FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 1989-2004


Wolfgang Burde


The three of them have been playing together since 1970 - the saxophonist Evan Parker, the percussionist Paul Lovens, and the pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, who gave the ensemble its name, SCHLIPPENBACH RIO During the past twenty years the ensemble has altered the vocabulary of its musical language, has worked at it and strengthened it. But, despite all the changes, in one thing the musicians remained the same: The expIosive atmosphere, the way in which the very presence of these first-rate musicians gets under our skin, and their phenomenal intercommunication throughout the improvisation process. Recently Alexander von Schlippenbach looked back at the past twenty years:

"To date very littIe has changed for us as far as the way in which we play and perform is concerned. Apart from the obligatory festivals, a few tours for the Goethe Institute, and the occasional more notabIe appearances in concerts run by the FMP, it was usually the small jazz clubs with their own distinctive atmosphere reminiscent of the olden days which we chose to frequent, year after year, traveIling around by car on jaunts which sometimes couId only be described as dare-devil. In proud possession of the new technology and with a lot of secret ammunition we invented ourselves, we produced a veritable turmoil of sound on stages such as these. This may have thoroughIy dispIeased some of the worthy listener, bat over tee years id developed a greater coherence, and the musical form improved. These live performances in front of an audience were of fundamental importance in the development of our music al style. In these years and under the given circumstances we learned - with a kind of "take it or leave it" attitude - to "carry on playing" i. e. to project spontaneously developed musical ideas in a rough and carefree manner, and to produce long stretches of unceasing arcs of tension, balance and correlation without empIoying themes, changes, lyrical forms, pre-given metres and tempi. FREE JAZZ in the true sense of the word, and nothing but. Right from the word go we worked cIosely with the Free Music Production. This was of course of primary importance in putting the group on the map, and one result is that the various phases of the group's history are recorded on a number of LP's and CD's. I'd like to take this opportunity to once again express my thanks to good old Jost."

PHYSICS, the titIe of their latest work - physics, technical achievements or the association between certain materials and their law of physics. We probably aren't meant to take the name too literally, However, the law of physics of "The Coefficient of linear Expansion" can, figurativeIy speaking, also be applied to contemporary musical art, can be a decisive characteristic of the musical process. It shouId be emphasised that the first Free Jazz process of our work is not only remarkabIe for its expansion in time, but also because of the great correlation between the 3 instrumentalists, because of tee way in which the listen to one another and immediately transpose what they have heard and successfully continue it.

"The Coefficient of linear Expansion" is an exceIlent exampIe of such consistent musical endeavours and how they nevertheless manage to open themselves to new ideas.

The first 15 minutes of the improvisation process begin with powerful accents set by all 3 instruments from which individual 3 figures emerge. Schlippenbach joins such figures together to create larger melodic arches, and the sound of the saxophone with its virtuoso figurations meanders in and out of the ever increasing drive of pianistic creation. Paul Lovens uses colourful accents to underline the dialogue between the two instruments, or takes up specific ground bass elements of the piano. A second fully-blown rhapsodical, "timeless'' process folIows, a momentous widemeshed dialogue between the piano and the saxophone. Lovens adds colourful accents and, after a longer piano monologue, goes on to hold a musical dialogue with Alexander von Schlippenbach.

This superb balance between improvised informality, between associative abundance and a consistent instrumental virtuosity closely linked with certain material constellations is also a feature of "Das Drehmoment". Sometimes we really do feel as if we were trapped in a time-vice which whirls us around and around in a fantastic manner.

"In contrast to Derek Bailey's theory that true improvisation is only possible when musicians who don't know one another play together for the first and last time, it is my opinion that, especially when a group of improvisers do play together over a long period of time, the challenge and requirements can be set higher and higher. It is the vision of a process of crystallisation in which the materials concerned can be hardened and refined as required by continual meeting down, destillation, purification and polishing (Schlippenbach). "

Translation: Margaret Neuendorf

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