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Recording Improvised Music
247
was essential from a historical point of view. Kürvers argued that the very variability of
improvised performances was all the more reason to record them, and explained how,
for him:
It’s a form of remembrance. It doesn’t make any sense to record several
versions of classical pieces... because there’s usually a good studio or radio
recording already. It’s always more or less the same composition that’s
being performed... with small differences... but for Improvised Music, each
performance is totally unique... [it] happens once, and happens in an instant
and then disappears... In this moment it has a form of historicity, and it
becomes history. [...] To follow this you need recordings.11
Over the course of fieldwork, barely a single concert went by without being recorded
(or filmed) by Kürvers, the venue or the musicians, but while Quiet Cue uploaded the
resulting videos to their website, Ausland and the salon were unable to publish their
recorded archives because of rights issues.12
Kürvers was always happy to share his recordings with the musicians who had performed
in each concert, and most knew that if he was in the audience, their performance was
probably being documented by his concealed stereo microphone and portable digital
recorder.
Ultimately, these recordings were documents, faithfully and authentically capturing the
audio trace of the full spectrum of ‘working’ moments, searching, misunderstandings,
tricks, concepts, ‘mistakes’, ‘amazing things’ and risk-taking, and, as I will now show,
this ‘completeness’ marked an essential difference between recordings intended for
documentation, and those produced for sale and release.
2. Recordings for Sale and Release
While most performers and listeners considered Improvised Music to be a primarily live
form, those musicians who did record Improvised Music for release (and to be sold)
generally had the following motivations in mind:
1. To reach people not in Berlin or other centres for Improvised Music. As Axel
Dörner put it:
recorded many (still unreleased) concerts of the first generation of improvisers in West Germany in the
late 1960s (see p. 259).
11
Kürvers added, “Every musician dealing with Improvised Music is in a process of development,
and when we look back on the history of jazz we have the complete works of musicians who performed
for 40-50 years. [...] Improvising musicians have just the same process of development... their own
personal language that becomes continually stronger... and is always developing... but also a process of
playing together, like the process of the emergence of [spoken] language - how language and vocabulary
develops.”
12
By the time I was writing up, Ausland were publishing some recordings. See [Quiet Cue, 2014] for
the Quiet Cue archive.
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