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


Christian Rentsch


Through the dictates of post modernism, the current notions of what actually is art get lost, traditional categories loose their meaning. Whilst, only a few years ago, we hardly hesitated when it was to do with identifying a certain kind of music as ‘Jazz’, today, we are increasingly at a loss. And even the musicians themselves refuse to be categorised, for good reasons. Jazz, which used to be the promised land of freedom, rebellion and resistance against all things bourgeois, ready-made and boring, has become just that itself, a music of repetition, fundamentalism and the narrow-minded in pin-striped suits, the musical sticker of a petrified tradition.

Modern Jazz in Europe has always been a bit different, at least since the liberation from the American heroes in the sixties. Within the sound and noise structures of Free Music, the beginning of the European coming of age, ironically distorted sounds of European folklore may be found; other musicians moved towards contemporary academic so-called E-music. After a short phase of each nation going it alone, at times grizzly-sarcastic, at times amusing, playful experiments of searching for roots and making sure of oneself, the European free music players quickly burst open the narrow frontiers, after a few summit meetings in Berlin, London, Amsterdam and elsewhere, a European union developed with the free trafficking of individuals and ideas, even across the borders of the Iron Curtain.

The brutal commercialisation of the music industry, the dictatorship of entertainment within the throngs of the music business, the festivals and fast-food radios, which, from the very beginning, pushed European free musicians into the outer reaches of the ‘subculture’, has had, along with all the negative sides - like a vicious punch-line of capitalism - even some positive aspects: where money doesn’t matter, one can freely have ideas, but where only the ready-made, the 'light-and-easy' is seen as marketable, the aesthetic profit becomes the only major aim of the musical spirit of enterprise. Against the ‘noisy’ novelties of popular every day production, which are not more than a fleeting stimulant, allowing one to forget, for a short time, the weariness of the never ending drudgery, they continuously came up with individuality, originality, and a joy of experimentation, a radical attitude and a kind of determination.

The European trio "Holz für Europa" comes from this tradition. They have known each other since 1988, Wolfgang Fuchs from Germany, Hans Koch from Switzerland and Peter van Bergen from Holland; they actually met during a concert of the Cecil Taylor European Orchestra: Koch and van Bergen were sitting on stage, Fuchs in the audience. Later, Fuchs and Koch played as guests with van Bergen's New Music ensemble "LOOS". Three biographies with twists and turns: Hans Koch, a classically trained orchestral musician, playing solo clarinet with the "Musikkollegium Winterthur" until he couldn't stand it anymore, got into Jazz through listening to Coltrane, Coleman and Braxton and from there, moved into the Free scene, through contacts with Butch Morris' New York "Experimentierfabrik". Peter van Bergen, also an academically trained clarinet player, was experimenting in the open areas of Free Music, until he found a seat in the magnificent free ensemble of the Dutch composer and bass player Marten Altena. And Wolfgang Fuchs, busy on the Berlin free music scene, after having studied music in Karlsruhe, founded the surrealistic chamber ensemble "King Übü Örchestrü" together with guitar player Erhard Hirt, Fuchs has also been connected internationally for quite a while, from Louis Sclavis from France, through Austrian/Dutch/British trombone player Radu Malfatti to Cecil Taylor from New York.

Seven wind instruments, from contra-bass and bass clarinet to B-flat and E-flat clarinets, from tenor to soprano through to sopranino, between silence and explosive intensity, between tender beauty and uninhibited expressionism, between ingeniously written passages and free searching movements within the still relatively unexplored areas of melody, discordant sounds and noise, subtle, at times brittle sound scapes in all stages of unrest, fragility and emphasis. Certainly, the three musicians in "Holz für Europa" don't play music of rebellion or of open riot, times are different now. The aesthetics of resistance has been taken over by the aesthetics of priority of all musical means and possibilities, in the unfolding as well as in the reduction. Music truly of the moment.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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