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Chapter 10
not letting that one through”, “That one doesn’t get through to the boss”.
She’s sitting at Reception and there’s lots of things she refuses to let in. [...]
In order to listen to Improvised Music, it’s essential that you send the
secretary on holiday... You have to listen to what’s happening with open
ears... That’s one of the most important lessons from the music of Cage and
his theories.
For Olaf Rupp, sending out the secretary (if, indeed, he ever had one) not only took care
of noise- and sound-based material, but allowed him to hear pitch-based material free of
harmonic function, and for Rupp, even though not a fan of Cage, the same conclusions
were reached through his own naı̈ve beginnings and through his work with electronic
Traditional instrument players... always have this [he sings an ascending
and descending major scale, one octave]. And this is in your brain, and then
you have your major chords and your minor chords, and this chord and that
chord, and [so on]. [...] It’s a system of rules... Überbau, we call this in
[But] lots of electronic musicians, they just don’t care a shit about it! For
them everything is audio, so everything is musical material. They record
everything... and this is a very refreshing aspect of the whole thing. And
it is enormously interesting to transfer this attitude back to a traditional,
acoustic instrument. [...]
For me the whole [guitar] fretboard was just lots of sound material - there’s
no scales, no chords, nothing... [and] I think this is still very strange for
many people... sometimes I don’t see myself as a guitar player any more.
In Rupp’s case, with pitched material, even other improvising musicians found this
difficult to understand:20
Of course, jazz people, they think “Wow, there’s that chord”, and then they
have their ideas [sings and ascending triad ] and then it’s gone... [but] it
wasn’t a chord for me. It was just that note, and that note, and that note...
[and] it does not inevitably lead to that next triad which the dogma of the
theory of harmony demands. For me, it’s only sounds.
See p. 141 for Rupp’s beginnings as a musician and, in particular, the story of the pitchforks. He
added that, “I was never a big fan of Cage. We share the same religion, but that’s it”, and described
how, “In the 90s, I played a lot of electronic music... first, it was accompanying the guitar, and then
it got more and more important... I had bands where I only played this. Maybe one chord from the
guitar, and then playing the rest of the concert with the sound material from that”.
Jan Roder described that, “Olaf plays a lot of those chords, but he doesn’t play them functionally.
He plays major seventh chords - he plays [makes scrunchy textural noise and then the chord ] - but it’s
not meant to be a major seventh chord - and that’s the point. It’s not a tonic. It’s nothing like that,
it’s a sound.”
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