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All Hallows Trivia (i/ii)

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november 08, 2007.

[ podcast :: sbpc 17 ... s ]

"time rolls by like hurricanes,
and faster things"

( * )

For the ten days of the All Hallows holidays I went with the kids to Amsterdam. I had planned to entertain them there, and meanwhile take care of a lot of all the serious business that has to be attended to, including, but unfortunately not exclusively, the writing of a 25 pages or something paper together with EMMANUEL FERRAND on electro-acoustic improvisation (EAI), and how according to us this musical practice can (and should) be interpreted as acting as a metalanguage. The day before we left for Amsterdam, on friday october 26th, I spent an interesting morning with JEAN BORDÉ at his maison in the rue Paul Kock, having some early beers and enjoying a good pasta while discussing the - of course - very closely related practice of improvisation libre, free improvisation, its history, its merits, its traps ... and where it might be heading ... These conversations are very insightful, and I should definitely record many more of them. Not for this particular paper, for which the deadline is quickly approaching - so quickly, that it still remains to be seen whether that paper will be written at all - but then surely for a next one. Or the one after that ... Talk some more for instance with BERTRAND GAUGUET, who earlier this summer (when we were trying out for our trio performance with JEAN at PASCAL MARZAN's Festival R-de-Choc on friday july 7th in the Espace Jemmapes) remarked that his choice of becoming a free improviser was most of all a political choice. Curiously, exactly the same thing the french mathematician JEAN-YVES GIRARD told me some fifteen years ago, late night in a parisian restaurant where we were having dinner on the occasion of some conference or other, when I asked him why he had opted for mathematical logic rather than, say, for working in the field of algebraic geometry or number theory. But even though BERTRAND and JEAN-YVES used exactly the same words, each of them in fact meant something different ...
flyer The two day Festival R-de-Choc was all by itself a pretty unique opportunity to learn about free improvisation, and see and hear what that can be about. The event had been set up as a meeting of a handful of french improvisers with four british ones: STEVE BERESFORD (piano and toy electronics), JOHN RUSSELL (guitar), SIMON FELL (double bass) and percussionist ROGER TURNER. It was great fun and a pleasure for me to do a (very) short duo with ROGER as part of the festival's opening sets. RÉBUS shot an even shorter bit of video of it. The sound is not too good, but you can hear and see me do some shrieking with cassettes, and maybe also with a crackle box, from behind the table in the dark. JACQUES OGER, a renowned saxophone player in his days and who you might know now is running the french Potlatch label, was there in the audience, and overheard sighing ... "Mais c'est n'importe quoi !" ... I have to admit that I do not really know JACQUES. The words that we have exchanged may be counted on the fingers of the hands that for many years already we, à la française, kind of mechanically shake when we run into each other at one of the many improvisation libre events in Paris, France ... Let us consider that a good sign. Still, best part of the clip is surely the moment where I step out of the shadow and you can see me, wearing my red suspenders and a tie. Roger Turner & HarS JEAN had told me earlier that evening that actually he knew but two musicians that wore ties on stage: HARS, and ARCHIE SHEPP. For quite a while already I got into the habit of wearing a tie during EAI performances. Because I actually like wearing a tie, but also because it seemed to somehow be among the myriads of unspoken do not's that together circumscribe the practice of free improvisation. I was pretty much convinced I'd be the only one wearing one. Thanks to JEAN I now know there's also ARCHIE SHEPP, but then, well, I suppose the chance you'll ever be able see the two of us together on one stage is pretty much nil. Or maybe I should invite ARCHIE to do a tied duet together? "Kent nu reeds Uw vluchtwegen!" ... Or something.
The other improvisers not yet mentioned playing at the festival were DAN WARBURTON, violinist, regular contributor to the Wire and editor of Paris Transatlantic Magazine, and saxophonist MICHEL DONEDA who, as does BERTRAND, uses his instrument to generate a great number of wind and breath related sounds that will make one think of many things, but rarely of a saxophone. Now one should not think too lightly of this. Though any novice to the instrument will sometimes produce somewhat similar sounds randomly and by chance in his or her efforts to blow the reed, the ability to control and re-produce them, demands lots of exercise and sophisticated techniques. It was as curious as it was fascinating to observe how at the Festival R-de-Choc BERTRAND and MICHEL also off-stage, and without an instrument in sight, both continued absentmindedly to do their lip vibrations and puffs, in between conversations and without prior warning... It sort of reminded me of ROALD DAHL's "Royal Jelly". If you know the story, you'll get the idea ...

