Paris Transatlantic: Selected Letters to the Editor

Robert D. Rusch writes:

Your comments on the CIMP 312 show a fundamental lack of understanding of what we do when you write "but I wonder if a slightly flashier drum sound might not have helped matters a little". To that I say to you: tell it to the drummer: "Mr. Valsamis I don't like your drum coloring, please make it flashier. Please sound like someone else.." If Peter tells you that what we recorded does not sound like what he played then gripe to us but I doubt he will. It's the way he played and we assume what he wanted and it is what we recorded and reproduced as true as possible. You might also read our statement of purpose found on every one of the 230 recordings we have issued over the ten years on CIMP: we record the music, we do not engineer the sound and dynamics to your artistic fantasy or others. If I sound a bit pissed it is because after 10 years I am tired of poorly informed reviewers writing reviews that either miss the point or/and misinform. We are not ECM. We are not the silent member of a band manipulating the playing/solos/dynamic and sound/coloring of the musicians and we are not Verve, Hat or any other label. In the same way Mr. Valsamis is not Buddy Rich, Blakey, Han, Elvin or any other drummer. We do what we do and as we state it. Listen.
PS I've been sitting with this review since Feb 1 and other than to use it as a prime example of the above malady of "critics", I figured I'd ignore it, but feel free to extract some of the above for my redress in your Letters Page and feel free to yell back at me
.

How flattering to learn that my writing has been considered as a "prime example" of something, even if it's something you disapprove of. (Funny, Marco Eneidi and Lisle Ellis seemed to be remarkably happy with this particular review, which did after all end with the following sentence: "This is great stuff and copies should be sent post-haste to every major festival promoter throughout the civilised world." Sigh. There's no pleasing some folks.) This isn't the place for yet another polemical battle on the CIMP recording manifesto (though thanks for implying I haven't even read it – almost as insulting as your inverted commas), an aesthetic I respect even if I'm not inclined to agree with, but you know darn well that the technology exists both in the studio itself and in post-production / mastering software that could make a rusty hubcap sound like a Zildjian Avedis Medium Thin Crash 16". You need only compare the record you made of two good friends of mine, Jean-Luc Guionnet and Edward Perraud (Heur, CIMP 259), to Pierre-Henri Thiebault and François Dietz's recording of them in the group Hubbub – coming soon to a Victoriaville Festival near you! – on the two Matchless albums Hoop Whoop and Hoib, to appreciate that intelligent and sensitive engineering and post-production also has its place in the universe. And there's no need for the Mr.Valsamis-is-not-Buddy-Rich argument either, nor the final imperative with its implication that I don't (listen). Because I do. Very carefully.—DW.


Hervé Gudin (Wiwili) writes:

Monsieur le chroniqueur, Il faut savoir que parmi les trois personnes assassinés Joël Fieux était un ami d'enfance. Les quelques références sur cette pochette ne sont sont qu'un simple clin d'oeuil. Je tiens aussi à vous dire que je fous éperdument des anniversaires et commémorations de toutes sortes.Mais d'ailleurs pourquoi faudrait il fêter les événements tous les 10, 20, 50 ou 100 ? vous aimez peut-être les chiffres ronds? Pas très original tous çà. D'un point de vu technique, je tiens à vous rappeler que pour le "Silence des pantoufles" c'est Hervé Gudin qui est aux guitares donc la délicatesse de Jean-Sébastien Mariage c'est pas dans ce morceau! De toute manière, on s'éclate comme des fous sur scène. Dernier concert le public était top et on a vendu une trentaine de disques. Pas très originale de votre part de citer the Ex, tout le monde le sais que c'est un bon groupe mais personnellement je préfère Rage Again The Machine. Et comme disait un certain Franck il y a quelques années les journaliste de rock sont des gens qui ne savent pas écrire mais ils le font pour des gens qui ne savent pas lire. Au revoir monsieur le chroniqueur. RV

