One of the most inventive and eclectic figures in contemporary music, guitarist and composer Fred Frith made a welcome return to OTO in 2015. Recorded on the first night of his residency with collaborators Theresa Wong and John Butcher, Quintillions Green is an improvised epic with titles inspired by Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Visual Artist Heike Liss energized the evening - trailing delicate threads of color across textured film sequences to mirror the expansive, unspooling free verse of the trio.
John Butcher / saxophones, feedback
Theresa Wong / cello, voice
Fred Frith / guitar, voice
Recorded live at Cafe OTO on 29 May 2015 by James Dunn. Mixed by James Dunn. Mastered by Rupert Clerveaux. Original image by Heike Liss.
Frith's work has ranged from ground-breaking avant-garde rock with Henry Cow and Art Bears to extended compositions for choirs, orchestras and saxophone quartets and collaborations with figures such as Mike Patton, John Zorn, Brian Eno, Ikue Mori and Derek Bailey. His highly individual approach to the guitar and use of extended and unorthodox techniques give his music a unique and at times disorienting sense of texture and space.
Frith's musicial journey started when he formed Henry Cow with Tim Hodgkinson in 1968, a legendary group that expanded the parameters of rock music to include complex compositional forms as well as improvised elements.
After moving to New York in 1979, Frith was a key figure in the downtown experimental music scene, his collaborations with Zorn, Laswell, Mori and others helping form an important new musical vernacular in which elements of rock, contempary composition, noise and improvisation overlapped and intertwined.
Since 1999 Frith has been Professor of Composition at Mills University, California. Recent projects have included duos with Anthony Braxton and Evelyn Glennie, collaborations with the Arte Quartett and choreographer Donna Uchizono, and numerous festival appearances in Europe and America.
“A masterful sound colorist, Frith is in no way subject to analyses of has artistic legitimacy - (he) redefines the possible uses of the guitar and makes traditional discourse irrelevant” – L.A. Herald Examiner (USA)
Butcher is well known as a saxophonist who attempts to engage with the uniqueness of time and place. His music ranges through improvisation, his own compositions, multitracked pieces and explorations with feedback and unusual acoustics. Since the early 80s he has collaborated with hundreds of musicians – including Derek Bailey, Rhodri Davies, Andy Moor (EX), Phil Minton, Christian Marclay, Eddie Prevost, John Stevens’ SME, Gino Robair, Polwechsel, Mark Sanders, John Tilbury, and Okkyung Lee.
Alongside long term projects he values occasional encounters; from large groups such as the EX Orkestra & Butch Morris’ “London Skyscraper”, to duo concerts with Fred Frith, Akio Suzuki, Paal Nilssen-Love, Keiji Haino, David Toop, Otomo Yoshihide, Sophie Agnel and Matthew Shipp.
Recent compositions include “Penny Wands” for Futurist Intonarumori, two HCMF commissions for his own groups, “Good Liquor Caused my Heart for to Sing” for the London Sinfonietta and “Tarab Cuts”, a response to recordings of early Arabic classical music which was shortlisted for a 2014 British Composer’s Award.
“English saxophonist John Butcher may be among the world’s most influential musicians, operating at the cutting-edge of improvisatory practice since the ‘80s. Whenever an acoustic musician starts to sound like a bank of oscillators, a tropical forest, a brook or an insect factory, Butcher’s influence is likely nearby.” – New York City Jazz Record.
Theresa Wong is a composer, cellist, and vocalist active at the intersection where music meets with the creative spirit of experimentation, song forms, improvisation, and the synergy of multiple disciplines. Her works include The Unlearning, 21 songs inspired by Goya's Disasters of War etchings (Tzadik, 2011); O Sleep, an opera inspired by the conundrum of sleep and dream life; and Venice Is A Fish (Sensitive Skin Music, 2014), an album of solo songs. She has presented her music internationally at venues including Fondation Cartier in Paris, Fabbrica Europa in Florence Italy, Cafe Oto in London, and Roulette in New York City.