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Tilbury, John / Keith Rowe / Kjell Bjorgeengen: Sissel (Sofa Music)

AMM alumni, pianist John Tilbury and guitarist Keith Rowe, join with Norwegian performer/conceptualist Kjell Bjorgeengen, whose work is often an amalgamation of sound waves, moving images and lights; here Kjell suggested a painting by Nicolas Poussin as a focal point for the trio's improvisation at this performance in Stavanger, Norway.

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product information:

UPC: 7041885756326

Label: Sofa Music
Catalog ID: SOFA563CD
Squidco Product Code: 26948

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2018
Country: Norway
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Moving Sounds, Rimi/Imir Scenekunst, Stavanger, Norway, in January, 2017, by Espen Reinertsen. Mastered by Rashad Becker.


John Tilbury-piano

Keith Rowe-guitar

Kjell Bjorgeengen-performer

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Artist Biographies:

"John Tilbury (born 1 February 1936) is a British pianist. He is considered one of the foremost interpreters of Morton Feldman's music, and since 1980 has been a member of the free improvisation group AMM.

Tilbury studied piano at the Royal College of Music with Arthur Alexander and James Gibb and also with Zbigniew Drzewiecki in Warsaw. 1968 he was the winner of the Gaudeamus competition in the Netherlands.

During the 1960s, Tilbury was closely associated with the composer Cornelius Cardew, whose music he has interpreted and recorded and a member of the Scratch Orchestra. His biography of Cardew, "Cornelius Cardew - A life unfinished" was published in 2008.

Tilbury has also recorded the works of Howard Skempton and John White, among many others, and has also performed adaptations of the radio plays of Samuel Beckett.

With guitarist AMM bandmate Keith Rowe's electroacoustic ensemble M.I.M.E.O., Tilbury recorded The Hands of Caravaggio, inspired by the painter's The Taking of Christ {1602). In this live performance, twelve of the members of M.I.M.E.O. were positioned around the piano in a deliberate echo of Christ's Last Supper. The thirteenth M.I.M.E.O. member (Cor Fuhler) is credited with "inside piano" as he interacted and interfered with Tilbury's playing by manipulating and damping the instrument's strings, essentially doing piano preparation in real time. Critic Brian Olewnick describes the album as "A staggering achievement, one is tempted to call The Hands of Caravaggio the first great piano concerto of the 21st century."

Another notable recent recording of Tilbury's was Duos for Doris (like The Hands of Caravaggio also on Erstwhile Records), a collaboration with Keith Rowe. It is widely considered a landmark recording in the genre of electroacoustic improvisation (or "EAI").

In 2013 he collaborated with artist Armando Lulaj in FIEND performance at the National Theatre of Tirana (Albania)."

-Wikipedia (

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

"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 (

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"Kjell Bjorgeengen. *1951 in Oslo (Norway) Lives & works in Oslo

Most of Bjorgeengen's works deal with a combination of representation, the artists' subject, and the letting go of subjective control by automated processing from sound. Video is structured through what could be called 'post-Cageian' methods of productions; to retain the artist's subject of expression and at the same time undermine this subjectivity through the structuring of images from automated processes of sound and music mediated through technology. This technology is in itself often modified in co-operation with hardware and software designers. The installations and video works are based on non-representational references. The pursuit is not to accept the given, be it perceptual prejudices imbedded in language or the dominant economic/political structure. "Kjell Bjorgeengen's idealistic pursuit of purity and blankness through an amalgamation of sound waves, moving images and lights is like receiving transmissions from the other side. Grainy, ghostly images constantly vibrate and peel off, to reveal hidden forms that build up then disintegrate. Like thousands of abstract and calligraphic messages they are undecipherable. Stimulation of senses arouses inner reaction, as visual and acoustic syntheses attempt to reach the unattainable level of nothingness. Bjorgeengen's colliding visions and sounds are metaphoric of shifting voids in parallel worlds." ('Paradise Regained' by Apinan Poshyananda). Bjorgeengen's work has been exhibited around the globe since 1971. His artistic practice includes photography, video, installation art, and sculpture. Bjorgeengen has also been an Artist in Residence at The Experimental Television Center, Owego NY (since 1982, and the ISCP, New York City."

-CCNOA center for contemporary non-objective art (

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track listing:

1. Sissel 48:25
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"John Tilbury and Keith Rowe have performed together within the legendary improvising ensemble AMM, as well as in numerous other contexts over the years. Duos for Doris (2003) was their first meeting as a duo, E.E. Tension and Circumstance (2010) was the second before the 4CD box on SOFA, enough still not to know, was released in 2015. enough still not to know also introduces the norwegian video artist Kjell Bjørgeengen as a collaborator, in this case as the producer of the album. Bjørgeengen, being a long time collaborator with both Tilbury and Rowe, is an integral part of the group with Sissel.

SOFA is proud to continue to present the work of Tilbury and Rowe's long time collaboration, but also equally proud to hear Kjell Bjørgeenges as a performer on this deeply moving album captured by Espen Reinertsen at the concert series Moving Sound in Stavanger 2016. The album is dedicated to the memory of Kjell's wife Sissel, who passed away some weeks before the performance."-Sofa

Keith Rowe writes the following about Sissel:

"When Kjell suggested a painting by Nicolas Poussin "The gathering of the ashes of Phocion by his widow |" (1648) as a possible focal point for our performance in Stavanger, his suggestion immediately resonated. At the National Gallery London we have stood in front of this very painting, I got a sense on how we might share a reading of this painting largely based on TJ Clark's book "The Sight of Death".

In "The gathering of the ashes of Phocion by his widow", we find in the foreground the central figure of Phocion's widow on her hands and knees surreptitiously gathering the ashes of the executed Phocion, who had become a victim of political manoeuvring, while her maid standing behind keeps watch. Phocion has been denied a proper burial, his body burned on open ground, by necessity his widow must collect his remains secretively.

In the middle ground are the local people going about their daily tasks. Overseeing all of this are two large trees, bearing witness to the comings and goings of human life, they watch, observe, track, without words, they are mute, and it's this muteness that interest me. It's where my music has been heading for during the past decade, a mute scratching in the foreground, and the chatter and clatter of human life somewhere vaguely behind. During the performance in Stavanger a recording of JS Bach's Chaconne BWV1004-5 (Tayiana Nikolayeva) is played, but you cannot hear it, it is silent, it is mute.

I ask myself, why for such a distressing event as the death of a dear precious friend Sissel finds its expression in muteness, why muteness? I think it relates to another Poussin painting "Landscape with a Calm" (1650-51).

In this painting we see, in the exact same spot as the widow, a curly haired shepherd gazing out over a lake. But there is something strange here, the sky is full of turbulent stormy clouds, but the reflection on the lake is completely calm. Maybe it's here where the disruptive turbulent shocking distressing news of the death of a dear friend who we loved locates its muteness.

Again the trees are watching."

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
European Improvisation and Experimental Forms
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
Trio Recordings
Keith Rowe

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