Enjoying the luxury of being able to bask in the anonymity of "Mr Reviewer", a few points. "Personne" is feminine, there's no "u" in oeil, certainly no "c" in Frank (strange French habit.. they do it with "steack" too - annoying though: please spell people's names correctly or they'll start doing the same to you, Harvey) and we've lost the "st" in Rage Against The Machine (and that's the first and last time they get a mention on this site, matey). Oh, but 'tis churlish to take you to task for little spelling mistakes and fautes de frappe, especially since I'm incapable of identifying the guitar playing of someone I've recorded an album with.. shows you what I know, doesn't it? And who need reviews at all when you can sell 30 albums at a gig? For the record, the Zappa quote is incomplete.. it was people who can't write (thanks for that Hervé) writing for people who can't read about people who can't play. - Mr Reviewer

 

From Petri Kuljuntausta

Dear Dan,
I read the July version of the Paris Transatlantic Magazine and your review of Airaksinen's new CD in which you wrote that you're interested to know more about Terry Riley's visits to Finland in 1960's. I recently wrote a history book about early Electronic music and what happened in Finland especially during the 1950s and 1960s. You can find out more about the subject at http://www.kiasma.fi/on-off/kirja_en.html and http://www.kiasma.fi/on-off/essay.html
After Terry had toured in Europe as a member of Ann Halprin's Dancers Workshop Company, he came to Finland for the first time in the summer of 1963. Together with Ken Dewey (also a member of A.Halprin's group) and Otto Donner they organised several avant-garde happenings in Finland. I have a copy of the plan (graphic score) for the street happening 'Street Piece Helsinki', by Dewey-Riley-Donner, 1963, where is included Terry's composition (in circular stave, like in early Keyboard Studies) as part of the performance. I gave copies to some musicologists (John Richardson, Keith Potter) who have researched minimal music in depth but they knew nothing about the piece. Perhaps it was composed 'on the spur of the moment' and then forgotten, or maybe it's just Terry, who said to me "I would love to tell you my Finnish brother something about those days, but the problem is that I remember nothing." Obviously there are few reasons why this is so... those wild years of the 60s!
Anyway, Terry took part on making here, in Helsinki, a street happening ('Street Piece Helsinki', 1963), radio happening ('Studio Sleeper', 1963) and also TV happening ('Pasila Piece', 1963). During his stay in Finland, he also visited in Russia, then he went to Sweden and there he contacted composer Folke Rabe (they are still in touch). Morton Subotnick told me that when Terry went back to USA (at the end of 1963), Mort proposed him a concert at San Francisco Tape Music Center. He should compose that kind of piece that the composers around the SFTMC, could (technically) perform. Terry was excited about the idea and this was the start for 'In C', which they performed in November 1964, as a part of the SFTMC's monthly concert series. Steve Reich was one of the players and was very excited about the piece. His concert in early 1965 was when he realised first time his early phase shifting ideas.
Terry was also invited to make a studio recording session for Finnish Radio YLE in May 1967. I met and interviewed Reijo Jyrkiäinen, who recorded the session (he also recorded John Cage and David Tudor session in 1964 at YLE. Their version of 'Atlas Eclipticalis' will be released later this year). Unfortunately the 1967 Riley tape was erased after the broadcast, but after my research it seems so that the 32' long piece (titled in radio archive as 'Piano Piece 1967') was a version of his 'Keyboard Study'. Minimal music before the term was even invented! His Swedish concerts have been released by Organ of Corti, but Gary Todd's accident has cancelled future Riley CD projects. Terry also visited in Finland as a member of Pandit Pran Nath's group in 1970. I hope this is of interest to your readers. For me it has been exciting to research all these projects and activities that happened decades ago - now the guys are 60-75 years old, I realise that the details must be collected now before it's too late! If you want to know more, don't hesitate to contact me: petriear@nic.fi all the best, Petri

