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


Markus Müller


It was one of those April evenings, in 1993. Outside- the smell of spring in the air, the star studded night sky, inside- the "September Band".

That day, 10.04.1993, a Saturday - it seems like only yesterday - Hans Reichel had the responsibility for the programme within the framework of the "25th. Workshop Freie Musik" of "Free Music Production". I couldn't actually say now, if it really was such a 'starry night' and if there really was that smell of spring in the air. Only, that after a Duo with Kazuhisa Uchihashi, one of the all too rare performances of the "All Daxophone Band" and the following Duo with the Korean Kommungo player Jin Hi Kim, the "September Band" played: hence"....Shelley- tell us the whole story -Hirsch, Rüdiger Carl, Accordion, clarinet and Paul-turn up the torque-Lovens"i with Hans Reichel "Guitars" and Daxophone. And then, it really did sound starlit and like spring had arrived.- even today, in my memory it still does . "If one is going to effectively pass through an open door, you must make sure that the frame is solid. This principle is simply a challenge of our perception of reality. If an organ for the perception of reality exists, and no one would refute that there's a reason for its existence, then, correspondingly, there must exist something that could be called an organ for the perception of possibility.ii

Whilst the afore mentioned, first concert of the "September Band", allowed the possibilities of Improvisation to become reality, this recording makes these possibilities even more real.
Today, after about 30 years of European Improvisation, we know, that this kind of music can intensify itself when measured against the long-term co-operation between the musicians. The "Schlippenbach Trio" here, once again, could serve as an example. The "September Band" has the advantage, that although it has been in existence for only two years, some of the musicians have known each other for a long time in different musical contexts and that this wealth of experience can be heard every single moment.
Rüdiger Carl and Paul Lovens go back a long way, as far as 1974 ("Hamburg '74", Globe Unity Orchestra & Choir of the NDR-Broadcast, FMP 0650), in 1978, Hans Reichel and Rüdiger Carl recorded the, one could say, now legendary "Buben" (FMP 0530), and - finally - Lovens, Reichel and Shelley Hirsch (and others) have improvised together in "X-Communication" (FMP CD 33). This cross section of playing experience, the "September Band", was founded on the initiative of Hans Reichel on the occasion of the above mentioned "Workshop", and at this point, although working within a definite framework, has, above all, enough of a sense of what's possible, in order to achieve that fascinating degree of intuitively structured Improvisation in a way never heard before.
First of all, this music quite obviously contradicts the usual categorisations and prejudices that Improvised Music is too often subjected to (listeners who have known Hans Reichel and e.g. the "COWWS-Quintet" with Rüdiger Carl, for a long time will not be surprised). The three instrumentalists use the full spectrum of the extended musical language including noise; through the use of an - at times surprising and in the best sense entertaining rhythmical approach - this spectrum is structured into explicitly scenic impressionistic musical moods (Paul Lovens shuffling brush work, Rüdiger Carl with minimalistic-accordion and Hans Reichel on the Daxophone in half time). Shelley talks, sings along (depending on your listening experience also this can be more or less than stunning); her "Songlines", short stories, associative hypertext-hints, a sudden "Derrida", a sudden "Bataille" and those unique "Truisms" (courtesy Jenny Holzer), those truisms like ".....When you come from the South, you smell a different way than when you come from Brooklyn....", which give the music more than just a semblance of narrative and, in unison with the music, a film-like quality. Shelley Hirsch relies, to a great extent on her fund of "poesie automatique", or at least it seems like that on first listening, and only from time to time uses her noise-making and instrument-imitating scat.
Through the interplay between the rhythmic elements of the music and the associative forward moving, i.e. linear developing texts of Shelley Hirsch, an exceptional musical form develops, which is fundamentally different from the, at times, all too uniform sequences of concentration and relaxation found in free improvised music. I had the feeling of listening to a series of particular, but, within themselves, indefinitely linked radio plays, a kind of collection of short stories, in which certain protagonists appear, again and again, but always in different places, in different contexts. The changing between the known and the unknown can after a while give rise to the well-known "Lindenstraße-addict-syndrome": you always have to know how it's going to go on. And it's always at that moment when the listener thinks he has that familiar feeling, the music is ready to conquer the next "terra incognita". That familiar scene: the sumptuous lawn in the front garden, the unrelenting garden sprinkler, the white painted garden railings, the proud father with his electric lawnmower, suddenly plummets down to the perspective of a rove beetle in a grass jungle. The whole thing interlocking as in a David Lynch film.
The music develops a series of hooks, and strangely enough, on repeated hearing, keeps developing different tendrils, small musical vignettes, which grip the surface attention of the listener, so that the Improvisation gives the impression of a medley of songs. At that moment that you think you can whistle along with your own song, your perception of the music suddenly shifts somewhere different and new and a till now unperceived detail suddenly takes on a key role. Thus one connects the music with a kind of Vaudeville-glamour, where the traces and details every one of which telling its own story alternate between blinding spotlights and glistening tinsel. Shelley Hirsch becomes a "chanteuse extraordinaire", who absolutely doesn't regrette rien, and the music is like the lapping of the waves about a quay-side bollard. The normal role of the instrument is relinquished in favour of the naturally continuous change of the seasons documented in slow motion. That means the music continually shifts itself both horizontally and vertically; foreground becomes background and vice versa. The developing interference patterns change step. The soundscape is in motion. The developing motives obey the laws of Improvisation, each musician tells his own story, and develops it in unison with the collection of stories provided by his fellow musicians. Shelley Hirsch's voice may appear to be in the foreground to begin with, since we tend anyway to hear the voice first, on account of our conditioning. Only that in this case we sometimes hear a Daxophone instead of a voice. But it is not just the voice but also the instruments that play about with our perception- and recognition faculties. The voice: through the kaleidoscope of dialects and patter introduced by Shelley Hirsch, so that you soon know that you only think you know what it's all about. The instruments: through a "typical" Hans Reichel scale, a "typical" Paul Lovens-roll, a "typical" Rüdiger Carl chord suddenly becoming a quotation from their own musical history turning into quotations intentionally selected from another different musical history. And with that, I mean that the previously mentioned, continuously changing spaces, in which the music appears, attach themselves to continuously changing references to the sounds of this world. Like a flash in the dark you imagine yourself hearing Joe Jones or Jimmy Guiffre or a Daxophonebaby over the sounds of Gamelan. At least the possibility seems to appear from behind each and every recess of reality. These possibilities are what makes this music such a treat.

as I described it in Jazzthetik 6/93

as described by Robert Musil in "Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften", Hamburg 1987, S. 16

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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