ECHO CHAMBER #18 – Freedom & Composition with Christoph Schiller, part 1



I spent several days last summer with composer, improviser and spinet-player Christoph Schiller at his somewhat legendary studio in Basel. Given the concentrated subject matter, and the sheer length, of the discussions, I’ve decided to make a three-part Echo Chamber special that deals overall with the question of freedom in musical composition:- composition as an emancipatory means to deeper reflexion and a more sincere gestural approach.

Composition in the sense we discuss it here becomes a tool that is more efficient in prying open interior dialogues within the musician than any score-less method; a tool whose sharpening is the result of a simultaneous rejection of Romantic ideals, various amalgamations with new technologies and improvised methods, and the embracing of the earliest written music practices.

I took great pleasure in choosing what music to accompany these conversations, what sounds of Christoph’s that I not only have a personal fondness for but that also best give some kind of musical parallel to the content of our discussions. For Freedom & Composition Part 1, Christoph’s joint album with violinist Anouck Genthon, Zeitweise leichter Schneefall (Newwaveofjazz, 2019) fits the bill perfectly.

Parts 2 & 3 will be out in the coming weeks.

Find about more about Christoph on his website.

PS Don’t adjust your sound system! There’s an intermittent buzz in the right-hand channel of these recordings, due to my faulty Zoom microphone. Sorry.

ECHO CHAMBER Episode 17 – Sébastien Branche



Mon invité pour le dix-septième épisode fut le saxophoniste improvisateur Sébastien Branche. On s’est retrouvé chez lui à Leipzig en printemps pour prendre le thé et discuter les origines et la continuité de sa pratique de musicien expérimental, ainsi que celle de masseur shiatsu et professeur de mathématiques. Je m’intéresse beaucoup à son approche singulière et hyper-sensible envers un traitement musical du son, silence et bruit qui le mène sur un chemin que je trouve, il m’excusera, quasi-chamanistique.

Intéressé par les phénomènes perceptifs, il axe son travail principalement sur la matière sonore, se présentant avant tout comme un « faiseur de sons » qu’il donne à entendre. Il joue aujourd’hui dans le duo de saxophones Relentless, en duo avec l’altiste Cyprien Busolini ou avec Miguel Garcia à l’électronique, et en grand orchestre avec l’IMO. Il développe par ailleurs un travail en solo au saxophone ténor sur pied et électronique (Lignes), ou au soprano avec l’eau (saxoph2one). Il a joué en Europe dans divers festivals ou salles, pour des concerts, de la danse ou des balades sonores.

Cet épisode mets en écoute exclusivement l’éblouissant album Pnoladeu Avvrhig, deuxième sortie du duo de Sébastien avec Miguel A. Garcia.

Trouvez tout sur Sébastien, y compris ses autres sorties et où les acheter 😉 sur son site:

50 Things

Fifty years is a very long time, in any terms aside the geological. AMM’s The Crypt is a legendary recording for anyone touched by experimental, avant-garde, and underground music today. Like all artistic milestones, it not only impresses by its continuing influence but by its continuing force of being that makes you double-check it really was created such a long time before anything similar.

At the end of 2018, Sound and Music‘s Sam Mackay invited me to write an article for the British Music Collection’s 50 Things blog series. Produced by Sound and Music, this series “takes items from the British Music Collection as their starting point, highlighting lesser-known connections and marginal stories as well as familiar names and narratives. Featuring contributions from composers, performers, writers and broadcasters, #BMC50 Things will help build a rich picture of the backgrounds, practices and diverse perspectives that have shaped the landscape of new music in the UK.”

For the article, I focused on AMM’s legendary 1968 recording ‘The Crypt’, and got an immense joy out of not only listening to this again but really trying to put words to it, not forgetting the context into which it sprung, dating back to already half a century ago.

Here’s the track as found on YouTube, with the full article below:

Article by Ed Williams

This record came out just over 50 years ago. That is nuts.

Fifty years is a very long time, in any terms aside the geological. AMM’s The Crypt is a legendary recording for anyone touched by experimental, avant-garde, and underground music today. Like all artistic milestones, it not only impresses by its continuing influence but by its continuing force of being that makes you double-check it really was created such a long time before anything similar.

AMM as a group is, in the best sense possible, similarly prehistoric. Formed in 1965, they had only had a couple of years of experimentation before the Crypt session, but founding members Eddie Prévost, Keith Rowe and Lou Gare were already making free-jazz audiences of the time seriously reconsider the limits of their own radicality.

I’m wary of euphemistic and overenthusiastic adjectives to describe experiences like performances and recordings, and words like authentic, ethereal, and raw might be some of the most tempting to use and the most confusing. But how else to rationalize such an experience as experimental music performance? Its very nature is ethereal – or is it ephemeral? – in that it’s one of only a few successful methods humans have found to transcend everyday experience; the best performances often resembling a purgatorial distillation process of religious rites, sexual volatility and subliminal fantasy.