From Ellery Eskelin

Dear Editors,
Thanks for the mention of my DVD "On the Road with..." in the June 2004 issue of Paris Transatlantic. I appreciate the attention however some comments are in order. I don't understand why Stephen Griffith would be "surprised" to find that my self made, self released DVD does not rival a full blown commercial production of a concert performance by someone like David Byrne. For one thing, my DVD is a tour diary, not a concert performance and that is made abundantly clear from reading the text on the DVD case. Mr. Griffith mentions that my camcorder was "seemingly" thrown in on a whim...well, that's exactly what it was...and that's exactly what it says in the very first sentence of the text on the back of the DVD..."On a last minute whim while packing to go on the road, Ellery Eskelin decided to bring along his camcorder and a bagful of blank tapes". So why the "unpleasant surprise"? Should anyone expect a spit polished extended concert film from that description?
As for whether the views of the band are "interesting" or not I suppose is merely subjective. I feel that one of the best things offered in this video is the proximity to the group and spontaneity of the action. I edited with the idea of offering as much variety as possible in the placement of the camera given what it is, a homemade video. The viewer is treated to a variety of interesting (to my mind) camera placements that show the band from front, side, above and behind as well as practically right in our laps at some moments.
One may feel free to criticize the fact that it's a homemade product, but homemade is exactly what the video is advertised as being. And personally I think that offers many advantages even as there are obvious limitations. For the same reasons that I often write my own liner notes and occasionally publish articles I feel that the musicians' perspective makes this project worth sharing. Otherwise I wouldn't have invested so much of my own time and money into producing and manufacturing it.
I originally considered releasing a longer program but I wanted to be sure that what I was presenting was engaging on every level, not one in which the viewer would have to forgive the less than professional sound or video quality in order to try and guess what the experience was actually like. Hence the reason that there are no songs presented in their entirety (although there is no shortage of music on this DVD). I found that the program spoke much better when presented as exactly what it was...a self made tour diary. There's no pretense that this is a professional film...and that's what makes it work, for me.
As for the solo appearances (which are clearly mentioned in the notes as being the backbone of the film) I think they offer a distinct plus...something that heretofore has not been particularly well documented. I've done a solo CD but Andrea has yet to do so in spite of the fact that solo performances are have been a large part of her performance output over the years. And this was Jim's first ever solo performance. I'm honored that I was able to capture it.
Mr. Griffith then used the word "jarring" to describe vocalist Jessica Constable's effect on the band. Why? Jessica has been performing with the band for some years now (not that one would know this from the program, granted) and I really wanted to document the band dynamic that has evolved with her participation over those years. It's not entirely the same dynamic as people are familiar with from our recordings but again, I feel that this offers a plus...something new. The group dynamic that folks are familiar with is certainly in evidence on the DVD but I felt there was little reason to overly reinforce what has become familiar enough to our listeners over the past ten years...time for new things, right?
So to say that the DVD "pales in compaarison to the groups' albums" strikes me as odd. That's like saying that our recorded projects offer no insight into what it's like to travel on the road. Why compare them? They are two different things. And personally I'm thrilled to be able to offer this glimpse behind the scenes, complete with new material, to our fans. Criticize it for being homespun, tell me what you liked or hated in that context but please be sure to review it on its own terms. Otherwise it's misleading.
On balance, I'm pleased that the DVD was reviewed at Paris Transatlantic and I am not as upset as my response may lead folks to believe. It's just that I've taken great pains to portray the DVD as exactly what it is and I think the reviews should take that into account. As for my lengthy response, I simply take what I do seriously enough that I feel it's important to respond to and clarify issues in the public discussion of my work. The internet has made that much easier and for that I am also thankful.

