Tuesday 19 July 2022, 7.30pm
The first issue of The Wire was published in summer 1982. To mark its 40th anniversary, throughout July the magazine is hosting a series of live events in London, Bristol, Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow, Chicago, and online.
For this Cafe Oto residency, The Wire’s publisher/director Tony Herrington has assembled a three-part programme based on the editorial philosophy that was encapsulated in the strapline on the cover of that first issue: Jazz, Improvised Music, And….
The first night of the residency is a homage to the continuing influence of two groups that have been crucial to the emergence and development of free improvised music in the UK since the 1960s: AMM and Spontaneous Music Ensemble.
The night has been curated by David Toop, a key contributor to The Wire since the 1980s, and will feature David, Steve Beresford, Mandhira de Saram, Elaine Mitchener, Rie Nakajima, Maggie Nicols, Mark Wastell, and Thurston Moore in a three hour improvised performance. The musicians will play in a number of different combinations which will be interspersed with voice recordings of John Stevens, Trevor Watts, Eddie Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Victor Schonfield and others speaking about aspects of AMM and SME.
AMM – photo by Fraser Pearce
The Wire’s Cafe Oto residency is part of a series of events programmed by the magazine to mark its 40th anniversary at venues in London, Bristol, Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow, Chicago, and online. Artists appearing at the events include People Like Us, Helena Celle, No Home, Hannah Catherine Jones, Venus Ex Machina, Teresa Winter, UnicaZürn, :zoviet*france:, FM Einheit, Blectum From Blechdom, Apartment House, Black Top, Sarah Angliss, Kemper Norton, Hamid Drake, Ikue Mori, Aaron Dilloway, plus screenings of Neptune Frost by Saul Williams & Anisia Uzeyman, films on Éliane Radigue and William Burroughs, and concerts exploring the legacies of The Scratch Orchestra, AMM and Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Tickets for all events are going on sale in May. To get updates on all The Wire’s 40th anniversary events, including ticketing information and programme announcements, follow The Wire on Twitter and Instagram: @thewiremagazine; Facebook; and sign up to its Weekly newsletter at thewire.co.uk/newsletters.
AMM is a British free improvisation group that was founded in London, England, in 1965. The group was initially composed of Keith Rowe on guitar, Lou Gare on saxophone, and Eddie Prévost on drums. The three men shared an interest in exploring music beyond the boundaries of conventional jazz, as in free jazz and free improvisation. AMM has never been popular but has been influential in improvised music. Most of their albums have been released by Matchless Recordings, which was run by Eddie Prévost. In a 2001 interview, Keith Rowe was asked if "AMM" was an abbreviation. He replied, "The letters AMM stand for something, but as you probably know it's a secret!"
"AMM music may initially seem impenetrable, but it sure as hell penetrates you. Soon the desired state is instilled in the listener; a rapt vacancy somewhere between supreme concentration and utter absentmindedness." - Melody Maker
On AMMMusic, long tones sit next to abrasive thuds, the howl of uncontrolled feedback accompanies Cardew's purposeful piano chords, radios beam in snatches of orchestral music. AMM's clearest break with jazz-based improvisation concerned the idea of individuality. Initially through an engagement with eastern philosophy and mysticism and later though a politicized communitarianism, AMM sought to develop a collective sonic identity in which individual contributions could barely be discerned. In the performances captured on AMMMusic the use of numerous auxiliary instruments and devices, including radios played by three members of the group, contribute to the sensation that the music is composed as a single monolithic object with multiple facets, rather than as an interaction between five distinct voices." - Francis Plagne
Eddie Prévost / percussion, Keith Rowe / electric guitar and transistor radio, John Tilbury / Piano
The Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME) was a loose collection of free improvising musicians, convened in 1965 by the now late South London-based jazz drummer/trumpeter John Stevens and alto and soprano saxophonist Trevor Watts. SME performances and recordings could range from Stevens–Watts duos to gatherings of more than a dozen players.
As critic Brian Olewnick writes, the SME emphasised an "extremely open, leaderless aspect where a premium was placed on careful and considered listening on the part of the musicians. Saxophonist Evan Parker observed that Stevens had two basic rules: (1) If you can't hear another musician, you're playing too loud, and (2) if the music you're producing doesn't regularly relate to what you're hearing others create, why be in the group? This led to the development of what would jocularly become known as 'insect improv' – music that tended to be very quiet, very intense, arrhythmic, and by and large atonal."
David Toop 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 eight acclaimed books, including Rap Attack (1984), Ocean of Sound (1995), Sinister Resonance (2010), Into the Maelstrom (2016), Flutter Echo(2019) and Inflamed Invisible: Writing On Art and Sound 1976-2018 (2019). Briefly a member of David Cunningham’s pop project The Flying Lizards in 1979, he has released fourteen 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) and Apparition Paintings (2021). 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 Caroline Chen, John Butcher, Ken Ikeda, Elaine Mitchener, Henry Grimes, Sharon Gal, Camille Norment, Sidsel Endresen, Alasdair Roberts, Lucie Stepankova, Fred Frith, Thurston Moore, Ryuichi Sakamoto. Curator of sound art exhibitions including Sonic Boom at the Hayward Gallery (2000), his opera – Star-shaped Biscuit – was performed in 2012.
