imaginary Zeitgeist currents. In retrospect, you could get the undeniable impression that Manfred Schulze was ahead of his time, with both his compositions and improvisations. The aura of tragedy is broken up by the pure force of the music. The Manfred Schulze Wind quintet does not play tear-jerking valedictions but a lusty, by no means selfless homage.

Manfred Schulze was pioneer and pathfinder, and finally also master and teacher, an uncomfortable doyen and veteran for a type of music, which is beyond the usual categories. He himself kept the emphasis on drawing from the European musical tradition. With seriousness and a self developed drive to get to the root of the matter, he combined his experience as a Jazz musician and his own special individually stamped ideas of sound/structure. The result is so far removed from any traditional or - later - "Third Stream"-attempts and E-music/Jazz-encounters, that Manfred Schulze - as seen by the bureaucratic cultural land surveyors and linesmen - got lost in a no man’s land. He has, indeed, not let himself be led astray and has worked continuously, often with younger musicians. Schulze’s music can only be realised in a collective; and he has often suffered as result of the fact that he could not find fellow musicians open to his ideas. Everywhere he looked he was confronted with the hardening of clichés. Working with musicians of the newer generation was therefore unavoidable, in order to open their minds to new ways of playing and making music.

Amongst the various groups that Manfred Schulze worked with, the Wind quintet holds a very special position. As early as in 1969 a first formation with this name was founded. The dispensing of a rhythm section, i.e. the drums, hints at a turning away from the jazz idiom. With regards to the phrasing, Manfred Schulze stretches the bow to the European tradition. The soundscapes are often reminiscent of manifestations from the New Music. The style, the playing impulse is based on a certain commandment, emphasised in Jazz, but, in practice, often reversed: Turning away from imitating, from sham convenience.

In retrospective, Manfred Schulze can be seen as both outsider and key figure. Standing outside of the established cultural commerce of the GDR and not having an established position in either the jazz scene or in New Music circles, he has jolted the delicate nerve endings with his work, the questions regarding the relationship between Process and Structure. That he was often difficult to deal with may also have been due to his rootlessness. With his strong ties to tradition, he aspired to a means of expression in opposition to the classic ideal of producing music - to a formal validity which, in jazz, is rather the exception to the rule - to a combination of corporeality and intelligence, which goes beyond all conventional patterns of interpretation and improvisation clichés.

Realising the limitations of the traditional jazz-ways of improvising, Manfred Schulze was reluctant to simply improvise over the chord changes of a particular piece. He created improvisational concepts and -models, which allow a closer and more complex combining of composition and free playing, at the same time stressing that, for himself, "free" never meant without conditions, and that his music requires a high degree of discipline from his musicians.

The pieces of Manfred Schulze performed here, demonstrate a number of different ways of doing things whilst at the same time taking into consideration all the questions regarding the material, the techniques and procedures without loosing the essential thing, that the musical message should not be forgotten. Manfred Schulze and the Wind quintet, in keeping close to his actual intentions, succeed in creating clearly defined and transparent soundscapes. Structures which are simple enough to be realised, and playful in the true sense of the word as well as improvisational, but which in themselves reveal so many dimensions, that they never give the impression of just being simple. At times, Schulze worked almost minimalistically with the relationship of sound and silence. He manages to integrate the magnificence and opulence of the phrasing as well as the individual and collective processes of self discovery. Regarding both the line-up ( most of the wind ensembles in jazz since the seventies never seem to have heard of Schulze’s early line-ups) and to the composition and performance, he was ahead of his time. Unique and uncomfortable, resolute in his demands and intentions, he has played against arbitrariness: as clarinettist and as baritone player, in the spectrum between sounds from the deepest coal mines and piercing screams. Excessively and at times unexpectedly mellow, always conscious, concentrated. It is worthwhile comparing this particular version of composition "Number 12" with the one Manfred Schulze performed on, himself (Manfred Schulze Bläser Quintet: Nummer 12; FMP LP 1090), in order to discover differences and similarities.

To preserve Manfred Schulze's music, it has to be played. The Manfred Schulze Wind Quintet provides testimony to the power and vitality of his ideas.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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