Bert Noglik (1989)
ARTE POVERA, DAILY NEW PARADOX
About Free Music Production(FMP)
In any other association , or even in the same profession under different
circumstances, there would be a glittering celebration, a demonstration
of appreciation and self-assessment or even a festival of self-adulation:
Look at us, we have been in the business for over twenty years: Surround
yourselves with champagne, get yourself decked out with free gifts, come
and celebrate at the grandiose ball - Ball Pompös.
No sign of any of that with Free Music Production. When you're involved
in the music process, bragging on an anniversary is just not on. Most
anniversaries have an inherent tendency to turn into days of commemoration.
FMP is concerned with the day to day long term work, with "Living
Music" - also, incidentally, the title of a record released as far
back as 1969 by a group with the pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach.
However, twenty years of continuous activity cannot be viewed as just
an episode. A well-established culture industry can handle episodes -
they go well with the changes in fashion, their short life span allows
them to be dismissed easily to make room for the next collection. However,
music that has developed, that has become deeper and more far reaching
for a period of twenty years can no longer be classified derogatively
as momentary phenomenon or a short eruption. Past achievements become
a permanent challenge. The music, this music, is more alive than ever
Which music? We're talking about European Free Jazz to which FMP
owes its existence. FMP's activities however, neither reflect European
Free Jazz as a whole, nor can be confined to any one sphere one could
label as Free Jazz.
On sober reflection: In the twenty years since its foundation,
FMP has continuously organised concerts, workshops, and various series
of events as well as producing about two hundred records. A statistician
would have his work cut out for him to list the different criteria.
On enthusiastic reflection: FMP has helped to keep European improvised
music alive. Their record releases are an important part of an ever growing
encyclopaedia of this, in the best sense of the word, "New"
Music. (It is innovative in the sense of artistic development, because
it manages to create its own traditional connections. This is what sets
it apart from the mercurial world of fashion.)
The change from rigid categories to flexible concepts, to changeable
patterns and to an activity which follows, accompanies and promotes the
process, is characteristic of essential radical change. Although musicians
associated with Free Jazz may have stylistic features in common, the aims
of the movement go beyond such restrictions and definitions. It would
be impossible to unite FMP's record releases under one heading.
Attitudes toward playing seem to matter more than style characteristics.
Jost Gebers, the man behind FMP, expressed this as follows: "I need
to feel the personality, to be moved by the story. Today there are more
and more 'easy listening' musicians, music for music teachers. They all
play well, but they have nothing to convoy, no story to tell". "Story"
does not mean translating a prose idea into a musical one, but the agreement
of the musician's personality, experience, life and musical expressions.
This can come across in rhapsodical ballads as well as in sensitive compositions.
To illustrate this point, just compare Peter Brötzmann "14 Love
Poems" and "Chirps" by Steve Lacy/Evan Parker.
Free - indicates ultimate openness. To all appearances just a
word that is often misused yet still manages to conjure up sentimental
hopes. Like all abstract things, it has various interpretations. Free
from what? Naturally from hand me down patterns in Jazz or anywhere else.
Free for what? To use every asset that makes musical, personal or collective
sense. Even to revert back to other material. (Franz Koglmann once said
you can't play freer than free.) For FMP improvised music is an essential
form of musical freedom, but not the only road to salvation, and productions
with composed pieces purposely show other ways of obtaining freedom.
Music first could be FMP's unspoken motto. Indisputably one of
FMP's strong points is that it allows music to develop and unite with
other ideas or subjects. This kind of purism does not allow producers'
concepts to twist the music and prevents music from being enslaved to
non-musical movements. This is of course always relevant to the time we
live in, and it is no coincidence that FMP came into being during the
social climate of change during the late sixties. Music that refuses to
turn into nondescript background noise can be classified a priori as critical.
This is again very abstract. Statements range from musical interference
in the social sphere to playing with elements of individual mythology,
from early Eisler adaptations of improvising musicians through Brötzmann's
Alarm-Orchester to Rüdiger Carl and Sven-Åke Johansson's Accordion
Dialogues. Each is a different story, and each is told differently, but
they are all equally important. For some time now FMP has been organising
concerts in its own studio under the title "Just Music". That
is exactly the point. Not everyone who can do a handstand is thereby proving
himself an artist. However, when Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink play
"Eine Partietischtennis" (A Game of Table-Tennis), it has nothing
whatsoever to do with sports or acrobatics, but is live musical expression.
