Markus Müller (1994)

25 Years Free Music Production
25 Years "The Living Music" 1)

It's hard to believe, no matter how hard we try. We still can't possess Time or Music. The Company still exists, and, for a quarter of a century, has been producing, what Alexander von Schlippenbach has called "The Living Music". Looking back, one tends to glorify and take for granted what it may have meant, this 'miracle': "in the midst of capitalism and in the context of capitalism, to work in opposition to capitalism...." 2) over 25 years. In fact, such strokes of genius are usually based on continuous donkey work within the bureaucratic mire of everyday life.

After the "Total Music Meeting" in 1992, and the "Workshop Freie Musik" in 1993 had celebrated their 25 year old existence, "Free Music Production", the actual driving force behind these two events, comes up for its 25th round in 1994. It started in 1969 with Manfred Schoof's Orchestra and the "European Echoes" (FMP 0010). However, the greeting cards, and the back-slapping and hand-shaking seem out of place, on the occasion of a twenty-fifth anniversary, (especially an enjoyable one), acting as a signpost and a glimmer of hope in the Time that just slips away through our fingers. Over the last 25 years, "FMP", as a guiding light, pointing things in the right direction, has found itself in an oblique relationship with regards to fashion and 'Zeitgeist'. The unusual thing about "FMP" cannot be fully characterized by just listing the well-known 'milestones'. The continuous documentation of the emancipation of contemporary European Improvisation (including the former DDR!) or the collaboration of Cecil Taylor with the European Avantgarde documented by the production of the now legendary 11 piece CD-box: "Cecil Taylor in Berlin '88". The key to the success of the "Indie Oldie" is much more based on the fact that "FMP" (originally founded as a musicians' cooperative, later on developing into a kind of more practical 'instrument', through the work of Jost Gebers), has, with great passion, persistence and competence, accomplished the building up of a network. This network has created a dynamic framework, where music can develop itself according to its own aestetic principles, as independent as possible from market forces. And, in this way, "FMP" has been able to present a much broader catalogue of music than any other company in the music business.

"Africa Djolé's" (FMP CD 1) "Trommel Tour de Force", an inspiring rhythmic 'basic research' has its obvious place next to "Shanghaied on Tor Road" (FMP CD 46), the subtle, roguishly entertaining "first Operetta using nothing but a Daxophon" by Hans Reichel. The best "new music" from the "King Übü Örchestrü" (Binaurality, FMP CD 49) opens the ears and affects one's perceptual habits in a very different, but nevertheless similar way to the best "new music" of the freely improvised powerplaying of Charles Gayle, William Parker and Rashied Ali (Touchin' On Trane, FMP CD 48). Evan Parker's journeys of discovery into the soundscapes of the saxophone, and the modern studio techniques (Process and Reality, FMP CD 37), rivet one's attention through their transparency, Alexander von Schlippenbach's "Berlin Contemporary Orchestra" (FMP CD 61) captivates with its fresh new compact approach to the big band sound.

To me, the documentation of the musical development seems to be even more important than this multi sidedness, which here, can only be briefly touched upon. In no other area of the Arts and Culture scene, over the past 25 years, can one experience the developments of such a fundamental and significant kind as those reflected in the "FMP" recordings.

Peter Brötzmann's step, from the classic "energy-orgy", "Machine gun" (FMP CD 24), to the by no means less energetic, often suprisingly melodic/lyrical recording of his present quartet (Die Like A Dog) characterized by an essentially typical way of group interplay, would be hard to imagine without the cooperation of "FMP", over several decades. Since "Pakistani Pomade" (1972, FMP 0110) the "Schlippenbach Trio" has grown to be THE outstanding Improvising Group of our time. "Elf Bagatellen" (FMP CD 27) recorded in 1990, is a masterpiece of multilayered musical communication in terms of both the Music and the recording techniques. And who could imagine that "Messer" (Iréne Schweizer, Rüdiger Carl, Louis Moholo, 1975, FMP 0290), masterful Free Jazz, was recorded by musicians, some of whom would, nearly 20 years later, as the Cowws Quintett (Schweizer, Carl, Oliver, Wachsmann, Wittwer) present us with a production (Grooves 'N' Loops, FMP CD 59), a rough-edged, chamber music-like, 'spacey' dancefloor hit. Whoever listens carefully, will hear, that Cecil Taylor's "FMP" recordings are 'milestones' not just for the record company. Obviously new perspectives have opened up for Taylor's playing, as well. Hans Reichel's "Wichlinghauser Blues" (1973, FMP 0150) was the basis for a unique, musically precise work of art within Improvisation, which reminds a lot of listeners of Haikus, not without reason. And Peter Kowald's duo-recordings (Duos Europa-America- Japan) are a programmatic example for the opening out of "FMP" and "its" music, across all cultural and musical boundaries.

Sidney Bechet once said: "You just can't keep the music unless you move with it. There's this mood about the music, a kind of need to be moving." 3) "FMP" makes the adventure possible: "The Living Music", still..., after 25 years! 1)

  1. Alexander von Schlippenbach: "The Living Music", FMP 0100, Rec. 24-04-69
  2. Wilhelm Liefland, according to Achim Forst: Free Music Production, Berlin 1982
  3. according to Steve Lake: Sleeve Notes for Peter Brötzmann: The März Combo Live in Wuppertal, FMP CD 47, 1993

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

from: Leaflet/Catalog, Free Music Production (FMP), 1994

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