Jost Gebers (1979)


Free Music Production, as an organization, has been in existence since the autumn of 1969. Already before this time there had been collaborations between German Free Jazz musicians, for example within the framework of the "New Artists Guild", which only existed for a short time, or in projects like the self-organized events in an underground car park in Cologne which took place in parallel to "Jazz am Rhein", and the first "Total Music Meeting", in parallel to the Berlin Jazz Days.

The idea for this association was based, on the one hand, on the few working possibilities at that time, which we tried to improve, on the experience of some of the musicians with record companies and, on the other hand, on examples coming from the USA. Right from the beginning, in fact, it was clear that FMP could be neither just a record company nor just a concert agency. This concept of setting up concerts and workshops on a regular basis alongside the continuous production of recordings has been kept up right to the present day.

Comment 1:
All of the following opinions are definitely subjective and therefore not the official "FMP opinion". Having a relatively large diversity of opinions has always made it difficult for us to bring discussions about concepts, quality, political, social, artistic or even 'only' financial structures to a common, binding agreement.

Looking back it is evident that quite a number of the musicians we approached were interested in this project but with very diverse intentions. A close collaboration actually existed and exists only between a few of the; co-operation in the various projects with different tasks and introducing ideas and suggestions which were actually feasible only came from one side, right from the very beginning.

Comment 2:
The basic idea for FMP was developed by Peter Brötzmann and myself over the following period. A number of musicians were asked to collaborate, to join us. Most of the musicians we contacted were hoping for quick results, in contrast to the two of us who were quite clear about the fact that it would take years for it to achieve success, if at all. Since this didn't happen in the beginning, the initial group finally shrank down to Brötzmann and me again. It was only after 1972 that some of the colleagues became interested in FMP again.

During the first years, (1969 - '72) the concepts of our two most important events in Berlin took shape, the "Workshop Freie Musik" in spring, in the 'Akademie der Künste' (Academy of Arts) and in autumn, roughly parallel to the Berlin Jazzdays, the "Total Music Meeting". We definitely did not want to present musicians and groups in the usual festival format (Arrive, get on stage, play for twenty to forty minutes, leave), but try and make transparent the musicians' ways of working by allowing them several performances within the course of the five day series. This enabled the interested part of the audience to learn about the actual process of making music and also to form their own standards for judging the quality. From the performing musicians' point of view, without the extreme pressure to deliver the goods, this allowed for more of what this music is actually about: to question yourself, to experiment, to play.

Similar ideas also apply to our record productions: with few exceptions they are live recordings which document musical developments and activities.

Comment 3:
The developments in electronics over the last years obviously have had an enormous influence on record production. Through multi-track recording, overdubbing, playbacks, filtering, phasing, reverb etc, during mixing down on to stereo you can make a bigband out of a soloist or completely change the music into something else. With our productions we try to capture the musical processes as realistically as possible. Aesthetic considerations as to what a saxophone sounds like or drums, are dropped in favour of considerations such as what does Brötzmann sound like or Dudek or Parker, what does Lovens sound like or Bennink. The use of the necessary electronics (mikes, mixer, tape recorder) blends together with that moment of creation. No further manipulation is possible. Mistakes in the mix made by the recording engineer cannot be corrected.

Within the framework of our activities - live and on records - apart from the continuous working processes of Brötzmann, Schlippenbach, Globe Unity, Carl, Kowald, Schweizer, Reichel as well as of Free Jazz from the GDR (Petrowsky, Gumpert, Sommer) we have always presented young musicians and groups and tried to create a platform for them although we have also, right from the beginning, tried to encourage musicians to get together and create similar organizations to the FMP. However, this was only put into practice by some groups in the rock music area are who are working together under the name of 'Schneeball' (Snowball).

Comment 4:
Every day, every record company and promoter gets offers from groups and musicians. Apart from significant differences in the quality of the music offered, it is shocking to see how unclear the ideas of such people are about financial matters and artistic possibilities. Almost in every case the idea seems to prevail that an artistic break-through and big money can be achieved with just a single record without bearing in mind that, inevitably, only a minority listens to this kind of music.

At present, Free Music Production has about 80 records in its catalogue, roughly 30% of them are productions with musicians of the younger generation who have had their first chance to get something out on record. Apart from a few exceptions, the financial expense is identical, irrespective of whether it is a Brötzmann, Schlippenbach, Globe Unity or newcomer's record. However, with the now established people, the return on investment obviously is felt much quicker. Apart from that, the feedback you get on a record may only be noticeable for a group after a number of years. A question in this context: How many records of newcomers have been put out by the established German record companies, which did not come from the fashionable and popular jazz-rock scene?

On balance after 10 years I can say the following:

    • Many ideas and concepts could not be put into practice or go beyond an initial start up phase. Most significantly, maybe: a network of musicians' organizations undercutting the commercial ways of distribution of the recording industry never materialized, although this would have been the most important step by far.
    • With many of our colleagues I fail to see the correlation between demands and reality. On the positive side remain some things that could not have been achieved in any other way.
    • A very large number of important acoustic documents.
    • Some projects which, by their continuity, have supported and promoted decisive developments in the area of this music
    • In the meantime a small audience which is willing not only to 'consume' the big 'names' but also to confront new things and new musicians.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

from: Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 3/1979, © Neue Zeitschrift für Musik

The copyrights remain with the aforesaid sources and/or with the authors.