Just music, full stop.
Production. Anything as concerned with the present moment as improvised
music resists the conventions of traditional concert organisers just as
much as it does the regulations of any other organisation. On the other
hand, improvised music has its own specific requirements. Like any other
form of art it needs sponsors, agents and organisers. The only difference
is that a great deal of sensitivity is required in order to create suitable
conditions for this music to develop in. FMP's "Daily New Paradox"
consists of having to plan something unpredictable, of having to stage
something which cannot be organised, basically of having to hold on to
something that cannot be gripped. (Here I am using a free interpretation
of the Friedemann Graef Group's record: "Daily New Paradox")
Derek Bailey writes: Improvisation does without preparatory or documentary
by-products and is completely at one with the non-documentary nature of
musical performance." This is probably true, but it did not prevent
Derek Bailey from documenting his own music on records or indeed from
running his own record label "Incus" for a number of years.
It is true that the improvising process by no means implicates documentary
processing and assessment, but the reception, circulation and development
of improvised music would be very limited if it were not for the production
of sound documents. This is true not only as far as the listeners are
concerned, but also as regards musical development itself with the numerous
feedbacks it requires.
The genesis of FMP - a few facts. The joint efforts of improvising
musicians go back as far as 1966. Peter Brötzmann and others became
associated for a while with the idea of a "New Artists' Guild".
In the summer of 1968 improvising musicians themselves organised concerts
in and underground car park in Cologne parallel to a puffed up event entitled
"Jazz am Rhein". Shortly after this, during the "Essener
Songtage", a plan came into being to arrange a kind of alternative
festival during the "Berliner Jazztage". The first Total Music
Meeting which took place in "Quasimodo" in November 1968 paved
the way for an annual series of concerts which has taken place ever since.
(1969 in "Litfaß" and since 1970 in "Quartier Latin").
Over the years this became less of a counter event and more of a supplement
to the festival in the Philharmonic Hall. An important fact about the
first Total Music Meeting seems to be that it was organised by the musicians
themselves and was a starting point for an Internationale of European
Improvised Music. Peter Brötzmann, for example, played in a group
with Evan Parker, Paul Rutherford, Fred Van Hove and Han Bennink. John
Stevens played in the Man-fred Schoof Quintet; Gunter Hampel appeared
in a group alongside John McLaughlin; the Globe Unity Orchestra and the
Spontaneous Music Ensemble could be heard as could a bass player in the
Donata Höffer Group whose name was later to become synonymous with
FMP: Jost Gebers.
Easter 1969 provided an opportunity to organise an event in the Akademie
der Künste (Arts Academy) in Berlin. This event became an annual
tradition: the Free Music Workshop. In the first year the event was called
"Three Nights of Living Music and Minimal Art" and it almost
ended in a rumpus when the way of thinking of Blues fans (the Alexis Korner
Band was also part of the programme along with improvising musicians)
clashed with listeners who were interested in new musical developments.
In addition, some of the stainless steel works of art were misused as
percussion instruments and seats. The lesson learnt from this was to ensure
participating musicians were completely in tune with each other. The Akademie
der Künste remained loyal to the cause and last year FMP was able
to present a number of international saxophone groups at the 20th Free
FMP was founded in September 1969. It was intended as neither a society
nor a company, let alone a firm, but as a co-operative. In retrospect
it appears necessary to stress certain points: FMP crystallised out the
musicians' attempts to organise their concerts and to produce their records
themselves. In the early days the collective standard very often clashed
with the diverging interests of the musicians concerned. Right from the
beginning and for a long time to come the driving force behind FMP was
Peter Brötzmann and Jost Gebers.