Best, Ellery Eskelin

From Gary James

I read with interest the Alan Licht piece and felt I had to comment on the "Martha Quinn" lift-out. I've heard that kind of mythic equivalence put forth as a theory by more than one downtown musician, both in conversation and interviews. I find it no more tenable than the precious elitism of high-art mavens; rather, it is the other side of the same coin, a false freedom. On the one hand, there's my bullying piano teacher, Mr. Schwartz, demanding the little second grader sit down, shut up, look straight ahead and listen to Bach, damn you...on the other, well, Stockhausen, Gloria Gaynor, Dixi Chicks and Motorhead are all in the same happy global sonic family. It's partly humorous, meant to incite, but to this reader sloppy reasoning...what we used to call slippage back in my academy days. More simply put, the great Edward Ellington said it best..."there's two kinds of music: good and bad."
Now, certainly the times are many when Branca drops the ball, and many former sidemen/women would indeed call him the bad guy. He illustrates many of the pitfalls of the second wave of minimalism, and we must also address the discrepancy between the downtown-artist-turned-composer and the true conservatory brat. Soberly put, The World Upside Down has parsecs to go to reach the levels of John Adams' chamber work (who is quite capable of embarrassing work himself). However, Glenn posits a different kind of listening. Licht quite purposely recognizes the dichotomy, tries to dissolve it and, finding he cannot, plays at going to the "other side." Linked to the pat tripe of Peter Cetera, or Richard Marx, or Billy Squier, or any of the horrid 80's vapid purveyors, the namechecking reveals itself for the device it is. However, categories and nomenclature exist for good reasons. Licht creates a relativistic argument which skirts the rather brutal realities he should know well, unless he's the beneficiary of certain never-mentioned revenue streams (the dirty laundry of many an artist). It echoes one too many interviews with Andrew W.K. I recall in passing, who really has no business being on a shelf, stage or paragraph with Licht otherwise.
The comment about the Wings gatefold speaks volumes about the transfer of data second and third-hand, though picking Wings after the Beatles smacks of wiping from back-to-front...
While it would be nice to demolish "the mainstream" and "the avant-garde" and simply combine it all, I hasten to point out there are roughly equal proportions of garbage in both, in every realm, subset, and microgenre. The Wire and Mojo cater to a certain readership, Rolling Stone another, and any 20-year-old intern can handily define why. Success has radically different measures in each: my new copy of Arne Nordheim's Listen, three years after release, is signed copy 95 out of 200, for a release that is in that odd "available-but-not-in-print" limbo...in other words, Norway's best composer can't sell even a hundred compendia of his life's work. In a perfect world, Zorn, Lucas and Ribot wouldn't have to write for TV, Bill Hooker wouldn't have to be an insurance underwriter, and Avril Lavigne would be strictly open-mike night. I prefer Shostakovich to Journey, and you can't conflate the two. I prefer AC/DC to Wingtip Sloat, for example, and it's not easy to conflate those two either...
At any rate, an obviously engaging piece...

From Christian Dergarabedian:

Hi thanks for the review of my stuff. Some info to make things clear: many people ask me why they never knew before that I was formerly in Reynols. So in case you want to know, these are facts: I am a original founder member of Reynols in April 1993 along with Alan Courtis and Roberto Conlazo. The original name, BURT REYNOLDS ENSAMBLE, was suggested by Conlazo and we played under that name until the end of the same year when I suggested we shorten it to REYNOLS, to avoid legal problems with the American actor (not that this ever happened). I was part of the group until the beginning of 1995, and I consider my contribution essential. Courtis and I had played as a duo of tricky-noise called Nuégado de Serpientes since 91, and when we were tried to develop into another sound I got in touch with Conlazo and invited him to play with us. At that time I initiated a small tape label called Esquenoso, where we released, among other things, three Reynols albums (the first as B.R. Ensamble, and the last as trio tom with Miguel Tomasín.) Yes, I also where there when we first met Pauline Oliveros and played for her. At that time we used to play as a trio with different instrumentation (two guitars and one synth; minimarshall feedback in public squares, trombone, trumpet and cornet and found objects, etc etc). Then Conlazo presented us to Tomasín, with whom I also played live until the beginning of 1995. At that time I was really not satisfied with the music we were playing (which was little bit louder but not different in essence and spirit from what people know today) but really pleased to play with Tomasín. We were a provocative and scandalous live show and got recognition from the press. But sometimes group members behave like couples.. I cant deny I was getting bored, and confrontations arose as in any place were humans beings coexist. So one day they just didnt answer the phone anymore. Since then we haven't been in touch... I was really dissapointed when I noticed that they'd erased me completely from the group history. I'm aware that with the departure of someone a different era obviously begins but that doesnt mean making people "dissapear". I'm convinced that the experimental music scene need not only to bring outer limit experiences but first an open attitude from musicians beyond music. (Even more so coming from Latin America were it's even harder to survive in an experimental scene out of the academic circuit!!). So this kind of feedback from them is nothing but shameful (excluding Tomasín, of course, who's not involved). I'm not looking for recognition, just making things clear. The music I make now is far in spirit from their music, but still "experimental" or whatever you want to call it. I'm happy and being true to myself by not continuing being part of Reynols. My way is elsewhere. Christian Dergarabedian

