Sunday 20 January 2019, 7.30pm
Old music. Dead music. Music of Death. Music of the ancestors. Music of the silent. Vulnerable as the dodo to rats, cats and pigs, a vast number of extraordinary musical forms became extinct across the globe during the 20th century, preserved on a scant number of recordings. Alongside the extinctions there is an endangered list of largely ceremonial musics preserved or recreated as museum pieces, tourist attractions, a desperate bid to re-awaken cultural and political identity. Who cares? Not a lot of people, apparently.
Countering this indifference, Evan Parker and David Toop, both long-term collectors of such music, students and enthusiasts of its many forms, present the third of their Sharpen Your Needles performances. In a deep listening session interspersed with ruminations and the barest amount of information they play highlights from their personal vinyl collections of music from Korea, Africa, Japan, Tibet, India, Brazil, Java, Papua New Guinea and all points elsewhere.
“An absorbing and mesmeric sequence of full LP tracks, up to about 20 minutes in length . . . There was a hypnotic, trance-like thread running through these wonderful recordings from all corners of the world.” – Geoff Winston, London Jazz News.
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.