Monday, December 10, 2007

Earlier this year, my friend Pete Cherches put together a mini-history of downtown NYC music from about 1971-87 for NYU's Fales Library toward which I contributed some minimal amount of references. This evening, Pete led a panel discussion on the period with Jon Gibson, Don Christenson (who I didn't think I knew--he drummed with the Raybeats and Contortions among others, but I actually do have him on an album or two), Butch Morris and Elliott Sharp. Pete's work can be found here.

Each of the musicians gave a brief personal history (sometimes not so brief) followed by some discussion and Q&A. It was fairly interesting even if much was stuff I already knew. Sharp and Morris were wryly amusing. But Gibson said something early on in his talk that made my ears perk up a bit. He was describing his years as a student at San Francisco University and mentioned coming into contact with contemporary classical scores around 1960, including some by Cardew. I was interested in learning about the fact that the work of a young, obscure British composer had managed to become known on the West Coast that early.

At the reception, I was lucky enough to have a long conversation with Gibson about his encounters with such music in the 60s, including hanging out with Cardew and Tilbury, etc. I monopolized him for about 45 minutes, I'm afraid, but he was entirely gracious about it. And not a single mention of Philip Glass! I spent long enough there that it was too late to walk down to the Knit to catch the English set, which I regret but, that's the way it goes. Last time they were here, my wedding anniversary got in the way, now this. I'll catch them one of these years.

Oh, and my apologies to the fellow who came over and said hello and about whom I totally blanked for a minute. I think we met at the ErstQuake over on Church St a few years back? But it took my a while to place you and I still can't remember your name, really sorry about that. If you're reading this, please drop in and ID yourself to save me future embarrassment. Sorry!

Newly arrived and not yet listened to:

Jed Speare - Sound Works 1982-1987 (Family Vineyard)
Nils Henrik Asheim/Paal Nilssen-Love - Late Play (PNL)
Lasse Marhaug/Paal Nilssen-Love - Stalk (PNL)

and six, count'em, six things from our good friend Cor:

DJ Cor Blimey and his pigeon
Fuhler/Bennink/de Goode
WhistleLight (solo Fuhler)
Slee (solo Fuhler, piano)
Tcod (solo Fuhler)


Herb Levy said...

I know the feeling of finding out about connections like the one you found with Gibson and the British avant garde in the 1960s, but, really, I'm always surprised when people are surprised how much communication between and among earlier avant garde scenes.

Composers and performers would go to festivals, conferences, residencies, academies, etc and then tell all their friends and colleagues about what they saw and heard in letters & in magazines and journals. Scores circulated. Electronic studios around the world sent each other examples of the works being created their facilities.

For that matter, in the 1960s in the US at least, fairly esoteric music and other art forms could be covered (sporadically, and certainly not always positively, but it was there) by the mainstream media.

Obviously, it wasn't as easy as it is now, but even before the interwebs, information wanted to be free & people who wanted to know could find some things out.

Jon Abbey said...

English set was quite good, you missed a good one.

what's the deal with those solo Cor discs, CD-Rs he sells to people directly? I want I want I want... :)

Brian Olewnick said...

Herb, yeah shouldn't be surprised anymore, I guess. I was so, however, when I saw some concert listings from '67-'68 for Cardew leading London performances of Terry Riley pieces. Interesting that he brought into AMM ideas from Cage, Young, Feldman etc. but nothing from minimalism ever really seeped through. I recall my bemusement when I first got into AMM and realized I had had this fellow Cardew on Reich's "Drumming" since about 1974 but never further investigated him!

Jon, I briefly checked out Cor's Conondrom [sic] site last night and saw something to the effect of "only sold at concerts". So you might just have to book him over here, dunno!

Herb Levy said...

Two things:

There were many people making non-repetitive pattern kinds of minimalism that may well have been in the mix of what was in the air around AMM. Your inclusion of Young in the list of what Cardew may have brought in acknowledges this even if you don't. With luck, you won't ever get involved in a discussion with Young about exactly how central he is to, well, everything really. But that's another matter.

Again, though, the kind of connections made by like-minded people at any given point aren't always predictive of subsequent actions. Artists go off in all different directions from where they are and, while, it usually makes sense in retrospect, from where they may have started out, it can be entirely inexplicable. (& that doesn't even count the ones who end up running the family business or becoming social workers or whatever.)

40-50 years on, it may seem odd that Cardew/Tilbury had some connection with US minimalists, but at the time, they were simply all under-recognized "avant garde" composer/performers who met in that context. It may be harder to see while it's happening, but this is pretty common.

There's no way to project what, say, everyone involved in EAI right now may end up having done 20-30 years on, but consider if, say, Le-Quan Ninh were to only improvise during that period. For some listeners in the 2040s, it may seem to have been anomalous that he was involved in a percussion quartet that performed notated music.

Or if Otomo Yoshihide concentrates on projects like ONJO or even more jazz-like ensembles, listeners attracted to those projects 30 years from now, may have trouble hearing connections with whatever the remaining EAI artists have developed into by then.

Brian Olewnick said...

Not so much that it was odd that Cardew & Tilbury knew and performed American minimalism, just interesting (not necessarily "odd") that you can listen to early AMM and never really guess that this was the case (at least, I don't think so). Maybe it surfaced in some Scratch performances, dunno. It may have simply been that the other members weren't taken by the music (I don't think Keith was, particularly) and that Cardew picked up on this attitude and chose not to introduce anything, at least as far as can be determined via available recordings.

Interestingly though, a few years later he began playing (for instance) Irish worker's songs during AMM gigs despite it's not being very appreciated by some members, but that's the whole political ferment period.

I'd love to have heard a Cardew-led performance of "In C". Tilbury recorded some Riley for Japanese Sony in the early 90s (unreleased) which I'd also love to hear.

Jon Abbey said...

update: I'm going to have a bunch of those Cor titles (the three solo ones and the Rowe duo) in stock in a few weeks at ErstDist. $12 apiece, I believe.