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 an experimental vocalist and movement artist whose work melds different vocal styles encompassing free-improvisation, contemporary new music, sound art, music theatre and dance. She has worked and performed in a wide variety of contexts with leading artists including: Apartment House, Van Huynh Co, Steve Beresford, Sonia Boyce, John Butcher, Attila Csihar, Alexander Hawkins, Tansy Davies, George Lewis, Christian Marclay, Phil Minton, The Otolith Group, Evan Parker, Alasdair Roberts, David Toop, and Jason Yarde. She is co-founder of experimental jazz quartet the Hawkins/Mitchener Quartet (with Neil Charles, Stephen Davis and Alex Hawkins).
“Mitchener is a distinctive presence and interacts with her body and the remarkable sounds she produces: speech, soulful singing, breathless percussive bursts, skittering across octaves.” (Ben Luke, Evening Standard)
“SWEET TOOTH is a vital black British addition to those seminal creative statements of resistance and defiance from the African Diaspora.” (Kevin Le Genre, Jazzwise)
Steve has been a central figure in the British and international spontaneous music scenes for over forty years, freely improvising on piano, electronics and other things with people like Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Han Bennink, John Zorn and Alterations.
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 for 'Musics' and 'Collusion' magazines, writes about music in various contexts and was a senior lecturer in music at 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 often worked with Christian Marclay on various Marclay mixed media pieces. Others he has worked with include 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 and Lore Lixenberg.
Beresford has an extensive discography as performer, arranger, free-improviser, composer and producer, and was was awarded a Paul Hamlyn award for composers in 2012.
Sylvia Hallett studied music at Dartington, and then spent two years studying composition with Max Deutsch in Paris. She now works both as a composer and as an improviser, and has had pieces performed in Britain and Europe. She has played in many international festivals since the late 1970s, working with several well-known and respected musicians, including Lol Coxhill, Maggie Nicols, Phil Minton, Evan Parker, and the groups Accordions Go Crazy, LaXula, British Summer Time Ends, Arc,The London Improvisers Orchestra, and the London Hardingfelelag. She also performs solo, (eg. in Museo Wolf Vostell, Caceres), and in duo with Clive Bell, with Mike Adcock, and with Anna Homler. Projects with various theatre and dance companies include collaborations with the dancer/choreographers h2dance (Hanna Gillgren and Heidi Rustgaard), Miranda Tufnell, Emilyn Claid, Jacky Lansley, Lost Dog, and Eva Karczag, and the live art puppeteer Nenagh Watson, and Suffolk-based Wonderful Beast. She has performed and musically directed the music of Adrian Lee in world tours with the Young Vic's highly acclaimed "Grimm Tales", and The Royal Shakespeare Company's productions of "Comedy of Errors", "Tales from Ovid" and "Canterbury Tales".
Sylvia has released three solo CDs, two on the MASH label, which contain songs, improvisations, and tape collage pieces derived from her compositions for theatre and dance. Her 3rd solo release, White Fog on the EMANEM label features the bowed bicycle wheel. Commissions include incidental music for several BBC Radio Plays, most recently Two Men From Delft. Her work on Virginia Woolf's Kew Gardens received favourable reviews for its innovative use of voice and sound manipulation.