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Chapter 11
As Valerio Tricoli said, “once you’ve played the note it’s gone”; as Anna Kaluza put it,
“a strange thing about this music and these CDs is that tomorrow they’re already old”;2
and, as Tobias Delius explained:
I do find it a bit difficult nowadays that you almost can’t go to a gig which
is not being filmed or recorded. On the one hand it’s ok, that’s how it is,
that’s how the time has gone, but I do find it’s also nice that things live
only in your memory... and can’t be checked out on a photo.
Accordingly, and especially in the case of ‘real’ improvising, much concert music was
intended just for the present, and, unlike most other musics, the text or ‘work’ realised
in performance was never meant to be repeated, duplicated or to have any kind of life
beyond the moment of its creation - this ideology suggesting no obvious reason to record
it at all.
In addition to this emphasis on the moment, the lack of visual content in audio recordings
was also held to be an impediment in recalling the ‘live’ experience, and many musicians
suggested that the visual was essential for understanding the processual/interactional
elements of performance, and that posture, body language and facial expression provided
essential information as to musicians’ ‘honesty’ and intent.3 Here I also recall Anna
Kaluza’s description of the Berlin Improvisers’ Orchestra as a “visual funny thing”4
and, as one new listener at Ausland commented, with some confusion, “I didn’t know
whether to look at their facial expressions or what they’re doing!”.
The visual was held to be important in listeners’ location of unfamiliar noise- and
sound-based materials (being able to ‘place’ the origins of sounds was thought to clarify
interactions as they took place), and, as Burkhard Beins explained:
The recording is capturing a certain thing, but it doesn’t capture certain
phenomenon which were present in the room while doing it.
Steve Heather described the problem from the point of view of listening to Improvised
Music as a teenager, expressing his confusion at hearing the extended techniques of
drummer Paul Lovens on record and having no idea which of the musicians were making
which sounds, and by which means:
A friend of mine gave me this record of the [Schlippenbach] trio... [and] I
Kaluza added, “I always like this music because the way it’s just played, and then it’s gone, is so
unpretentious. There’s no waste. You just play it and the next day you play it differently - but with
all these [recordings] suddenly there is a product and a whole lot of waste”. This thought was echoed
by Rudi Mahall, who added, of concert situations, that “You’re just left with a light memory, and the
feeling of how it was when you played it... and how it was with the others... a very intimate feeling...
That means so much to me.”
This is an area worthy of more research in itself, and some of these aspects will be addressed in
Nikki Moran’s forthcoming work on improvising duos (see [Moran, 2013] for an abstract relating to a
recent conference paper on the matter).
See p. 197.