The Squid's Ear Magazine


Rowe, Keith: Absence (erstwhile)

It was during this recording at the 2015 "zoom in" festival in Bern, Switzerland that AMM guitarist and improviser Keith Rowe made the decision to cease performing solo, affected by Parkinson's Disease, this being his final recording as he performed on lapstick guitar, Boss RC-3, Boss PS-3, six band EQ, Sony ICF-SW22 and Roberts R984 radios, 2 contact mics & a metal strip.
 

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Keith Rowe-guitar


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Label: erstwhile
Catalog ID: ErstLive 014
Squidco Product Code: 30526

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold 4 Panels
Recorded at the "zoom in" festival in Bern, Switzerland on November 6th, 2015.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Friday the 6th of November 2015 was an important day for me. Christian Kobi had invited me to take part in his "zoom in" festival in Bern. Earlier that day I visited the Kunst Museum, looking at the work of Cuno Amiet (1868-1961), recalling the work of an earlier Camille Pissarro, interesting contributions from Felix Vallotton (1835-1925), also an very important exhibition of how photography had influenced Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) called "Lautrec's Photographic Eye".

What struck me was how the fashion of the day became aged, yet the TL paintings stayed fresh, and that his drawings were fantastic. Connected to the TL photos was film of the American dancer Loie Fuller's (1862-1928) Fire Dance. Adolf Wölfli's (1864-1930) large work Memoriam (1926).

For my solo in the festival I used a long lapstick guitar, Boss RC-3, Boss PS-3, six band EQ, Sony ICF-SW22 and Roberts R984 radios. two contact mics, and a metal strip.

November 2015 marked the end of the first year of living with Parkinson's. During that year the right hand tremor was becoming more and more uncontrollable, to the point I could not conceive of how in the future I could manage solo performances. During that year I had experimented with different anti-shaking set-ups, in attempts to work around the tremor caused by stress and anxiety of performing solos.

It was during the 33min solo on the 6th of November in Bern that I concluded that I did not want to continue performing solos, and almost immediately from that day onwards I declined invitations to perform as a soloist. The only exception was three performances of a 20mins Click piece based on using pre-recorded material, meaning all I had to do was press the start button, these events were performed in complete darkness.

Retirement, or stepping away, is difficult and painful. It requires a recognition of certain realities, that you are not important, that the world does not care that you have stopped performing solos, actually the world does not notice that you have stopped, life outside your bubble continues, get used to it, you are not at the centre of anything. A part of the reality is to try not to leave a big mess for others to tidy up after you have left the departure lounge, retirement is an opportunity where you are able to discard all the junk you've accumulated.

I want to share with you a recording of that 33 mins solo from Bern before it too departs for the dustbin. An important moment in the solo is at 12:10 thru 12:21 where the Parkinson's tremor frequency (around 300bpm) can be heard, and it's around this moment I decide not to solo again."-Keith Rowe


Artist Biographies

"tabletop guitarist and painter. Rowe is a founding member of both the influential AMM in the mid-1960s (though in 2004 he quit that group for the second time) and M.I.M.E.O. Having trained as a visual artist, Rowe's paintings have been featured on most of his own albums. After years of obscurity, Rowe has achieved a level of relative notoriety, and since the late 1990s has kept up a busy recording and touring schedule. He is seen as a godfather of EAI (electroacoustic improvisation), with many of his recent recordings having been released by Erstwhile Records.

Rowe began his career playing jazz in the early 1960s-notably with Mike Westbrook and Lou Gare. His early influences were guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian and Barney Kessel. Eventually, however, Rowe grew tired of what he considered the form's limitations. Rowe began experimenting, slowly and gradually. An important step was a New Year's resolution to stop tuning his guitar-much to Westbrook's displeasure. Rowe gradually expanded into free jazz and free improvisation, eventually abandoning conventional guitar technique.

This change in his approach to guitar, Rowe reports, was partly inspired by a teacher in one of his painting courses who told him, "Rowe, you cannot paint a Caravaggio. Only Caravaggio can paint Caravaggio." Rowe reports that after considering this idea from a musical perspective, "trying to play guitar like Jim Hall seemed quite wrong." For several years Rowe contemplated how to reinvent his approach to the guitar, again finding inspiration in visual art, namely, American painter Jackson Pollock, who abandoned traditional painting methods to forge his own style. "How could I abandon the technique? Lay the guitar flat!"

Rowe developed various prepared guitar techniques: placing the guitar flat on a table and manipulating the strings, body and pick-ups in unorthodox ways to produce sounds described as dark, brooding, compelling, expansive and alien. He has been known to employ objects such as a library card, rubber eraser, springs, hand-held electric fans, alligator clips, and common office supplies in playing the guitar. A January 1997 feature in Guitar Player magazine described a Rowe performance as "resemble a surgeon operating on a patient." Rowe sometimes incorporates live radio broadcasts into his performances, including shortwave radio and number stations (the guitar's pick-ups will also pick up radio signals, and broadcast them through the amplifier).

AMM percussionist Eddie Prévost reports that Rowe has "an uncanny touch on the wireless switch", able to find radio broadcasts which seem to blend ideally with, or offer startling commentary on, the music. (Prévost, 18). On AMMMusic, towards the end of the cacophonous "Ailantus Glandolusa", a speaker announces via radio that "We cannot preserve the normal music." Prevost writes that during an AMM performance in Istanbul, Rowe located and integrated a radio broadcast of "the pious intonation of a male Turkish voice. AMM of course, had absolutely no idea what the material was. Later, it was complimented upon the judicious way that verses from The Koran had been introduced into the performance, and the respectful way they had been treated!" In reviewing World Turned Upside Down, critic Dan Hill writes, "Rowe has tuned his shortwave radio to some dramatically exotic gameshow and human voices spatter the mix, though at such low volume, they're unintelligible and abstracted. Rowe never overplays this device, a clear temptation with such a seductive technology - the awesome possibility of sonically reaching out across a world of voices requires experienced hands to avoid simple but ultimately short-term pleasure. This he does masterfully, mixing in random operatics and chance encounters with talkshow hosts to anchor the sound in humanity, amidst the abstraction." "

Some accounts report that Rowe's guitar technique was an influence on Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett: "Taking his cues from experimental guitarist Keith Rowe of AMM, Barrett strived to push his music farther and farther out into the zone of complete abstraction."

Rowe has worked together with numerous composers and musicians, including Cornelius Cardew, Christian Wolff, Howard Skempton, Jeffrey Morgan, John Tilbury, Evan Parker, Taku Sugimoto, Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M, Oren Ambarchi, Christian Fennesz, Burkhard Beins, Kurt Liedwart, Toshimaru Nakamura, David Sylvian and Peter Rehberg.

-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Rowe)
7/10/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.


Track Listing:



1. Absence 33:34

Related Categories of Interest:


erstwhile
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Electro-Acoustic
Electro-Acoustic Improv
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
Guitarists, &c.
Keith Rowe
Solo Artist Recordings
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