Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference 1997
Claus Bech-Nielsen (Accordian), Carl Bergstøm-Nielsen (French horn, voice), Frank Heisler (percussion), Helene Jerg (cello), René Morgenseen (saxophones), Nisima Marie Munk-Madsen (flute), Gerhard Pischinger (flute), Henrik Rasmussen (penny whistle), Robert Cole Rizzi (guitar), Johan Toft (marimba), Ivan Vinzce (viola), Kumi Wakoo (swanee whistle, voice)
Three tracks: "First Tutti Improvisation", "Second Tutti Improvisation" and, between them, "Pause". "Pause": oh dear, you think, looking at the timings. Nearly four minutes; of what? Silence? What's the point? Is it some kind of Cagean joke? Well yes, it is, actually, but not the one you were expecting.
This disk documents the music made at the opening of DIMC 97 by a dozen delegates, most of whom had never played together before. Assuming there was no conductor (none is credited) and no pre-arranged sequence of events, the result is pretty astonishing.
Twelve strangers improvising together is a recipe for disaster; what usually happens is this. The music begins tentatively, unstructured, with no-one wishing to tread on toes. Slowly, pressure builds up as egos are forces to submit to the rather boring music which is going nowhere. Something gives, someone plays up and then it's open season. Eventually everyone is exhausted from trying to play louder than everyone else and the sound peteers out.
The DIMC delegate have avoided this chain of events so completely that one might suspect they're really a regular band and the whole thing is a hoax. The music is spacious, layered and sophisticated. The dominance of non-reed woodwing (flutes and whistles) creates a nice effect in the first piece bacause, instead of competing, the musicians play as a section. Their shifting bed of sounds, often augmented by some of the other instruments, forms a perfect foil to the percussive and very responsive work elsewhere in the group. Special mention here must go to Rizzi, who plays what in this group constitutes a solo -- a few seconds of slightly more prominent music, always interacting with the group and not a noodle in sight. A lovely contribution.
Then comes that pause. In fact, this is literally the unedited gap between the two pieces. Members of the group chat, laugh, check their tuning, make unidentifiable noises. The joke is that the group end up making a very rarefied, ambient sort of music in this gap, a music which the curators of the CD have chosen not to delete. Nothing like as focussed as the "real" improvisations, this is a diffuse, rather charming slice of life and it was the right choice to leave it in.
Also, the second piece grows quite naturally out of this candid sketching and scuffling; although it has a distinct start, the music makes more sense for hearing what came immediately before. The second performance is much more restless and much longer (over half an hour), but the group manage to sustain it. It feels as if each player has decided that instead of trying to hold the spotlight on themselves, as musicians are wont to do in such situations, they thought it would be much more interesting to keep it moving. Whenever the focus falls on one player, they do something with it and pass it on. It makes the piece a more abrasive experience, but it's an exhilarating one too. Highly recommended.