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


Peter Kowald etc.


"365 Tage am Ort": the idea and decision to cancel all the concerts in the wide world, near and far, for one year, to stay here (Luisenstrasse, Wuppertal), no cars, busses, taxis, trains, trams, planes etc, to use nothinq but a three-wheeled bicycle (even the bass could come along for a bit), and to play the music here, "am Ort" - every Saturday at 7 pm - for friends and neighbours;

"It is very interesting, that an artist makes art and nobody wants to understand this anymore or just ticks off from the moment it is called art. This means that there is no actual reason for anybody to make art because nobody wants to have anything to do with art anymore. But, on the other hand, there are so many drudging away nevertheless, insisting: but I want to! I do make art, I do make music! Although there are so many who say: just stop this doodling about."
(Felix Droese)

and, at the same time, at this 'Place' (a room like a loft of about 100 m2) set up a exhibitions and discussions about the music and art etc; and make available the space and myself as, let's call it, host of the whole thing, once a week for the younger improvisers from the area, in order to be able to work on musical improvisation in a larger ensemble and to deal with the corresponding questions.

...but spontaneous we compose, when we improvise, because the moment when we put the first sounds, any technique, any music, it's alive".
Joèlle Léandre)

At first, we were just eight (the youngest 13 years old), then, sometimes up to 20, however, on a regular basis 12 - 15 musicians from Wuppertal and the various towns in the area, also from different musical 'fore'- and 'back'-grounds: from the older pupil to the music-making dancer, from the ambitious music lover to the professionally engaged, a colourful and lively mixture in every respect, which, step by step, over the months, turned into the "Ort Ensemble".

"Coming from a potential-field of individuality and equality you reach, on a different level, a possible homogeneity of everybody, yet maintaining individuality; this is a harmonisation on a superior level which, in movement, has to be rediscovered at every instant."
(Mathias Beck)

Free improvisation: the ever so ambitious expression of 'freedom', first of all, means freedom from stylistic preconditions, from formal schemes and fixed rules as found in all cultures from Africa to Asia, from the aborigines to the Inuit-women (in European Music see four-part-harmony or 12-tone rows).

"In my opinion there are no rules. On/y the ones you chose from moment to moment. What interests me is not absence of form but a form which... somehow... turns
(Misha Mengelberg)

So actually everything is allowed and possible: points of departure for us were very simpIe musical experiences like ensemble improvisations (more) or solos (Iess), then basic elements like long notes / short notes, tonal centres / non-tonal structures, get closer / move apart, crescendo / decrescendo, repetition of smalIer units and development of repeatable structures, imitation of a soloist or an ensemble piece etc, also attempts to make fast decisions, thus provoking fast changes - all those things which are employed as exercises and basic structuring of many improvisers.

"It depends on what the aim of the group is: is the group aiming to make listenable performance-music, something, that is intended to be listened to by non-participants, or is it about making music that is an experience for the player? If the decision is that the experience of the players is sufficient, then the group is sort of selfcontained. Then the problems are completely different than if it is lookinq to generate work which is intended to be of interest to non-participants. It could be that there are different schools of thought inside the group on that precise point, and that they are contradictionary.
(Evan Parker)

Finding a balance of emphasis between slow process and fast decision became an important and continuous field of experimentation: trying out very short pieces (i.e. 20, 30, 40 seconds, 1 - 3 minutes) led to some highly interesting, sketch-like results, clear, small forms well defined and precise, which would be much more difficult to achieve in the longer improvisation processes. Through reducing and sorting out, things were simplified or a more target-orientated kind of complexity was sought; at the same time, a special eye- and ear-marker was put on the autarchy of the individual within the ensemble; already developed personal styles were allowed, obviously; they always represented possibilities as well as hindrances at the same time.

"This work is a continuation of the moment, it grows, changes, dissolves, starts again. It is like lines and dots, but also like ends of lines condensing into an acoustic experience. As soon as they come together, they fly apart, clammer together and separate again. A rhythmical interplay with images recalled from the memory."
(Irmel Droese)

On the musicians' request we tried, again and again, to discuss the questions arising within the ensemble; frictions and tensions between the participants, at times, seemed to tend to break up the collective impetus.

"... I am finally getting the chance to put the things together and share them with an audience, that I always knew went together: mythology, music, poetry, dance, ritual. That is the language, the inner language, that I am interested in".
(Jeanne Lee)

At the beginning, I had intervened in events either verbally or through gesticulations, also experimenting with instrumentation and orchestration (for example waving in or out single groups of instruments within the ensemble) had a kind of compositional influence on the Improvisation.

"Oh sure, we share the responsibility of composition. If I give you this sign and you know what it means, then you do it. I am only telling you when to do it and when to stop. I have no control over the sound, only the structure".
(Butch Morris)

It was about experimenting and testing things out on oneself as much as about statements and discovering (every experiment in itself is already music), but also about finding out the "tricks of the trade" (Frank Lowe) and about questions about routines, truisms, clichés. There are no mistakes: every element that behaves like a mistake can be repeated and immediately becomes a musical structure (says Fred Frith).

In this way, very different materials developed. Music for a documentary film of Thomas Schadt, where the given preconditions and targets for the film had to be fulfilled, was a further step towards reduction and clarity of goals.

"When I am writing, for example, for a certain group or an ensemble, I am, first of all, preoccupied with suppressing things that intrude too quickly. And I just think that through this activity, a certain system of lines and criteria develops, a background in front of which you can also work spontaneously. It is not that I aIways know what I am doing. But I only do something when the proceedings offer sufficient security to give me the feeling that what I then do spontaneously has something to do with this kind of preparation".
(Heiner Goebbels)

My aim within this predetermined phase of almost one year was to become superfluous step by step and, at the most, act as the external ear of the ensemble (I didn't play during the working rehearsals). This a most worked.

"... this old type, it is not only music or some text or something, it has more things: it has freedom inside".
(Sainkho Namtchylak)

After months of the ensemble with only me in front of their faces, we decided, for short working phases (also for financial reasons, no more was possibIe), to invite other musicians: the conductor Butch Morris, the saxophone players Evan Parker and Floros Floridis, and for a workshop with the string players violin player Carlos Zingaro. For the recording of this CD Evan Parker and Carlos Zingaro were invited as guests, as well as percussion player Lê Quan Ninh.

"That is how my orkestra is put together: rushing of blood, tic of nerves, the warning voice of reason, capricious dreams."
(Martin Disler)

The rehearsals were not recorded: the constantly developing, almost magic moments have vanished for ever. These edits (cuts) from the studio recordings represent a veritably genuine cross-section of the work of one year of the "Ort Ensemble" just as I experienced it (while the final piece was developed as film music, it turned out a bit sad and kitschy). The time with the "Ort Ensemble" was exciting and fantastic.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

The quotations in italics are taken from the Almanach der 365 Tage am Ort", published at Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne 1998.

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