Sunday 5 June 2016, 8pm
Launch event for David Toop's eagerly anticipated new book ‘Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom – Before 1970’. Full programme for the night TBA.
In this first installment of acclaimed music writer David Toop's interdisciplinary and sweeping overview of free improvisation, Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom: Before 1970 introduces the philosophy and practice of improvisation (both musical and otherwise) within the historical context of the post-World War II era. Neither strictly chronological, or exclusively a history, Into the Maelstrom investigates a wide range of improvisational tendencies: from surrealist automatism to stream-of-consciousness in literature and vocalization; from the free music of Percy Grainger to the free improvising groups emerging out of the early 1960s (Group Ongaku, Nuova Consonanza, MEV, AMM, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble); and from free jazz to the strands of free improvisation that sought to distance itself from jazz. In exploring the diverse ways in which spontaneity became a core value in the early twentieth century as well as free improvisation's connection to both 1960s rock (The Beatles, Cream, Pink Floyd) and the era of post-Cagean indeterminacy in composition, Toop provides a definitive and all-encompassing exploration of free improvisation up to 1970, ending with the late 1960s international developments of free music from Roscoe Mitchell in Chicago, Peter Brötzmann in Berlin and Han Bennink and Misha Mengelberg in Amsterdam.
David Toop is a composer, musician, author, a professor and lecturer at the London College of Communication and curator with a particular interest in sound practice, listening and improvisation. He has worked in many fields of sound art and music, including improvisation, sound installations, field recordings, pop music production, and music for television, theatre and dance. He has recorded Yanomami shamanism in the Amazonas, appeared on Top of the Pops, exhibited sound installations in Tokyo, Beijing and London’s National Gallery, and performed with artists ranging from John Zorn, Evan Parker, Bob Cobbing and Ivor Cutler to Akio Suzuki, Elaine Mitchener, Lore Lixenberg and Max Eastley. He has published seven books, including Ocean of Sound, Haunted Weather, and Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener.
He released eight solo albums, including Screen Ceremonies, Black Chamber and Sound Body, and as a critic, has written for publications including The Wire, The Face, Leonardo Music Journal and Bookforum.
Exhibitions he has curated include Sonic Boom at the Hayward Gallery, London, Playing John Cage at Arnolfini, Bristol, and Blow Up at Flat-Time House, London.
David is a member of CRISAP (Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice).
His opera, Star-shaped Biscuit, was performed as an Aldeburgh’ Faster than Sound project, in September 2012 and his latest book, Into the Maelstrom: Improvised Music and the Pursuit of Freedom, was shortlisted for the Penderyn Music Book Prize in 2017.
"If you've ever been tempted by free improvisation, Parker is your gateway drug." - Stewart Lee
Evan Parker has been a consistently innovative presence in British free music since the 1960s. Parker played with John Stevens in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, experimenting with new kinds of group improvisation and held a long-standing partnership with guitarist Derek Bailey. The two formed the Music Improvisation Company and later Incus Records. He also has tight associations with European free improvisations - playing on Peter Brötzmann's legendary 'Machine Gun' session (1968), with Alexander Von Schlippenbach and Paul Lovens (A trio that continues to this day), Globe Unity Orchestra, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, and Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO).
Though he has worked extensively in both large and small ensembles, Parker is perhaps best known for his solo soprano saxophone music, a singular body of work that in recent years has centred around his continuing exploration of techniques such as circular breathing, split tonguing, overblowing, multiphonics and cross-pattern fingering. These are technical devices, yet Parker's use of them is, he says, less analytical than intuitive; he has likened performing his solo work to entering a kind of trance-state. The resulting music is certainly hypnotic, an uninterrupted flow of snaky, densely-textured sound that Parker has described as "the illusion of polyphony". Many listeners have indeed found it hard to credit that one man can create such intricate, complex music in real time.
Elaine Mitchener is an experimental vocalist and movement artist whose work melds different vocal styles encompassing free-improvisation, contemporary new music, sound art, music theatre and dance. She has worked and performed in a wide variety of contexts with leading artists including: Apartment House, Van Huynh Co, Steve Beresford, Sonia Boyce, John Butcher, Attila Csihar, Alexander Hawkins, Tansy Davies, George Lewis, Christian Marclay, Phil Minton, The Otolith Group, Evan Parker, Alasdair Roberts, David Toop, and Jason Yarde. She is co-founder of experimental jazz quartet the Hawkins/Mitchener Quartet (with Neil Charles, Stephen Davis and Alex Hawkins).
“Mitchener is a distinctive presence and interacts with her body and the remarkable sounds she produces: speech, soulful singing, breathless percussive bursts, skittering across octaves.” (Ben Luke, Evening Standard)
“SWEET TOOTH is a vital black British addition to those seminal creative statements of resistance and defiance from the African Diaspora.” (Kevin Le Genre, Jazzwise)
Steve has been a central figure in the British improvising scene for over thirty years, working with the likes of Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Han Bennink, Christian Marclay and, of course, Alterations.
His work with Marclay has included mixed media pieces like ‘Screen Play’, ‘Ephemera’, ‘Graffiti Composition’, ‘Shuffle’, ‘Pianorama’ and ‘Everyday’. He has also written songs, scored feature films, TV shows and commercials.
Steve has worked with hundreds of people, including The Slits, Stewart Lee, Ivor Cutler, Prince Far-I, Alan Hacker, Ray Davies, Ilan Volkov, The Flying Lizards, Otomo Yoshihide, The Portsmouth Sinfonia and John Zorn.
He has an extensive discography as performer, arranger, composer and producer, and was was awarded a Paul Hamlyn award for composers in 2012.
Sylvia Hallett studied music at Dartington, and then spent two years studying composition with Max Deutsch in Paris. She now works both as a composer and as an improviser, and has had pieces performed in Britain and Europe. She has played in many international festivals since the late 1970s, working with several well-known and respected musicians, including Lol Coxhill, Maggie Nicols, Phil Minton, Evan Parker, and the groups Accordions Go Crazy, LaXula, British Summer Time Ends, Arc,The London Improvisers Orchestra, and the London Hardingfelelag. She also performs solo, (eg. in Museo Wolf Vostell, Caceres), and in duo with Clive Bell, with Mike Adcock, and with Anna Homler. Projects with various theatre and dance companies include collaborations with the dancer/choreographers h2dance (Hanna Gillgren and Heidi Rustgaard), Miranda Tufnell, Emilyn Claid, Jacky Lansley, Lost Dog, and Eva Karczag, and the live art puppeteer Nenagh Watson, and Suffolk-based Wonderful Beast. She has performed and musically directed the music of Adrian Lee in world tours with the Young Vic's highly acclaimed "Grimm Tales", and The Royal Shakespeare Company's productions of "Comedy of Errors", "Tales from Ovid" and "Canterbury Tales".
Sylvia has released three solo CDs, two on the MASH label, which contain songs, improvisations, and tape collage pieces derived from her compositions for theatre and dance. Her 3rd solo release, White Fog on the EMANEM label features the bowed bicycle wheel. Commissions include incidental music for several BBC Radio Plays, most recently Two Men From Delft. Her work on Virginia Woolf's Kew Gardens received favourable reviews for its innovative use of voice and sound manipulation.