FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 2010

FMP CD 139

Ulrich Kurth


Schweizer - Carl - Moholo: Why go back and listen after 35 years?

The new approach to sound had a liberating effect. Cage said: « Every noise is music».
We were sick of following the functional harmonic sequences:
Theme, Solo, Variation, Theme.
Together we were listening to the new recordings of John Tchicai and Roswell Rudd’s New York Art Quartet, of Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Paul Bley, Charlie Haden, the whole movement of the «October Revolution». Each new record was an event.
Irène Schweizer about the sixties (2002)

Sounds from a time when critics were still disparaging Free Jazz as an unearthly infernal noise, fans, on the other hand, sensing the redemption of a crucial promise of a greater freedom. After all, Irène Schweizer, Rüdiger Carl and Louis Moholo are among the miners in the quarry of Improvised Music, who first of all explore endlessly in order to open up their own adopted realm of sound.
Hexensabbat is the title of one of Schweizer’s early solo recordings. Even at that time, the attentive listener will have detected traces of polytonal chords or layered counterpoints in her playing. This was the meeting point of intellectual handwork and the emotion of instant invention in bewitching musical material.
FMP was only seven years old, the Total Music Meeting eight. It was long since a premiere address for the mothers and fathers of the European Improv-Scene, including Rüdiger Carl and Louis Moholo, who at that time had gone into exile in London together with the Blue Notes from Cape Town via a stopover in Zurich.

The trio with Rüdiger Carl and Louis Moholo then developed into one of the important groups of the early seventies for me.
Irène Schweizer (2002)

They travelled on tours and festivals appearing on the European concert and club stages, supported by the international network they themselves were part of. The Moers Festival, the Workshop Freie Musik in Berlin and the Steirische Herbst in Graz bloomed into fixed points on the scene during the course of the year.
In 1975, the New Jazz Festival Moers had moved from the castle courtyard into the leisure park because the space in the castle had become too small for the huge number of visitors.

In the seventies I started using i nside piano. I never ‘prepared’ the piano itself, however, in contrast to many composers in the New Music area. I played spontaneously on the strings, just as freely as I played otherwise, often in a very percussive manner with drum sticks, cymbals, mallets, balls. So that the piano, as a whole, turned into a new body of sound which did not only have keys but wood and strings, as well.
Irène Schweizer (2002)

Schweizer starts the piece Messer by Rüdiger Carl with plucked and damped string sounds, creating an atmosphere full of expectation as an opening, strengthened by Moholo’s rattles. Then the tenor saxophone comes in with stochastic figures. They lead to a rousing high tone terminating this phase of movement towards each other and leading into an ensemble improvisation. A turbulent flow of energy starts up, consciously filtered by the three musicians’ interactions in rising and ebbing waves. Richly varied passages with musical gestures for orientation. These may be staccato lines of the saxophone, piano clusters or a pulse from the drums. They do not escalate into an indifferent rush of improvisation, but in paying careful attention to each other, develop their own impulses further. It is a relaxed process with resting and turning points, with climactic phases and sound fields at the point of falling silent or threatening intensity. The surprising finish after a final collective climax provides for an almost organically grown Gestalt.
The trio has created a stable basis with this first piece, giving plenty of room for even further reaching excursions. The next piece does without a delicate rapprochement and moves directly to a high energy level via a sparkling piano line. An insistent chord sequence over straight time (8/8) demonstrates Schweizer’s percussive potential and propels the interactions forwards. She is, after all, also a drummer. Moholo picks up the pulse and lays down a persistent groove, underpinning a substructure that borders on Jazz. Its dissolution into a freely structured field of sounds using extended playing techniques leads to structured sequences reminiscent of the influence of the energy play of Afro-American origin in this trio. Irène Schweizer counts Cecil Taylor as one of her role models and has worked extensively with South African musicians exiled in Zurich, amongst others with Dollar Brand (aka Abdullah Ibrahim) and the drummer Makaya Ntsho ko, with whom she performed at the Jazz Festival in Willisau in the same year (1975).
The following two pieces did not originate in the relaxed atmosphere of the open-air-festivals, but in the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, in the concert hall. Göndsimitenand could well be a plea in improvised music: work together! And this is what they do. Moholo with refined polyrhythmic drumming, Carl with bec koning saxophone phrases, emphasizing the vocal characteristics of improvisation, Schweizer with harsh, precisely placed accents from her thesaurus of piano sound characters.
In the broken texture of Carl’s Conn-Conn – augmented with clarinet and piccolo flute – they intensify the chamber music-like principle of a conversation of musicians of equal standing. The questions and answers thrown in also lead into a strong groove which remains episodic but which also provides a supporting framework for a particular phase.
Tuned Boots shows an increase in intensity. Schweizer plays the strings and the frame of the grand piano with drum sticks and mallets, thus provoking a heated interaction, the intenseness of which is resolved through ironic marching patterns.

I was also surprised about how much I was playing on the strings. At that time, I was fascinated to explore the possibilities of inside-playing and sparked off fireworks of sound.
Irène Schweizer (2002)

Today, these trio recordings from the seventies are a moving document of a kind of music, which was just assuming its contours at that time. They are not preparatory exercises for later masterpieces but in fact an aural firework display of new ideas, the emancipatory traces of which the current merchandise aesthetics of the music industry would like to blur all too easily within in its dictate of brands.

Quotes: Patrick Landolt, Interview with Irène Schweizer 2002,

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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