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 is a composer, musician, author, a professor and lecturer at the London College of Communication and curator with a particular interest in sound practice, listening and improvisation. He has worked in many fields of sound art and music, including improvisation, sound installations, field recordings, pop music production, and music for television, theatre and dance. He has recorded Yanomami shamanism in the Amazonas, appeared on Top of the Pops, exhibited sound installations in Tokyo, Beijing and London’s National Gallery, and performed with artists ranging from John Zorn, Evan Parker, Bob Cobbing and Ivor Cutler to Akio Suzuki, Elaine Mitchener, Lore Lixenberg and Max Eastley. He has published seven books, including Ocean of Sound, Haunted Weather, and Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener.
He released eight solo albums, including Screen Ceremonies, Black Chamber and Sound Body, and as a critic, has written for publications including The Wire, The Face, Leonardo Music Journal and Bookforum.
Exhibitions he has curated include Sonic Boom at the Hayward Gallery, London, Playing John Cage at Arnolfini, Bristol, and Blow Up at Flat-Time House, London.
David is a member of CRISAP (Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice).
His opera, Star-shaped Biscuit, was performed as an Aldeburgh’ Faster than Sound project, in September 2012 and his latest book, Into the Maelstrom: Improvised Music and the Pursuit of Freedom, was shortlisted for the Penderyn Music Book Prize in 2017.
"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.