The first record to be released under the FMP label was "European
Echoes" with the Manfred Schoof Orchestra which was recorded in June
1969. The Schoof Orchestra incorporated, as it were, three of the most
important improvising groups of the day: the musicians from the Peter
Brötzmann Trio, the Manfred Schoof Quintet and the Irène Schweizer
Trio. A second FMP release came out in 1970 - this was "Balls"
with the trio Peter Brötzmann/Fred Van Hove/Han Bennink. Jost Gebers
remembers that there was a concert in a Berlin pub the night before the
recording. At a rather late stage of the proceedings it was thought that
the choice of venue may have been a misjudgement. There was an enormous
building site right near the pub in question. Thus the Free Jazz audience
was reinforced by quite a large number of muscular site workers. The latter
could easily have disrupted the concert, but in fact the opposite occurred:
The only eruption to take place was a unanimous frenzy of enthusiasm.
These kind of occurrences do not take place very frequently, but it is
often still the case that people who come to a concert by chance enjoy
the music and start to become interested in it. It is impossible to plan
a musical encounter. The opportunity for such an encounter has to be organised.
Daily New Paradox.
FMP continued and continues to pursue the musicians' original independent
ambitions. At quite an early stage, FMP introduced to their catalogue
three records which had been produced by the musicians themselves "For
Adolphe Sax" with the Peter Brötzmann Trio, "Machine Gun"
by the Peter Brötz-mann Octet and "The Living Music" by
a group centred around Alexander von Schlippenbach. On the assumption
that music deals with sound and not words, and given that some lyric titles
are created with a view to GEMA sales figures and not out of any musical
necessity, "The Living Music" could be a good motto for the
FMP catalogue with its many, many dozen records. "Keep Music Live",
the slogan of the British Musicians' Union, is the aim of all FMP's efforts,
even though it cannot, or rather no longer, be thought of and run as an
all encompassing solidarity union.
The joint and the potential of the individual. Towards the end
of the sixties a number of musicians joined FMP. Some left again when
they realised that instant success stories were neither intended nor to
be expected. It was not until the early seventies that a collective upward
trend was once again felt. Musicians from Wuppertal, grouped around Peter
Kowald, also began to hold annual Free Jazz Workshops. This "went
on despite a lot of hard work and serious difficulties until the later
seventies" (Gebers). The collective structure, not however, the collective
standard, was abandoned. Jost Gebers and those who helped him for many
years - notably Dagmar Gebers and Dieter Hahne - were left with the work.
A conversation I had with Jost Gebers in FMP's twentieth year of existence
explains the dialectics of individual competition and collectivity. Question:
"Looking back now, one could say that FMP was by and large Jost Gebers'
achievement...?" Answer: "I most certainly wouldn't see it that
way. Even after the structure of FMP had been changed, co-operation between
the musicians and myself kept going strong. The musicians concerned are
directly involved in the preparation and realisation of their projects.
So you see, the basic principles have not been abandoned. And on the other
hand Gebers was printed on the writing paper right from the beginning.
Someone has to be there to answer to the bank or the tax collector."
Peter Kowald: "If it hadn't been for Jost Gebers, who invested many
years of his life and health in this project, we would have got on much
A question to Jost Gebers after twenty years' work for FMP: "Did
you know what you were letting yourself in for at the beginning?"
Answer: "No, if I had realised, there would be no FMP today. In the
early stages it was difficult to see just what was involved. People think
of FMP as just a couple of interesting records. They just don't visualise
what goes on behind the scenes: permanent wrangling about money, fighting
for projects, the feud with the tax man, recording technology, book-keeping,
Double strategy sounds a bit militant for an organisation as lacking
in missionary zeal as FMP. But that is exactly the cliché outsiders
associate with FMP: A sworn group of musical revolutionaries who want
to warp the ears of the ruling majority. Nothing could be further from
the truth. And just who is warping whose ears should slowly be dawning
on a public bombarded with music Ersatz. Brötzmann once said that
the complicated, contradictory process of improvised music involves time
and work, only "you have to let us do it ourselves". So it's
a double strategy for self-assertion. On the one hand FMP appears as the
organiser for concerts, workshops and concert tours, on the other hand
as a record company that documents and keeps the activities going. Live
action as a pre-requisite for documentation, and production as an echo
of past and a stimulus for new encounters with living music.
