DIMC Conference Discussion 2010

Present: Carl Bergstroem-Nielsen, Henrik Ehland Rasmussn, Brigitte Küpper, Norbert Zajac, Juan Maria Solare, David Schwartz, Hutch Demoulpied, Immanuel Kuhrt, Antonio Sascino, Gerhard Pischinger, Frank Hielser, Manuel Bruschy.


Henrik, about the theme of "Improvised music in the world of today": I originally thought of "Your experience with intuitive practice in the world of today".

Juan: from a philosophical or a practical point of view?

Henrik: both, I think

Brigitte: I ask another question: what makes the difference between free improvisation in the nineteen nineties and in 2010 and following years? - I think there is an increasing influence of traditional or established music. Some improvisors say they are not influenced but I do not agree, the new ideas of commercial music flow into our music - it is in our backgrounds and in the radio for instance.

Juan: I see that negatively, there is less tolerance of taking risks with improvisors - within the music. It has to do with the systems of value - you can lose your job in days, and I see this trend from the external world reflected also in the way we make music. Some improvisors go more commercial and strive to be accepted.

Carl: there have never been so many CDs out with improvised music, so many specialised radio stations playing them, so many Phd's written about it.

Juan: name me two radio stations

Carl: as a record company, I have had so many enquieries for free CDs for airplay, even if I do not remember the names.

Norbert: experimental music is played later in the night in Deutschlandfunk than before, at 1AM

Brigitte: I disagree that improvised music gets more and more established

Carl: what about Exploratorium Berlin, all those "offene Bühne" around Germany...

Brigitte: only very few people come

Carl: but it's more regular and established than before

Juan: but this is the reception of the music, not the music itself

David: what about music outside concert life, people playing for themselves, for deepening their own experience. Some of those experiences belong to the deepest for me because of the contact, and there is no need to record it. There the world of today and its trends do not matter very much.You can be part of it without having to sell it or whatever...
[note: six of the participants work as music therapists]

Henrik: but wouldn't it be preferable somehow to share those great values with more people?

David: There are people whose personalities are more extroverted, who are comfortable with taking very intimate stuff and giving it to the world

Brigitte: even the best improvisors in the world have not changed anything about their minority role, they live very modestly as also ten years ago. I hear that for the Nozart Festival in Cologne, every year it gets more difficult to get sponsoring money

Immanuel: on the other hand, isn't there an openness in music schools towards improvisation. I heard about a school in London that does all kinds of world stuff

Carl: and conservatories, for instance Odense here...

Brigitte: it's more the classical music part... Where are the followers [Nachwuchs]? How old is the youngest of ours? There is not a lot of Nachwuchs in our scene in Cologne...Our young people go to Medienhochschule and learn about computers and other things they can use in the media branch...

Juan: that's what I mean with not taking risks - film music, not experimental...

Immanuel: I know a number of young people at Aalborg Conservatorty who just like playing free improvised music, no rules

Norbert: last time I came to the free festival in Austria Nickelsdorfer Konfrontationen, 50-60 percent of the Audience knew each other

Carl: I think it's impressive that these festivals exist - also Ad Libitum in Poland...

Norbert: but the artists get paid less and less

Brigitte: Nickelsdorfer Konfrontationen collected money in Wien for being able to go on next year


Hutch: does anyone think, when they talk about free music, free jazz etc. that it's old-fashioned in terms of its definition - people have never heard of this term, it feels like something new, different, not nescessarily like free. If you say you are going to hear a jazz-funk gig it's dated in the nineties, it's not going to help you

Immanuel: I think things have to have a time in which they were mainstream to be able to be outdated

David: Keith Jarrett is world famous and touring with improvised solo performance

Brigitte: Jarrett is a label, a brand

Henrik: why must it be so that people prefer being entertained instead of drawing themselves into challenge ?

Immanuel: our brains like structures, they like patterns. That makes it easy for us to like navigate. And in improvised music you get much less of that

Juan: I'm wondering - name of the meeting is Denmark's Intuitive Music Conference. Why are we speaking about free music - it means nothing. We should speak about intuitive music

Carl: we understand each other by this label. The music is non-idiomatic, but that sounds more technical

Antonio: freedom is something political but the music is not political

Carl: no, but it's not jazz either

Juan: it's free from what?

David: free from plans, structure

Antonio: intuitive music was a term invented by Karlheinz Stockhausen and has a structure

Carl: Stockhausen subscribed to this very idea of freedom by saying, jazz is not free enough, it has cliches, let's push ourselves out and get something completely new, and the texts were a means to get pure intuition working

David: "free" is about what you're not - not bound, held by anything. But supposing I am intuitive, then I am something - I try to find the vibration inside myself and act accordingly


Brigitte: the intuitive musician has a resonsibility to serve the audience, even if there are only two people. If I do it just to caress my ego, I should go to a therapist

Hutch: I feel towards an understanding between musicians

Juan: if I give the audience what they are expecting, I am not serving them

Henrik: it could be the seductive aspect

Immanuel: serving could just be aware that you have an audience. It does not stop a few meters away, it stops only at the wall behind. I play the same music, but the intent is broadened. It's the same in popular music

Brigitte: when I played blues music in former times there were a lot of musicians serving only their own ego

Gerhard: maybe the word serving is misleading because it is close to pleasing. Maybe it's more about respect.

David: it sometimes happen that we play in the group and someone says to me, you should perform that, more people should hear it than are just sitting here, but that's hard for me

Hutch: you say you wouldn't do it because you don't like to do it - how then could you know who could do it and do it fine, but still choose not to?

