Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beam me up Scotty - back in the world of, er, "real" music...

Were I to have a tardis (and let's face it, we've all wanted one at some point or another) I'd use it to travel to New York's Lincoln Center this Friday. Manuel Göttsching is playing the U.S. premier of his monumental E2 - E4 live accompanied visually by the Joshua Light Show (by Joshua White, famed for his work at Bill Graham's Fillmore East venue with artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin). It promises to be utterly spectacular. I know many of you are fans of E2 - E4 and I can't imagine a better place to be on Friday night than listening to a live performance of this hypnotic piece by the composer with a stunning light show. If any of you stateside are in the area, check it out. He's also playing some other dates in the U.S. following the Lincoln Center concert and you'll find the details here.

Just for the anecdote, E2 - E4 came into being almost by accident. Manuel told me that he'd just finished a tour with Klaus Schulze at the end of 1981. He was still in a kind of "concert vibe" and so went into his studio to play a concert for himself. Thank God he had the foresight to press the 'record' button before he started improvising with his various keyboards, sequencers and guitars. When he'd finished, he listened to the result and realised that he had produced a perfect recording with no sound glitches or imperfections whatsoever. The resulting 59'20 recording didn't fit into any release plan he'd envisaged and yet he realised he'd come up with something exceptional. He went to see Richard Branson on his houseboat to ask what he thought. Branson was trying to rock his baby to sleep, and when the little one heard E2 - E4, it promptly slumbered off in his arms. His comment was "Manuel, you can make a fortune with that music..."

As for Manuel's Missus, Ilona Ziok, those of you who live in Germany (at least one of you!) might like to catch her documentary "Kurt Gerron's Karussell" broadcast on Phoenix on August 23rd (20:15). It's a musical documentary about the life of German-Jewish actor Kurt Gerron who appeared with Dietrich in The Blue Angel. Like many other Jewish performers he was interned in Theresienstadt concentration camp. Once inside, the musicians, actors and other peformers continued to play music and put on shows as a survival strategy. The film uses a cabaret - "The Karussell" - written and performed inside Theresienstadt as a backdrop for the story of Gerron's life. Ilona has staged the songs from the cabaret with artists such as Ute Lemper (who is apparently very cool), Max Raabe and Ben Becker. It's a stunning film which I thoroughly recommend.

Ilona and Manuel - Hals und Beinbruch für Freitag. Ich wäre furchtbar gerne da gewesen!

8 comments:

DarceysDad said...

fp, LOVE the Branson/baby anecdote. I downloaded E2-E4 a while back but have never listened to it. Remedying that as I type; if it works on me I'll wake up with keyboardface and dribble on my desk blotter . . .

Frogprincess said...

Ah yes.... the QWERTY tattooed across the forehead is a tricky one to get rid of.... I always tell Ilona that I use Manuel's music when I need just one more hour late in the office and I'm already shattered. It has a zen-like calm (the orientals worship him) but just enough energy to keep you going. Göttsching as a pep pill...

Frogprincess said...

Darce, have a listen to Saint and Sinner as well - you like good guitar work, don't you....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaVFaja4ZdQ

Abahachi said...

It's not fair, esp. as it turns out I've missed the boat both spatially and temporally. Intrigued as to how he went about recreating that improvised performance; learnt it all by heart in order to reproduce the record exactly, or (at the other end of the spectrum) simply went in with the same set of equipment and a vague idea of how to get started in order to see what happened. It's a long-standing debate in jazz: how much structure do you prepare in advance, how far can improvisation ever be completely free, how far - having played a brilliant solo or made a brilliant record - do you aim to reproduce it exactly for audiences who know the record, how far do you aim to create something completely new on the basis of the same materials?

The good news is that we have German satellite (partly in order to improve our language, partly so that I can watch the biathlon), so will keep an eye out for the documentary.

nilpferd said...

I didn't know the piece E2-E4, very nice vibe from the video edit. I'll need to get the album.
Reminds me a bit of early eighties Pat Metheny, also has the feel of early K+D, especially the keyboards.
Not sure if we get Phoenix here, if so I'll look out for the docu.
Re live versions of famous studio recordings, many jazz musicians tend to bring more energy to bear- Miles for example oftened doubled the tempo in the sixties, or fragmented the melodies to almost unrecognisable extents, creating massive abstract jams. Just listened recently to a live recording of A love supreme; compared to the original studio recording it was much "freer", indicating the direction Coltrane was heading. The most celebrated improvisationists like say Keith Jarrett achieve a state of zen-like calm before concerts, emptying their mind of all earthly concerns in an attempt to tap into "pure" music. The best jazz musicians are in constant development, so given the time difference between a concert and the original studio recordings of a piece they are often on a totally different wavelength by the time you hear something live.

Abahachi said...

That's one of the main reasons I've come to love jazz so much: the constant development and reinvention, so that it makes perfect sense to own multiple versions of the same song by the same artist. My sense - which may be prejudiced, limited or outdated - is that pop and rock are much less tolerant of this sort of variation from the original; an enormous effort goes into trying to reproduce songs precisely in a live context (and it's not just the bands themselves; one of the main reasons I stopped playing with rock bands was their obsession with replication to the point of inexpressible tedium).

I'm not sure what Manuel Goettsching would be classified as (maybe he's sufficiently jazz to go for the 'complete reinvention' approach without a qualm) but I'm intrigued by the question of how one goes about recreating, in any sense, a wholly spontaneous one-off performance - and how the audience is likely to react to degrees of divergence from the original.

nilpferd said...

I'd say he needn't totally reinvent the piece, just like D&B groups he is basically establishing a mood and introducing variations to it. I saw Richard Dorfmeister perform a very interesting electronic concert here in Stuttgart about 10 years ago where fragments of beats or samples were recognisable from his various recorded works, without it being a one-to-one copy. Live at an ambient or electronic concert you are looking to be transported to another "place", so I think the tolerance for repetition is much higher than it would be at an acoustic jazz concert. I definitely agree about the repetition factor of rock groups- there's obviously more going on at a concert than purely an enjoyment of the music itself, which you could reproduce at home just as easily.

FP said...

Hi guys, just back from a blissful week in Arcachon (so much Bordeaux to drink - so little time!!). And it really is cheaper down there. Shame we flew. Thanks for your erudite musings. I'll pass them on and we'll get Manuel to tell us how he recreates improvisation - good question!