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Chapter 6
were mentions of musicians on the boundaries of jazz and Free Jazz (Charles Mingus,
Eric Dolphy, Jimmy Guiffre, John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor). After these musicians,
jazz-related influences were generally only from the Free Jazz and Improvised Music
world, and the vagueness of the term was a source of frustration for several musicians,
28-year-old drummer Christian Lillinger describing how:
That ‘jazz’ is from Peter Brötzmann to Till Brönner, that’s not possible...
there’s no definition any more.5
2. Free Improvisation, Free Improvised music, Abstract Improvised Music,
European Improvised Music
These terms referred to Improvised Music intended to be ‘free’ of associations with
other musical genres (and jazz in particular) but, nonetheless, which drew on the
materials and aesthetics of Neue Musik - including microtonal and atonal melodic
language, extended techniques, sound- and noise-based materials, and beginning at the
point where Improvised Music moved away from the shadow of American jazz and Free
Typified by first generation European improvisers such as AMM, MIC and Derek Bailey,
backgrounds were mainly in jazz and classical music, and such music was performed
using acoustic instruments and, occasionally, electronics. The results could be quiet
and textural, as well as loud and contrapuntal, and traditional instrumental roles were
forgotten - with all musicians free to contribute, equally, in whatever way they saw fit.
String instruments were included, and percussionists made use of found and invented
‘objects’ and ‘classical’ percussion set-ups rather than conventional ‘trap’ kits.
Tristan Honsinger, a classically-trained cellist who had worked extensively with Bailey
(the most famous protagonist of ‘non-idiomatic’ improvisation),6 was one of Berlin’s
best examples of an ‘abstract’ European improviser, and, as he put it:
[There’s a] quality of unpreparedness about it... And it’s like starting there
[gesticulates, brings down arm] and you’re in it. And it doesn’t have to do
with territorial things... like when a dog comes into the territory of another
dog [and] there’s this ‘wahwahwahwah’ [barking], which is something a little
bit like Free Jazz was. [...]
[European Improvised Music] was more about freedom [...] and extending
different techniques somehow - when you listen to Bailey, the English school
The often complex relationships between improvising musicians and jazz will be explored in more
depth in Chapter 7.
Bailey’s notion of ‘non-idiomatic’ improvisation is especially problematic, supposedly representing a
music entirely free of associations to other genres, despite the guitarist’s own jazz career and study of
European classical music [Dalton, 1978, Bailey, 1993].