|Recorded at Gateway Studios, Kingston-upon-Thames on 16 November 2002 and 2 March 2003.
“If the utopia of art were actualised, art would come to an end”. Theodor Adorno
Democratic impulses (necessarily?) transform the course of representative art. Potentially the age of the hero is overtaken in a hierarchical realignment which displaces the symbol of heroic individuality from the centre of cultural attention. In 1927 Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five recorded Got No Blues. This was created at just about the same time as Anton Webern composed his Trio for violin, viola and cello Opus 20. Innocently, perhaps, both were shifting the hierarchic structures in music. Armstrong’s team placed the individual contributions of Kid Ory, Johnny Dodds, Lil Armstrong and Johnny St Cyr alongside, and in a joyful collaborative position with, the undoubted master. They were not, however, subservient to Louis. Other times and other commercial pressures may have led to a reaffirmation of the heroic model, but these early recordings speak of a utopian ideal of common artistic endeavour. Anton Webern meanwhile was developing the logic of serialism — in which no note could be considered to have priority over any other. Indeed, no note within the twelve tones could be repeated until the other eleven had had their moment. A rather abstract form of democracy, but it meant at least that musicians had found something other than a hierarchical tonality to configure their creations. A new sound-world was emerging. The days of the concerto were not over and the star soloist in jazz had hardly begun. Maybe resurgent social, economic and political imperatives would insist upon their existence. However, other possibilities had been found and tasted. Even now our cultural references are in thrall to individualism. The heroic figures of the lonely painter, composer, poet or rock guitarist still dominates our popular sense of creative genius. No equivalent place of honour has been found for the highest order of collaborative activity. There seems to be no way yet of celebrating the manifestation of creativity and originality by a collective.
Of course, collective expression is made up of individual constituents. Some of the narrowest forms of collaboration are those where the individual parts either choose, or feel forced, to offer similar sounds within an approved sensibility. At the heart of this kind of aesthetic is an egalitarian levelling which seems to have more force as rhetroic than practice. The most processive form of collectivity is surely that which can embrace diverse (and maybe even divergent) voices. While the most liberating form of individuality is that which arises from the space and support given by a sympathetic collective.
Eddie Prévost - June 2003