He was categorical in his artistic demands and not always easy to deal with. Continuously running up against the indifference of his fellow human beings, he never made it easy for himself either. Manfred Schulze, somebody who could hear new sounds which, first of all, he had to make laboriously accessible to his fellow musicians. Laborious seems to be an appropriate word for this biography which began in provincial Saxony, taking him from his job as miner at Wismut (the mining company run collectively by the Soviet Union and the GDR) through private music studies and then initially to dance music. Manfred Schulze urged to break away from conventional patterns and to express himself more authentically. This is what connects him to the creative imperative of Jazz: Play Your Own Thing! Manfred Schulze who, in the sixties, played at dance events with Jazz and Rockjazz bands, almost independently developed a musical aesthetic which broke all the conventional norms. Why talk about Manfred Schulze in the past tense? He, who during his creative years acted in a highly vital and forceful manner, fell musically silent due to a serious illness in 1992 and was living in a Berlin nursing home since 1994, until his death on July 25, 2010. Manfred Schulze’s music, however, is still very much alive through being heard and being played - and not least because it has withstood all temporary fashions of its time. The activities of Free Music Production have made an essential contribution to this and the commitment of the musicians who can be heard on this recording. As Johannes Bauer confirmed in a conversation, the Manfred Schulze wind quintet in this line-up was and is about sticking as closely to the original arrangements as possible. This is what makes Schulze’s music shine most powerfully, brought up to date by the fresh inventiveness of the players.
It is remarkable that the first Schulze wind quintet was founded as early as 1969, well before ROVA, the World Saxophone Quartet and other wind groups in the succession of Free Jazz. For Manfred Schulze, an essential force of renewal came from the spirit of the European history of art and music. Even though he was more influential as a musician and composer, his own visual work was also of particular interest to him. The influence of Jazz on Manfred Schulze’s music included the areas of tone development, phrasing and improvisation. In so far as the European tradition is concerned, Schulze mainly resorted to compositional techniques and formal structures, which he developed further. It is hard to imagine nowadays that his concepts, which can truly be called visionary, were developed in a completely non-academic environment, isolated to a large extent from the international currents in contemporary art. Beyond all schools and directions Manfred Schulze succeeded in shaping a highly expressive musical language. Well aware was he, however, of the classic modern Jazz players the likes of John Coltrane und Sonny Rollins, as well as the pioneers of New Music such as Schönberg, Berg and Webern. It is a known fact that he would occasionally play a record of Schönberg’s music to the musicians of his wind quintet, before starting rehearsals, in order to wean them away from the mannerisms of Jazz. At the same time, however, as impulse, Jazz was as important to him as New Music. Free Jazz in the way it was practiced at that time was never his thing. To him, compositions were more than a framework or a reason to improvise. They turned out to be an essential part of his music. In particular - and this is superbly documented on this CD - Manfred Schulze was inspired by the art of choral setting which flourished in Central and Northern Germany in the 17th century. Manfred Schulze’s choral concert is based on the free form of polyphonic choral work; with regards the use of the cantus firmus, the compositional techniques, variations, inversions and modulations, however, it goes well beyond the historic models. In the course of the compositions which constantly allow space for improvisation, there is an increasing interweaving of notated and spontaneous parts. The piece B-A-C-H, in four parts, continuously works with the given order of tones, while Manfred Schulze developed his composition Bounce Nr. 1 from a piece of dance music - as a four-part harmony with unmistakable associations with „O Sacred Head, Now Wounded“. The Dresden Suite, a piece with a distinctive marching rhythm, is the 4th movement of the work of the same title which Manfred Schulze wrote as one of his first compositions for wind quintet, at the end of the sixties.
More extensive information about Manfred Schulze’s life and work can be found on the website http://www.manfred-schulze.de. This site, as well as the CD’s published by FMP and live concerts of the Schulze wind quintet will hopefully contribute towards being able to talk about Manfred Schulze’s music in the present tense.
Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton