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Chapter 10
kind-of stand-up comedy in a way, or it can be a mixture of these things.
[...] When it’s just like this thing where it’s like you read the paper first, so
you know what the conceptual frame of the piece is, and then you listen to
the piece and it’s absolutely fucking boring, and it lasts like 40 minutes and
you’re like “Oh, man, please!” [...] How can I be entertained by this?!25
Logically then, this discussion now leads to the question of what musicians’ intentions
towards their audiences actually were - especially bearing in mind the prevalence of
long performances with no breaks, announcements and so on, and where musicians
would sometimes face each other to play,26 would often perform with closed eyes (or
concentrating intensely on their instruments) and, in many cases, would dress entirely
Once again, the uninitiated listener might be forgiven for thinking that the musicians
were just playing for themselves, the assertion that “They’re not listening to each
other!”28 being one of the most clichéd accusations repeatedly levelled at Improvised
Music performers. This theme forms the final part of this section.
7. Playing for the Audience
Once again, Berlin’s improvising musicians fell into three categories: those who played
to please the audience; those who played for themselves (and if the audience enjoyed
it, that was a bonus); and those who saw no reason why they couldn’t play with their
audience, fellow musicians and themselves in mind.
Of the third category, Valerio Tricoli was extremely critical of those who performed only
for themselves, and, suggesting that this was by no means at odds with doing something
that he liked himself:
If I get invited to a place and I go this place and I know that it’s a techno
club, and I see the audience, in a way I’m going to go like... you know,
“Let’s entertain these people!”. If I go too weird, noisy or harsh they’re not
Tricoli went on, “I can’t stand boring stuff. I can’t even stand boring movies. A lot of people ask
me ‘Who is your favourite director?’. And... I always say Steven Spielberg [laughs]. But it’s actually
because if [they ask], ‘Ah, but what about Michael Haneke’, I’ll go like ‘Yeah, I like Michael Haneke’.
But I mean what are the movies I like of Haneke? - I like this one and this one - [but] what are the
movies I like of Steven Spielberg?! I mean, Indiana Jones, man! Let’s talk about Indiana Jones. [...]
Tarkovsky, I mean - sure, but fuck it! [...] Tarkovsky against The Shark ? [the 1975 film, Jaws]. I mean
how many times have I seen Stalker ? Once. How many times have I seen The Shark ? One hundred.”
Even in the case of Post-Free Jazz groups with two saxophones, bass and drums it was common to
set up in a semicircle, rather than the classic ‘horns at the front, rhythm section at the back’ formation.
I also saw a concert of the Splitter Orchestra where all of the musicians pointed in different directions,
not necessarily towards the audience.
Whilst I initially assumed this to be a convention rooted in the 1968 Brötzmann Philharmonie
story (p. 40), hardly any of the musicians I interviewed were aware of this episode - the convention
presumably having been handed down regardless.
See p. 203.