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Aesthetic Distinctions and Musical Lives
especially, there’s a lot of extended things in it. And it is a kind of organic
way of making music... a chamber music type of thing... less horn orientated.7
3. Berlin Reductionism, Post-Reductionist Improvising
As described in Chapter 2, Reductionism was a quiet, often silent, minimal, microscopic
approach to Improvised Music-making, originating in 1990s Berlin, Tokyo, London and
Vienna, and also known, internationally, as The New Silence or Lowercase Improv.8
Musicians had various backgrounds (self-taught, pop music, Neue Musik, as well as
formally educated in jazz or classical music), and no aesthetic traces of jazz remained
in a predominantly noise- and sound-based environment. Acoustic and electronic
instruments were often used side-by side, and it was common for them to blend seamlessly
together, with all musicians considered equal and freed from any traditional instrumental
I employ the term Post-Reductionist to reference the fact that, as Björn Gottstein
points out [Gottstein, 2011], many of the musicians involved in the most concentrated
Reductionist period had, by 2013, moved on to other forms of music-making (improvised,
composed and partially composed)9 and had also allowed other influences to re-enter
their work. As Andrea Neumann explained:
Around 2000... the sounds got very very clear and structured... the aesthetic
of machines came into the music [she sings precise, focussed, beautiful,
immaculately sculpted quiet blocks of machine-like sound, interspersed with
pauses]. Silence was also an element. [...]
[Before,] the sound was more free in a way, and how you started and ended
was more open... maybe more organic. But I think maybe after 2004, after
this period of this very reduced clear sound, it went more again into organic
things - but maybe after we did this other thing, then afterwards, the organic
thing sounded different than before.
Although it was difficult to connect the work of such Post-Reductionist musicians
through any common aesthetic criteria, the connection was evidenced by a shared social
history - in terms of the development of late-1990s Reductionism, and the social network
which this generated (as a sub-community of the Echtzeitmusik-scene).
For Honsinger, jazz only had a minimal influence on his work, “I didn’t have much to do with [jazz].
When I first started improvising I knew nothing about even bebop... people said, ‘Well, you should
listen to Eric Dolphy, and Cecil Taylor and this and that’. And so I started to listen... And of course I
was influenced and inspired by what they were doing... I started to want to play like the alto saxophone.
Like the sound of it. So that was basically what I got from that movement.”
See p. 48 for a more complete description of Reductionism.
See p. 49.