09 March 2016

Beyond Jazz: Plink, Plonk & Scratch by Trevor Barre & A Story of Free Improvisation

While reading this sorely needed book on the history of British Free Improvisation, I came across the section where Barre discusses about the much debated issue on the "record-ed-ness" of Free music on vinyl and other physical media. Derek Bailey, being the gnomic himself, had consistently griped about the meaninglessness of recorded Free music. You can do yourself a favour and buy this book and read about this and more but I am not going to discuss about that here. Instead I am going to make a point about me, and some friends of mine who live in this small island which is like thousands of kilometres away from London or Britain, and our experience with Free Improvisation. 

In the 1980s, apparently, Goethe Institute locally brought in Peter Brotzmann but alas I was a bit too young and uninformed and also unschooled to know about it, let alone attending the gig. Besides that, my experience, which I would safely account for the rest of my friends who were at least curious or even keen to find out more about Free Improv had virtually no contact point with it. When the music megastores (Yes, there once existed, in all their full glory, then) arrived here in the late 1990s, the few titles from AMM, Derek Bailey and Evan Parker available in those stores were our sole connection to the mainline of Free Improv. Hence the debate about to record or not to record, or record or live, and other permutations of arguments along those lines were non-consequential to us. We only had the records/CDs then to allow us the access to Free Improv. Is it the privileged vantage point of living in a developed country then which gave permission to such seemingly ideological discourse, well ,there is another potential can of worms waiting to be spilled.

But let me come back to Barre's tome. I love it so much that I am reading it the second time and I am seriously considering the third time round after I am done with the last page of my second run of it. So I hope the above scenario is self-evidenced enough.

Let me return to my friends and I on this island again.. Well, we did not have the chance to see Bailey, Parker, AMM live so what did or have we done? We tried and have tried to create our take or understanding of Free Improv here by playing it. Musician types and non-musician kind alike, events were organised and venues hijacked and we happily plinked, plonked and scratched away. It was like Punk, here at least.

What I like about Barre is his open-mindedness of his musical taste and non-preciousness in his writing. His cross reference to My Bloody Valentine, Merzbow, Alternative TV and many more which one would NOT expect in a book more on the jazz side of things on print connects me to him, thousands of kilometres away. 

Perhaps there is the power of music and culture, after all. 

Let us not forgetting the implicit and explicit community spirit and human interaction which have been so embedded in the making and perpetuating of Free Improv which Barre went at length to account and plot in the various chapters.

Idealism be damned, the world today needs more of that then the last century...

Go buy the book here and NOW, and no, I am not joking.


Trevor Barre said...

Hello, whoever you are.

Thank you for your rave review of my book.

Where are you, by the way?

I'm glad you have made a stance about the recording of this music. Now we have YouTube, we can now at least hear recordings that were formerly pretty much impossible to get hold of. It is a miracle that anything survived from the period that I was writing about.

I, like you, don't agree with the (admittedly now anachronistic) views of some at the time, i.e. that the music should be allowed to dissolve in the aether, rather than be recorded (and, thus the theory went, institutionalised and monumentalised.

I hope to publish the book's successor next Spring, so give me an address and I'll send it to you.

All the best,

Trevor Barre

Psychmetalfreak said...
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