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Mackness, Vanessa / John Butcher: Respiritus (Incus)


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product information:

Label: Incus
Catalog ID: CD21
Squidco Product Code: 6764

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 1995
Country: UK
Packaging: Jewel tra
Tracks 1 to 4, 9 and 10 recorded at the Red Rose Theatre, London on 5 December 1994 by Martin Davidson; tracks 5 to 8 recorded at Pathway on 14 April 1994 by Justin Underhill


John Butcher-tenor, soprano saxophones

Vanessa Mackness-voice

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Artist Biographies:

"John Butcher's work ranges through improvisation, his own compositions, multitracked pieces and explorations with feedback and extreme acoustics.Originally a physicist, he left academia in '82, and has since collaborated with hundreds of musicians - Derek Bailey, John Tilbury, John Stevens, The EX, Akio Suzuki, Gerry Hemingway, Polwechsel, Gino Robair, Rhodri Davies, Okkyung Lee, John Edwards, Toshi Nakamura, Paul Lovens, Eddie Prevost, Mark Sanders, Christian Marclay, Otomo Yoshihide, Phil Minton, and Andy Moor - to name a few.

He is well known as a solo performer who attempts to engage with the uniqueness of place. Resonant Spaces is a collection of site-specific performances collected during a tour of unusual locations in Scotland and the Orkney Islands.His first solo album, Thirteen Friendly Numbers, includes compositions for multitracked saxophones, whilst later solo CDs focus on live performance, composition, amplification and saxophone-controlled feedback.

HCMF has twice commissioned him to compose for his own large ensembles. Other commissions include for Elision (Australia), the Rova (USA) & Quasar (Canada) Saxophone Quartets, reconstructed Futurist Intonarumori (USA), "Tarab Cuts" (based on pre-WWII Arabic recordings, and shortlisted for the 2014 British Composer's Award) and "Good Liquor .." for the London Sinfonietta. In 2011 he received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists.

Recent groupings include The Apophonics with Robair and Edwards, Anemone with Peter Evans, Plume with Tony Buck & Magda Mayas and a trio with Okkyung Lee & Mark Sanders.Butcher values playing in occasional encounters - ranging from large groups such as Butch Morris' London Skyscraper and the EX Orkestra, to duo concerts with David Toop, Kevin Drumm, Claudia Binder, Paal Nilssen-Love, Thomas Lehn, Fred Frith, Keiji Haino, Ute Kangeisser, Matthew Shipp and Yuji Takahashi."

-John Butcher Website (

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"Vanessa Mackness successfully completed a degree in Fine Art Painting at the Camberwell School of Art in the late 1970s. Her interest in improvised singing developed through meetings with Phil Minton and Maggie Nicols, while further study occured with the singer/composer/instrumentalist Gilles Petit and opera/jazz singer/voice practitioner Maurice-Bertrand Quintart. In addition her aquaintance with Imrat Khan and occassional study with his son Nishat Khan facilitated a broadening of her approach to the voice as instrument. Since 1985, Mackness has worked with, among others, Evan Parker, Phil Minton, Maggie Nicols, Eddie Prevost, Louis Moholo, Alexander Balanescu, Keith Tippett, Wolfgang Gutler, Barry Guy and Phil Wachsmann. She also works with Derek Bailey and has performed at two Company Weeks (1990 and 1991). Her duo with John Butcher has been in existence since Company Week 1990, and since then they have broadcast on BBC Radio 3's Music in our Time and released a recording on Incus. She has sung in Tom Phillips' opera IRMA in England and America (though not on the recorded version), and in the eight-voice Machno project, led by Phil Minton and Veryan Weston, at the 1993 Taktlos Festival. In October 1993 Vanessa Mackness performed solo at the Total Music Meeting in Berlin and more recently took part in Reiner Korff's composition for 35 musicians at the Peter Edel Festival in Berlin."

-European Free Improv (EFI) (

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track listing:

1. Fallen griefs of weeping willow (11.00)

2. Dark hawks hear us (02.27)

3. Turkiss indiene mauves (02.50)

4. Every telling has a taling (06.04)

5. My sighs in shockings (03.50)

6. Wildrose cheeks for poor piccolina (03.20)

7. I'll lay a few stones on the hostel sheets (05.09)

8. Sweet swan water (03.15)

9. Fieldmice balk talk (07.04)

10. Close only knows (06.11)
descriptions, reviews, &c.

A release probably for the true Butcher fan, or any fans of Vanessa Mackness...

"Here are ten improvisations between Brit saxophonist John Butcher and Scott vocalist Vanessa Mackness; ten pieces that skirt the edges of the very nature of what free improvisation is. Butcher's playing usually errs on the dry side of free improv, and this recording is no exception. His tonal palette is relatively limited (perhaps this is on purpose?), which gives most of his free work a samey-sounding ring to it. His valve work typically moves from high to low and then settles in the middle. Mackness, on the other hand, is a siren of free music. She's never concerned herself with formality, but only with her voice as instrument. She doesn't worry about taxing it or pushing it into places it won't go; she simply does whatever is necessary to make an improvisation work. Unfortunately, here it's not enough. Where Mackness sounds truly possessed with the spirits of incubus and succubus as well as those of Sirena, Butcher sounds instead dog-tired. Indeed, it seems as if the best he can do is match the dynamics of these duets. His attempts at microtonalism fall flat and his dualist progression of fast to slow and high to low are predictable and boring. It's too bad; had Mackness teamed with Evan Parker, Ellery Eskelin, Tim Berne, or Sam Rivers this date might have been a revelatory stream of heat seeking ululations and skittering skeins of angular, yet soaring notes. As it is, it's merely one person trying very hard to hold two up to the prism of imagination."-Thom Jurek, All Music

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
John Butcher
October 2006

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(Not Two)
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Fictional Souvenirs [CD]
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GGRIL [feat John Butcher / Isaiah Ceccarelli / Xavier Charles]
Facon [2 CDs]
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Fictional Souvenirs [CASSETTE]
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Common Objects (Davies / Butcher / Davies / Lapelyte / Patterson / Thomas)
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Archive : Volumes Vi - X : 2014 To 2016
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A Wing Dissolved in Light [VINYL]
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Laddaga, Reinaldo
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Live In Morden Tower
(Mikroton Recordings)
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At Oto
Way Out Northwest
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Moser, Michael
Resonant Cuts: (2 CDs AND BOOK)
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Under The Roof
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Spin Networks
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The Big Misunderstanding Between Hertz and Megahertz
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Archives of the North
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13 Friendly Numbers
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