From Jack Wright

Thank you for the fine review of Open Wide, which opened my eyes to that recording and stimulated some questions for me. I have the tendency - not uncommon among musicians - to be embarrassed about one's recordings, especially those where we're not in control of recording conditions or mastering. Adding to the embarrassment of not controlling the outcome is that I find myself today clearly playing different musics (small "m"), and I'm trying to work out what this means. Many with whom I play, as you can imagine, have a clear idea of what they should be playing and believe is an advanced form of music. Their playing reflects this, almost like left-wing politics (as I well remember), where one could be faulted for contradictions between theory and practice. And I am not one who would say, "I just live to play the music, what's in my heart and gut." No, I am stimulated by ideas, that is, by theory, and have gained considerably by allowing aesthetic questions to penetrate my playing, like, "what's the rush?" (of free jazz) "what's the energy going on here?" and "does music have to yield physical pleasure?" These questions have pushed me in directions I never would have considered otherwise--for this I am indebted to Bhob Rainey and other Boston players, more recently by Michel Doneda (after two recent periods of intense playing with him in the States, together with Tatsuya Nakatani). As a result I can say I am "hearing" more, and can see a difference between hearing and listening, the advantages of the former over the latter. I am doing something that is fresh, that clears the air.
Usually this kind of playing puts me in the background, the space of the student, and that's OK, necessary, and I like not having to take the heroic posture of the free jazz reedman. But as time goes on I find myself taking the risk of bringing in some of what I have been doing in the past. Not directly but transformed by this different energy, under a new light and out of context. A burst of physicality (Michel himself is quite a physical player, though not in the free jazz sense of constant movement), a boulder rather than a pebble thrown into the pool. So in this kind of playing I am clearly making advances, playing more forcefully, allowing my distinctions from the masters of this music to arise, and being less afraid to assert my energies. I have to admit, though, sometimes I feel like a bull in a china shop. I have to imagine that the others want me to be "myself" and play sounds that sometimes break the mood. And risk going against the grain of the aesthetic. Maybe even pushing others in some direction they haven't imagined.
So what about my free jazz "side"? Well, there are clearly people who prefer that side, and don't want to hear any of the more spatial playing I've been focusing on. Also, there are those on the other side who consider me only a clone of Rainey, as you suggest, and really a free jazzer who's futilely trying to be hip. They'd rather hear the original. I think I've lost more listeners by playing this way than gaining, but of course that's par for the course if you venture out into new territory.
Behind these judgements is a common notion that each person has "a" music that is a reflection of his or her musical personality, and it is a kind of sin to violate this; ultimately futile. This is the basis for categorization, and the compartmentalization of the music industry that people are always decrying. This notion of course usually appears to be valid, for the desire for consistency among players and fans is very strong. It is hard to build a following (and gain the reputation that makes getting gigs and money and recordings easier) when one can't be counted on to deliver the same (or improved) product. Look at Coltrane, radio stations celebrate his birthday with hours of recordings and leave out his later stuff as evidence of a kind of craziness; it just doesn't make sense to include it. People can't abide confusing, mixing up two things that seem to go in opposite directions. If you're on both sides, can hear both musics and let them interpenetrate, then you are the traitor twice over, and can't be trusted.
So we have the music wars, just as I saw them in the early 80's, often in the States there is some validity to abstracting them as black versus white avant-garde. As for me, I see myself now as then on both sides; my desire for consistency is always being undermined from within. I'm attracted to both, inspired by both.
But apart from listener (including other musicians) reaction, what about my own feelings about what I'm doing; what about the embarrassment? Well, I think the only way I can extricate myself from this is to remember and validate the protean self, the multi-dimensional, the polytheistic, against the more popular and common monotheism of both sides. Either/Or replaced by Both/And. The polymorphous love of what is sometimes called sound, sometimes called music. Embrace the confusion and refuse to choose. And share the gifts of side, each musical direction, with the other.
Thanks, Dan, your review has certainly born fruit,

