Sunday 5 June 2016, 8pm
Launch event for David Toop's eagerly anticipated new book ‘Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom – Before 1970’. Full programme for the night TBA.
In this first installment of acclaimed music writer David Toop's interdisciplinary and sweeping overview of free improvisation, Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom: Before 1970 introduces the philosophy and practice of improvisation (both musical and otherwise) within the historical context of the post-World War II era. Neither strictly chronological, or exclusively a history, Into the Maelstrom investigates a wide range of improvisational tendencies: from surrealist automatism to stream-of-consciousness in literature and vocalization; from the free music of Percy Grainger to the free improvising groups emerging out of the early 1960s (Group Ongaku, Nuova Consonanza, MEV, AMM, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble); and from free jazz to the strands of free improvisation that sought to distance itself from jazz. In exploring the diverse ways in which spontaneity became a core value in the early twentieth century as well as free improvisation's connection to both 1960s rock (The Beatles, Cream, Pink Floyd) and the era of post-Cagean indeterminacy in composition, Toop provides a definitive and all-encompassing exploration of free improvisation up to 1970, ending with the late 1960s international developments of free music from Roscoe Mitchell in Chicago, Peter Brötzmann in Berlin and Han Bennink and Misha Mengelberg in Amsterdam.
David Toop (born 1949) has been developing a practice that crosses boundaries of sound, listening, music and materials since 1970. This encompasses improvised music performance, writing, electronic sound, field recording, exhibition curating, sound art installations and opera. It includes seven acclaimed books, including Rap Attack (1984), Ocean of Sound (1995), Sinister Resonance (2010), Into the Maelstrom (2016) and forthcoming - Flutter Echo, a memoir first published in Japan in 2017 (May 2019) and Inflamed Invisible: Writing On Art and Sound 1976-2018 (2020). Briefly a member of David Cunningham’s pop project The Flying Lizards in 1979, he has released thirteen solo albums, from New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments on Brian Eno’s Obscure label (1975) and Sound Body on David Sylvian’s Samadhisound label (2006) to Entities Inertias Faint Beings (2016). His 1978 Amazonas recordings of Yanomami shamanism and ritual were released on Sub Rosa as Lost Shadows (2016). In recent years his collaborations include Rie Nakajima, Akio Suzuki, Tania Chen, John Butcher, Ken Ikeda, Elaine Mitchener, Henry Grimes, Sharon Gal, Camille Norment, Sidsel Endresen, Alasdair Roberts, Thurston Moore, Ryuichi Sakamoto and a revived Alterations, the iconoclastic improvising quartet with Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack and Terry Day first formed in 1977. Curator of sound art exhibitions including Sonic Boom at the Hayward Gallery (2000), his opera – Star-shaped Biscuit – was performed as an Aldeburgh Faster Than Sound project in 2012. He is currently Professor of Audio Culture and Improvisation at London College of Communication.
"If you've ever been tempted by free improvisation, Parker is your gateway drug." - Stewart Lee
Evan Parker has been a consistently innovative presence in British free music since the 1960s. Parker played with John Stevens in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, experimenting with new kinds of group improvisation and held a long-standing partnership with guitarist Derek Bailey. The two formed the Music Improvisation Company and later Incus Records. He also has tight associations with European free improvisations - playing on Peter Brötzmann's legendary 'Machine Gun' session (1968), with Alexander Von Schlippenbach and Paul Lovens (A trio that continues to this day), Globe Unity Orchestra, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, and Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO).
Though he has worked extensively in both large and small ensembles, Parker is perhaps best known for his solo soprano saxophone music, a singular body of work that in recent years has centred around his continuing exploration of techniques such as circular breathing, split tonguing, overblowing, multiphonics and cross-pattern fingering. These are technical devices, yet Parker's use of them is, he says, less analytical than intuitive; he has likened performing his solo work to entering a kind of trance-state. The resulting music is certainly hypnotic, an uninterrupted flow of snaky, densely-textured sound that Parker has described as "the illusion of polyphony". Many listeners have indeed found it hard to credit that one man can create such intricate, complex music in real time.
Elaine Mitchener is a contemporary vocalist, movement artist and composer working between the worlds of contemporary new music, experimental jazz / free improvisation and visual arts. She is founder of collective electroacoustic trio The Rolling Calf (with Jason Yarde and Neil Charles) and her sound works are held in a curated collection by George E Lewis at Darmstadt Festival. Recent recordings includes Some Good News – a live album with Hamid Drake, William Parker, Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas (OTOROKU label) – and a special radio commission for Sons d’Hiver (Paris), and she is one of 50 selected exhibiting artists featured in the British Art Show 9 touring exhibition 21/22 and is a Wigmore Hall Associate Artist.
"Any attempts at categorisation are doomed to fail" – The Wire
"Mitchener is a genre crossing virtuoso" – Financial Times
Steve Beresford has been a central figure in the British and international spontaneous music scenes for over forty years, freely improvising on the piano, electronics and other things with people like Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Han Bennink, John Zorn and Alterations (with David Toop, Terry Day and Peter Cusack).
He has written songs, written for large and small ensembles, and scored short films, feature films, TV shows and commercials. He was part of the editorial teams of Musics and Collusion magazines, writes about music in various contexts and was a senior lecturer in music at the University of Westminster. With Blanca Regina, he is part of Unpredictable Series, which produces events and sound and video recordings of experimental music and art.
Steve has worked with Christian Marclay on numerous Marclay mixed media pieces. He has also worked with The Slits, Najma Akhtar, Stewart Lee, Ivor Cutler, Prince Far-I, Alan Hacker, Tania Chen, Ray Davies, Mandhira De Saram, The Flying Lizards, Zeena Parkins, The Portsmouth Sinfonia, Ilan Volkov, Rachel Musson, Vic Reeves, Lore Lixenberg and many others.
Beresford has an extensive discography as performer, arranger, free-improviser, composer and producer, and was awarded a Paul Hamlyn award for composers in 2012. In 2021, Bloomsbury published a book by Andy Hamilton: ‘Pianos, Toys, Music and Noise: Conversations with Steve Beresford’.
Sylvia Hallett is a composer and improviser, working with instruments (violin, hurdy-gurdy, saw,) and objects (bowed bicycle wheel, bowed branches etc) alongside simple live sound processing. She has worked extensively with dancers and in theatre, most recently with choreographer Miranda Tufnell on a tour of outdoor site specific venues in Northumberland. Recent albums: Tree Time and Bolt and Latch.