The first time I met MICHEL DONEDA was two years ago in Brussels, in november 2005, where I spent a weekend with my dear friend and so very careful and talented filmmaker MARTA BERGMAN. On saturday evening november 12th we went to a party at MARTA's friend and singer ZAHAVA SEEWALD's place, who is best known for her Zohara project, and the album Scorched Lips on JOHN ZORN's Tzadik label. MICHEL did a fine solo performance there that night, and there was lots of good food and drinks. That very same evening I met FABRIZIO ROTA and JEAN-JACQUES DUERINCKX, who at the time still were the duo Element-Aire. We later on, in october 2006, performed together at DNK in Amsterdam, and more recently, on june 7th, outside Recyclart in Brussels. That performance marked the end of my four day Found Tapes event there, of which I still owe you (and myself) a detailed report. Well, to quote yet another line from my favorite southern rock song: "time goes by like pouring rain, and much faster things ..."michel doneda Of course it is for the very same reason that I also still owe you all about what happened when I went hunting tapes in Brooklyn, NY, early september during the fourth Conflux festival, where to our mutual surprise I bumped into MICHEL DONEDA again, when in the afternoon of september 13th he and his saxophone walked into the Conflux Headquarters, situated in the The Change You Want To See gallery on Havemeyer Street. Michel participated in the Relay event that took place that afternoon as part of Conflux. In the picture (you may click it to enlarge) you see MICHEL playing that thursday afternoon in Havemeyer Street with (kneeling) trumpet player NATE WOOLEY.

wiels "Time goes by like hurricanes, and faster things ..." It must have been on WIEL SEUSKENS' mind, who invited us to come over to Montevideo, the Netherlands Media Art Institute on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam, on the evening of saturday november 3th to celebrate there his xy-th birthday. The invitation came with a secret image to show in order to get in for free ... So I selected Wiel's as desktop image on my cell phone screen, and by simply waving my Motorola kids & I walked in, ahead of a dense Museumnacht crowd lining up for the all night long YouTube DJ/VJ party ... On the first floor I ran into SANDER VEENHOF, the other dutch participant in this year's Conflux. In Brooklyn SANDER did a combined Second/Real Life project, the SL Walkie Talkie Walks, where - in the best of psychogeographic traditions, really - a map of a part of Second Life was sort of projected on a part of Williamsburg, and real people could walk there, meanwhile communicating by cell phone text messages with avatars walking at the same time in SL. You will read more about this in due time, as part of my still upcoming Conflux reports. The last time I was in Amsterdam, the week after Diktat's performance at the BUTFF in Breda, I met SANDER on monday october 1st, at the weekly DNK concert, on the Overtoom. That evening there was an Open DI Night. Earlier on I had misread that as DJ Night, but was immediately set right by DNK's artistic director KOEN NUTTERS, when I wrote to him asking whether not Diktat could appear at the DNK DJ Night as sort of a surprise act, say? "I don't think a surprise act is such a good idea," KOEN replied, "and also, it is not a DJ Night, it's DI, as in Direct Input ..." Of course! How stupid of me! One wouldn't DJ, at the DNK, now would one? Anyway, the idea for these DI events, having "short solo presentations of all kinds of hot, new, local and visiting artists and musicians", proved to be a viable one. I really did enjoy myself. There were some five or six presentations, pretty divers, and all of them short enough to not be boring. Or if they were, it was all over again quickly, and their tediousness easy enough to forget. Funny that, now thinking back at the evening, it was the shortest of all presentations that made enough impression to still stand clearly before my mind's eye. I hope I got her name right. It was STEPHANIE PAN (I really hope I am not mixing her up with somebody else), doing a solo vocal performance. At the beginning I thought she was going to make an announcement. But then she didn't seem to be able to sound out the words; however hard she kept trying, she couldn't get them right, and it just looked and sounded as if she had a bad speech impediment. I guess like me, in time you have known or at least met people with a such impairment as well. And at the time I found STEPHANIE's 'act' really sort of embarrassing, almost too painful to watch. Because I just wasn't able to decide whether she was performing, or being herself. Is that why I still remember it? And that I still see her standing there, in front the first row of the audience, on one and the same level, forcing out the words?