- Jack

Cornelius Correction (happy ending)

I'm emailing you concerning a falsity in your cornelius review of the excellent album "Point". It concerns the last paragraph of your review:
" Stop the music," intone the voices, but even the final piano note is subtly prolonged by technology and complemented by the synthesized flutter of an old vinyl run-out groove. You can't help but smile. Basil Fawlty's plastic flowers, by the way, were being ironed.

This is inaccurate— the correct technique employed is far more ingenious! Keigo hits a note on the piano, and then proceeds to turn up the volume fader very very slowly, so that when the piano not is fading out, the resonance of the note can still be heard. After a while you even begin to hear the subtle over-tones of the piano (i.e other notes at very high frequencies such as 4ths and 5ths), and finally you hear Keigo's chair squeaking, and his finger slip off the fader to hit the 'stop' button. And so finishes off one of the greatest albums in history! ^_^

-Ryan Bull

Consternation in Canada

Dan,
First I want to say that I find the ParisTransAtlantic site really great. I did, however, want to convey my consternation regarding Nate Dorward's Victo review. Having reviewed the last 15 Victo festivals, including this last one, Nate's review is pretty stilted and pretty much misses the boat on a number of levels.
1) Judging a festival of 24 concerts by just attending 7 -- Nate either didn't have the time or the resources to attend everything, but he makes blanket statements about the festival based on having attended less than 1/3 of the concerts. And he ended up missing most of the highlights at that. I wonder what his review would have been like if he had attended the following 7 that occurred this year instead: - Oren Ambarchi/Tim Hecker - Xavier Charles/Diane Labrosse/Martin Tetreault/Kristoff K. Roll - Michel Doneda/Kazue Sawaï/Le Quan Ninh/Kazuo Imai/Tetsu Saitoh - Joelle Leandre/Joel Ryan. Throw in the Leimgruber/Demierre/Phillips; the Brotzmann/Parker or Neumann/Krebs; and cover the Zorn Cobra instead of Electric Masada (which wasn't brilliant but had plenty of moments) and you might end up with a wildly different impression.
2) Judging the fest for booking the same names -- No doubt that there is a heavy leaning toward Zorn/Frith/Patton/Sonic Youth. But hell, these are the folks that sell out shows. Keep in mind that Michel Levasseur has also booked Michel Doneda, Otomo Yoshihide, John Butcher, and Conrad Bauer quite a number of times each over the years as well. And all things considered, he isn't pawning off k.d. lang or Elvis Costello as jazz acts. Don't get me wrong, Electric Masada SUCKED and there were plenty of mis-steps this year, as always. And frankly, when I first saw only the big-name shows (which Nate tended to cover) I almost bagged heading up. But the wins far outweighed the losses.
I'm not flag waving for Victo, and have nothing at stake here, but a more balanced review would certainly be in order. I don't know if you get Cadence magazine, but my review of the fest will be in the July issue. If you don't get it, let me know and I'll forward a copy of my review. Please feel free to forward this along to Nate.
—Regards, Michael Rosenstein

