|The kind of musical experimentation that transformed musical instruments and transcended them by virtue of new sound making machines that we associate with the Italian Futurists in the early part of the twentieth century, was then tried, tested and expanded perhaps most notably by David Tudor and John Cage. In more recent times it has been the improvisers who have taken this sound art movement into a collaborative activity. Now in the year 2000, this approach in which traditional musical instruments are twisted into complex sound transformers which match the new sound sources available from the burgeoning electronics and computer sciences has become a medium in its own right. These resources are now adapted and applied to the musical situation with increasing boldness and creative confidence. This ‘experimental’ way of making music, and the particular music making processes demonstrated on this CD, has its own internal logics and integrity - the converging coordinates of heurism and dialogue. These are the means and the ends of music. It is how the music is played and it is how the music must be judged.
All music has roots in some form of human experience and social relations. The current society that arises from the economic and industrial situation of the so-called developed world, is no exception. This phase of monopoly capitalism, whose advocates and apologists confidently proclaim that no other way is possible, affects the way people relate to each other and how they respond to the threats and challenges of life. There is a such a pungent whiff of capitalist determinism in the air that makes the old propagandist ‘ threat of communism’ seem like wisps of smoke from a sweet scented joss stick. So if it is all so impossible for us to arrange human affairs in other ways, then why do certain people still push at the edges? In the sphere of music for example, John Cage and Sun Ra were no disciples of Marx. It would be hard to say that they advocated a substantial change in the cultures in which each lived. But creative moments are not just movement for movement’s sake. This would reduce artists to advertisement ‘creative directors’, copywriters or fashion designers. One suspects that Cage (perhaps intuitively) denied that sounds and music should have specific meanings precisely to prevent his work from becoming fodder for a propagandist consumer society. How far he has succeeded remains to be seen. And in the life and work of Sun Ra we see a more obvious and courageous form of utopianism that speaks literally of other worlds, but in reality the Arkestra was something of a haven and a community for the musicians involved. In a sense the musics of Cage, Sun Ra and many of the other experimentalists can be seen as various alienation strategies. No less so, suspect, for the musicians on this CD.
So, there is another kind of ‘determinism’ about. The determinism of resistance, the thinking of alternatives. The economic imperative of capitalism may seem to be unbreachable. But overweening confidence is a sign of complacency. Opposition in a form of ‘creative determinism’ is displayed best in the experimental. The first priority here is to be aware of the allusive quality of the old musics. To know that its references tug at our conditioned senses of heritage and location. To treat the ‘old music’ experimentally is probably the most difficult of tasks to undertake. It may even be fruitless. For rather than conveying any intended sense of dislocation as an artistic statement, we may only reinforce the original meanings and create a nostalgia for an unrecoverable time and place. Thus new worlds imply new musics. But potential confusion lies in the capitalist imperative. Novelty, redundancy and a never ending array of new products are all signs of capitalist reinvention. Even musicians can be swayed into thinking that they are offering cultural sustenance when it fact it is no more than a quick fix excitant or an anodyne.
Artists only know whether they are caught up in this web of fantasy by examining their relationship toward the materials they are using, to the musicians with whom they work and the complex matrix of promotion and commercial exploitation with which they must inevitably have some interface if they are to present their work to a public. These are questions for each musician to negotiate. Although they and their colleagues ought to welcome, and they themselves assist, the development of a critique to help clarify their individual and collective situation.
The musicians on this CD are young and in many ways untested. However, this first recorded public offering of their work reveals important features. It is undeniably uncompromising. It is stringent and austere. Process is all. They are trying to present and to solve the problems of their meeting within the creative moment of performance. In doing this they expose their fragility, their youth and their cultural hopes. Nothing is farther away from providing listeners with a few moments of excitement or escape. It is a commingling of struggle and playfulness. It is essentially humanist in its overview and inner mechanisms. Each musician brings to the recording situation materials with which they are developing a unique facility. Each comes offering their work to a collective enterprise in the optimistic hope that it will be creatively accepted and challenged, as in a the cut and thrust of debate. The totality of the CD is the result of this discourse. It is the result of a positive, sympathetic and trusting engagement. It is also the foundation for further explorations in which they will examine their inner motives and creative processes and contrast them with the offerings of their colleagues. This, in artistic terms, is the collective imperative for a new world.