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Chapter 11
Three Forms of Recorded Improvised Music
With these limitations in mind, it might be questionable as to why improvising musicians
would make recordings at all - the fleetingness of the moment and these ‘uncapturable’
visual/processual/interactional elements already making a strong case against doing
But while a handful of musicians did refuse to release their improvised output (Antonio
Borghini only produced recordings with compositions under his own name,7 and Valerio
Tricoli released only as an electroacoustic composer),8 others did seek to record and
release music that mediated these difficulties to differing extents and to different
Many such musicians released up to 10 albums each year,9 and recording was essential
to their musical lives, however this recorded activity almost always came with the caveat
that it should be considered separately to their live work, that Improvised Music in its
recorded form should be approached with another set of expectations and conventions,
and that this format should fulfil other musical and social functions.
In this section, then, I use findings from my interviews to propose three categories
of recorded Improvised Music, defining their nature, function and usage, and I draw
distinctions between:
1. Recordings for documentation, private or archival use.
2. Recordings for public release and for sale.
3. Improvised music as a source for electroacoustic composition.
1. Documentation
As I already showed in Chapter 8, private recording was essential to the practice
and development of several musicians and, in addition, Klaus Kürvers (with a record
collection of some 25,000 LPs and CDs, and an extensively catalogued digital archive of
recordings of the last years of Berlin’s concert scene)10 argued that such documentation
Although Borghini did appear on some improvised recordings initiated by others, he described all
recorded music as a “shadow” of the “real thing”.
Tricoli told me, “I always wanted to do... three things. I wanted to be a composer of concrete music.
[...] Be an improviser. And have a sort-of heterodox rock band... like sort-of a weird rock band.” See
pp. 229 and 197 for Tricoli’s description of a concert where the he was so concerned with the process
and interaction that he didn’t even class the outcome as ‘music’.
Axel Dörner, one of the most prolific, told my he had lost count of the total number of recordings
he had appeared on, but estimated it to be well over 100.
This collection also included his own jam sessions and rehearsals with many of the musicians
interviewed here. Kürvers’ sessions, held at his house and often up to 3 per day, were an essential
meeting point for musicians of all ages and backgrounds (although focussing more on those related
to (Post-)Free Jazz and Abstract/European Improvised Music), and Kürvers was also happy to have