Dvid: there are people who just like to be on stage

Gerhard: can you be a star in intutive music? Listening is demanding, you have to give something more, be more concentrated, but it is also rewarding

David: I once went into a performance of this kind of music and my friend said to me: is this music or is it music therapy

Henrik: it's just a question of being authentic

David: I once went to a Keith Jarrett concert and someone shouted: "play a song". This is the situation I prefer to keep outside of.

Carl: let's keep in mind that music is both form and some psychic content we attatch to it. The great thing about all art could be that this form aspect cools down the chaotic content and makes it possible to connect inner and outer. So it should be possible to like Beethoven, both be involved and performing a kind of ritual where these things are made public. As the psychologist C.G.Jung said, art is public dealing with conflicts. Structure matters - like in verbal language, you can make sentences instead of just crying or laughing

Immanuel: from the audience's perspective - for the music to be relevant, as Hutch said, you have to almost be into that kind of music, practising that. I think there is some kind of truth to that - music is a bit like different languages, and we learn different languages from our socialisation. The language of intutive music is very little spoken to us in our daily lives - so if you're not into it, it will be like "fup iuyyy fkk ppf mmp slap" - "yes can I have that one with ketchup" (laughter).

Carl: in some cases it occurs. I am thinking of a friend who had a very strong meditative experience - she plays traditional music, but not at all our kind. This happens sometimes, and that's worth a lot of trouble for the musician that someone has an experience more or less for life because of what happened that evening

Gerhard: I had such experience with my group of mentally disabled people. We play improvisations every morning before other things, and a few times we have performed these improvisations, for example at the opening of an exhibition. We have got a lot of positive feedback. If we could just find the right way to make a whole concert, it would be a success. They are very authentic, it gets very intimate - we had people visiting our group being really moved to tears. Maybe there are only very few who appreaciate this music, but those who do, they really do. Maybe half an hour would be enough, so as not to make people overwhelmed

Frank: maybe we can learn from children. I made music with a one year child and was deeply impressed. what happens to the children, that they cannot do it later...

Carl: if we solved that mystery, we would have many grown-up fans (laughter)

Hutch: hurry up!

Immanuel: a recording is very much a document in time of intent, awareness and prescence. The these three factors are, the more they move us and the more meningful the experience is

Carl: Maybe I would not compare the nineties to now, but I would like to compare the seventies to the nineties and on: Many more groups in the nineties and on play like only the experts did in the seventies

Immanuel: those people of the seventies had monopoly of the audience

Hutch: there was a high season in the seventies...

Carl: in the seventies it was fashionable, but later it became really solid good...

Hutch: I agree about the seventies and nineties...but later it stopped and commercially it decreased. I think the high season was about at least ten years back from now.

Immanuel: there is a limit to how long it can stay completely new. Maybe we don't play jazz, funk etc. any more, we play each our own genre. If you don't know the territory, there is a risk, like going into a jungle - where are the snakes? - this is attractive in the beginning. The risk is, those moments become more rare, the music becomes more habitual, and you decrease your awareness, prescence and intent...

Carl: and to avoid that, you should see last year's discussion about habits! (May open in a new window if you click here)


David: for me, the whole issue for me is to make as many experiences as possible where the playing comes from itself, being a vehicle, less and less controlling. Like last night, it was just happening, we didn't plan it...

Brigitte: no, it is not just happening. In one way yes, and that's wonderful, but you use your tools, and that's not a dangerous habit to me, like any other experience in your life

David: absolutely - I don't see that's a contradiction, of course I play because my fingers can play - but I'm in it for those ecstatic moments

Brigitte: spirit comes additionally if you are lucky. But you have exercised your tools all your life, and if they shouldn't be good for something, I don't know why you're playing..

Immanuel: I think you are talking about those moments where you stop making a strategy for what are you going to do within the next seconds

Henrik: so you are like the curious child...

David; it's a complex question how to get to the magic - how do I organise myself, my mind, my hands, my fingers, my friends.. so that this experience comes

Juan: I am sceptical that it works through structure, actually I think it should work through de-structure - deconstructing the things you already know. Intuitive music seems to me opposed to a rational structure - you leave them behind
[See also Haruhiko Okabe's mentioning of Foucault's "crack of structure" in the 2009 discussion]

David: I came to think of an exercise with limiting myself to playing three notes and really try to say something with them. This may happen, and afterwards you don't have to limit yourself - but that limitation helped me to find the flow

Juan: I think that intuition comes more through awareness and prescence than structure. Of course you know the structures as you know the alphabet, but this is for me still too low means to achieve intuitive magic

Immanuel: one danger of structure is that you have a schedule of what you are going to do and it might occupy your brain in a way so that you are distracted from just being in it. Then the other side of it is that our moments of real strong prescence are quite short - you might repeat it, but they are actually quite short. It does not feel like that, but research has shown that 14 seconds are maximum - maybe 14 more if you are really into it. Distractions can sometimes help me focus, if they are within the frame of what I am doing. Because my mind can drift. And if I don't have a distraction which is within the frame, then my mind goes "pfffft!!" - somewhere else. But if, for example, I sit and write something and have some music on which is energetic, then I got a distraction which is kind of in the same frame as what I am doing - energeticwise. So that means that when I'm out of it, even for a moment, I'm still in - and in that way a structure can sometimes facilitate. You don't start thinking of dinner, for instance.

Brigitte: there are things that help by being transmitters to the magic

David: and that's the big art, finding them and how to use and not use them

Brigitte: it doesn't just fall from Heaven

Immanuel: that morning you could say "now I'm really into it" you were out of it


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