A l’arme or Alarm - read it how you like. It’s the eleventh hour. High time for Jazz verging on the outskirts of improvised, electro-acoustic and new music to free itself from its ivory-tower-esque hostility towards reality, and forge its way back into the midst of life. Creativity by itself means nothing at all, if it bears no relation to the real world yet proudly works its way along the coordinates of its own framework. Alarm, to arms, we return to daily life at full throttle!
There’s no better place than Berlin to burst open the cocoon of an entire scene whose self-absorbance is misunderstood as innovative. This city functions like a giant boiler, where new things come to life nearly every week. It is a turntable that grows within and without, an incessantly pressurised vessel that set’s free energy through its numerous valves. A place, whose frantic lack of history encourages to always look ahead. Peoples, listen to the signals, here and now!
The A l’arme festival unites musicians from four continents. Some won’t simply rest on having created unprecedented impulses thirty, forty years ago. Others have unearthed their opportune idiom only recently. It would be tedious to search for the commonalities of father and son Brötzmann, Ken Vandermark, Phil Minton, Keiji Haino, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Christof Kurzmann or Irène Schweizer. For what connects these and other artists performing at the festival is less their stylistic compatibility and mutual past projects. It is their attitude - An imperative, driven by radical individualism, to not simply speak-out, but to intervene and stir things up, over and over again.
Art is always that which we perceive it to be. A sensuous experience facilitated by an optimised combination of vision and craftsmanship. In this regard, the A l’arme festival is not too different from other Jazz festivals, not even from introspective medleys of traditional music. It is about something that is often taken for granted, yet shouldn't be. But wanting to defy all conventions is more easily said than done. Where to go, when all other positions have already been taken? At this festival, all musicians who sound the alarm are fused by their conviction that there is still something left to say, which has not thus been stated before.
Those who attend the A l’arme festival must be prepared for obtrusiveness. For only he who has the courage to persistently penetrate himself and his surroundings will be heard in the inescapable cacophony of global sound. After all, this isn’t about staged media pop stars. This is about another worldwide active, but less promotionally effective, open collective of lone warriors who need to defy the oppressive uniformity of our sound reality without turning a blind eye. And this is exactly what it comes down to. The era of internal emigration of people who are ignorant towards avant-garde is, thank goodness, finally, irrevocably over. The time has come to take the offensive and become audible in the urban realm. Alarm! Or as you like it, A l’arme!
Wolf Kampmann: freelance Journalist
(Jazz thing, Jazzthetik, Reclams Jazzlexikon)
Translation: Jennie Konrad