Hannes Schweiger (1999)


As time goes by. Anniversaries always tend to have that sentimental aftertaste and are, a priori, of no particular significance. It is, however, a social ritual to celebrate them. Yet the crucial thing behind every idea is the commitment and the determination. If these continue over such a long period of time, as in this case, it is still a matter demanding respect and commanding attention.

No other label has had such a direct connection with the development of European Free Music/Improvised Music over the past three decades of the late 20th century as the record label Free Music Production, FMP, which was founded in 1969. FMP has not only taken over a pioneering role regarding the production of recordings of free improvised music but also pertaining to the organization of concerts and festivals with musicians from this area. Names like Brötzmann, Kowald, Schlippenbach, Reichel and many more are inseparably connected with FMP. The concert series "Total Music Meeting" and subsequently "Workshop Freie Musik", staged since 1968 as an alternative to other star-studded mainstream Jazz events have become an essential part of the European concert scene and are regarded today as some of the most important international platforms for improvised music. The arrival of FMP also encouraged the foundation of similar initiatives all over Europe, such as ICP, BvHAAST, Incus.

But to return to record production. Originally founded as a cooperative based around the afore mentioned musicians Brötzmann, Kowald, Schlippenbach and Jost Gebers (who was still playing the bass at that time), and not without good reason roughly at the time of the European student's movement in 1968, aside from its concert activities, FMP set itself the task to act as an independent producer of recordings of European free improvised acoustic music. The lion's share of the recordings was produced during the concert performances and this principle is still upheld up to the present day. Jost Gebers, who was soon to put aside his instrument, from then on took on the combined role of FMP producer, artistic director and sound engineer. He was later joined by Dieter Hahne who was responsible for financial and organizational matters. Until today, FMP is not a record label in a traditional sense and is conceived as a non-profit organization. In 1969 the first LP with the Manfred Schoof Orchestra was released which featured nearly all the well-known free improvising musicians of that time. Its title: European Echoes. This title emphasized the initial main focus of documenting the development of European (German) Free Music. Soon collaborations with the previously mentioned organizations of similar nature and musicians all over Europe established themselves, underlining the international importance of the FMP family. One of its further major credits was that it, already back in the seventies, symbolically tore down the Berlin wall by means of the music, cultivating contact and exchanges with the uncompromising improvisers of the former German Democratic Republic publishing their music for the first time in the West. Apropos international: Contact with the American innovators was unavoidable. One of the first to join the FMP stable was Steve Lacy. Projects with Frank Wright, Noah Howard, Andrew Cyrille and others followed. These initiatives culminated in the collaboration with the phenomenon Cecil Taylor which started in 1986. To the present day, the collaboration with outstanding American personalities is a major aspect in the publication strategy of FMP, offering the possibility of independent recording productions for these musicians who had been ignored by record companies in their home country for years. The exchange Europe - America, represented by such charismatic personalities as Butch Morris, Sam Rivers, Charles Gayle, William Parker and others is documented on a vast number of CD's. The highlight so far has been the fantastic 11 CD documentation of Cecil Taylor's scholarship period in Berlin in 1988, which lasted several months. With this release, the relationship between the old and new worlds was given an entirely new meaning and dimension. This edition was awarded the 'Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik' (Critic's Award) and in 1990, Jost Gebers received the 'Certificate of Honour' for, in the words of the jury, his long-standing commitment to the production of Jazz recordings. At the end of 1991, FMP ceased the production of LP's in favour of the CD and the entire LP archive was wound up. Many of the old records are already being traded at collector's prices. Yet from time to time, depending on Gebers' assessment of the current situation, legendary recordings are re-released on CD. In the meantime, the CD catalogue contains more than 100 productions (including the second line of publications FMP OWN, which gives artists the chance to make their own productions). The possibilities of the CD strengthen even more efficiently the "Work in Progress" character of Improvised Music and FMP is also going its own aesthetic direction vis-à-vis the visual design.

There will be no pompous celebration for this anniversary. This just wouldn't be FMP's style. In all modesty they will brood over future projects and productions. All in all, we can assume that FMP, following New Movements, will continue to spoil us with Pearls - Hörmusik which is Always A Pleasure. Quite in the sense of Wie das Leben so spielt.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

from: JAZZ LIVE, Nr. 125, 1999

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