I think the blanket statement you have in mind is "While improvised music is one of the things Victo does best (I'm not commenting here on the rock and electronic music at Victo, since those were mostly on the days I didn't attend), little took place this year of real substance even within those generic confines." Generalizations these may be, but does this portrait really not have a grain of truth? Most of my observations didn't require my attendance at every event--they can be verified with reference to this year's program & from the handy list of the line-ups of previous festivals provided. I take it you don't object to my list of the kinds of acts or genres rarely or never seen at the festival (I originally had a few footnotes spelling out my analysis of the programming in more detail, but they were edited out of the final report). I didn't attend the whole thing because I was paying my own way: most regular festival reviewers have press passes and tend to be philosophical about the hit/miss ratio (one told me that he thought a 40% success rate was pretty much par for the course); I didn't have that luxury, of course, & am in any case less forgiving of unevenness. If I'm going to put myself out then there's only so much unevenness I can take smiling. To see the good acts you name would have required seeing tons of other less promising stuff; this is one reason I've avoided Victoriaville in past years, because events I wanted to see were widely dispersed in the schedule.
I never suggested that Victo lacked for interesting performers, though many, many others who on the face of things would fit perfectly seamlessly into the program are rarely or never seen there, & it seems to me that the juxtaposition of blockbusters with genuinely interesting performers is a framework that's a recipe for frustration. Levasseur's not pawning off lang or Costello as jazz, as various jazz festivals in Canada do, but the idea that something as stoopid & retro as Electric Masada can be fielded on a festival program supposedly devoted to the cutting edge of contemporary music is just about as depressing.
I'll look forward to your Cadence review, Michael. The one formal report I've seen so far has been depressingly ecstatic (the report from DMG--no surprise given that the author also wrote the program notes to Electric Masada in this year's program), while most of the other privately expressed opinions I've heard have ranged from on the whole positive to about as tepid as mine -even from those who saw the whole event. - —ND

Clive Bell writes..

Dear Dan,
Just read your review in Paristransatlantic of Taku/Brett Larner album. I'm interested in your current views on Taku Sugimoto - I just had an interesting talk with him in Tokyo. You wrote about the CD: "Now that reductionism seems to have become a fully-fledged idiomatic music in its own right, it's beginning to lose the one thing that makes improvised music enjoyable ­ its capacity to surprise; recent offerings from Sugimoto, Toshi Nakamura, Sachiko M and their newfound European sparring partner Annette Krebs are, in their own way, every bit as predictable as Evan Parker albums." And: "Elsewhere though, this fragile music of tiny gestures and barely audible sounds seems to be dangerously close to refining itself out of existence." But you seem to see Radu Malfatti as bringing off the same thing successfully. Do you still see this music that way?
Best, Clive Bell

I wouldn't exclude Radu from the criticism, though I don't like the word "criticism" as a word, as such. One of the greatest thrills of my life was playing with Radu, both his written music (with Fred Blondy we did the premiere of "L'Instant Inconnu" for violin & piano) and improvising. I'm sure the concert at Porgy & Bess featured in the Improvised Music From Japan book+CD was great to watch and play, but I found the recording of it frankly rather dull. Maybe I'm just nostalgic for the melodic Taku of 1997. The crux of the matter is the issue of "stagnation" that Radu's interview addresses: "rules emerged".. it seems to me that there are now certain things that one is most definitely NOT supposed to do when playing this kind of music, and that whole idea of certain reactions being "unacceptable" seems to me to be somehow not what improvising is all about —DW

The stagnation issue is clearly important. Taku says he won't play at Off Site any more because of this. He accuses them of avoiding challenge, and running "a tiny academy of the Onkyo-order." His recording with Radu on the Improv Mus From Japan mag CD really shocked me. It goes back to the concept of the CD as a document of an event, rather than the CD as a artistic item in itself. The old improv tradition of course - the anti-pleasure idea that we have a responsibility to document the music, and that's about all recordings are good for. Everyone these days releases as much stuff as they possibly can, so critics get jaded faster, but I feel it's unfair to criticise a musician for releasing too many CDs. It's the critic's job to point out the really good ones from the run of the mill. For example, Annette Krebs' solo album on Fringes strikes me as a satisfying art piece conceived from the ground up as a CD, whereas a lot of others are just documents of live events —CB

Donna Summer writes..

Hello! Thanks so much for the great review of my album! Will post it to my website immediately! Really love the angle you took with this one. Easily the strangest thing about putting out an album is to see how different people consider the same object differently. Your reviews is easily one of the best, thanks.
—DS

Glad you liked it...we really enjoyed the album.

 

 




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