FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 2008

FMP CD 130

Bert Noglik


Moments of Magic

Dance has always fired his imagination. The physicality, the lightness, the logic of the natural movement. In every culture of the world, Cecil Taylor says, music connects with dance. With only one exception: the European classic. Taylor’s work does not deal with rediscovering the body; it assumes its existence from the start.

Akademie der Künste, July 8 th 1990: Rustling and rattling in the background. Three musicians creeping about, a scene which turns into a ritual for a few moments. Voices communicating with each other – way beyond words. Steps which merge into a sequence of images and sounds, before the first key of the piano has been struck. From the far back of the room four dancers advance with wave-like movements.

The combination of music and dance, mirroring each other, mutual inspiration. After the rustling beginning with sparse gestures, voices and percussive sounds, the three musicians formed into the trio. Cecil Taylor interlaced short motifs into vibrating layers of sound, transforming the space into a state of suspension. William Parker instinctively created corresponding parallel- and counter-movements, while Masashi Harada on drums managed to give the whole sound a kind of airiness.

The visual elements contributed towards structuring the music. Those who were present at the time, will remember how William Parker strode around the room like a black priest, that Masashi Harada fell to the floor like a tragic Nō Theater character, that Cecil Taylor danced around the piano with small, rapid steps. Masculin energy corresponding with the female dancers. Cheryl Banks, the American dancer Taylor has often worked with, Altea Garrido from Costa Rica, Anastasia Lyras from Greece and Mexican Liliane Saldaña mirrored the tension of the musical with free expressive movements, inspiring the playing process at the same time.

And now the amazing thing: Even without the visual elements these recordings transmit that feeling of sheer physicality. The energy and the elegance of the dance element is inherent, not needing any visual form.

Cecil Taylor’s affinity to dance goes back to the early days of his youth. He mentions tap dancers like Bill Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers in the same breath as star soloists of the Bolshoi ballet and innovators of the dance theatre like Merce Cunningham. He has at times characterized his own music by comparing it to dance forms of expression. „I try to imitate the leaps of the dancers in the space on the piano“, is one of his often quoted statements. Cecil Taylor, who accompanied ballet rehearsals on the piano in his early years, has created music for productions with outstanding dancers and choreographers such as Dianne McIntyre, Heather Watts and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

The Cecil Taylor Dance Project in Berlin - Taylor as choreographer, dancer, pianist, as master of ceremonies, as poet. The most unadulterated forms of communication: body language and transmission of sounds, holistically integrated in a modern happening, a fellowship of musicians, dancers and audience, showing moments of magic. The poetic as Concitio humana. „More than anything else“, Taylor once stated, „I have always tried to be a poet“.

For the programme notes to the Dance Project in Berlin Cecil Taylor had contributed a drawing: a sequence of dance steps, as a symbol, as Mandala. The circle and the rotating as ancient symbols for the whole. Cecil Taylor’s work resists interpretation, is directed towards a sensualization of the intellect, here and now.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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