Principles of presentation: no outside pressures, involving the
musicians in the preparations and choice of content, closer contact between
musicians and audience, gradual elimination of the strain of being obliged
to produce something valid on demand. Instead: Multiple performances,
having the musicians on the spot for a period of several days, choice
as regards line up, no interference with the musicians. Jost Gebers considers
a "climate of trust" between himself and the performers essential,
he hates "procession-like mass appearances of top drawer musicians".
If we dispense with the heavy burden of having to turn out high quality
musical performances against the clock as it were, we would have a far
greater chance of allowing something essential to emerge from the moment.
One of the creative tasks of all workshops and concert tour promoters
is to find a constellation of musicians who can relate to each other well
enough to prevent major disagreements, but still manage to challenge one
another to an extent that prevents boring consensus work. Unfortunately,
creativity is often confused with calculation. Jost Gebers has not only
put together groups of musicians, he has really brought them together
in a musical process: pianists, trombone players, saxophonists, guitarists.
In 1984 there were sixteen pianists, in 1986 seventeen trombonists, in
1989 some of the most outstanding improvising guitarists, in between there
were also percussionists, bass players, saxophonists, soloists, duos,
trios, groups and major constellations. It is not the instruments that
matter, nor the number of instruments, nor the volume - but the power
If all possible, communication with the audience should be direct. One
should given the chance to follow music while it develops, to let criteria
crystallise while listening, to see the musicians, not as unapproachable
manufactures, but to be able to talk to them about what you have heard
over a beer.
Musical presentation usually consists of an open stage without
a curtain (in FMP events), in record productions presentation is limited
to the "layout" provided by the musician himself in relation
to the essence of the music. This is both scant and adequate. FMP has
unintentionally created its own image. Jost Gebers may not agree with
my complaints about the loss of cover art due to the switch from LPs to
CDs necessitated by market conditions. I am sure FMP will rise above other
labels in CD production too - not because they are working towards an
image, but because they like to get the things they do right.
Over the years things continued almost on the brink of economic ruin.
As a 1983 pamphlet puts it: "The economic situation has never been
overwhelmingly good, all financial assistance had to be fought hard for."
At the same time the approaching dissolution of FMP is envisaged, not
as an empty threat but as a real and immediate possibility. The reason
why we always kept on trucking, even in the face of seemingly hopeless
situations, is partly because Jost Gebers never gave up. Question: "What
do you do when total ruin is imminent?" Answer: "Hard to say.
I do FMP on the side. I also work an eight hour day in a job that keeps
me in contact with reality and where I experience life in close up. You
don't have time to take off into other spheres, you stay on the ground.
You aware of the risks, of how fragile everything is. I don't really know
how to answer that one. When you're in that kind of situation you just
have to keep on going." (Note: Jost Gebers is a social worker and
also bears the main brunt of FMP work. Daily New Paradox.)
Examples: Even if one were to concentrate on European improvised
music, it would be impossible to be representative. A lot depends on personal
connections, on private tastes, on financial possibilities (or often,
limitations), opportunities and coincidences. To quote Jost Gebers: "I
try to do things at the right moment in time." To quote Cecil Taylor:
"You don't possess time, you can only exist within it."
To create landmarks, to set a precedent. Hoping others will be able to
read the signs and are willing to set their own different precedents.
Anyone who thinks of FMP as a circle complete in itself has not understood
its intentions. The cliché description of FMP as a bunch of sectarians
is based at best on a lack of information or alternatively on ignorance
Producing records is not a virtue in itself. More and more performers
with a sense of responsibility say they release only essential records.
Admittedly, it is often only possible to judge whether something is necessary
or not after the event. Even if not every FMP record was essential, the
catalogue does reflect an almost seismographic feeling for making recordings
at the right time. Furthermore, FMP's recording aesthetics ensure that
as far as possible, the music on tapes, records and CDs sounds just like
it did when it was created. Multi part pieces are really played that way
and are not mixed. And if a musician suddenly laughs out loud or throws
something on the ground in a rage, that particular piece is not cut, but
remains as a by-product of the process of making music, a part of the
aura of improvisation.