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’.
Mandhira is a versatile violinist performing as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral violinist in the UK and abroad. She is a founding member and the leader of the Ligeti Quartet, a young string quartet which has established a reputation as a leading dynamic and imaginative force in contemporary and modern music. She graduated with 1st class honours from the University of Oxford achieving a high 1st in performance and winning the Worcester College Arts Prize for the highest result in an arts subject.
International solo and chamber music tours have taken her around Europe as well as the USA, India, China and her country of origin, Sri Lanka. She has performed at prestigious festivals and venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre, Southbank Centre and St Johns Smith Square in London and the Carnegie Hall in New York.
Her repertoire is varied consisting of standard classical works as well as free improvisation and original projects often involving collaborations with contemporary composers, sound artists and musicians from a variety of genres outside classical music. With her quartet she has worked with Wadada Leo Smith, Meilyr Jones, Shabaka Hutchings, Laura Jurd, Kerry Andrew, Sean Noonan, and, following a tour to China and Hong Kong, has collaborated with leading Hong Kong DJ Choi Sai Ho and Japanese sound artist mamoru.
Mandhira was born in London. After completing her primary education in Sri Lanka, she was awarded a music scholarship to North London Collegiate School where she completed her secondary education. She was also a Leverhulme Scholar at the Junior Royal Academy of Music where she performed both as a violinist and pianist, also taking classes in composition and conducting. Her violin teachers have included Igor Petrushevsky, Howard Davis and Levon Chilingirian.
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
Rie Nakajima is a a sculptor living in London. She has been working on creating installations and performances by responding to physical characters of spaces using combination of motorised devices and found objects. Fusing sculpture and sound, her artistic practice is open to chance and the influence of others. She has exhibited and performed worldwide. She has collaborated with Ikon Gallery(Birmingham), Museo Vostell Malpartida (Cáceres), Tate Modern (London), Serralves Museum (Porto), ShugoArts (Tokyo), Hara Museum (Tokyo) and many others. Her frequent collaborators includes David Cunningham, Keiko Yamamoto, Pierre Berthet, David Toop, Haruko Nakajima and Akira Sakata.
Maggie Nicols joined London's legendary Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1968 as a free improvisation vocalist. She then became active running voice workshops with an involvement in local experimental theatre. She later joined the group Centipede, led by Keith Tippets and in 1977, with musician/composer Lindsay Cooper, formed the remarkable Feminist Improvising Group. She continues performing and recording challenging and beautiful work, in music and theatre, either in collaborations with a range of artists (Irene Schweitzer, Joelle Leandre, Ken Hyder, Caroline Kraabel) as well as solo.
Mark Wastell is a versatile improvising musician who has played a central role in the British improvised music scene for over a quarter of a century. He has performed and recorded extensively and his varied resume includes projects with Derek Bailey, Phil Durrant, John Butcher, Lasse Marhaug, Rhodri Davies, Simon H. Fell, Burkhard Beins, John Tilbury, Mattin, Mark Sanders, Tony Conrad, Evan Parker, Tim Barnes, Bernhard Günter, Keith Rowe, John Zorn, Peter Kowald, Joachim Nordwall, Otomo Yoshihide, Paul Dunmall, David Toop, Alan Wilkinson, Max Eastley, Hugh Davies, Julie Tippetts, Alan Skidmore, Mike Cooper, Chris Abrahams, Stewart Lee, Clive Bell, Arild Andersen, Jan Bang, Maggie Nicols, Thurston Moore and David Sylvian.
Thurston Moore started Sonic Youth in 1980 and has been at the forefront of the alternative rock scene since that particular sobriquet was first used to signify any music that challenged and defied the mainstream standard. With Sonic Youth, Moore turned on an entire generation to the value of experimentation in rock n roll – from its inspiration on a nascent Nirvana, to Sonic Youth’s own Daydream Nation album being chosen by the US Library of Congress for historical preservation in the National Recording Registry in 2006. Thurston records and performs in a cavalcade of disciplines ranging from free improvisation to acoustic composition to black/white metal/noise disruption. He has worked with Yoko Ono, John Zorn, David Toop, Cecil Taylor, Faust, Glenn Branca and many others. His residency at the Louvre in Paris included collaborations with Irmin Schmidt of CAN. Alongside his various activities in the musical world, he is involved with publishing and poetry, and teaches writing at Naropa University, Boulder CO, a school founded by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman in 1974. Thurston also teaches music at The Rhythmic Music Conservatory (Rytmisk Musikkonservatorium) in Copenhagen. Presently he performs and records solo, with various ensembles and in his own band, The Thurston Moore Group.