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Aesthetic Distinctions and Musical Lives
Musical Lives: Improvised Activities
As Social Network Analysis and interviews showed in Chapter 5, each of Berlin’s
improvising musicians had unique combinations of tastes, individual degrees of stylistic
flexibility, and different attitudes to managing and manifesting the various sub-styles
and aesthetics shown in section 6.1.
This diversity encompassed relative ‘purists’ of individual styles, bi- or poly-musical
individuals who were active in several improvised sub-styles, and poly-musical performers
who also composed or participated in other, non-improvised, musics.15
Such poly-musical musicians moved seemingly effortlessly between styles, and, while a
certain underlying social divide still remained between jazz-based, Echtzeitmusik-related
and noise/electronic musics,16 it was common for younger musicians (and a handful of
older performers) to traverse these apparent boundaries.17
In changing between styles, however, musicians adopted quite different strategies some playing with one clearly recognisable voice across all sub-styles,18 whereas others
changed their voice to reflect different musical contexts (sounding, at least superficially,
totally different from performance to performance).
Flexibility (or the number of sub-styles) also varied, with some musicians playing in a
smaller range of more closely-related projects (again, choosing either to change their
voice or to remain consistent), and this section sets out to disentangle these differing
choices, beginning with the relative ‘purists’ of each style.
Relative Purists
As something of a purist, bass clarinettist Rudi Mahall’s Improvised Music output was
mainly in the Free Jazz and Post-Free Jazz area (loud, virtuosic, traditional instrumental
roles maintained),19 whereas 48-year-old saxophonist Tobias Delius also played in more
abstract/European Improvised Music settings (sound-based sections, non-hierarchical
See footnote, p. 109, for definitions of bi- and poly-musicality.
Even some 20 years after the beginnings of the Echtzeitmusik-scene and its self-professed opposition
to FMP/TMM-related forms of Improvised Music, musicians coming from jazz, Free Jazz and
Post-Free Jazz (Rudi Mahall, Tobias Delius, Jan Roder) were still unlikely to share the stage
with Echtzeitmusik-scene (Post-)Reductionists (Burkhard Beins, Andrea Neumann) or with noisier
electronic/electro-acoustic musicians (Valerio Tricoli, JD Zazie) (although electronic musicians and
Echtzeitmusik/Post-Reductionists did interact, to a limited extent). See p. 101 for more on audience
The older generation interviewed here (generally in their mid-40s and early 50s, and with some
exceptions) typically had relatively purist stances, moving, if at all, between just a handful of
interconnected aesthetics.
My use of the term ‘voice’ is defined on p. 24, musicians with such a voice being those that followers
of the scene would recognise in a ‘blindfold test’. I will return to the question of how musicians go
about creating such a voice (or voices) as well as defining the term ‘materials’, in Chapter 8.
Mahall was also involved in more conventional jazz playing, see p. 125.