The circle of musicians FMP works with has increased steadily
over the years. Agreement with or distance to FMP's work as promoter and
record producer arises according to the individual's development and the
planning of concrete projects. Three basic principles, three main areas
of activity have remained despite all the changes that occurred. The aim
was, and is, to present musicians who have been developing this music
since the sixties: the circle around Peter Brötzmann, Peter Kowald,
Alexander von Schlippenbach, Irène Schweizer, later Rüdiger
Carl, Hans Reichel and others. Jost Gebers refers to them as the "musicians
of the first hour". Secondly, helping young musicians is a longstanding
concern of FMP. Only some of the expectations have been fulfilled, but,
nonetheless, some of the current performers who came to this music at
a later stage - such as Wolfgang Fuchs - enjoy an equal status to and
are perfectly self-confident towards members of the founder generation.
The third and final element is composed of musicians and groups from the
international scene - Steve Lacy, Marilyn Crispell and Cecil Taylor to
name but three.
FMP's influence on the jazz scene in the GDR (German Democratic Republic)
particularly in the period of change at the beginning of the seventies,
can scarcely be overestimated. Performers associated with the FMP such
as Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Paul Rutherford, Peter Kowald, Irène
Schweizer, Paul Lovens and Rüdiger Carl applied for one day visas
to visit the GDR and East Berlin. There they met with GDR musicians and
played in what have now legendary sessions (Mondays in the "Melodie"
bar of the old Friedrichstadt Palace). In 1972 Jost Gebers paved the way
of contacts with the GDR broadcasting corporation which resulted in the
purchase of licenses for tapes. The first licensed production with GDR
musicians released by the FMP was "Just For Fun" featuring a
quartet with Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky. From 1978 onwards, FMP succeeded
in presenting performers such as Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, Conrad Bauer,
Ulrich Gumpert and Günter Sommer repeatedly live on stage in the
West, and, as a result, were able to document their own recordings with
GDR musicians. In 1979 the series "Jazz Now" featured New Jazz
and the freely improvised music from the GDR (with Studio IV, the Berlin
Improvisation Quartet, Ulrich Gumpert/Günter Sommer along with Manfred
Hering, Günter Sommer's "Hörmusik" (Listening Music),
the Friedhelm Schönfeld Trio, the Ulrich Gumpert Workshop Band, the
Hans Rempel Orchestra, the Gumpert-Sommer-Duo and the Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky
Quartet). The extensive documentation, two records plus textbook, was
given the title "Snapshot - Jazz Now / Jazz from the GDR". From
1979 onwards coproductions were arranged between the East German record
label VEB Deutsche Schallplatten and FMP. Of the three records released
simultaneously in the GDR and by FMP in West Berlin. "Touch The Earth"
featuring the Leo Smith/Peter Kowald/Gün-ter Sommer Trio deserves
a special mention, as its programme manifested the cross border tendency
of improvised music in a musical and geographic/cultural sense (the trio
also called itself the Chicago/Wuppertal/Dresden Trio).
When improvised music becomes international regional peculiarities
start to fade into the background. Varying activities interweave to form
networks and, either intentionally or coincidentally, complement each
other. Even the attempt to present and document only the most important
events of improvising artists in German speaking areas alone would prove
too large a task for FMP. Besides, "important" and "not
important" is a question of personal taste. Personal involvement
without personal preferences is unthinkable. FMP does not seek a monopoly
but rather to supplement its own activities with others. A network can
form only if several people try to set examples. An almost inestimable
number of labels exist today, but this can lead not only to a democratic
system but also to a tendency to split up. Even in the early years. FMP
sought to form a syndicate with other labels such as Incus, ICP and the
Jazz Composers' Orchestra Association. The result of this experiment was
negative. The formation of a musicians' union or even a world wide agency
was never achieved. Distribution was to remain one of the biggest problems
for FMP for years to come. At the beginning of 1989 FMP once again took
over sole distribution.
A concept that was hardly attainable or even impossible on an organisation
level was taken for granted in music: internationalisation. This was not
just a late result but an imminent tendency from the beginning. One only
has to think of the groups involved in the first Total Music Meeting,
of the Trio Peter Brötzmann/Fred Van Hove/Han Bennink, of the connections
between Irène Schweizer and other Swiss musicians with the English
and the Dutch - the Ulrich Gumpert/Radu Malfatti/Tony Oxley or the Peter
Brötzmann/Harry Miller/Louis Moholo Trio... FMP workshops succeeded
time after time in bringing together musicians of varying geographical
and music-cultural origins.
