Keith Rowe, Anthony Taillard, Emmanuel Leduc and Julien Ottavi perform on electric guitars and electronics, following a score of 9 sections worked out between them for over a year before recording these six improvisations.
NG4 Quartet (Keith Rowe / Anthony Taillard / Emmanuel Leduc / Julien Ottavi)
A Quartet For Guitars
Label: Mikroton Recordings
Released in: Russia
Can you say something about a quartet for guitars?
Hmm. Where to start?
Well let's start with why "Affetuoso e sostenuto"? And what about those track tittles: "Ineptitude", "Awkward", "Gaucheness", "Underwhelm" and "Failing"?
Google "Affetuoso e sostenuto" and probably a reference to Haydn will appear on the screen, a nine minute section from his String Quartet Op. 20. No. 1 ( the third movement). For the musicians on this recording after an examination of the score their very first instruction was to listen to and watch a recording of the Lyndsay String Quartet performing this third movement, seeing... the first violinist Peter Cropper gulping in air, holding his breath, contorting his face, utterly immersed in the moment, we watch the sensitivity of each movement, the communication within the group, this is how we are going to play, this is how we going to relate to the score, but no! NO!! We can't possibly just copy their performance, and anyhow the possibility of attempting to enter the tradition of the classical string quartet world would be delusionary.
That's true, but haven't you in the past said we (all of us) need to place our work right alongside a Haydn Quartet for comparison?
Yes, you're correct, but on recognizing and accepting our failure in this regard we could become inspired by how Haydn constantly broke the rules, we set about to explore fresh areas of responses like ineptitude, awkward, gaucheness, underwhelm and failing.
So the track tittles don't relate to each track, but are an indication of areas of responses? But I hope you don't mind me saying... they seem very uncomplimentary...insulating even!
Hmm... yes I understand that, but I wanted to escape the descriptions of gorgeous or beautiful, stunning, striking, arresting, prepossessing, captivating, bewitching, beguiling, engaging, charming, charismatic, enchanting, appealing, delightful, irresistible etc.
But why do you feel the need to escape from these responses?
Oh! It seems so easy to shove the disc into the player and respond with "Gorgeous!" or "Fascinating, darling!" I'm not interested in reading a description of the music, but would rather it was ripped apart, examined, rejected or accepted, understood to see what it is saying. How it relates to Sturgeons' law, tear it apart delve into its innards, get your hands dirty, fail. Again and again.
Do you mean you are looking for unwanted zones or expressions? A possible response on listening might be a sense of awkwardness of uncertainty? Of maybe not knowing?
Yes exactly! The track tittles are the responses.
Maybe you could say something about the score and its structure?
The score is nine one minute strips, played in any order, then repeated over and over in different orders. Spread across the nine minutes there are twenty two motives and twenty eight spaces, the choice of a nine minute duration was Haydn Op. 20 Affetuoso E Sostenuto, and to encourage endless variations and development also tips a hat in the direction of the father of the string quartet.
How did you rehearse the piece? Were there any particular ways to visualize the score?
We gave ourselves a year to rehearse, sometimes spending an evening just dealing with a single "click" examining the range of how dry or wet a click might be, if there was a single approach. It might have come through a quote from a Zizek article where Deleuze refers to Proust description of Vinteuit's music that haunts Swann "as if the performers not so much played the little phrase as executed the rites necessary for it to appear" upper most in our mind was to question the role of composition as a vehicle to be flashy showy and brilliant, we wanted the material to be stripped and laid bare, its rawness exposed, allowing the figurations to freely circulate, to play in such a way that one would be capable of discerning the echo of the non-played. (That's a quote from somewhere... But where?)
So... did you succeed or fail?
Hell, no! Of course, not!!!
"A quartet of improvisers who all use the guitar, and all guitars in combination with electronics: Keith Rowe, Anthony Taillard, Emmanuel Leduc and Julien Ottavi. All from France, as Rowe also lives there these days. The recordings were made in December 2013 and maybe there is some sort of idea/concept/score at hand, but it's hard to guess what it is. One could also say we have four men with guitars (electric) and electronics who improvise together. And they do so in a very nice way. The guitar can be heard as such throughout this and it never gets very loud or rude, which perhaps the presence of Ottavi may suggest. A fine, sturdy work."-Frans De Waard, Vital Weekly
• Show Bio for Keith Rowe
"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)
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lowercase, micro-improv, sound improv
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Label: Mikroton Recordings
Catalog ID: 27
Squidco Product Code: 19620
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded during December, 2013.
Keith Rowe-guitar, electronics
Anthony Taillard-guitar, electronics
Emmanuel Leduc-guitar, electronics
Julien Ottavi-guitar, electronics
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1. Affeuoso E Sostenuto 1:02
2. Ineptitude 8:57
3. Awkward 9:03
4. Gaucheness 8:58
5. Underwhelm 8:54
6. Falling 8:55