I’ll try to avoid authentic and ethereal (didn’t I just say purgatorial?), but if there’s one word that I might excuse to sum up AMM’s The Crypt, it’s raw. That holy grail of underground aesthetics, rawness, is present in every grating echo and serene siren song discernible in the maelstrom that is this recording. This is, may I remind you, FIFTY years ago. There’s scraping, screaming, ambiguous rattling, contributing to a cacophony of feedback (feedback! in the 60’s!). All common fare nowadays – go to any performance of music roughly within the ‘free improvisation’, ‘experimental’, ‘post-free-jazz’ or even ‘noise’ categories today and you’ll find the hallmarks of what AMM has been so influential for:- everyday instruments (especially saxes, kits, guitars, cellos, as in The Crypt) being distorted beyond recognition through extended techniques; everyday objects’ musical souls exorcised through contact mics; electronics simultaneously swirling in the background and creeping into your eardrums’ inner reaches. But this recording dates from June 12, 1968. The Beatles hadn’t even broken up yet.

Speaking of which, how did audiences react to this kind of thing? Paul McCartney apparently went to one AMM session and said it was too long. Who doesn’t feel that after their first improvisation session, looking around thinking “is everybody here seriously into this?” And that’s nowadays, after decades of digesting Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz, myriad electronic musics, and all things Zappa. Imagine it over fifty years ago.

From a 2019 standpoint, this would still constitute a difficult, protracted listening session for even a seasoned audience – but that makes me so much happier than to think that something this remarkable should dilute with time and habit. It just goes to show how valuable this record is as an early leap into the rabbit hole of artistic exploration – one we’re still hesitant to follow.

© Ed Williams, 2019

Find this article, as well as a huge choice of engaging articles on the wide range of music the British Music Collection has to offer, here:

ECHO CHAMBER Episode 11 – Isabelle Duthoit



Pour la première édition francophone d’Echo Chamber, la clarinettiste et vocaliste Isabelle Duthoit.

Depuis toujours intéressée par la voix, Isabelle Duthoit développe depuis plus 10 ans une
technique de voix singulière et très personnelle. Un langage avant le langage, une voix de
l’origine. Inspirée par les techniques de voix du théâtre de Nô et du théâtre de Bunraku, elle cherche et développe un chant lié au cri à la voix brisée, la voix prise dans son entité du premier souffle intime jusqu’au cri.

Elle trouve son terrain de prédilection dans l’univers de l’improvisation libre, jouant dans de nombreux projets y compris Bouge (avec Johannes Bauer et Luc Ex), le quartet Where is the sun (avec Franz Hautzinger, Martin Tetreault et Dieb13), et tout récemment NYX (avec Angelica Castello et Sophie Agnel), sans parler de ses duos avec Franz Hautzinger (trompette, clar & voix), Daunik Lazro, Phil Minton, Keiji Haino et d’autres encore.

La musique qu’on entends dans cette épisode vient de deux performances live. La première, Isabelle en duo avec Franz Hautzinger (Live at the Odeon IV Festival, 2012), et la deuxième, un solo (Nachtstimmen, 2013).

ECHO CHAMBER Episode 8 – Klaus Kürvers



One of the last interviews I’ve made is with the double bassist and architect Klaus Kürvers, in Berlin. We spent a fine afternoon in his garden house while he told me all about his musical career, the exciting experimental music scenes in ’60’s Germany, and his particular sensitivity to the mental spaces created by musical improvisation with regards to his deep knowledge and experiences as an architect.

At a moment near the end, I’ve introduced some sounds from my neighbourhood in Marseille, I couldn’t resist when Klaus brings up sonic environments. Also, a softly ticking clock can be heard pretty much throughout this recording, an eery reminder of linear perception of time despite our trying to break out of it through conversation.

Klaus Kürvers, born 1950 in Essen (Germany), doublebass studies 1964-68 among others with Peter Trunk. During the late sixties member of the Essen Youth Symphony Orchestra and also at the same time of different amateur Jazz groups (“Free Jazz” since 1967); 1969-71 in Cologne with the Jazz-Rock-Group “Eiliff” (w/Rainer Brüninghaus). Interupted 1971-2006 his public music activities for his studies and professional scientific career as an architect and cultural historian in Berlin. Since 2006 resumption of his musical activities as part of the Berlin improvisers’ scene. Performing bassist again since 2009.

Klaus has released many albums in collaboration with many of the movers and shakers of Berlin’s improvised music scene, which can be found here.

The music featured in this episode is taken a recording session between Klaus and Madrid-based drummer Sam Hall.

I upload new episodes of Echo Chamber onto my blog every couple of weeks. You can also subscribe to Echo Chamber on iTunes and have the episodes downloaded automatically as soon as they come out.

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