IRMA is a 1969 experimental opera by artist Tom Phillips. The score involved 93 random phrases taken from the 1892 novel A Human Document by W.H. Mallock. They were then divided up into sound suggestions, a libretto and staging directions. In 1988 Phillips invited AMM to perform the piece with guests in London's Union Chapel.
"If any work marks the end of the 60's, it is Irma, composed as it was in the twilight months of that decade, and presaging as it did the world of deconstruction to come. The sixties were the years of revolution: there was often as many as thirty three per minute, some of which featured music. Although it is in the tradition of the Romantic Grand Opera, Irma, with its distancing wit, somehow brings them altogether in a potted Dämmerung. Whereas Wagner had failed in is quest for the true Gesamtkunstwerk, in which the arts of music poetry and visual spectacle are brought into balance in a single work, Phillips succeeds triumphantly. In a recording of course we forfeit the visual element, but close attention to the text will enable the listener to imagine the sumptuous scenic effects and opulant mise en scène. To quote A HUTMENT, ‘The Sound in my life enlarges my prison…’ - H.W.K. Collam
Eddie Prévost / percussion
Keith Rowe / guitar
John Tilbury / piano, radio
Ian Mitchell / clarinet
Lol Coxhill / saxophone, vocals
Elise Lorraine / vocals
Phil Minton / vocals
Tom Phillips / vocals
Recorded at the Union Chapel, London, 20th May 1988 by Ray Beckett and Phil Mouldycliff (live mix). Artwork by Tom Phillips. Design by Keith Rowe.
Available as a 320k MP3 or 16bit FLAC download.
1. Irma - 38:48
Phil Minton comes from Torquay. He played trumpet and sang with the Mike Westbrook Band in the early 60s - Then in dance and rock bands in Europe for the later of part of the decade. He returned to England in 1971, rejoining Westbrook and was involved in many of his projects until the mid 1980′s.
For most of the last forty years, Minton has been working as an improvising singer in lots of groups, orchestras, and situations. Numerous composers have written music especially for his extended vocal techniques. He has a quartet with Veryan Weston, Roger Turner and John Butcher, and ongoing duos, trios and quartets with above and many other musicians.
Since the eighties, His Feral Choir, where he voice-conducts workshops and concerts for anyone who wants to sing, has performed in over twenty countries.
“Phil Minton is best known for his startling vocal improvisations. On his new solo CD, this sensible looking man proffers 37 thin slices of his unfettered soul. Not long ago these croaks, burps, high-pitched exhalations, deep-throated drones and shreds of garbled half-language would have seen Minton either burnt or hailed as an emissary of God.” – Stewart Lee, The Sunday Times
Keith Rowe (born 16 March 1940 in Plymouth, England) is an English free improvisation tabletop guitarist and painter. Rowe is a founding member of both the influential AMM in the mid-1960s (though in 2004 he quit that group for the second time) and M.I.M.E.O. Having trained as a visual artist, Rowe's paintings have been featured on most of his own albums. After years of obscurity, Rowe has achieved a level of relative notoriety, and since the late 1990s has kept up a busy recording and touring schedule. He is seen as a godfather of EAI (electroacoustic improvisation), with many of his recent recordings having been released by Erstwhile Records.
John Tilbury is renowned for his peerless interpretation of the piano music of Morton Feldman, John Cage, Christian Wolff and Howard Skempton. In addition to the performances and seminal recordings that he has made of these composers’ works, he has been an eloquent advocate of their music in his writing and speaking about them. The same is true of the attention he has paid to the music and ideas of Cornelius Cardew, the subject of his authoritative biography published in 2008, and with whom he played in the legendary improvisation groups the Scratch Orchestra and AMM. In the last ten years John Tilbury has performed a range of plays and prose pieces by Samuel Beckett.
Eddie Prévost plays with immense fire, grace and invention. Founder of the essential AMM, collaborator of the greatest improvisers internationally, since the 60's he has kept a continuous contact with the scene and always manages to invent anew his contribution to "meta-music".
“Prévost's free drumming flows superbly making use of his formidable technique. It’s as though there has never been an Elvin Jones or Max Roach.” - Melody Maker
“Relentlessly innovative yet full of swing and fire.” – Morning Star