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Butcher, John : Invisible Ear (Weight of Wax)

Saxophonist John Butcher in a release of solo and multitrack recordings using close-miking, amplification, room resonance, and feedback saxes, creating unusual & fascinating experiments.

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product information:

UPC: 5051078916927

Label: Weight of Wax
Catalog ID: WoW 03
Squidco Product Code: 12871

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2003
Country: Great Britain
Packaging: Cardstock Gatefold Sleeve
Recorded in London, UK in 2002, except "Atelier", recorded in Munster, Germany in 1999. Originally released in 2003 as a numbered, limited edition on the Italian Fringes label.


John Butcher-soprano sax, tenor sax, korg synthesizer, resonant room

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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 (

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

1. Swan Style 3:34

2. Cup Anatomical 2:28

3. What Remains 4:32

4. Streamers 8:33

5. A Controversial Fix For.... 2:41

6. ....Shrilling Reed Freakout 1:33

7. The Importance Of Gossip 3:00

8. Dark Field 2:14

9. Bright Field 3:26

10. Magnetic Bottle 3:30

11. Sprinkler 4:32

12. Atelier 4:46
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"There may well be no other saxophonist so determinedly pushing his instrument forward, so ruthlessly dispensing with decades of baggage, than John Butcher. This can work both for and against the music that results. In the latter case, there's the risk of performing what turn out to be, essentially, science experiments (not all that surprising considering Butcher's prior career as a professor of physics). But when it works, as I've encountered in live performance and as I think occurs several times on this disc, the outcome can be marvelous in a way that's rarely heard.

This is a solo recording, although three of the tracks utilize overdubbing. Two basic techniques are employed: close miking, wherein the mike is attached directly outside the bell of the instrument, thus enabling it to pick up all manner of sounds including percussive and breath tones with extreme fidelity; and, most impressively, amplified feedback. This involves the mike inside the bell feeding directly to an amp which is then miked for the recording. On tracks like "streamers", Butcher only manipulates the tenor's keys and does so in extraordinarily subtle fashion, generating discreet feedback tones that are utterly beguiling. Listeners would be hard-pressed to identify the source as a saxophone; instead it sounds like some mutant, electronic gamelan. However, as in his best work, the virtuoso technique works as an equal partner with a song structure, abstract though it may be, that glues the piece together into a very satisfying full performance. Other tracks mass several saxes together, with feedback, creating gales of sound, sometimes clearly interacting with the resonance of the room.

On the science-experiment side, there are a few cuts that seem only to scratch the surface of a given technique and leave the piece alone and unsheltered to fend for itself. Some such numbers, like the opening "swan style" are harsh enough to put off all but the most intrepid listener. But anyone at all interested in charting the further evolution of the saxophone should hear this recording for a vivid picture of one extremely strong line of inquiry."-Brian Olewnick, The Squid's Ear, 2003

Related Categories of Interest:

John Butcher
Improvised Music
European Improvisation and Experimental Forms
Electro-Acoustic Improv
lowercase, micro-improv, sound improv
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
Free Improvisation
Recordings by or featuring Reed & Wind Players

Other Releases With These Artists:
Trio Kimmig (Kimmig / Studer / Zimmerline / John Butcher)
Anemone (John Butcher / Peter Evans / Frederic Blondy / Clayton Thomas / Paul Lovens)
A Wing Dissolved in Light [VINYL]
Trio Kimmig (Kimmig / Studer / Zimmerline / John Butcher)
Butcher, John / Thomas Lehn / Matthew Shipp
Butcher, John / Stale Liavik Solberg
So Beautiful, It Starts To Rain
(Clean Feed)
Frey, Peter K. / Daniel Studer
Zurich Concerts: 15 Years of Kontrabassduo Studer-Frey [2 CDs]
Toop, David
Entities Inertias Faint Beings [VINYL]
RED Trio w/ John Butcher
Summer Skyshift
(Clean Feed)
Butcher, John / Michael Duch
Butcher, John / Andy Moor
Experiments With A Leaf
Contest of (More) Pleasures, The (Dorner / Pallandre / Butcher / Sassi / Charles)
Russell, John / Phil Durrant / John Butcher
Conceits (1987/1992)
Butcher, John / Burkhard Beins / Mark Wastell
Frith, Fred / John Butcher
The Natural Order
(Northern Spy)
Yoshihide, Otomo / Sachiko M / Evan Parker / John Edwards / Tony Marsh / John Butcher
Butcher, John / Phil Durrant / John Russell
The Scenic Route
Various Artists
The All Angels Concerts [2 CDs]
Laddaga, Reinaldo
Things That A Mutant Needs To Know [BOOK + 2 CDs]
Various Artists
Freedom of the City 2001 - small groups [2 CDs]
Various Artists
Amalgam(e): 10 Years of Red Toucan [2 CDs]
(Red Toucan)
Common Objects: John Butcher / Rhodri Davies / Lee Patterson
Live In Morden Tower
(Mikroton Recordings)
Butcher / Buck / Mayas / Stangl
Butcher, John
Vortices & Angels
Butcher, John
Bell Trove Spools
(Northern Spy)
Butcher, John & Mark Sanders
Nakamura, Toshimaru / John Butcher
Dusted Machinery
Moser, Michael
Resonant Cuts: (2 CDs AND BOOK)
(Edition Rz)
Sounding Music
Butcher / Binder
Under The Roof
Weightless (Butcher / Edwards / Spera / Braida)
A Brush with Dignity
(Clean Feed)
Polwechsel & John Tilbury
AMM w/ John Butcher
Butcher / Hemingway
Buffalo Pearl
London Improvisers Orchestra
Improvisations for George Riste
Furt plus
Butcher / Muller / van der Schyff
Way Out Northwest
(Drip Audio)
Butcher, John
The Geometry of Sentiment
Spin Networks
Sandell Trio, Sten / Butcher, John
(Clean Feed)
Butcher, John / Nilssen-Love, Pal
(Clean Feed)
Butcher / Charles / Dorner - The Contest of Pleasures
Alibi Days
Bennet / Bryerton / Butcher / De Gruttola / Kaiser / Smith
Sextessense: A Tribute to John Stevens and the SME
(Balance Point Acoustics)
Archives of the North
Butcher, John
13 Friendly Numbers
Cortet, The (Fuhler / Lehn / Davies / Butcher)
Various Artists
Freedom of the City 2004 - small groups [2 CDs]
London Improvisers Orchestra
Responses, Reproduction & Reality (freedom of the city 2003-4)
Various Artists
Freedom of the City Festival 2003 - Small Groups [2 CDs]
Moor / Lehn / Butcher
Butcher, John / John Edwards
Recommended & Related Releases:
Other Recommended Releases:
Way Out Northwest
The White Spot - w/John Butcher, Tortsen Mueller and Dylan van der Shyff
(Relative Pitch)

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