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

FMP CD 131

Felix Klopotek


»Whiteout« is a masterfully composed CD of Improvised Music. Composed because this album consists of pieces recorded at different points in time, of pieces explicitly chosen and put together for this CD. This makes »Whiteout« a ‘work’ in an emphatic sense, not merely a documentation. This is because this compilation is no superficial conceptual matter but demonstrates a degree of creative power and insistence on form rarely found in contemporary music nowadays – because in the current diversity of New and Free music, composition and form are often merely appropriated: epigonous, historically pre-formed and worn out. There is nothing epigonous, historically pre-formed about Olaf Rupp, whoever tries to categorize his music deprives himself of the joy of listening: you brood until you’re blue in the face because the categorizations just won’t work. Only if you take Rupp’s discography as a yardstick – which would be downright tautological! (Anyway here is the obligatory information: After a number of recordings on acoustic guitar, »Whiteout« is his first solo recording exclusively on electric guitar in exactly ten years.)

Polemically one can note that, in contrast to the arbitrariness of the ostentatious, the uniformity of diversity Rupp sets the diversity of uniformity. This is not to say that his guitar playing is monotonous or minimalistic. But it is still homogeneous, absolutely (radically!) unmistakable, no special example for anything in particular, no element in the chain of a long tradition, but direct expression of his own music – Rupp-music, if you want to give it a name. Diversity of uniformity means that Rupp works with a limited set of tones and sounds, playing techniques and gestures. A limitation which cancels itself out because Rupp displays his complete virtuosity in the reduction – a virtuosity of playing and listening - and he lays bare a complex iridescence in his whirls, swirls and avalanches, in the sheer gigantic accumulation of sound ‘rubble’, in infinitely articulated tone colors. A sound art reminiscent of archaeology and Action Painting at the same time – of persistent research and ecstatic entwinement.

The fact that there is so little versatility in the pieces of »Whiteout« makes it so varied. Every sound field Rupp virtually digs up, demonstrates clearly and precisely the deviations, the resemblances, the differences and the similarities. Or is this impression misleading? Aren’t there pieces which are fundamentally different from what has been previously described? Where Rupp not only varies but follows a different path? Pieces which are not about moving mass but, using the idea of ‘rubble’ as an image, where Rupp pursues the activity of a mineralogist, who cracks open nondescript stones and finds a world full of sparkling crystals? In these improvisations he uncovers wondrous guitar sounds, piercing and warm – which would normally be incompatible, but Rupp actually plays the supposedly impossible transitions, the slips and slides. This is searching for clues in feedback and overtones, micro music far beyond the rumbling and rolling of the ‘power’ pieces.

To differ – that’s true; but not to oppose! Even if Rupp follows a different path in some of the pieces, it does not lead in a different direction. »Whiteout« infers unity, not a potpourri. The homogeneity of the Rupp-music lies exactly in the fact that it does not fall apart in its extremes. Neither in frenzy nor in the subtle treatment of sounds does Rupp return to gestures and techniques which lie outside of his music.

He has been playing this intrepid music for more than ten years, pursuing it unremittingly, redefining it without needing Tabula Rasa gestures and having to think up an ideology. His music is much too precise. (The fact that Rupp listens to other kinds of music, often and closely, that he values fellow musicians, has maybe chosen one or two as his heroes, goes without saying – and is of no significance for »Whiteout« as well as for all his other solo recordings.) Rupp music transcends the attributions: It is pointless to declare it as the result of a particular school; and it is absurd to attribute it to emotional expressions - à la melancholic, angry, effervescent. These states can be moments in the music, fleeting passages, temporary positions, but they never represent its core.

This core is in reality a number of cores, minimal cores which merge, combine, clump together to achieve a kind of maximal expression, and fly apart again. They are organised in the form of a swarm, at times however rigidly separate. Pure materialism. Their motion is what Alexander von Schlippenbach, the great Free Jazz pioneer, once called »Living Music«.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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