Thursday, June 25, 2015

Terry Riley

(Scroll down for English language)

Das Video zeigt Terry Riley, der gestern 80 geworden ist, bei einem seiner oft stundenlangen improvisierten Gratiskonzerte.

Leider habe ich ihn selbst nie kennengelernt oder ein Konzert von ihm erlebt. Meine erste Begegnung mit seiner Musik (und damit dem, was dann unter dem Begriff “Minimal Music” zusammengefasst werden sollte, aber das wusste ich damals noch nicht), fand im Hamburger “Michel”, der St.-Michaelis-Kirche in der Innenstadt, irgendwann in den Spätsiebzigern statt. Ich weiß heute nicht mehr, was mich damals eigentlich dort hingebracht hat, aber es wurde ein Nachmittag, der mir bis heute in Erinnerung geblieben ist.

Der Michel verfügt über zwei Orgeln, eine große im rückwärtigen Hauptschiff und eine etwas kleinere links im Seitenschiff. Beide Orgeln waren im Einsatz und spielten zusammen ein Stück, das scheinbar endlos wie ein Bach vor sich hin floss. Die kleinere der beiden Orgeln lieferte einen harmonischen und rhythmischen Teppich, die größere nutzte diesen als eine Art Trampolin mit immer neuen und immer wieder variierten Einwürfen. Ich hätte stundenlang zuhören können, und so ging es wohl den anderen, leider recht wenigen, Zuhörern auch. Vielleicht war es nicht mal ein Konzert, vielleicht war es nur eine Probe.

Ich habe erst später herausgefunden, dass dies eine Improvisation über Terry Rileys A Rainbow In Curved Air gewesen ist. Ich höre die Platte nicht oft, aber irgendwie ist sie über die Jahrzehnte doch immer dagewesen. Und wenn’s nicht die ist, dann ist es Sunrise Of The Planetary Dream Collector, gespielt vom Kronos Quartet.

Auf die nächsten Achtzig!

The video shows Terry Riley, who was 80 years old yesterday, at one of his sometimes several-hours-long free concerts.

It's a pity that I was never lucky enough to meet him personally or to see one of his concerts. My first encounter with his music (and that means: with what was later named "minimal music", but I didn't know this at that time) happened at the "Michel", St. Michael's Church at Downtown Hamburg, somewhat in the late 1970s. I don't remember what it was that brought me there, but it became an afternoon that is still in my mind.

St. Michael's has two organs, a big one at the back nave and a smaller one at the left side aisle. Both organs were in use, playing a tune that seemed to flow like a creek. The smaller of the two organs played a sort of harmonic and rhythmic carpet, while the bigger one used this for always new and always different insertions, like jumping on a trampoline. I could have listen for hours, and the same goes for the (very few) other listeners. Maybe it wasn't even a concert, maybe it was just a rehearsal.

It took me a while to find out that what I've heard was an improvisation on Terry Riley's A Rainbow In Curved Air. I don't listen to this record very often, but somehow it was always with me, over all the decades. And if it's not that one, then it's Sunrise Of The Planetary Dream Collector, perfomed by Kronos Quartet.

Here's to the next 80 years!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Christian Wheeldon: Deep Distance -- The Musical Life of Manuel Göttsching

(deutscher Text hier bei Manafonistas!)

Manuel Göttsching, guitarist, keyboardist, composer, looks back to a career that started in 1971 (he was active even before, but not on records). Stations of his career are Ash Ra Tempel, Ashra, albums under his own name, collaborations with Klaus Schulze, Steve Hillage and several others, he also worked as a film composer. Of late he is even part of a Japanese krautrock exhibition -- as a wax figure.

The British librarian Christian Wheeldon, after six years of work, comes up now with a long overdue biography. This very well-written book leads chronologically through Göttsching's life and time as a musician, following events as well as his records. Usually, the author first tells the well-researched story of the record and its production, followed by a review of the record. Especially it's nice that he includes not only Göttsching's own records but also some works of his long-time companions; the solo album Synthesist by drummer Harald Großkopf as well as the long forgotten project Central Europe Performance or the recordings Lutz "Lüül" Ulbrich did with Nico.

You will notice immediately that a fan wrote this book. Sometimes it's just too obvious that Wheeldon is not willing to touch his hero. Without question Göttsching made a lot of enjoyable records, but, as it's unavoidable in a more than 40-year-spanning career, some are not as good as others. It wouldn't have done any damage to the book if he would call a spade a spade in these cases. For Wheeldon everything seems to be "masterpiece", "genius" or "incredible", also the term "legendary" is used much too often in this book. Again and again Wheeldon uses Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley as standards of comparison -- I would be open to reason about the latter, but Glass, even more Reich, definitely play in a different league.

Another little rub in this book is the fact that the author several times doesn't get the meaning of German puns, phrases or words with double meanings, and so his translations are blurred, misleading or wrong. One example: Göttsching wrote and recorded a sort of "suite" about the "Mulde", a little creek near Leipzig. The last part of this suite is entitled "Zerfluss".  This word doesn't exist in German, it's combined from "Zufluss" on the one hand, which means something like "feeder creek", and "zerfließen" on the other hand, which could be translated into "melting away" as well as into "to dissolve". Of course it's not possible to find a direct translation of "Zerfluss", but the meaning could be explained. Wheeldon simply translates it into "inflow", and that means: He misses the key point. Unfortunately, this kind of flaw is something to be found constantly in English publications about the German rock music scene.

It remains to mention that, probably for the reason of cost-saving, this book is set in an extremely small typeface. To make matters worse, it's a sans-serif one. For an old geezer like me it's simply a torture to read this.

But this is all there is to complain about. Without dwelling on too much krautrock nostalgia this book makes you feel like going to the turntable to have a new listen to the old albums -- without forgetting the new ones. A couple of website recommendations and a well-done index complete the book. 

Christian Wheeldon:
Deep Distance -- The Musical Life of Manuel Göttsching
King's Lynn, GB 2015
ISBN 978-1-91069324-7

The book can be ordered only here.

James Last 1929-2015

Gondel Riff
Fred Bunge, tp; Günter Fuhlisch, tb; Max Greger, ts;
Franz von Klenck, as; Franz Riedl, bs; Paul Kuhn, p;
Gerhard Hühns, g; Hans "James" Last, b; Teddy Paris, dr.

Recorded May 11, 1953, Frankfurt/Main.

In memory of James Last (April 17, 1929 - June 9, 2015)