So, yes, thank you DNK for DI nights! It is important to have as many of these as possible. Places and events where artists and all those aspiring to be one may publicly try out and experiment; places where one's efforts hence also may remain inconclusive, and where one is allowed also to fail and learn. It is good to see a growing number of initiatives that somehow incorporate this idea of a laboratory. Dorkbot (which saw its sixth parisian installment last month at Le Cube, a 'centre de création numérique' in the suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux) is one of these. And then of course there is the placard, with its intricate mélange of experiment and party ... Currently into its tenth year, there is no longer a precisely fixed period in which the festival takes place. It just goes on, and whenever one feels its time to have another one, one may simply go ahead ...

Placard XPIt thus was the night before hopping on a train to Amsterdam that at the very last moment I decided I would participate in the 48 hours placard organized by the Agence XP in their space rue de l'Aude, Paris XIV. I thought I had never before been in that neighborhood, but then I recognized the stairs leading up to the rue de l'Aude and the rue des Artistes from the avenue René Coty, which are pretty typical and not that common even in Paris, for it was there that a couple of years ago - when every now and then I did something or other unimportant and uninteresting for french television - we went for a production meeting with JOYCE SHERMAN BUÑUEL, who was directing an episode of the french serial Soeur Thérèse, about a woman police officer that became a nun, but with an undiminished passion for crime. JOYCE lived in the rue des Artistes.

Originally I thought I might do a duo thing with RÉBUS, who surely would not want to miss the event. And he wouldn't. Indeed RÉBUS, especially for the placard, returned early from a stay in Grenoble, but he was on a late train, and would be ready for performance but far after midnight. In view of the trip to Amsterdam the next morning, for me that was a no-no. I then invited ANTHONY CARCONE for an electric guitar duet ... ANTHONY is part of the Brussels based Brocante Sonore, that I ran into during my Found Tapes residency in june at Recyclart's, and actually is living not far from where I live. Since I met the Brocante in Brussels I saw them perform a couple of times in Paris, and in between I had several beers and coffees with ANTHONY.

For an - obviously vague and maybe even false - impression of the Brocante's brand of EAI, here's a short video, consisting in a number of extracts of short clips that I shot at their performances at La Comète 347, on friday october 12th; in an artist's studio in the rue Baudin in Montreuil, on saturday october 13th, and in an apartment in the sentier du Tourniquet, again in Montreuil, on sunday june 24th.
Most "brocante" of the Brocante Sonore are undoubtedly JACQUES FOCHSIA and his two vintage tube radios, which he uses to capture and manipulate local FM transmissions, although I have to admit that I still did not see the Brocante including the supposed fifth member of the group, a shoeblack who during the performance is shining shoes, using wired shoe shining equipment ...

harsUnfortunately ANTHONY already had another gig that friday evening, so no duet this time. Then for a while I altogether dropped the idea of participating in the Agence XP placard, until the very, very last moment when I saw there still was a slot left at 20h30. I claimed the slot online at 19h, I picked one of my cassettes at random, grabbed a little magazine filled with sudoku's in my daughter's room, pocketed my dictaphone, and hurried over to the rue de l'Aude. There I arrived at about 20h, where cheveu had just started their set and the low-ish downstairs listening space began to fill up nicely. I had nothing to set up, and just needed to plug in my dictaphone. So I could even record the ending of cheveu's contribution. Not the stream, I mean, but how they sounded there at l'Agence when one took off one's headphone. It often is most interesting to listen to placard performers without headphones when their tools have an 'unplugged sound' as well ... You can hear what cheveu sounded like as the first two minutes of this edition's podcast, which continues with a 10+ minutes extract from my live sudoku set that evening at Placardée l'Agence XP. The randomly picked cassette that I used for my performance contained dictaphone recordings made in and around Paris between march 29th and april 13th 2002. I started playing it sudoku from a point also picked at random. Listen to it by clicking, or download the file. It is called s XPsudokuXXL ...

notes __ ::
(*) From: "Ain't Wastin' Time No More", which is one of my all-time favorite southern rock songs. Written by GREG ALLMAN shortly after his brother DUANE ALLMAN got killed in a motorcycle accident, in october 1971. The song is the first track on the Allman Brothers Band album Eat a Peach (1972). [ ^ ]

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