Bert Noglik (1989)


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 before.

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 Music Workshop.

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 more slowly."

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, organisation..."

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 of persuasion.

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 or slander.

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 each other.

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 improvise too."

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 certain things.

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.

Translation:Margaret Neuendorf

From the booklet: 1969-1989 TWENTY YEARS FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION

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