Excerpts from sleeve notes:
"For the 2007 FREEDOM OF THE CITY festival, Evan Parker invited the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra to perform both by itself and with the London Improvisers Orchestra. The result was a concert in three parts: the LIO alone; the GIO alone; and the two combined. That concert is heard complete on these two CDs in the order of performance.
It should be pointed out that neither orchestra was complete - they never are due to the other commitments of the members - so not too much should be read into any personnel changes from previous recordings. For instance, one very regular member of the LIO had a gig in Belgium that evening and another was recuperating from an operation, while several of the Glaswegians were unable to make the journey south.
This concert marked the end of a two year period during which the LIO's monthly concerts had consisted of two continuous sections of music each of which contained alternating improvisations and conductions segued together. The starts and ends of the conductions are not always obvious, but they have been marked after consulting both my stop watch and the conductors.
After an IMPROvised INTROduction, PHILIPP WACHSMANN took up the baton and led the London Improvisers Orchestra in his conduction ON THE POINT OF INFLUENCE:
On this occasion a fairly free floating form ensued taking up on the improvisations and context that had already developed. Some dream-like scenes were merged and the overall pulse slowed down in an alternative way. The balance between improvisation and directed events favoured the former. Modes of playing were introduced, such as the spread plucked chords, lyrical lines on individual string instruments and varied momenti in the wind. It was an interaction between conductor and orchestra and came out of and returned to free improvisation without a formal break. PW
The second free improvisation was followed by STUDY FOR OPPY WOOD directed by ASHLEY WALES, who had wanted to compose music about this painting by John Nash for some time.
A string-dominated improvisation led to HIVE LIFE by ALISON BLUNT, who describes her conduction as "Hearing what is happening and bringing focus to it." At times she asked the string players to use their voices, which vied against muted brass and rhythmic piano and bass. A central extended section had subdued saxophones at its core, leading to further subdued playing used as a backdrop to guitar and percussion.
The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra's set consisted of three separate pieces. The first two were devised (but not conducted) by GEORGE BURT and EMMA ROCHE respectively - the third was a free improvisation full of BIG IDEAS, IMAGES AND DISTORTED FACTS.
SEVEN SISTERS (FOR BARRY GUY): Last year I was lucky enough to see the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet and the Barry Guy New Orchestra within a few weeks of each other. Although the two ensembles are more or less the same size, and have some of the same musicians, the music they produce is, to say the least, very different. This piece is the result of trying to puzzle out how and why this should be. Guy often uses different groupings within his large-ensemble pieces to give the listener the experience of hearing a three-dimensional structure. This is what I've tried to do here. Each member of GIO gets a post-it note with a crude diagram showing a sequence of symbols indicating full ensemble, duos (close together or far apart), trios and solos or other groupings. Just before we begin to play, I indicate which players make up the small groups. The length of the sections and all the material is improvised. GB
STAGIONE: .I love the fact that GIO is made up of musicians from so many disparate backgrounds. We are all on our own individual musical trajectories starting from wildly different places and journeying through varied genres and experiences, and then in GIO all our paths come together. I am fascinated by the idea that sometimes the only common denominator in the room could be the exact time that we end up making music together in the same place, and this piece is inspired by that.
The piece in divided into 'seasons' and each one has suggested motifs which in turn are modelled on patterns visible in the night sky at different points in the year. The seasons pass into each other organically without a prescribed indication until gradually we move to a point where everyone is playing from suggested material taken from constellations that are permanently visible. ER
For the last part of the evening, the two orchestras combined (for the first time) and somehow 44 musicians (and a sizable audience) managed to fit into the Red Rose. The musicians were positioned according to their instruments, rather than their home town, to form a single entity. First up was 811 JOINT RESPONSE conducted by DAVID LEAHY.
What is the role of a conductor with a group of talented improvising musicians, who have more than enough experience to not need someone in front of them telling them what to do? This is a question that I ask myself very regularly, particularly as I tend to put myself forward to conduct the LIO most first Sundays of the month when I am in London. I suppose I use the question to police myself so to ensure that what I am offering the ensemble is adding to the overall outcome. I also really enjoy the challenge of conducting, and trying to find the balance between dictating how and when people can play and letting the musicians do what they do so well, which is responding freely to what is happening all around them. As the conductor you find yourself at times being; an observer, a set of ears for everybody who can't hear the really special but quiet touch that someone is adding in the far corner to the enormous tutti, a limiter (when you want to highlight that little drowned out sound) and finally someone who is very grateful for the opportunity to stand in front of such a great group of musicians.
With this conduction, I am particularly pleased with the quieter interplays that happened within the Orchestra; the unpitched reeds accompaniment to Terry Day near the start, the trios that sprung out of the tuttis, the guitar and violin duet, the bass clarinet moment backed by the strings and voice, the low brass responses to the voice and finally the piano coda helped along by the brass. (Ok, so that one isn't so quiet). DL
1+1=DIFFERENT was conducted separately and together by UNA MacGLONE & RAYMOND MacDONALD. MacGlone conducted the first 6:20, handing over the baton in full flight to MacDonald who took over until 12:55, when they combined. For the double conduction the band was split in two down the middle of stage. MacDonald worked with the right hand side with most of the brass, and MacGlone had the left hand with most of the strings. There were no other explicit instructions made other than the fact that, since MacDonald had the noisier side of the band, he would take extra care to make space for the quieter side.
In GIO, conduction and then double conduction developed organically from a desire to explore the channels of communication and musical results afforded by this technique. These channels can be between the two conductors and between different sections of the band. The technique can celebrate chance events and play with the tensions and unconscious processes which arise from improvising in this way. Unlike many other large improvising ensembles, GIO does not use conduction as its primary means of structuring pieces. Rather, GIO's practice has evolved by negotiating free improvisation along with a variety of other approaches of which conduction is one. UM & RM
The final piece of the evening was OUTLAW conducted by DAVE TUCKER.
The prospect of conducting two orchestras was a little daunting at first. There is the danger that cacophony and incoherence can predominate what happens (too much of a good thing?) as well as the practical considerations. Thanks to good communication, that was avoided and any doubts about the LIO & GIO performing together were soon put to rest after hearing how different the two large groups sounded. Everyone was attentive and followed the cues intuitively throughout, seamlessly blending the structured and improvised material that developed.
The title OUTLAW refers to the fact that improvised music is the only form of performed and recorded music that has not been assimilated and diluted for mass market consumption and corporate interests. The scene is propelled by the efforts of musicians and fans and makes for a unique environment I have not witnessed in any other musical endeavours. DT
This concert certainly did create a unique environment as well as a lot of very fine music. It can now be relived, or newly experienced if you had the misfortune not to be there."-Martin Davidson (2007)
See all items in the EMANEM & psi category
Related Categories of Interest:
EMANEM & psi
European Improv, Free Jazz & Related
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
London & UK Free Improvisation Scene
Search for other titles on the Emanem label.