The concerts and workshops featuring Cecil Taylor, which were
held in June and July 1988 are definitely among the highlights of FMP's
twenty years' existence. It was possible to make the experience of Taylor's
work tangible (and to document it extensively) and also initiate joint
works between Taylor and European improvisers. If "European Echoes"
(1969) is to be interpreted as an answer to American Free Jazz, what took
place later could be seen as the unification of voices and sounds. A musician
such as Cecil Taylor will of course also have assimilated European elements
during his developing years, but he will essentially draw from African/American/Indian
culture. European improvisers, for their part, have soaked up parts of
the Jazz tradition but have outgrown the Jazz idiom in its strict sense.
In this way new points of contact and combinations develop and a new music
with a vitality and sensitivity of its own is born of these varied traditions.
As has been the case with many FMP events, the Cecil Taylor episode led
on to further processes and spheres. Cecil Taylor has, for example, since
then repeatedly worked with European musicians, above all with Tony Oxley
who now plays regularly in a trio with Cecil Taylor and William Parker.
A comprehensive documentation called "For Example",
jointly produced by FMP and the Akademie der Künste, was released
in 1978 and looks back on the first ten years of FMP events. In the text
there is a statement by Steve Lacy, which is now, over ten years later,
more apt than ever before: "The important thing about FMP, is the
cumulative effect of 10 seasons presentations of new "Progressive,
sometimes quite radical) improvised music. This has not only created a
very knowing public in Berlin, but has had important influences
on the whole scene in Germany, as well as on other countries where there
is interest in this kind of music (France, Italy, Holland, U.S.A. etc.).
The fact that a venture such as this can succeed and continue to bear
fruit, is a very positive factor in a world of disconcerting artists,
and unscrupulous promoters. The integrity of FMP comes from the clear
spirit, and much hard work from the people who run it. The point has
always been to keep the music (and the musicians) alive,
and to maintain a high interest in the choice of programs".
The past and the present: Even improvised music does not develop
in a vacuum, but is a - conscious or unconscious - product of its own
history. FMP has always seen the promotion of the living music process
as connected with the documentation of past developments. More that one
record has developed from the historic consciousness of music - this is
not only true of those produced by FMP itself, but, in some cases, of
tape releases which were produced before FMP came into being. To name
three examples: "The Early Quintet" recorded in 1966, featuring
the Manfred Schoof Quintet; "Early Tapes" recorded in 1967,
featuring the Irène Schweizer Trio, and "Santana" recorded
in 1968, featuring the Pierre Favre Trio. Jost Gebers: "We really
stood behind these fundamental early recordings and wanted to make them
available. We also intended to incorporate the Globe Unity Orchestra's
first recording and "Nipples" - an early production featuring
Peter Brötzmann - into our programme. Unfortunately, both fell through
because of difficulties in licence negotiations." The aforementioned
record featuring the Globe Unity Orchestra is hard to buy these days.
Still, anyone interested in hearing the Globe Unity Orchestra sounded
like in the midseventies can refer to FMP records.
FMP aims at keeping the complete record range in stock. This is an extremely
arduous undertaking with an underlying sense of responsibility for the
musicians and the general public. We would no longer be able to reconstruct
the sound of many of the fundamental stages of development of European
improvised music if it were not for FMP's record productions. The careers
of many individual performers, Peter Brötzmann to name but one, have
been so comprehensively recorded on FMP records that one can follow the
otherwise sketchy pattern of improvisation over a period of many years.
