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

FMP CD 141

Thomas Millroth


The Saxophonist and the Chocolate Grinder

Many of Marcel Duchamp’s works are to do with seeing. In general, however, it’s also about perception. It is about holistic awareness, in which memory and knowledge play a major role. In Duchamp’s famous large glass painting, right at the bottom, we can see a strange object, a chocolate grinder. Where does the chocolate come from which is being ground? And even more mysterious, where does it go after it has been ground? The way to understand this procedure is to see that this grinder represents creativity, the ability to transform, and spontaneity. The title of the large glass is ”La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même / ”The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, even”. As far as I’m concerned it is a kind of description of music, namely the improvising kind.

Quite obviously, the solitary bachelor is grinding the chocolate himself. This can of course be understood in a sexual way, but not necessarily. As we know, strong emotions, such as love, are closely connected with music. This is naturally the case with Peter Brötzmann’s music. In the beginning a lot was written about ‘playing to death’. It was supposed to mean freedom. I didn’t quite understand it, even at that time.

I am taking the liberty of using Duchamp’s image, once again. What is it about the chocolate? Can it be understood in a musical and/or linguistic manner? I believe this to be the case! What kind of matter goes into the grinder? For example the conventional language, a way of talking, making music, writing and thinking, and consequently, the way the world, or only the surroundings are looked upon. The uncertainty about what comes out of the grinder is connected to the fact that it is exactly about what used to be quite familiar a short while ago, and has now been completely changed and alienated. The die is cast and we are facing new meanings which we will gradually understand, as well.

The same thing happens to the music coming out of this grinder. We hear melodies, rhythms and other elements which have been transformed. Whoever listens closely will recognise a certain style, maybe Blues, Bop or Free Jazz. The music is not destroyed, only the traditional way of listening. The core remains the same, maybe clearer than before, because a singular musician and artist has made use of his perception and, above all, his way of listening. A powerful energy emerges from the love of this kind of music. Hence the aspiration to make it audible once again, for oneself and also for us.

In those days, when Peter Brötzmann started making music, not only Jazz, like Bebop and Dixieland was happening but also Fluxus and Marcel Duchamp. Brötzmann must have asked himself how he could show his love for this kind of music? His solos represent aspects of the questions he posed himself. The saxophonist prefers to grind his own chocolate! The ingredients were familiar, the listening was not.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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