FMP's tape archives are an invaluable fund of documents. However, even
if someone did have the time to sit and listen to every one of FMP's recordings,
he would have a hard job getting everything into perspective. Before he
even started he would have to consult the archives of Incus, ICP, BVHAAST,
Bead, Matchless Records, Sound Aspects, Hat Hut, Intakt, Creative Works,
Po Torch, Nato, Leo, Enja and ECM etc. Then, even more important, he would
have to realise that improvisations is by nature a moment, often isolated
event. As I said before, FMP places its hopes in pieces which complement
Long term effects cannot be predicted. Some things seem to be
of no consequence but then turn up again as feedback when you would least
expect it. The effect records can have is often similar to that of a message
in the bottle. Last year I met a man from Japan who could cite all the
artists on FMP records complete with recording data. Some time ago when
I visited a friend in Leningrad - and at that time it was almost impossible
to obtain records from the West there - I found that he was able to sketch
the musical sequence of a number of FMP releases more accurately than
some of the musicians concerned could have done. (Mind you, I also met
a West German critic who, with an undercurrent of pride and irony, declared
that he did not possess even one FMP record.)
Preconceptions have probably always badgered FMP's work. One of
the most common is the assumption that all FMP records sound the same
or similar, chaotic or scratchy, at any rate like a relict from the sixties.
These misconceptions - like other ideological fantasms - can be corrected
only via the sensual approach, in other words, by LISTENING, that is,
if they are still able to listen.
Now, at the risk of sounding apologetic, and because this article cannot
go on for ever, I will simply (but with a firm conviction) maintain the
following: The musical range of FMP's presentations and productions is
simply colossal. It is in any case larger than that of the most popular
opera and orchestra repertoires and much wider than the narrow tracks
which radio services stations follow. And, as long as one is receptive
and able to open oneself to sensual encounter, it is more adventurous,
original and pleasurable. I would like to mention just three examples
from a number of more recent releases: "Coco Bolo Nights", featuring
the guitarist and inventive genius of guitar Hans Reichel - beautifully
strange sounds which float through the night air. Or "Vorn"
featuring Rüdiger Carl on the accordion - songs and improvisations
varying from nostalgia to musical virgin territory. Or "Global Village
Suite - Improvised" featuring the alto saxophonist and flautist Danny
Davis, the violinist Take-hisa Kosugi and Peter Kowald on the bass. World
Music? Chamber music? New Music? An unanswerable question. An FMP production.
I would refer anybody who thinks this does not go far enough (and its
the depth that matters, not the extent) to "Kompositionen für
Oboe" featuring Burkhard Glaetzner or "5, die sich nicht ertragen
können" featuring the composer/instrumentalist/improvisor Vinko
Globokar. Oh yes, and then of course there is "Africa Djolé",
percussion music from Africa and "Jali Nyama" featuring the
cora-player and singer Jali Nyama from Gambia. These are isolated appearances
in the catalogues of FMP and its subsidiary label SAJ. They are, however,
neither fringe items nor slip-ups. Improvisers themselves always seek
to relate to contemporary composed music. Compare recordings featuring
the Globe Unity Orchestra, the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra, Joëlle
Léandre or Günter Christmann. As far as excursions to the
realms of ethnic music are concerned. Jost Gebers commented briefly: "They
One of FMP's merits is that if safeguards the musicians' interests in
all its productions. Jost Gebers, in reply to the question whether he
sometimes regrets no longer participating in Music: "I am still part,
but in a different way. Working intensively with a musician in the studio,
I sometimes feel as if I'm playing myself."
Consistency: is an unmistakable characteristic of FMP's work.
Being consistent may mean neglecting a lot of other things that might
turn out to be important. This neglect is sometimes even a necessity.
Quality implies selection and to a certain extent also having to do without
Continuity seems to be the magic word in musical development.
It took hundreds of years for certain patterns to emerge in the history
of European music. A type of music that evolved over eighty years ago
is still referred to as "New Music" - and rightly so. Improvised
music, as promoted and developed by FMP, is historically speaking, still
very young. However, if you use the life span of a human as a yard-stick,
you can see that it has long ceased to be just an experiment or an episode,
but has instead become a plan for a lifetime and a life's work, and remains
what it always has been: work in progress. Compared with accepted forms
of culture, improvised music is still an arte povera and most improvising
musicians are lone contenders struggling for survival. It would take more
than an anniversary to alter this and a "Ball Pompös" hadn't
been planned anyway.
From the booklet: 1969-1989 TWENTY YEARS FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION
The copyrights remain with the aforesaid sources and/or with the authors.